Director: Yasuhiro Kawamura
Cast: Haruka Ayase, Masaki Okada, Shosuke Tanihara, Kazue Fukiishi, Muga Tsukaji, Masako Motai, Takeshi Kaga, Teruyuki Kagawa, Riko Yoshida
Runtime: 2 hrs
Released By: Encore Films
Official Website: http://www.encorefilms.com/akkochan
Opening Day: 10 January 2013
Synopsis: Atsuko Kagami - known as “Akkon Chan”- is a 10 years old girl in elementary school . One day, a spirit of minors appears before her and gives her a magical compact. Akko uses it to become a 22 years old , and has a blast wearing the makeup that she adores and fashionable outfits galore . And if that weren’t enough to make her wish she were really grown up , she even meets the man of her dreams ! Her crush is Naoto Hayase, an elite manager at a famous cosmetics company. But his company faces a corporate buyout and is about to be taken over. As he strives to turn his company around by developing an innovative new product , Akko comes up with totally unexpected ideas to take on the crisis . Will she be able to save the man she loves? And what will happen to their relationship?
It shouldn't surprise you that Akko-chan is a movie adapted from a manga series. Live-action adaptation of manga is really big in Japan because manga is big in Japan and can bring in lots of money. The commercial success of manga adapted dramas/movies is not only restricted to Japan, they are also well received overseas. Although Japanese entertainment is not the most prominent player in the market, it has been slowly and surely gaining its crowd of followers. Considering all these, it is not hard to understand why movie makers would pick a ready narrative from the vast library of manga series.
That being said, not all manga adapted movies are well received. Recently, one that garnered rather positive responses at the ticket box office was Rurouni Kenshin (2012). It was reported to have done well at the Singapore ticket box office too. However, the more forgettable ones would be Kimi ni Todoke (From me to You, 2011), which is criticized for being boring and failed to bring out the essence of the manga narrative.
Other potential downside of a manga turned movie is the problem of having stories that are way too unrealistic and the characters being too 2-dimensional. Thankfully, both of these were absent in Akko-chan. The two main leads, namely Okada Masaki and Ayase Haruka both have experience in playing a character from a manga story. Ayase is probably best known as the cute and bubbly character from Hotaru no Hikari and Okada’s role in Space Brothers (or commonly known as Uchuu Kyoudai) was well received. Both of them were able to breathe life into the 2D character, engaging the audiences with their personalities and charm.
The story, albeit a tad too magical, was a really interesting one. The 11 year old girl, Akko-chan, holds a special mirror that can transform her into a person she desires. Having known the power of the mirror, she decides to skip cramp school one day and become an adult version of herself to shop at the cosmetic counter. What began from an act of mischief eventually led her to gain understanding of herself and the adult world.
As part of the story development, Akko-chan began working for a man who she met at the amusement park. He took interest of her opinions on his product line while she was shopping at the cosmetic counter. As a result, Akko-chan, the 11 year old stuck in a university student’s body, created a whole lot of drama and joke as she joined the workplace. Besides that, she also transformed herself into other characters to gain convenience, such as the former CEO of the cosmetic company and the first lady. It really evoked much laughter, having a grown-up man behave just like a little girl. Ayase was also a natural at her role, striking a balance between being childish and innocent.
So it turns out that Akko-chan is quite entertaining and enjoyable. Although the manga was released in the 60s, the story is one that is timeless and relevant, imparting some good morals and encouragement to the weary. However, there was nothing really ground breaking; well, it is not a movie that is made to contend for the academies. Also, the ending was really cliché, as of many Japanese movies. It’s as though it would be that unsettling if there is no closure to Akko-chan’s puppy love! (Oops, did someone just let the cat out of the bag?)
(A light-hearted critique on the adult world, reminding you of the little things that could have been lost and forgotten having all grown up)
Review by Tho Shu Ling