Movie Review: My Little Monster (2018)

Monday, July 27, 2020

My Little Monster (Japanese live-action film)

based on the manga of the same name

Year: 2018

Starring: Suda Masaki, Tsuchiya Tao, Yamada Yuki, Furukawa Yuuki

Official MDL (My Drama List) Synopsis

Mizutani Shizuku (Tsuchiya Tao) is a self-absorbed overachiever,​ concerned only with maintaining the highest grades in school.​ Yoshida Haru (Suda Masaki) is an impulsive short tempered brute,​ who scares everyone with his explosive bursts of violence.​

Haru gets suspended on the first day of school when he encounters some bullies harassing a student and dispatches the bullies with great bloody violence.​ Mizutani is tasked with delivering school materials to Haru who interprets this as an act of friendship and latches on to Mizutani,​ much to her dismay.​ And so begins a strange and potentially combustible relationship!

My Thoughts on My Little Monster

The synopsis of this movie makes me laugh. Part of it is true, but I think Haru is a lot less violent than they make him sound. So keep that in mind. I have read a couple volumes of the manga since I first saw the movie, and I confess that I like the movie a lot better than the manga. I have a couple of reasons for this, but I'll get into that later on.

Suda Masaki in My Little Monster
Suda Masaki

The Acting

I'm pretty much in love with the performances in My Little Monster. First, Suda Masaki as Haru is brilliant. He manages a balance between crazy and cute that is just very appealing. It's something Suda excels at in most of his performances, so the role of Haru is well within his acting abilities. Suda Masaki is one of the top-notch young Japanese actors right now due to his wide range in genre choices and his daring at trying things outside the box. His performance in My Little Monster is just fun, doesn't require a whole lot of thought behind it, but has comedic timing at its best. I felt like he had fun making it, and I'm glad since he's said that My Little Monster will be his last film playing a high school student.

Actress Tsuchiya Tao sold the role of Shizuku to me. I felt that she gave a solid, downplayed performance, which made the facial expressions she chose to use that much more noticeable. After all, she's playing a very emotionally reserved character so there needed to be a very solid contrast between Shizuku's calm demeanor and Haru's vivid excitement. She did a great job and I felt a connection between Haru and Shizuku that potentially wouldn't have been so strong with a different leading actress.

Furukawa Yuuki and Yamada Yuki are both solid supporting actors. For Furukawa, his playing a supporting role is a little more unusual since he is a powerhouse of a serious actor and I'm more accustomed to seeing him in leading roles. BUT, he was entertaining in the role of Haru's older brother. I don't know how they managed it, but they translated the hairstyle directly from the manga. Yamada Yuki always ends up playing support roles, usually the guy who doesn't get the girl. Which sucks. I thought he did a great job with a somewhat unlovable and manipulative character.

Overall, all the actors delivered solid performances, even the ones I did not list because then the list would be insanely long.

Tao Tsuchiya in My Little Monster
Tsuchiya Tao

The Story

This really is a love story about Shizuku and Haru. They're complete opposites, but I loved how Haru's lackings, or weaknesses, or fears, initiated Shizuku's mothering instincts. You feel bad for him because he's done a bit of suffering and it's hard for him to make friends because he's so unpredictable, but he's enthusiastic and you want him to be accepted and appreciated for who he is.

My Little Monster is also about friendships. Whereas Haru is desperate for friends, Shizuku always felt like she didn't need other people. People will let you down, they will hurt you, they will disappoint you. That's been her life experience. So Haru's desire for friends and connection really grows Shizuku to realizing she needs other people. It's a pretty important growth point, actually.

Haru has to come to terms with family issues. He has to realize that he cannot keep running away from problems just because they make him uncomfortable or he feels manipulated. Emotional manipulation by parents or grandparents in Japan is not an unheard-of method of forcing their children to tow the party line, as it were. 

So there's a lot of good things going on in the story itself that makes it memorable.

Yuuki Furukawa in My Little Monster
Furukawa Yuuki

The Screenplay

Here is where is a huge differentiation between the manga and the movie. The manga takes forever to get anywhere. I read 5 volumes of it and Haru and Shizuku were never a couple in all of that time. It was bouncing back and forth between liking and not liking each other.

I don't like that.

SO, instead, the movie makes it super clear that Haru is unwaveringly in love with Shizuku. It makes it so much easier to relate to him and like him because the audience is not submitted to flip-flopping emotions. Shizuku, when she finally realizes her own feelings, is also unwavering towards Haru. Thank goodness!

The screenplay also throws in a lot of great comedic moments, probably because they just suited Suda Masaki so well. He is a great comedian which is one reason why I love him. The story is tight, gets to the point within the allotted 1 hour and 45 minutes, and gives a very satisfactory ending. It never feels like it's too much or too little, but just enough.

Yuki Yamada in My Little Monster
Yamada Yuki

Objectionable Content

Overly stylized fight scenes are used where people spin three times in the air when they're punched, Suda Masaki is seen shirtless once and tosses himself like a little kid onto Shizuku's bed, there is a little minor language in the subtitles, there's a couple of intense yelling scenes, Haru has anger management issues.

All the Feels

Please watch and enjoy the above YouTube music video for My Little Monster. This is actually how I found the movie in the first place and I feel like it's a fun introduction to the film itself.

Yes, My Little Monster, is a bit on the silly side. But it's also an incredibly fun high school romantic comedy without some of the main issues that I experienced when trying to read the manga. It's made it into my top 10 list of Japanese movies to date, so I know that I'll be rewatching it at some point.

Suda Masaki is a versatile and skilled actor. I keep appreciating him more and more with every role I see him play. He can pretty much do it all, but this is a really nice introduction to him for folks that have never watched any of his work before. It's a clean movie with a lot of laughs and feel-good moments.

Where can I watch My Little Monster?

If you want to watch it with English subtitles you can try either this page at DramaCool or this page at Kiss Asian. WARNING: There are ads on both of these sites. I have an ad blocker that I use when on DramaCool so I don't see them.

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