Friday, September 18, 2020

Movie Review: Today's Kira-kun (2017)

Today's Kira-kun (Closest Love to Heaven)

Country: Japan

Year: 2017

Genre: School, Romance, Friendship, Illness

Starring: Marie Iitoyo, Taishi Nakagawa, Shono Hayama, Yuna Taira

My Rating★★★★

Click to read more of my reviews for Japanese entertainment.

I bet ya'll thought all I watched were dramas with Kazuya Kamenashi. NOPE, my watchlist is much broader than that. Today's Kira-kun had been recommended to me by a little teenage friend I have (she lives in an East Asian country, not sure where) so I knew it was about time I watched it. And I'm very glad I did. The lead actors were SO YOUNG, only 19 when they made this movie. They're darling.

My Story Synopsis for Today's Kira-kun

In Japan, the red string of fate binds lovers together, running from pinky to pinky. For Yuiji Kira (Taisha Nakagaway), he is living his life on borrowed time. A bad heart means he has roughly a year to live and up until his current high school year, Yuuji had been living life recklessly. But now, with his time so limited, Yuiji has settled down, his heart heavy because he doesn't want to die, and keeping the secret of his illness from his friends is loneliness itself. One day, shy, introverted Ninon Okamura (Marie Iitoyo) sees Yuiji crying, hurries up to him, a boy she has started admiring because he is different now, and vows to stay by his side for a year. Despite the oddity of her declaration, Yuiji takes her up on it, tying her fate to his. For Yuuji, this is the first genuine relationship he's had with a girl, allowing himself to fall in love. And for Ninon, this is her first relationship ever, including friendships. Together they must weather the storms of new beginnings, misunderstandings, parental influence, and Yuiji's weak and dying heart.

My Thoughts on Today's Kira-kun

No country does high school stories like Japan. They're in their element when dealing with youth and love and that exhilarating time of life. I put off watching Today's Kira-kun because I wasn't sure if it had a happy ending, and I just have not been in the mood for sad stories. I'm happy to report that Today's Kira-kun ends very, very well. It's not like Koizora which is labeled a romantic tragedy for a reason.

The Acting

The actors did a solid job in their performances. I've encountered Marie Iitoyo before in a couple of different roles and have always liked her. She's a good actress, although here she does perform a bit on the overly dramatic side. I did find some of her reactions a smidgeon over the top, but that's okay. It worked for the role and for the story. Taishi Nakagawa is newer to me, so I don't have much to compare him to in terms of past performances, but I do like him as Yuiji. He has a nice, friendly face, very expressive, and he cries on cue. I found myself liking the character a great deal and hoping his fate wouldn't be to die at the end of their year together. I was less impressed with the secondary actors Shono Hayama and Yuna Taira playing Yuiji's friends. Shono was okay in his best friend role, but I'm afraid that Yuna Taira as Rei Yahagi fell flat for me. She felt so much older than a teenager as if she were a woman of the world, and that just didn't work. Plus, I usually hate the ex-girlfriend/boyfriend of lead characters anyway since they're simply plot devices with no purpose but to stir things up. Which is what she does.

The Screenplay

The screenplay did leave a little to be desired. The story is based on a girl's manga but they left out some critical details, like how Ninon and her parents even know Yuiji is ill. In the manga (I read the first chapter free online from the publisher), it's because Ninon and Yuiji are next-door neighbors and she's known him for years. None of that is a part of the screenplay, so that's sort of a major oops. They probably should have added 15 minutes to the run time and put it back in because as it stands, there's no logical reason for Ninon or her parents to know that Yuiji is even sick. A boy can cry a few tears in the park without a girl thinking he's on death's door. 

3/22/2021 Update: With the new VIKI subtitles, a lot has been made much more clear regarding the screenplay. Yes, they are neighbors, although more like they live on the same street to say hello to one another every once in a while. Ninon overheard her parents discussing Yuiji's health because her parents know his parents. Which is why she knew he was sick. That really clears up a lot of my confusion and frustration with the screenplay, so YAY. Many thanks to the VIKI subtitlers (that's how you should watch it, link at the bottom of my review).

However, it still didn't clear up the wedding scene. If that was straight from the manga, they needed to leave it out, since there was no minister and I'm pretty sure you're not married if there's no official performing some sort of wedding ceremony. I "love" how they dug up a suit for Yuiji and a wedding dress for Ninon out of thin air. That was quite the stretch.

Overall, there are many endearing and sweet scenes, like when Ninon hosts a birthday party for Yuiji and when, on the same day, he shares with her what he was like as a delinquent in junior high. Marie and Taisha really had good, believable chemistry so their scenes together were charming. I also, personally, love that Ninon is a crafter. So many little crocheted amigurumi in her bedroom. Adorable.

Objectionable Content

Today's Kira-kun is pretty clean on the whole. PG-rated language. Rei has a picture of Yuiji in bed that she uses to manipulate Ninon, but according to the new, likely far more correct, subtitles on VIKI, they never did actually sleep together. Unfortunately, sleeping around is not really surprising behavior for someone acting like a delinquent in junior high, at least, not in Japanese film. Ninon and Yuiji are going to sleep together, but her parents come back unexpectedly before they even have a chance to kiss, so nothing happens.

All the Feels

Overall, I enjoyed Today's Kira-kun. Thanks to Yuiji's friend Yabe, Yuiji realizes that none of their time is set in stone. No one knows when they will breathe their last, and so he should not run from Ninon just because he's afraid of burdening her. Any of them could die tomorrow, so the important thing is to live today. It's a solid Japanese movie with a happy ending which made me very, very glad. Despite the plotholes, this movie is filled with lots of warm fuzzies and very pretty cinematography.

Where can I watch Today's Kira-kun?

3/22/2021 Update: You can now watch Today's Kira-Kun officially on VIKI if you have a Standard VIKI Pass ($4.99 a month).

The subtitles are outstanding and this is a perfectly legal streaming service so you are supporting the actors and filmmakers.

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