10. Close Range Love
Japanese Title: Kin Kyori Ren’ai
Synopsis: Kururugi Yuni (Nana Komatsu) is a high school prodigy who has a difficult time expressing herself. And whilst having top grades in all her subjects, she isn’t doing so well in English and so her English class teacher, Haruka Sakurai (Tomohisa Yamashita) gives her temporary private one on one English lessons.
But when the guardian of Yuni who is also the schools maths teacher, Kazuma Akechi (Arai Hirofumi), notices the differences in Yuni’s behaviour, he decideds to put a stop to the tutoring.
With the encouragement of her only friend, Nanami Kikuko (Mizuki Yamamoto), Yuni realises that she has fallen in love with her teacher, Sakurai who also happens to be admired by every girl in school. Every time Yuni has the chance to express the way she feels to Sakurai, she isn’t able to do so.
But finally, Yuni musters up the courage to confess to her teacher and tries to do so by using a notebook that reads “I hate you teacher but I also like you. What should I do?” while hiding under his desk in class. Sakurai sees her and purposely drops a pen. While bending down to pick the pen, he leans towards her before kissing her.
Trying to keep it a secret, Sakurai doesn’t know that the new homeroom teacher of Yuni’s class, Mirei Takizawa (Asami Mizukawa), who is being shown around, coincidentally sees the incident between them.
When a co-teacher introduces Mirei to Sakurai, Sakurai is surprised to see his childhood friend again. Mirei tells Sakurai what she saw and that she still has feelings for him. But things develop further between Yuni and Sakurai when Mirei tries to stop their relationship by taking a photo of Sakurai and Yuni hugging each other as she passes them. Mirei shows the photo to Akechi when he asks for Mirei’s help to keep an eye on her as he is concerned about her strange behavior which leads to Akechi confronting Sakurai and asking him to leave Yuni as she has given up her dreams of going to her dream college for Sakurai. Akechi asks Sakurai to encourage her to study abroad which he is reluctant to do but does out of care for Yuni.
Heartbroken when Sakurai cuts ties between the two of them, Yuni decides to follow her dreams. However she is unable to forget him after leaving to study at the University of California and she soon returns to Japan to confront him again. The two of them finally reconcile at the beach where they had their first date.
Review: Close Range Love is such an interesting romance movie that is representative of one of the cultural phenomenons in Japan, where student-teacher romance is not uncommon. In Close Range Love, Yuni falls in love with her teacher Sakurai and even though they face various obstacles, they end up finding their way back to each other. I personally find it hard to watch dramas of student-teacher romances because that is something hard for me to imagine rooting for. However, Close Range Love was a pretty tasteful version of this drama trope and I enjoyed watching it.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
9. Say “I Love You”
Japanese Title: Sukitte Ii nayo
Synopsis: For years, Tachibana Mei (Haruna Kawaguchi) is a 16-year-old student who has lived as somewhat of a social outcast and loner. She doesn’t have any friends and doesn’t have a boyfriend. She doesn’t like talking to people and doesn’t trust others. Mei prefers to be on her own and is focused only on school and her part-time job. However, one day, she is bothered by her classmate, Nakanishi Kenji, and while trying to avoid him, mistakenly kicks Kurosawa Yamato, the handsome and popular boy in her school. Yamato becomes interested in her and gives his mobile number to Mei. One night, Mei noticed she was being stalked and in a panic, calls Yamato for help. Yamato goes to her aid right away and repels the stalker by kissing Mei. After that sudden kiss, Mei begins to open up and gradually learns how to trust and love Yamato.
Review: Say “I Love You” is a rather cliche romance movie that has good-looking leads and a cute storyline to tie it together. It’s de
Your Lie in April was a bittersweet and emotional drama that was both sad and inspiring to watch. It was touching to watch how Kaori brought Kosei back into the world of music and how Kosei “fulfils” Kaori’s dreams of playing music together. I liked the integral nature of classical music in the movie and the whole film was visually beautiful. Interestingly, filming the movie took only 1 month from October to November 2015, and both actors Suzu Hirose and Kento Yamazaki had actually begun practicing playing the violin and piano respectively 6 months prior to filming. The results of their practice showed as both actors seemed natural playing the instruments on film. I am glad that the movie stuck to the anime storyline even if that meant a sad ending.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
8. The Liar and His Lover
Japanese Title: Kanojo wa Uso o Aishisugiteru
Synopsis: 25-year-old sound engineer Aki (Takeru Satoh) is a member of popular band “Crude Play,” but right after the band decides to make their major record debut Aki quits the band. However, Aki continues to provide his music to Crude Play under the name of producer Soichiro. Aki meets 16-year-old high school student Riko (Sakurako Ohara) by chance and they begin to date. Riko’s father runs a fruit and vegetable shop and Riko doesn’t know about Aki’s background, but she likes to listen to him hum. Riko is in a band herself, with childhood friend Yuichi and Sota. One day she is scouted by the producer Soichiro. As the realization of Riko’s dream approaches, she learns of Aki’s role in making it come true. Despite Aki being initially dishonest with her, their relationship deepens and becomes true love.
Review: The Liar and His Lover is a classic romance movie that has also been remade into a Korean drama. It has an interesting storyline set in the music industry world. The age difference of Aki and Riko can be quite disconcerting because he is not only 9 years older than her but also at a different life stage – he is a successful music producer while she is still in high school. I think this appeals to fans who like the older man/younger woman trope and successful boss/secretary woman plot line. I am not personally a fan of the female lead being cast in a significantly “weaker” power role but I think The Liar and His Lover had some redeeming aspects because Aki was successful but also a somewhat weird success story since he was a recluse who wasn’t your typical successful, famous boss. Additionally, Riko wasn’t your typical hapless but innocent female lead; she was actually extremely gifted at singing and would mesmerize those around her. All in all, a cute watch!
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
7. From Me To You
Japanese Title: Kimi ni Todoke
Synopsis: Sawako Kuronuma (Mikkako Tabe) has always been avoided by her classmates because her name, her appearance and her manner too strongly resembles that of “Sadako”, the main character in the 1998 horror film Ring. They believe that when one stared into Sawako’s eyes for more than three seconds, bad luck will befall the person. They also believed that she could summon ghosts. These rumors got worse because Sawako is unable to express her views straightforwardly. All of the students call her ‘Sadako’, instead of her real name, and tell over and over again misfortunes that have befallen other students supposedly because of Sawako. However, Sawako is a kind person whose motto is “to do one good thing once a day”. Shota Kazehaya (Haruma Miura), on the other hand, is an outgoing student who is popular with his schoolmates, especially the girls.
On the first day of school, Sawako helped Kazehaya, who was lost, to find his way to the school. Since that day, Kazehaya treats Sawako with kindness, making Sawako respect and admire him. Sawako also made friends with her classmates Chizuru Yoshida and Ayane Yano after she agrees to play the role of the ghost in their class’s “Bravery Challenge” activity. With their help, she manages to gain self-confidence and interacts better with her classmates. The rumors about her also began to subside. However, Ume Kurumizawa, an admirer of Kazehaya, starts to become jealous of the way Sawako is being treated by Kazehaya.
Strange rumors like “Ayane has slept with 100 guys” started spreading. Sawako distances herself from her new-found friends, believing that they were targeted by the rumors because they were close to her and she did not want them to get hurt because of her. Both Chizuru and Ayane felt hurt after they overheard Sawako saying that she did not regard them as friends. However, with advice from Kazehaya, Sawako stands up to the people who were spreading the rumors. Sawako did not back down in spite of violence, and Chizuru and Ayane were greatly touched by Sawako’s actions. Their friendship becomes stronger.
At a sports festival, Kurumizawa, on the pretense of being Sawako’s friend, confessed her feelings for Kazehaya to Sawako and asked Sawako for her help. Sawako refused, saying that Kazehaya was also special to her. Kurumizawa then tried desperately to turn Sawako’s attention to Ryu, even to the extent of secretly arranging a meeting between them so that she could “coincidentally” walk past with Kazehaya. However, the plan backfired as Kazehaya got jealous and grabbed Sawako’s hand and pulled her away. Chizuru and Ayane later discovered Kurumizawa’s plot and cornered her, warning her about breaking apart Kazehaya and Sawako. However, Sawako begged both of them not to reveal this incident to Kazehaya. Kurumizawa later confessed her feelings for Kazehaya, who rejected her but said that he was happy that she confessed to him.
As winter came, Sawako’s father requested that she take a bus home instead of walking because he was concerned for her safety. When applying for the student concessionary pass, her teacher misplaces her student handbook, which contains treasured items such as a cherry blossom petal Sawako picked up on the day she first met Kazehaya, causing her grief. Kazehaya and Sawako also begin to spend less time together, because Kazehaya used to walk Sawako home. Kazehaya then tries desperately to go with her on a date and to confess to her, but Sawako always misunderstands and invites Chizuru along.
Out of desperation, Kazehaya suddenly confesses his feelings for Sawako and asks her to be his girlfriend. He also asked if she could go out on a date with him on Christmas Eve. Sawako rejected him and ran to the bus, leaving Kazehaya feeling dejected. To make matters worse, she did not turn up at a Christmas Eve party that she promised to go to, leaving Kazehaya in a foul mood at the party. Chizuru and Ayane suggest that she go apologize to Kazehaya on New Year’s Eve, when he volunteers at a festival every year. However, Sawako’s father’s orchestra has a concert that night, leaving Sawako conflicted over which to choose. With encouragement from her former rival Kurumizawa, Sawako eventually decides on Kazehaya, and apologizes to her father. Meanwhile, Kazehaya, after seeing Sawako’s handbook that the teacher passed to him, finally understands Sawako’s feelings towards him. Eventually, they meet up just after New Year’s Day and properly convey their feelings.
Review: From Me To You is such a beloved movie because of how sweet and well-developed the story line is. It has all of the factors that make up cute Japanese romance movies: popular good-looking male lead, shy but sweet female lead, earnestness of an innocent relationship where they both truly care for one another. This is one of the classics and should not be missed!
Overall Rating: 4/5
6. Your Name
Japanese Title: Kimi no Na wa
In the fall of 2013, Mitsuha Miyamizu is a high school girl living in the rural town of Itomori near Hida. Bored of the town, she wishes to be a Tokyo boy in her next life. Her wish is partially granted as she inexplicably begins to switch bodies intermittently with Taki Tachibana, a high school boy in Tokyo, waking up as the other person and having to live through their activities and social interactions for the day. The two initially believe these experiences to be vivid dreams, but eventually realize they can communicate with each other by leaving messages on paper, phones, and sometimes on each other’s skin. Mitsuha (in Taki’s body) sets Taki up on a date with coworker Miki Okudera, while Taki (in Mitsuha’s body) causes Mitsuha to become popular at school. One day, Taki (in Mitsuha’s body) accompanies Mitsuha’s grandmother Hitoha and her sister Yotsuha to leave the ritual alcohol kuchikamizake, made by the sisters, as an offering at the Shinto shrine located on a mountaintop outside the town. It is believed to represent the body of the village guardian god ruling over human connections and time. Taki reads a note from Mitsuha about the comet Tiamat, expected to pass nearest to Earth on the day of the autumn festival. The next day, Taki wakes up in his body and goes on a date with Miki, who tells him she enjoyed the date but also that she can tell that he is preoccupied with thoughts of someone else. Taki attempts to call Mitsuha on the phone, but cannot reach her as the body-switching ends.
Taki, Miki, and their friend Tsukasa travel to Gifu by train on a trip to Hida in search of Mitsuha, though Taki does not know the name of Itomori, relying on sketches he has made of the surrounding landscape from memory. A restaurant owner in Hida recognizes the town in the sketch, being originally from there. He takes Taki and his friends to the ruins of the town, which has been destroyed and where five hundred residents were killed when comet Tiamat unexpectedly fragmented as it passed by Earth three years earlier. While gazing over the impact crater in disbelief, Taki observes Mitsuha’s messages disappear from his phone and his memories of her begin to gradually fade, realizing that the two were also separated by time, as he is in 2016. Taki finds Mitsuha’s name in the record of fatalities, and he wonders if the body-switching was just a dream. While Miki and Tsukasa return to Tokyo, Taki journeys to the shrine, hoping to reconnect with Mitsuha and warn her about the comet. In the shrine, Taki drinks Mitsuha’s kuchikamizake then lapses into a vision, where he glimpses Mitsuha’s past. He also recalls that he had already encountered Mitsuha on a train when she came to Tokyo the day before the incident to find him, though Taki did not recognize her as the body-switching was yet to occur in his timeframe. Before leaving the train in embarrassment, Mitsuha had handed him her hair ribbon, which he has since worn on his wrist as a good-luck charm.
Taki wakes up in Mitsuha’s body at her house on the morning of the festival. Hitoha deduces what has happened and tells him the body-switching ability has passed down in her family as caretakers of the shrine. Taki convinces Tessie and Sayaka, two of Mitsuha’s friends, to get the townspeople to evacuate Itomori, by disabling the electrical substation and broadcasting a false emergency alert. Taki heads to the shrine, realizing that Mitsuha must be in his body there, while Mitsuha wakes up in Taki’s body. At the mountaintop during sunset, the two sense each other’s presence, but are separated due to contrasting timeframes and cannot see each other. When twilight falls (referred to in the film as “magic hour” or kataware-doki), they return to their own bodies and see each other in person. After Taki returns Mitsuha’s ribbon, they attempt to write their names on each other’s palm so that they will remember each other. Before Mitsuha can write hers, however, twilight passes, and they revert to their respective timeframes. When the evacuation plan fails, Mitsuha has to convince her father Toshiki, the mayor of Itomori, to evacuate everyone. Before doing so, Mitsuha notices her memories of Taki are fading away and discovers he wrote “I love you” on her hand instead of his own name. The comet’s fragments crash to Earth and destroy Itomori. Taki in his own timeframe remembering nothing.
Five years later, Taki has graduated from university and searches for a job. He senses that he lost something important that he cannot identify, and feels inexplicable interest in the events surrounding the comet, now eight years in the past. The town of Itomori had been destroyed; however, all of its people survived as they had evacuated just in time. Meanwhile, Mitsuha has since moved to Tokyo. Sometime later, Taki and Mitsuha glimpse each other when their respective trains pass each other, and are instantly drawn to seek one another. Each disembarks and races to find the other, finally meeting at the stairs of Suga Shrine. Taki calls out to Mitsuha, saying that he feels that he knows her, and she responds likewise. Having found what each had long searched for, they shed tears of happiness and simultaneously ask each other for their name.
Review: Your Name was a huge commercial success in Japan and only ranked behind Titanic, Spirited Away, and Frozen. It is one of the most recognizable Japanese movies and definitely a must watch. Your Name, while not a live-action romance movie, blends together beautiful realistic details about life in Japan and a heartwarming fantasy youth drama. The New York Times described it as a “wistfully lovely Japanese tale” and it truly is a pretty anime movie that draws you into the lives of these incredibly relatable characters. There are so many amazing points to this movie: unique literally out-of-this-world plot, beautiful anime depictions, easy to relate to characters. This is a movie that people of all ages – young and old – can watch together and marvel at.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Japanese Title: Jinkusu!!!
Synopsis: A South Korean exchange student named Ji-Ho (Hyomin) gets to know Kaede (Kurumi Shimizu) and Yusuke (Kento Yamazaki) while studying abroad at a Japanese university. Although Kaede and Yusuke have feelings for each other, they find it hard to express their feelings honestly. Ji-Ho notices the mutual feelings that Kaede and Yusuke have for each other. As a result, Ji-Ho takes it upon herself to play matchmaker for her two friends and introduces a Korean-style romance.
Review: Jinx! is one of my favorite, lighthearted Japanese romance movies to watch. I love Korean dramas so it was cute how Jinx! brought together Korean romance and interwove that with Japanese culture. Kento Yamazaki is also truly the prince of Japanese romance TV/movies. He is able to demonstrate a wide range of characters and always seems to perfectly fit the character he is playing. In this case, he’s a shy Japanese student who doesn’t know how to express his feelings towards another girl (which is such a contrast from his role in the Wolf Girl and Black Prince movie). If you’re looking for an easy, feel good Japanese romance movie to watch, Jinx! is the one for you!
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
4. Heroine Disqualified
Japanese Title: Hiroin Shikkaku
Synopsis: Hatori Matsuzaki (Mirei Kiritani) is a colorful freshman high school student who has harbored a deep crush on her childhood friend, the aloof Rita Terasaka (Kento Yamazaki), for several years. She is initially content with just being Rita’s friend, as she believes no one else is more suited to the role of being Rita’s ‘heroine’ than her – however, her beliefs are shattered when Rita begins to pursue a serious relationship with the bespectacled, awkward Miho Adachi (Miwako Wagatsuma). Hatori attempts several times to thwart the budding relationship between the two and eventually confesses her love to Rita, but is rejected. She also meets Kosuke Hiromitsu (Kentaro Sakatguchi), a playful womanizer who notices that Rita cares for Hatori and begins an off-hand relationship with her to irritate him, but eventually develops serious feelings for her. Later on, Adachi decides to travel abroad for 3 months for journalism work. Hatori and Rita go to a festival together at the end of summer, where Rita notices his growing feelings for Hatori and kisses her. The two become romantically involved, until Adachi returns earlier than expected. Upon finding out that Rita kissed Hatori, Adachi becomes heartbroken and collapses from anemia a few days later. Rita, out of guilt, breaks off his romance with Hatori and decides to stay with Adachi. A distressed Hatori decides to forget about Rita and pursue a much more serious relationship with Hiromitsu.
Although initially resolving to stay with Adachi, Rita finds it increasingly difficult to forget Hatori, and eventually breaks up with Adachi, who stops coming to school as a result. Hatori finds that she genuinely has feelings for Hiromitsu and enjoys being with him, but she cannot stop thinking about Rita and is jealous when her best friend, Kyoko Nakajima, becomes close with him, which strains her relationship with Hiromitsu. Rita resolves to no longer be half-hearted with his feelings and begins to seriously chase Hatori, confusing the latter. Things become even more complicated when Hiromitsu starts working part-time with an upperclassman who develops feelings for him, causing Hatori to become bitter and jealous. Hiromitsu grows increasingly exasperated with Hatori, and, unable to deal with her insecurity and involvement with Rita, breaks up with her.
Review: Heroine Disqualified captures all the wonderful and bittersweet parts of being a teenager while being just well written in my opinion. I enjoyed how it wasn’t a cliche romance movie but each character had many complex layers to them. Rita cares deeply for Hatori but also doesn’t want to hurt Adachi. Adachi likes Rita but is insecure and desperate for his affection. Hatori was caught between wanting to be friends with Rita and also liking him but worried that a relationship would hurt their deep friendship. I really enjoyed seeing how each character grew and matured in this drama. Heroine Disqualified is one of my favorite because it not only still embodies the cute, lighthearted aspects of Japanese romance but it also shows deeper emotional themes of growth.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Japanese Title: L-DK
Synopsis: Aoi Nishimori (Ayame Gouriki) lives by herself in an apartment as her parents had moved to another city for work. Aoi didn’t want to transfer to a new high school and stays behind. She meets Shusei Kugayama, the popular “prince” of her high school who has a reputation of turning down love confessions for admiring girls. Aoi Nishimori is offended by him after he coldly turns down a confession by her best friend, Moe Shibuya. Later that day, Aoi finds out that her new neighbor is none other than Shusei! Aoi accidentally sets off a kitchen fire in Shusei’s apartment and ruins his apartment as the sprinkler floods all of his belongings. As a result, Shusei decides to move into Aoi’s apartment temporarily and they grow to know each other better over time. Although she started off disliking Shusei, after getting to know Shusei better, Aoi ends up developing feelings for him. The two eventually fall in love with one another.
Review: L-DK is a classic Japanese high school romance movie with my favorite Japanese romance actor, Kento Yamazaki, once again delivering a great performance. Ayame Gouriki does a good job with being both tough and sweet at the same time, which is refreshing to watch. L-DK also spins the cohabitation plot mostly realistically – it was a mistake that set off the sprinklers and the cohabitation was meant to be temporary while workers fixed the apartment. Based on manga series “L•DK” by Ayu Watanabe (published in Monthly Bessatsu Friend from March, 2009 to September, 2017), this is a must watch!
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
2. Daytime Shooting Star
Japanese Title: Hirunaka no Ryuusei
Synopsis: Suzume Yosano (Mei Nagano) moves from the countryside to Tokyo to live with her uncle as her parents leave the country for work opportunities abroad. While staying with her uncle, she attends a new high school in Tokyo. She has a fond memory of seeing a shooting star during the daytime when she was younger and is convinced that she can see one again. While on her way to her uncle’s house, she pauses to stare at the sky and accidentally falls. Luckily Satsuki Shishio (Shohei Miura) saves her and brings her to her uncle’s house.
The next day at her new school, Suzume realizes that Satsuki is actually her homeroom teacher. She is assigned to sit next to Daiki Mamura (Alan Shirahama) in class and realizes that he has a fear of women and stays away from girls as a result. Upon discovering this, Suzume uses it to blackmail him into being her friend. Once he becomes friends with her, he begins to get more used to being around girls and starts to develop feelings for Suzume.
In the meantime, Suzume falls in love with Satsuki, despite him being her homeroom teacher. he confesses her feelings, but is rejected. He somewhat reluctantly falls in love with Suzume. After she confesses to him for a second time, he agrees to date her in secret. This time Satsuki accepts and they date in secret. This only lasts a short time, since Satsuki thinks their love for one another was not really love. Eventually Satsuki asks Suzume what she would do if he stopped teaching. Suzume replies with “I’m going with you,” to his surprise, so he says he was just kidding. Satsuki and Suzume’s relationship is inadvertently discovered by Suzume’s uncle Yukichi to which he disapproved. Satsuki realizes the gravity of his situation then says they should just quit “it”—their relationship—and just go back to having a normal student-teacher relationship. He says that her love for him was just “admiration,” and she does not really love him at all.
This whole time, Mamura is jealous of Satsuki and Suzume’s relationship and becomes protective and supportive during the times Suzume is hurt emotionally. Despite his feelings for Suzume, Mamura decides to keep them hidden only revealing them when he discovers Satsuki’s decision to cease his relationship with Suzume. When they become second years in high school, Mamura becomes popular with the underclassmen much to the chagrin of Suzume. Suzume’s friends come up with the idea to have Mamura and Suzume pretend to date in order to make the underclass girls leave him alone.
Suzume is still upset about Satsuki’s rejection and so Mamura takes her to the aquarium to cheer her up. While at the aquarium, he confesses his feelings for her, but Suzume is unsure about how to react. Upon going home, Suzume realizes she is in love with him. She runs to his house and confesses to him, which he accepts, and the two begin to date. However, Satsuki realizes that he still loves Suzume and when Suzume finds out that Satsuki was in an accident, she rushes back to Tokyo from a school trip in the countryside to see Satsuki. However, after seeing Satsuki, she realizes that her feelings for him cannot compare to her feelings for Mamura and she ends up happily with Mamura.
Review: Daytime Shooting Star was an unexpected surprise. Movies based on teacher-student romance usually don’t quite fit my taste but Daytime Shooting Star was pretty tastefully done and not overtly focused on that romance. It showed the innocence of Suzume’s feelings for Satsuki and also how Satsuki didn’t view her as his student because they started off as friends. The movie shows the growth of Suzume’s character and her journey of realizing where her true feelings lay. This narrative arc is definitely something many people can empathize with and helped to ground the movie in realism. Daytime Shooting Star is aased on manga series “Hirunaka no Ryuusei” by Mika Yamamori published from May 20, 2011 to November 5, 2014 in Japanese shojo manga magazine Margaret. It is an enjoyable watch with likable characters who are struggling to do the right thing and shows a wonderful cast of supportive friends and family. A repeat watch for sure!
Overall Rating: 5/5
Japanese Title: Orenji
In 2015, Naho Takamiya (Tao Tsuchiya), a 16-year-old girl about to start her second year of high school in Matsumoto, abruptly receives letters while on her way to school. The letters are from Naho herself, but ten years into the future. The Naho in the future asks her younger self to prevent her “biggest regret” from happening. Though initially skeptical, Naho eventually begins to read the letters as they predict some of the events that would happen in her time, the foremost being the enrollment of Kakeru Naruse (Kento Yamazaki), a transfer student from Tokyo, to her class. Kakeru is quickly befriended by Naho and her friends: Hiroto Suwa (Ryo Ryusei), Takako Chino (Hirona Yamazaki), Saku Hagita (Dori Sakurada), and Azusa Murasaka (Kurumi Shimizu).Through the letters, Naho learns that something bad will happen to Kakeru. She decides to do the opposite of the events detailed in the letters in hopes of averting it. She encourages Kakeru to join the soccer team. She objects his pursuing of a relationship with upperclassman Rio Ueda (Erina Mano) which ultimately leads to Kakeru’s breakup with her. Naho insists that the two watch the school fireworks together. At the same time, in 2025, the now 26-year-old Naho, who is now married and has a baby with Hiroto, visits Kakeru’s former home together with her friends, where it is revealed that they are attending a memorial for the long-dead Kakeru. What surprises them, however, is the revelation that Kakeru died not because of an accident, but suicide.
Back in 2015, Naho and Kakeru pay a visit to a shrine during the Bon Festival where, through Naho’s insistence, Kakeru tearfully reveals about his mother’s suicide on the day of the school entrance ceremony, which he did not attend because of a conflict he had with his mother. Several days afterward, Hiroto goes to Naho’s house to tell her that he has also received the letters from his 2025 self, who directs him to do as Naho’s does. He states that though they cannot undo what has happened in their sender selves, they can create a new parallel universe where Kakeru can end up living. To achieve this goal, Naho and Hiroto inform Chino, Hagita, and Azu about the letters and ask them to help presenting gifts for Kakeru’s 17th birthday. Kakeru gives the flowers he requested from Hiroto to Naho. Next, all five sign up to back Kakeru for the upcoming relay race, where he serves as the anchor. Before the race, a murky Kakeru reveals the truth about his mother to the five. With their support, he regains his spirit and ends up winning the race. After the race, as a “reward” for his success in the relay race, Kakeru kisses Naho on the cheek. Several weeks before the New Year, the time when Kakeru would commit suicide (according to her future self), Naho gets into a conflict with Kakeru about his grandmother’s health, and the two become distant. A day before December 31, though, Naho confesses her feelings for Kakeru, wherein the latter reveals his plans for suicide. At home, Kakeru finds a pre-recorded video of his mother and learns that she committed suicide because she did not want to burden him any further and that she wished that he would find happiness elsewhere. On New Year’s Eve, realizing that Kakeru does not come on time, the five friends frantically search for him through the streets of Minamoto. They finally find him almost getting hit by a truck, being saved at the last second by the thoughts of his friends. He subsequently apologizes for his suicide attempt and confesses that he does not want to die knowing that he cannot be with them again.
The film closes with the 2025 Naho, Hiroto, Chino, Hagita, and Azu watching the sunset from a hill nearby, while in the parallel 2015, the same event happens, except that Kakeru is with them.
Review: Orange is one of my all-time favorite Japanese romance, coming-of-age movies! It reminds me of “Your Name” due to the time travel and parallel universe element. Something that makes Orange just wonderful is how it is more than a romance movie – instead, it touches on themes of deep friendship, family ties, mental health, and more. Mental health issues are typically seen as a taboo topic in Asia so it was great to see a Japanese movie talk so frankly about the depression that Kakeru’s mother faced and how that impacted Kakeru to the point where he did (and almost did in the parallel universe) commit suicide. Orange is one of those movies that you would watch over and over again!
Overall Rating: 5/5