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Ashita no Watashi Tsukurikata (How to Become Myself) (2007) February 14, 2010

Posted by ayasawada in Film.
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ashita no watashi no tsukurikata poster

What makes a good movie? Or, to be more precise, what makes you like a film? Often, and given the obsessiveness with which I review/analyse movies on this blog, you’d think it was the closeness to perfection — perfect script, execution, acting, pacing etc. — that makes for a good film. But sometimes it’s a film’s faults that endears it to me. That’s what I was thinking as I watched Ashita no Watashi Tsukurikata.

The final complete film of the late Jun Ichikawa, the story follows two schoolgirls: Juri, an obedient girl who tries not to stand out, and Kanako, who was once popular. Never really close friends, the girls go their separate ways after middle school and adapt to life as best they can before, seemingly on a whim, Juri decides to make anonymously rekindle their contact over email. In many ways, it’s a typical teenage slice-of-life story of friendship, angst and uncertainty — a female bromance. As the title suggests, it’s about how two teenagers come to terms with their identity: the many faces we present to our family, friends, teachers, and what it means to be ‘yourself’.

So far so Jdorama. The film features more than a few things resembling popular Japanese TV melodramas or popular movies — the overly sentimental background score, for one, had me screaming ‘PUT THE BLOODY XYLOPHONE DOWN’.

What you want in a coming-of-age/slice-of-life tale is a dreamy background score as in Honey and Clover or Ef. Actually, the Ef comparison is rather apt. One of the interesting things about the film is Ichikawa’s use of split/multi-screen, the kind that is seen often in the likes of 24 these days and which has been used effectively in anime like Ef or Kare Kano. This plus the use of onscreen email texts similar to that used in things like All About Lily Chou Chou, aims to show contrasted emotions or activities, or emphasise the simultaneous but contrasting feelings of distance and intimacy that email/text brings. To be honest, it doesn’t quite work, sometimes seeming cheesy, overly-stylised or just pointless. But it did have me wondering whether the story — an adaptation of a novel by Kaori Mado — would have been just as effectively, if not better, done in anime.

Despite its flaws — or perhaps because of them — I found Ashita no Watashi Tsukurikata quite endearing. For one thing, I do like this kind of tale, even though it always runs the risk of developing strong cheesy whiffs. But I like stories where people find friendship and help each other. I like to see how people deal with the rapidly-changing nature of life, as it seems to teenagers, and how they get out of the bubble of their own problems and learn to live happily in their own skin I’m also a sucker for any story which features a character’s burgeoning writing talent. And I think what sealed the deal was a scene where Kanako, full of self-loathing, tries to dump her boyfriend, but he just won’t go away! Aw, young love.

But mostly, I liked this film because it tries to do interesting things. The only Ichikawa film I’d seen previously was Tony Takitani, and this is nothing like that. Given how that film is and the ponderousness of this movie’s subject matter, perhaps I expected something more stylised, or to be precise, better execution of it. But that fact that it tries is interesting in itself, and that, plus the warmth of the story made this an enjoyably spent two hours.

If you’d like to watch the film yourself, some kind soul has put the entire film on YouTube in 10 parts. Here’s the first:

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