Imai Natsuki's Koizora (Love Sky) Review

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Imai Natsuki's Koizora (Love Sky) Review

It can easily be said that Japan is one of the cellular capitols of the world, where people use their cellular phones not only as communication devices but also for a number of business and personal functions from text messaging and web browsing to paying bills online and watching streaming content. Therefore it was just a matter of time before novels and manga/comics became widely available via online cellular services.

"Mahou No i Rando" (a play on "Magic Island") is one of the more popular services to come out specializing in "Keitai Shosetsu" (mobile/cellular novels). Following the success of their first cellular novel "Deep Love", "Koizora" was touted as a "true story" based on the life experiences of its young author "Mika", a first time/amateur novelist.

With its tearful story of young love, loss and perseverance, it was an instant hit among readers particularly young, female high schoolers. However, much criticism also accompanied the novel particularly from those who saw its depictions of underage sex, rape and pregnancy as obscene. Many also criticized the novels portrayal of cancer victims as not really realistic.

Despite these criticisms, the novel was a best seller and widely read, spawning a couple of stories - "Kimi Zora" (You, Sky) which took the point of view from the side of "Koizora" character Hiro and "Another Koizora", a sequel of sorts.

It was only time before the film adaptation of "Koizora" became a reality. Directed by TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) TV J-Dorama director Imai Natsumi (Orange Days, Koko Kyoshi), the film is a faithful interpretation of the cellular novel and is every bit as tearful, heartbreaking and poignant as its source material. It's success at the Japanese box office (currently in the Top Ten as of 11/28/07) is another indication of the impact it has on audiences.

Screenwriter Watanabe Mutsuki (who wrote for the quirky "Keitai Keiji/Cellular Detective" TV series) does an admirable job at adapting Mika's novel and keeping the overall tone of the story without taking away from the story.

Much of the film deals with the growing affections igh schoolers Tahara Mika (Aragaki Yui) and Sakurai "Hiro" Hiroki (Miura Haruma) have for each other and the troubles that transpire during the course of their relationship. Their love story plays almost like a "Harlequin Romance" as Mika is at first scared and apprehensive of Hiro but soon begins to see the romantic and sensitive side behind his punk exterior. It's a bit too dramatic at points and some of the story plots seem to be overly contrived (in the style of a J-Dorama/K-Drama story). For instance, Hiro's former girlfriend, Saki (Usuda Asami) arranges to have Mika kidnapped and raped as a humiliation tactic against Hiro. While it does add drama to the story, it's a bit gratuitous and over-the-top in my opinion.

While many have criticized the physical relationship between these two characters (Mika and Hiro are both around 15-16 years old) director Imai is very tasteful in not emphasizing or exploiting that aspect. Even in the much criticized scene where Mika and Hiro make love in the school library, Imai thankfully leaves the details to one's imagination without going into too much salacious territory.

There are some aspects of the film that were a bit much. While the story takes place in Oita Prefecture in Kyushu, the high school seems to be almost too "hip" to be a school in the Japanese countryside. All the students looks like they belong on MTV's "The Real World" and it seems a bit too staged. Also, both Mika and Hiro seem almost too perfect to be for real. They seem far more mature for high school sweethearts.

Okinawa born model and actress Aragaki Yui plays the title character of Mika. Tall, cute and sweet, she is perfect as the main love interest. Her charisma and charm radiates from the screen and one can't help but be captivated by her. J-Pop Singer/Actor Miura Haruma is also spot-on perfect as the loner/rebel character of Hiro. His character is the atypical Japanese hero (brash and carefree, strong but sensitive). With his bleached blonde hair and dark tan, it is little wonder why he captured Mika's heart.

Yamamoto Ryuji, Aso Yumi, "Karina", Takahashi Joji, and Fukada Aki are all very good in their supporting roles. Koide Kesuke, who plays Fukuhara Yu rival lover to Hiro, is also very likable as the nice guy character who can't seem to compete with the "bad boy". It was nice to see veteran J-Dorama actress Asano Yuko again and she is perfect at Mika's understanding mother.

Kudos also go to cinematographer, Yamamoto Hideo whose wonderful shots of the Kyushu surroundings as well as the skies over Japan are breathtaking and grand.

On the whole I was quite happy with "Koizora". It is weepy and sometimes overly dramatic movie at times but still a good enough film for couples in love. A good "chick flick" with a little bit of a bite and one that won't have male viewers bored to tears.

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