Reviewer's Note: The copy of the Love*Com DVD I watched was a screener sent for advance press. It had no menu and none of the advertised special features. The subtitles were automatic with no option to turn them off, and even had Japanese subtitles for when the narrator speaks in English. I have every reason to assume this will be different in the final product when it is released. This is why I have skipped adding any number ratings for Video, Audio, or Extras.
Risa (Ema Fujisawa) is taller than the boys in her high school class, and as a result, can't get a boyfriend. Otani (Teppei Koike) is shorter than all the girls, and thus spends his nights alone, as well. No one wants to be one half of a mismatched couple, and height is one of the first things people notice. It's what's called a "love complex," and it's what keeps people from finding bliss. It's also the set-up for Love*Com the Movie, a Japanese teen comedy coming to DVD in the U.S.
Seeing the couple's predicament, all of their friends think they'd be perfectly matched together. They are even more in sync than they are willing to admit, saying the same things at the same time and choosing the same song to sing for karaoke. The only ones who think this is ludicrous are Risa and Otani--that is, until the fateful Christmas night when Otani comes to Risa's rescue, and she decides that he's the boy for her. Now it's just a matter of getting him to see her as a real girl and convincing him that height ain't nothin' but a number. If he doesn't wise up, she just may give her heart to the dreamy new homeroom teacher (Shosuke Tanihara, Fudoh: The New Generation) that looks just like the smooth Don Juan in Risa's favorite role-playing video game.
Love*Com is based on a popular manga of the same name. Written and drawn by Aya Nakahara, it's a manic teen romance that explodes from the printed page, regularly breaking the fourth wall and full of side gags and exaggerated mannerisms. First-time director Kitaji Ishikawa admirably tries to match this style, creating a vibrant, colorful film that translates many of the comic book conventions to live-action. This includes onscreen captions, humorous interludes, and an all-seeing narrator. The result is over-the-top and not without its appeal, but it's also too silly for its own good.
If you're a fan of the original programming that regularly runs on the Disney Channel, then you might enjoy the spirited antics of Love*Com the Movie. For all the bright colors and high-speed energy, I actually found it dull and hard to get into. Without the style, Love*Com is a pretty standard high school farce and wouldn't have been out of place as a prime-time Saved by the Bell special. While I applaud Ishikawa's intention to give the movie a real comic book flavor, it's really not enough to get the movie over the hump.
I would be remiss, however, if I didn't single out the performance of Ema Fujisawa as the female lead. Apparently this is only her second feature, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a more committed actress. Every syllable she utters comes with either an extra facial twitch or some kind of exaggerated physical gesture, and it's bizarrely appealing. I can't see it working in a more sophisticated movie, and to be honest, some people might find it wickedly annoying, but in a tepidly predictable film like this, the actress did give me a reason to keep watching.
Love*Com the Movie is a widescreen film, and even on the screener, the picture had excellent colors and no problems with edge enhancement or artifacting. It should be a nice looking DVD when the final master is done. (Amazon lists a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, but surely this must be an error.)
Even without any special audio options to choose from, I also noticed a good atmosphere in the sound mix on the Japanese soundtrack, including effects in the front and back speakers that gave the film depth. The subtitles were well paced and well written.
I didn't have any of the extras to watch on my screener copy, but from what I can find, there will actually be several bonus features on the retail version. According to the advance press I could find, they will be as follows:
Director & Cast profile
"Hello, Girlfriend": a parody short film
Interviews with starring actors Ema Fujisawa & Teppei Koike
Music Video by Umi Bouzu
Original Japanese trailer
A spirited manga adaptation, the live-action teen comedy Love*Com the Movie tries for big laughs but mostly fizzles. While I applaud the colorful comic book style and the above-the-call-of-duty performance from the film's young lead, Ema Fujisawa, the movie overall treads territory that is far too familiar and never quite transcends the age limits on the genre. While this would be worth a rental for fans of the original comic, or even for a young person in your life that likes Japanese manga, for all others, I suggest you Skip It.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with JoŽlle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent project is the comedy series Spell Checkers, again with Jones and artist Nicolas Hitori de. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.