Man on Top
It's every guy's fantasy in Moteki, or Love Strikes, where a nerdy fellow without a fat wallet, fast car or swanky apartment, suddenly finds himself the centre of attraction of the many females within his sphere of influence. Think of it as something of a mojo effect, being inexplicably linked to that sudden seductive power of being irresistably attractive, and looking at the poster of the four girls in question, it's not a bad deal at all. Except that it's a little bit unfairly balanced in the actual storyline, with promises of laughter soon giving way to very serious melodramatic fare about modern day relationships and the games people play with the affairs of the heart.
Yukiyo Fujimoto (Mirai Moriyama, whom I last saw in the awesome Fish Story) finds himself at the wrong side of 30, and a year after the drama series of the same name Moteki, which isn't a pre-requisite in order to follow and enjoy the film. A geek through and through, he still finds himself anxious at probably being the last virgin on Earth, without a proper job and with a non-existent circle of female friends. Things get worse when he joins Natalie, a webzine, as a journalist, and gets his balls constantly busted by colleagues, and even his manager (Lily Franky), being the gag punching bag from the day he stepped into regular employment. But with time spent on Twitter (great advertising and product placement there), he soon hooks up with someone with a manly avatar, who turns out to be the incredibly attractive Miyuki (Masami Nagasawa, but of course), a magazine editor with whom he shares plenty of common interests, and an unforgetable night out culminating in a fairly innocent sleepover, only to find that she's attached to a live-in boyfriend. Cue demolished self-confidence, if there was one to begin with.
While the marketing efforts, and even the opening song montage boasted of four attractive women, Moteki the movie is primarily about Yukiyo's relentless pursuit of Miyuki, his unattainable goddess, whom he knows on one hand it's hopeless to try and woo, but on the other finding it difficult to forget her and let go. After all, it's that smile, that laugh and that demeanour that got him hooked, nevermind if one of her friends, the lonely Rumiko (Kumiko Aso) confesses her profound love for him, and being at risk of getting her heart broken given his constant indecision, and sole focus on short term gains. As for the other two ladies featured, it's kind of disappointing that they didn't make it beyond a few scenes, with Riisa Naka playing a bar girl and single mom who dispenses advice to Yukiyo, and fellow colleague Motoko (Yoko Maki) having absolutely no romantic inkling at all to the chap, except save for suggestions that didn't seem to go anywhere, making it more platonic instead.
For those who have been in a similar boat before - or at least being at the crossroads of relationships involving choice - isn't it always almost true that the person we truly love don't necessarily have to love us back, or on the flip side of the same coin, we may be that object of attraction to others, only to give them the cold shoulder as well. Talk about what goes around coming around, which Yukiyo experiences in his life with both Miyuki and Rumiko, and the propensity of the greed, and even ungratefulness in us, to pursue what's an unattainable goal and ignoring clear warning signs. Worse, we don't realize that we tend to do the same to others at times, being on the other side of the equation, and don't let go of it gently, preferring the selfish dropping of the bombshell rather than to, no matter how hard or painful it will get, ease cold hard reality into it. Sure it'll hurt like hell, but that doesn't mean a disregard or a non attempt to try and sooth the blow.
Despite varying screen times that's grossly unbalanced for most of the cast, director Hitoshi Ohne didn't for once deceive what would be his focus of the story, that of Yukiyo and his quest to pursue Miyuki, with the rest being little but padding to boast his Moteki influence which I felt wasn't really too strong to begin with. It just showed that so long as we open ourselves up in our social lives we may strike jackpot one day, but truly that's more fantasy than reality, and fantasy is how this movie got played out and made. Key milestones and moments in the film got marked with music videos, with characters especially Miyuki branching off into song and dance quite like any typical Bollywood masala film, or the movie will turn into a cheesy Karaoke video complete with sing along lyrics if you read Japanese. It's a great showcase for Japanese music and for the musicians and the bands to be showcased, especially if you're into J-Pop.
But alas those looking for a downright comedy from beginning to end may be a little bit disappointed. It started off with rip-roaring intent, before deciding to shift gears and find itself embattled in romantic melodrama from the mid way point. After all, isn't that how the trajectory of romances usually follow, with the initial spark shooting emotions to a high, before finally finding a plateau and evens out the enthusiasm, with what's core left to sustain a relationship through even the most mundane of times. For that, and for Masami Nagasawa's return to the big screen here and her pairing opposite Mirai Moriyama, makes Love Strikes! a recommended affair.