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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look44.44%
Average: 5.56%
Pretty Bad: 38.89%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 12 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"The strangest Japanese import yet - a movie where teen girls get along!"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: All you pervs who reached this page by searching for "Japanese Catholic Schoolgirls" may leave now; this almost lighter-than air trifle isn't really for you. The young girls it's made for should get a kick out of it, though - it's a fun, upbeat little fantasy, equal parts Harry Potter, Sailor Moon, and Nancy Drew.

As with many such tales, it starts with a dead parent, in this case the mother of Fumio Shijo (Juri Ueno). This leads her to her wealthy brother Kazuomi (Yusuke Iseya), whom she didn't know existed before. "The Prince", as she calls him, enrolls her in St. Michael's Academy, a Catholic girls' school on a sort-of remote island (she takes the train over what appears to be a twenty-mile-long bridge every day). The formal students make her feel out of place, but she winds up finding a couple other girls who would rather sneak out to snack on chicken ramen than stay in the stuffy confines of the school all day: Class President Yuzuko Sarashina (Airi Taira) is faking the upper class thing herself, as her parents are new millionaires, while star athlete Kazune Saiki (Megumi Seki) associates it with her hunky tutor Shunsuke (Toshinobu Matsuo), who lets her eat it between bonks on the head while studying. They're hanging around together when a strange explosion gives them superpowers - which could come in useful, what with the recent series of teenaged asian girls from wealthy families being kidnapped.

The superpowers and the kidnappings are basically an excuse to give the movie a big action finale, while the rest is occupied with girl stuff - secret clubs, preparing for a big party/school festival, and Fumio fretting about how she really doesn't seem to fit into her brother's world. There is, of course, a potential suitor for Kazuomi with visions of sending Fumio off to Switzerland, but it's indicative of how good-natured Fumio and the film in general are that she rapidly embraces the idea, wanting to please this potential sister, feeling that she's screwed up her brother's life and that it is wrong for her to expect him to make changes to accommodate her.

I'm only half-kidding when I suggest that American viewers might be confused by the utter lack of cliques and backbiting among the girls. Kazune's nickname of "Lady Oscar", used to connote a girl with a sort of masculine beauty, doesn't come across as mean, and we never see other girls appear to use it as teasing. The closest thing to inter-student meanness is Fumio describing a hypersensitive classmate with the word "crybaby".

But, that doesn't stop Fumio, Yuzuko, and Kazune from racing to her rescue when she's kidnapped. The finale of the movie is giddily over-the-top with obvious CGI, fights where people get knocked around and fly through the air but seldom seem to be injured or hurt. The bad guys have a nearly unlimited supply of weapons (seriously, a submarine?). The whole thing gets more ridiculous as it goes along, but it's entertaining as all heck, and the filmmakers are able to use it to set up the real ending and resolution.

The film is based upon the manga "Warau Mikaeru", and like several other teen-oriented live-action manga adaptations (Cromartie High School, All-Out Nine), it integrates a lot of manga devices into the film's style, some good, some less so. There's a lot of slow-motion and "bullet time" during the action scenes, for instance, and asides which replicate the notes frequently scribbled in the margins of shojo (girls') manga. CGI is used for the school's mascot rather than training a dog, and I'm not certain it adds anything other than looking fake. There's also a lot of narration, to the point where it starts to get a little annoying: If the subtitles are correct, it's usually something obvious.

The cast is good, though; Juri Ueno and Airi Taira have fun chemistry as Fumio and Kazuomi; they've got a knack for being comically out of step but also give the film a certain amount of weight as orphans who initially don't quite realize what finding each other means. Airi Taira and Megumi Seki play supporting characters, really, but well enough that the movie could have been about either one of them if the script had been focused differently.

So, maybe it's not quite lighter-than-air; but it's got the knack for seeming that way. It's hard not to like a movie this pure-intentioned.

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originally posted: 07/12/07 21:54:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/26/09 Maxx83 There are certainly a number of biological differences between men and women. , <a href="ht 2 stars
10/25/09 Stinky56 With the exception of one language, Ngore-Kiga, for which Haspelmath did not have relia 2 stars
10/24/09 Miss75 Interestingly, this is the second Gehry designed project to be financed with specially allo 2 stars
10/24/09 Barbara46 Islam is a problem the solution to which exists so far outside their mental universes as to 2 stars
10/23/09 Red41 The plane was equipped with a weather radar too. , 3 stars
10/23/09 Wolf19 Many people, myself included, were very confused by the revamped interface. , 4 stars
6/23/09 margaret an96Pc ega7Kl0dnDduqp6s2bnp1o 2 stars
6/23/09 nataly tqoYmf ghUnxCczpf72ndOqi20g 4 stars
6/16/09 Jcphtvft Jonny was here 2 stars
6/14/09 Tqmhnkys i'm fine good work 2 stars
6/10/09 Magic Jonny was here 5 stars
6/10/09 crazyivan Hello good day 5 stars
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Directed by
  Issei Oda

Written by
  Motoki Yoshimura
  Issei Oda

  Juri Ueno
  Megumi Seki
  Airi Taira
  Yusuke Iseya

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