East Side Stories: Otakus in Love

Otakus In Love and Love Strikes! were recently part of the East Side Stories touring film festival by the Japan foundation at the ICA London and other locations.

Where: ICA London/ Belfast/Bristol/Dundee/Edinburgh/Newcastle upon Tyne/Nottingham/Sheffield
When: 31 January to 27 March 2014
Website: http://www.jpf-film.org.uk/
[rating=7]

Otakus in love (Koi no Mon) follow’s tramp, or more accurately low maintenance Mon Aoki (Ryuhei Matsuda) – a mis-understood ‘manga artisan’ who can’t seem to hold down a steady job. Mostly due to his run down appearance and his stubborn belief that one day his art will actually sell.

The problem is that his concept of manga isn’t a comic strip, he arranges and paints rock in wooden boxes which freaks most people out. One day as he follows a hand drawn map on his hand which wasn’t too clever as the rain washes most of it off. He bumps into Koino Akashi, she promptly maims Mon with lethal stiletto heel as he reaches for a beloved rock and he proceeds to arrive late at his new part time job at Tsugino Happy Inc.

Coincidentally she also works at Tsugino Happy Inc. The boss is perpetually-enraged at Mon’s lateness and poverty stricken look and fires him at his welcome party after Mon reveals his love for manga. Koino immediately becomes fascinated as she is a full bred otaku, and if you watch the film you will find out to what extent.

Thus begins their topsy-turvy ‘relationship’ complete with mandatory cosplay and panty shots. Imagine getting lucky with the girl of your dreams. This film has, as one of Koino’s fans would put it, “a gift for reckless plot twists” with lots of slap stick humour and geeky references. It’s great to see an infusion of over the top otaku moments contrasted with the hatred of Mr Happy and Marimoda at the job trying to tear down Mon’s beliefs and talent.

Director Suzuki Matsuo is best recognised internationally for  Ichi the Killer. Matsuo dabbles in playwright, stage direction, novels, columns, essays, and occasional manga artist. Otakus in love was his debut as a film director. His adaptation of Jun Hanyunyuu’s manga is fast-paced and vibrantly whatever the mood of the character. Ironically Matsuo himself plays the most laid back character of the manga bar boss.

If you’re looking for a film with two hours of geek culture, this is it. From 2004 you can feel it’s a bit outdated but some of the references are classics so it wouldn’t matter anyway. There are a wide array of characters from the odd circus troupe or band housemates who live with Mon to the quirky people hanging around the manga bar.

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