8 August 2001 | mb4084
Disappointing spin-off from cult Japanese computer game
It's perhaps not fair for a 'gaijin' like me to comment unfavourably on this film. 'Tokimeki Memorial' was intended for Japanese audiences and its real test should be its popularity with them. But since the film, at least in name, is a spin-off from a cult role-playing computer simulation game that did enjoy some popularity outside Japan, I'll use that as my justification.
'Tokimeki Memorial' in its original game concept required the player to assume the identity of a Japanese student who sets out to win the affections of his teenage sweetheart during their time together at Kirameki High School. The word 'Tokimeki' means 'throbbing'and this is a reference to the beatings of the young lovers hearts as their budding romance blossoms. The game first appeared in Japan in the mid-1990s and soon came to assume cult status, with CDs, websites , books and other material devoted to it. So by 1997, when the film was made, the time was ripe to cash in on this fame and attention and at the same time provide a showcase for up and coming young Japanese actors and actresses.
So far so good, and had the screenplay kept more closely to the high-school setting of the game a reasonably good film would probably have resulted. In fact, except for about the first and last 5 minutes of the film, the story is set in a remote seaside resort where our teenage high school crew help to run a fast food restaurant near the beach. The chief female character in the game, 'Shiori Fujisaki',is relegated to the status of a walk-on part in the film, while young actresses like Kanako Enomoto and Sayaka Yamaguchi are given hardly anything to say or do to justify their appearing in the film . Both of them can act if they're given half a chance, especially Kanako. And to see what the pair of them can do together, just watch the TV series 'Kawaii Dake Ja Dame Kashira'.
The young cast are all easy on the eye and enthusiastic in what they do, but I don't think anyone's reputation will have been enhanced by this film. It's not their fault, the basic problem is that once the high school setting was dropped there was no real plot or story to hang the film around. What action there is is insufficient to sustain a film with 7 characters of equal weight, even if it is only about 90 minutes long. There just isn't enough story to go round that number of people given the setting that was chosen. Left in the high schooI, things might have been quite different. 'Dead Poets Society' was set in a high school, it had a similar number of characters of similar age, and it turned out pretty well I think, Robin Williams alone would not have made 'Dead Poets' the success that it was, the real difference was the strong storyline. But 'Tokimeki Memorial' had neither a Robin Williams nor a strong story ,so the comparison is perhaps too harsh.
'Judgement reserved' seems the most fitting way to sum up my impression of this film.