Jmovie Review: Kyou, Koi wo Hajimemasu

Hmm…to recap or not to recap… I think not. At least not like I usually do. This will be more OHSHC movie style. You’ll get more of a recap from the screencaps and their captions than my commentary.

This is a live action movie based on the manga of the same name by Minami Kanan. Apparently the English title of the movie is Love for Beginners. Such a horrible title. I like the Japanese better. It’s a high school romance filled with angst and it’s got a bit of ecchi-ness to it. Seriously, there are many scenes in the manga where the leading male character constantly tries to get the female lead into bed. This, of course, isn’t actually translated as much into the movie version.

If you are expecting this movie to be faithful to the manga, well you’re wrong—it’s not. Like ParaKiss it diverges…quite a bit. So really, it’s a movie that loosely uses a manga as a framework. Characters are the same and some of the important major events are somewhat the same, but you can’t read the manga and know what will happen in the movie or watch the movie and know what happened in the manga, you really can’t. And if you really loved the manga, you will have to divorce it from the movie or you might get a wee bit upset.

Since this was a manga that I have not followed religiously, it doesn’t really bug me. This was a manga that kind of lost is appeal as it is really just like so many others out there. That doesn’t make it bad, but just meant that I could skip it and not really miss it. Although, even though it has been quite some time since I have ready Kyou, Koi wo Hajimemasu, I could tell right from the get go that they were straying quite far from the plot of the manga.

We open with our two leads almost kissing when Hibino Tsubaki (Takei Emi) takes a step back and tells our leading man Tsubaki Kyota (Matsuzaka Tori) to wait. We then rewind to learn about plain, old fashioned Tsubaki and her family and how she came to know Kyota. I think they stressed the old-fashionedness of Tsubaki just a tad too much. Sure, Tsubaki was a more plain and straight laced in the manga, but at the same time I think they made her naïve and old fashioned to the extreme in the movie which at times was annoying. I don’t remember the Hibino Tsubaki from the manga talking about how kissing is something that shouldn’t be done unless you are serious about one another and planning on marriage. The belief in no sex before marriage isn’t bad, but…the kissing is a bit extreme.

Anywho, she starts high school and is horrified by how different the kids are dressed and how they defy the uniform standards. While she makes her way through the crowd she bumps into Kyota, scattering both their things across the stairs. This annoys him, but seeing just how Tsubaki is dressed and acts amuses him. His amusement and interest goes up a notch when his friend Nishiki (Yamazaki Kento) calls out Tsubaki and Tsubaki replies. Needless to say both Tsubakis are surprised to learn they share a name.

Kyota starts teasing Tsubaki and even steals her first kiss and claims her to be his woman in front of their class. When Tsubaki is volunteered for school festival duty, Kyota volunteers to help out, but will only do so if she agrees to date him. Tsubaki initially refuses, but when she can’t make the class listen to her, she caves and agrees. Thus Kyota steps in and helps out. We then get a montage of them preparing for the festival and Tsubaki slowly becoming friends with her classmates.

At the festival, her little sister Sakura (Shinkawa Yua) meets and falls for Kyota while his best friend Nishiki falls for Sakura. The festival goes off without a hitch and we then get the scene we opened with. Tsubaki ruins the kiss moment by asking him if he’s serious. He pulls away and calls her an idiot as he’s just playing with her. He then reminds her about their agreed upon date and stalks off.

Tsubaki has nothing to where and ends up dressed like her usual, plain, old-fashioned self. Kyota cannot believe this. Thus after their trip to the zoo (since Tsubaki refused to see an ecchi-filled movie), Kyota takes her out shopping for cute date clothes and a makeover. Unfortunately her newfound happiness at how cute she looks is ruined because of Kyota trying to have sex with her in the karaoke room. She runs out crying. This is how her first love starts.

Ummm. Like a lot of movies and dramas you get people falling in love without any indication of WHY or HOW that is possible. You get more of feeling of Kyota’s character alling for Tsubaki than vice versa…or maybe that’s just me. Also, I don’t think that Matsuzaka’s acting of Kyota is quite right. Don’t get me wrong, the boy’s acting is great…but I just don’t think some of the actions and what he did really seemed suited to Kyota (at least my vision of him from the manga).

Anywho, Sakura steals the clothes Kyota bought Tsubaki and goes out to pursue him which has Tsubaki stalking her as she didn’t give her sister permission to wear her precious clothes. Thus the two sisters end up going to Kyota’s with Nishiki for a study session and then they make plans for a summer study camp. Of course when camp comes they do more playing than studying. Kyota’s reaction when he sees Tsubaki in her bikini for the first time was funny because he smacks Nishiki on the forehead and tells his friend that he can’t look because Kyota hasn’t even seen Tsubaki’s body yet, lol.

Sakura fails to seduce Kyota who is only interested in her older sister, so Sakura decides to be with Nishiki instead and encourages her older sister to confess. So Tsubaki gathers her courage and after making a promise with Kyota to come back to the beachside observatory next Christmas to watch a very special meteor shower, she tells him she likes him. Splash of cold water. Kyota turns immediately cold and leaves her alone.

This depresses Tsubaki as Kyota keeps his distance at school and even has his seat moved. Nishiki, seeing Tsubaki’s depression, confesses Kyota’s past. He doesn’t trust women because his mother left him on his 8th birthday. Thus he hates his birthday and rejects anybody who swears they love him. So Sakura decides to confess again on Kyota’s birthday. It’s a stupid scheme, but it apparently works and without much hardship, she gets Kyota to vow that he trusts her and the two begin dating. Seriously? Boy that felt slightly anticlimactic.

We then get a whole bunch of dating montages and cute scenes with our new couple. Just when things seem to be going good, Nana (Kimura Fumino) enters the picture. She was one of Kyota’s good friends from middle school and carries a torch for him still. Her arrival makes the unconfident Tsubaki feel very insecure because she has no idea why Kyota chose the plain her over all the other girls. To make matters worse, Kyota never tells her about his family issues which makes her insecurities rise even more. Thus our couple decide to take a break.

This break allows Kyota to grow up and forgive his mother (who has returned and is recovering from a bout with cancer) and allows Tsubaki to realize her dream and stop following the path her mother has set before her. The two then both head back to the observatory to keep their promise. Just when Tsubaki is about to give up hope, Kyota arrives and the two begin their relationship once more and even have their first time together.

We end with Tsubaki whining slightly that Kyota took all of her firsts. First love, first kiss, first…you know…and that isn’t really fair, but still he has given her precious and important memories. End the movie.

If you think I am leaving something out, you’re wrong. There really is nothing to this movie at all. It’s cute and has its good points, but after the initial hour lead up to our OTP becoming a couple, there really isn’t much there. Lots of montage scenes cover up an actual lack of plot for the last half. And Nana’s arrival creating a wedge between the couple is less believable because of this. And…and…WHY does Takei Emi looked washed out and pathetic with dark circles so much in the last half? It just doesn’t seem like she should be as morose as she is at times. And Kyota? I liked him a bit better than Tsubaki at times, but there are times his character seemed too little boyish. Yeah, he had his mommy issues and stuff, but it seemed like for whatever reason he should have been a little more mature…kind of like Nakayama Yuma’s character in Piece, but not nearly as screwed up.

If you want a lighter romance without much serious plot, then this drama is for you. If you wanted to see Takei Emi and Matsuzaka Tori officially hook up since Askuko March! then this is for you. If you want to see a movie based on the manga that you love…this is most definitely NOT for you. If you want a wholly believable love story, again not necessarily for you. Like I said…I couldn’t buy their love like I should have been able to. I mean, in AM, I could buy them liking each other and they had some chemistry. There was 9 episodes for their relationship to develop (although Takumi was really the man who should have gotten the girl in the end, but oh well). With two hours worth of movie, even with some of their chemistry, there just wasn’t enough of a believable spark there. Sad.

There are a few fantasy scenes that seem a tad out of place as if they didn’t really fit as well as they could. Then there are the scenes where they do the cute sound effects when Tsubaki and Kyota are surprised or confused and trying to work something out. It’s almost anime-ish, but it’s not hokey or too cheesy and had me laughing. It did help express things a little bit better than just the actors’ facial expressions.

Oh…and since I’m not 100% certain of all things happening in the manga…was Tsubaki really that obsessed with polar bears? During her polar bear speech about seeing a movie where one polar bear searched for its lost love, I couldn’t help thinking of Drew Barrymore’s penguin speech from Never Been Kissed in which she talks about the penguins who mate for life. It was priceless for Tsubaki to scold Kyota for talking down about her polar bears who are a lot better than he is (behavior-wise).

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