Site Features
- Asian Film Awards
- Site Recommendations

- Reader Poll Results

- The Sponsor Page
- The FAQ Page
support this site by shopping at
Click to visit
Asian Blu-ray discs at
The Mamiya Brothers

A kimono party with the Mamiya Brothers
AKA: Mamiya Kyodai  
Year: 2006  
Director: Yoshimitsu Morita  
Producer: Yasushi Tsuge, Kazuko Misawa  
  Cast: Kuranosuke Sasaki, Muga Tsukaji, Takako Tokiwa, Erika Sawajiri, Keiko Kitagawa, Naho Toda, Hiromi Iwasaki, Ryuta Sato, Teppei Yokota, Masahiro Takashima, Miyuki Nakajima
  The Skinny: Brotherly love has never been so…strange. While quite possibly the only comedy that's somehow unsettling, frustrating, and even sad all at the same time, The Mamiya Brothers is also oddly endearing and, yes, funny, although not as uproariously so as one might expect. A recommendable picture if for no other reason than its insightful look at the underlying reasons why some nice guys always finish last. Based on the novel by Kaori Ekuni.
Review by Calvin McMillin:      When compared to other films within the genre, The Mamiya Brothers is definitely a comedy like no other. In fact, after my initial viewing, I have to admit that I wasn't exactly sure what to make of the movie. In hindsight, I think part of that reaction had to do with my expectations. The few things I had heard about The Mamiya Brothers beforehand compared it to that popular otaku-friendly, romantic fantasy Train Man (Densha Otoko). And from the box art alone, each of the two sibling protagonists seemed to fit the bill of the socially-inept otaku we've all come to know. But here's where my eventual confusion came into play. First off, while the film does depict the lives of two dorky guys, it bears little resemblance to Train Man or even the more "out there" comedy, Otakus in Love. The brothers aren't obsessed with manga, anime, or toys - in fact, they lead comparatively "adult" lives. The second bit of confusion is a tonal one; The Mamiya Brothers may be classified as a comedy, but it's anything but hilarious. True, there are a few good chuckles here and there, but it's also unsettling, frustrating, and even deeply sad at times. But here's the catch: that's not necessarily a bad thing. Grasping for words to describe and evaluate what I just saw, I decided to give The Mamiya Brothers another try. And you know what? I'm glad I did.
     Upon my second viewing, with my initial expectations completely shattered, I came to see the movie for what it was: a more realistic, tender take on the perils of arrested development, the search for real companionship in a lonely world, and an exploration of how missed opportunities can come back to bite you in the ass. What's refreshing, if not puzzling the first time around is that The Mamiya Brothers isn't a formulaic film about two losers on the prowl for chicks - almost, but not quite. The two "heroes" in question are a skinny beer product developer named Akinobu Mamiya (Kuranosuke Sasaki) and his chubby janitor brother, Tetsunobu (Muga Tsukaj). They're both pushing forty and they still live together. But it's not just a living arrangement borne out of convenience; the fact remains that the two of them like nothing better than to hang out together. A lot. Not only do they have regular baseball nights and movie nights scheduled, but they also go out of their way to toss paper airplanes, do crossword puzzles, or bounce their encyclopedic knowledge of various subjects off one another. Their behavior might seem cute, and their close relationship might even seem enviable to those who wish they had a better relationship with their own siblings, but there's something more to their relationship. Something odd. For example, at one point in the film, these two grown men head down to the beach in their swimming trunks and, as their aging mother looks on approvingly, the two of them proceed to playfully splash each other in a specifically child-like manner. Clearly, these guys are different than the diehard comic book geek: Akinobu and Tetsunobu aren't really trying to recapture any sort of childhood - they're still living it.
     After a bit of introduction involving the main characters, the film's plot kicks off when the two brothers decide to throw a "curry party" in order to broaden their horizons. Akinobu has a crush on Naomi (Erika Sawajiri), an adorable young woman who works at the local video store. He takes a chance and invites her, and to his surprise, she agrees. Tetsunobu decides to invite Yoriko Kuzuhara (Takako Tokiwa), a pretty, if somewhat bookish teacher who works at the same school. Since Tetsu has a strict "no dating" policy when it comes to coworkers, he hopes inviting Yoriko will give his brother two chances to find love. The party goes remarkably well, and after an interlude in which the two men visit their mother (Miyuki Nakajima), the action returns to Tokyo. Rather than immediately follow-up on the success of their party, the brothers seem to forget all about the women and get carried off into their separate plot lines. Akinobu gets thrust into a touchy situation involving his boss's marriage, while Tetsunobu ends up losing his shirt in a hostess scam. Meanwhile Yoriko puts an end to her dead-end relationship with a fellow teacher, as Naomi tries to decide what to do about her insensitive baseball-playing boyfriend. Along the way, Naomi's wacky sister Yumi (Keiko Kitagawa) gets thrown into the mix, as the Mamiya Brothers hold another little bash - this one a kimono party - which is overwhelmingly successful as well. Unfortunately, their lives take small turns, and these little detours prove to be the Mamiya brothers ultimate undoing, at least when it comes to romance.
     Kuranosuke Sasaki and Muga Tsukaji make for a fairly likeable duo. To their credit, they totally inhabit their respective characters, and unlike other Japanese comedies (even good ones), there's little to no overacting just to get a cheap laugh. Instead, the two faithfully capture little slices of life. Whether it's the fear of asking a girl out or the joy of getting the response you'd always dreamed of, there's a kind of truth to their performances that is evident in these scenes. While the actors imbue the Mamiya brothers with a zest for life, they also let moments of maturity and self-awareness bleed though. Their performances are crucial to the success of the film, in large part due to the nature of their relationship. Although it's probably not yet evident in this review, The Mamiya Brothers is a strange film, as it takes the idea of brothers and brotherhood to uncomfortable extremes. Simply put, they act an awful lot like husband and wife.
     Now, I'm not trying to read too much into their relationship, but instead using that observation to point out that the very "strength" that the film seems to champion - the unbreakable bond between brothers - is one of the Mamiya siblings' greatest weaknesses, as it holds them back from living the life that they both so desperately yearn for. At one point in the film, Akinobu marvels at the complications of his boss's life. To this, his brother quips, "Would you rather eliminate our time and live complicated lives?" In response, Tetsunobu asks, "Our time?" before the subject is immediately changed. Similarly, when Tetsunobu goes out on a business trip, he finds himself missing his brother and places a call home. Without a trace of self-awareness, he remarks, "Having someone to call at the end of a long day is great." Why this person should be his brother, and not a girlfriend or wife, is not a question he pursues any further. Within their own professional lives, the two of them come across as thoughtful adults, but when they get together, that façade breaks down completely. It's as if they retreat into childlike personas as a way to escape reality, and the movie's tacit approval seems more than a bit unsettling.
     Still, the filmmakers aren't giving these two a free pass. In a lot of ways, The Mamiya Brothers deconstructs the idea that "Nice guys finish last" by exposing why that phrase is more true for some than others. Although the Mamiyas seem to prefer the safety of brotherly love, they do venture out and attempt to find romance. But as the film shows, they seem to choose women they can't have, instead of pursuing the ones right in front of their faces. And that's the interesting thing about The Mamiya Brothers - it's not like they're written off as "losers," who don't have any opportunities. Akinbou is actually asked out directly by a fairly attractive woman, but since he only has eyes for Naomi, he declines automatically, a move which opens up an entire subplot regarding his boss's impending divorce. Similarly, Tetsunobu completely disregards Yoriko's potentially budding feelings for him. When confronted by this possibility, he often remarks, "I never date coworkers," but it seems to be a hollow retort, as if he were basing his philosophy on what others have said, rather than any personal experience. Unfortunately, he falls for a woman he has no business going after, a tactic which will have disastrous consequences, in more ways than one.
     What prevents The Mamiya Brothers from being a one-note take on relationships is its occasional dip into the female perspective. While the film is still very much about not-so-good looking, but basically kindhearted guys who can't seem to find romance, it's also just as much about beautiful, basically kindhearted girls who find themselves latching onto the wrong kind of guys. And the saddest thing is that these two women might actually be in the market for nice guys like the Mamiya brothers, but the two siblings are so stuck in their own world that they can't capitalize on the strides they make in their friendships with both women.
     But even if the men are to blame, we have to remember that the women have agency in this matter as well. Naomi doesn't have to stick with her worthless boyfriend, Yoriko doesn't have to crawl back to hers, and even Yumi could ditch the goofy-looking moron she's latched onto. Ultimately, they all have a choice, and after some delay, that notion is finally demonstrated in the film's optimistic, although somewhat ambiguous final scene. The film suggests that there's hope for everyone, even guys as clueless as the Mamiya Brothers, but it's up to them to make the most it. A second viewing of the film reveals its cyclical nature, as we realize that the Mamiyas' dating struggles have been a never-ending battle. In the end, we have the suggestion that they just might break the cycle, but the film, like so much of life, resists definitive closure. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)
Availability: DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
Asmik Ace Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Japanese Subtitles
Various Extras
  Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen