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Tokyo Serendipity
Tokyo Serendipity

Yui Aragaki in Tokyo Serendipity.

Koisuru Madori

Year: 2007  
Director: Akiko Oku  

Akiko Oku, Masaya Kakei (story)

  Cast: Yui Aragaki, Ryuhei Matsuda, Rinko Kikuchi, Manabu Nakanishi, Pierre Taki, Keiko Utsumi, Masanori Sera
  The Skinny:

An enjoyable urban romantic comedy that aims to please, but may end up being a little underwhelming, depending on your expectations. Also features Rinko Kikuchi in her official first post-Oscar nomination role.

Kevin Ma:
     "Young people in love in Tokyo" is just about the most overdone topic for Japanese TV dramas. For those outside of Tokyo, their obsession with life in the crowded capital city drives the continuing interest in the genre, despite the same stories having been done multiple times now. At first sight, Tokyo Serendipity could be one of those stories; girl lives alone for the first time in a tiny Tokyo apartment, develops a crush on her upstairs neighbor, and grows from her involvement in a love triangle. However, for a story about young Tokyoites, Tokyo Serendipity is not the fish-out-of-water story it seems to promise. In fact, despite being touted as the 15th anniversary film for a chain of interior decoration stores, the film retains a quirky independent spirit with only a few specks of its sponsor's influence. In other words, Tokyo Serendipity is a film that reverses expectations. On the other hand, it doesn't challenge them, either.
     Yui (Yui Aragaki) moves from an old spacious house into a new apartment out of resentment for her sister's shotgun marriage. That sets off a long chain of coincidences. 1) Yui manages to become friends with her new apartment's former tenant Atsuko (Rinko Kikuchi, showing off her untouched indie cred after her Oscar nomination), who also happens to be the latest tenant in Yui's old house. 2) Yui becomes infatuated with upstairs neighbor Takashi (Ryuhei Matsuda), who also happens to be Atsuko's "soon-to-be-ex." 3) In a freak accident, Yui becomes Takashi's assistant for a temporary job at his research lab, allowing her more time to pine for him while he continues to pine for Atsuko, who left him without a word. Whether you can buy into the film rests on your ability to buy into these coincidences.
     Then again, like most urban romances, Tokyo Serendipity is ultimately a bit of a fairy tale, making these credibility stretches easier to swallow. At least they help to divert your attention away from the less important questions of logic, such as how an art student manages to find the money to move in the middle of her studies. That approach by writer-director Akiko Oku would be effective if she maintained the quirkiness in the early going for the rest of the film as well (Contrary to popular belief, wrestlers moonlighting as movers do make me laugh). However, Oka instead loses the comedy as the screenplay progresses and puts the focus on the messy love triangle that Yui builds. While Yui Aragaki's lovable performance helps in linking the audience with a likable character, the love triangle isn't as effective as it could've been because Takashi and Atsuko's relationship fails to fully register.
     However, most of the actors manage to give affecting performances; in addition to Aragaki's charming performance (her first in a feature film), Rinko Kikuchi carries certain spunk to the ambitious-but-impulsive Atsuko that makes her a relatable character. On the other hand, Ryuhei Matsuda continues to deadpan his way through his roles, and creates a character that doesn't seem deserving of the romantic attention from the film's protagonist. In the end, it all comes back to the chemistry between Kikuchi and Aragaki, which helps brighten the film considerably. It also explains why the film seems to slow down when they're not onscreen together.
     Tokyo Serendipity is not a very ambitious film - the director even admits that it was made simply to make the audience leave the film smiling. For fans of the young Yui Aragaki, it features plenty of occasions for their favorite actress to look cute. On the other hand, for those looking for an enjoyable urban romance, it isn't fully successful, as it never really delivers on the romance end of the deal. And for those looking for a quirky Japanese comedy, it doesn't feature enough quirky humor to maintain interest throughout. As a result, Tokyo Serendipity may not seem like a very effective film. However, it's also a relaxing little film that forgoes the usual independent film dreariness for a film that truly aims to please. It's not a fully satisfying film, but it's as pleasing as visiting a newly decorated apartment. When all else fails, at least Tokyo Serendipity makes me want to buy some interior decorations now. (Kevin Ma 2008)

DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
Bandai Visual
2-disc Premium Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 2.0
Removable English subtitles
Various Extras


image courtesy of Bandai Visual Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen