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Ai to Makoto (For Love’s Sake)

June 21, 2012

A tired pop-cult mess by Miike.

Ai to Makoto (2012)

It would be stating the obvious to say Takashi Miike is hit and miss. But there was a time when even a miss-Miike was an interesting Miike. Having abandoned cult arena and become a trusted studio director, Miike has become a much bigger gable for the audience, though good films also frequent. Unfortunately Ai to Makoto (For Love’s Sake) is not one of them.

An adaptation of the 1973 manga, previously turned three several live action films (1974-1976) and one TV show (1974-1975), Ai to Makoto seems like an ideal playground for the new, mainstream friendly Miike. His wacky superhero pic Yatterman was a delight, and the high school violence duo of Crows Zero produced at least one good film (the 2nd). These are the two closest comparisons to Ai to Makoto, which tells the love story of a hard fisted hooligan Makoto (Satoshi Tsumabuki) and a sweet good girl Ai (Emi Takei). All set in the 1972 Tokyo, complete with eight musical numbers!

While unfolding its load of gang wars, sukeban girls, and desperately in love nerds (Ace Attorney’s Takumi Saito, looking distractingly similar here) Ai to Makoto makes an attempt at being an audiovisual feast, but none of it comes through very successful. The colorful but supercharged visual look, with its blown out whites and distracting lack of shadow detail, make it look very much a modern film even when the attempt is at paying tribute to the old era.

The soundtrack fares a little better, but even then goes to insert a modern sappy theme song by Yo Hitoto in the middle of a showa era (1926–1989) hit parade. Is there so little to be trusted in the modern audiences that one cannot even close a 1974 set movie without a modern relief? Don’t worry kids, showa is gone and Ayumi Hamasaki still in the record store (uhm, iTunes store, or something…)

For its defense, Ai to Makoto does gather some nice set of showa classics forthe audiences to enjoy – though there’s hardly a person in the film’s native country who hasn’t already heard Kiyoshi Ozawa’s all time classic Mata au hi made too many times. Indeed, it might be better sticking with one’s CD collection as Ai to Makoto’s half-arsed musical scenes are effectively brought down by the lack of lip sync that soon becomes a major distraction. It’s something the film could’ve gotten away with had it been done on purpose, but Miike gets stuck somewhere between professionalism and kitsch, with no satisfactory balance.

The final death knell is the equation of 134 minute running time and a screenplay that achieves very little. Aside a glorious amount of justified self defense violence towards women, the film’s decision to keep Makoto an unlikable, romance avoiding brute serves very little purpose. As odd as it sounds, Ai to Makoto is a 2+ hour romance film with no romance whatsoever to be found. That being said, it’s also a fighting film without fighting worth mentioning. That’s a bit of an under-achievement, considering Miike’s previous idol-parade Crow’s Zero 2 managed the action with solid grades.

For its modest merits – a few amusing performances (especially Love Exposure’s Sakura Ando as a sukeban girl) and gags, and an inventive flashback sequence staging a character’s past in cardboard theater sets – Ai to Makoto doesn’t pay off. It’s a tiresome effort by Miike.

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2 comments

  1. Woah, nice to see you’re back in the writing game. So much left for me to read, since I last checked your site. 🙂
    I’m a little sad to hear you didn’t like AI TO MAKOTO, since I’m (still) very much looking forward to it. Liked the trailer a lot, also those recently published musical clips. Well, as you’re average Miike-fanboy, there’s no way for me to avoid this, anyway. Sidenote: The Fall Edition of Fantasy Film Festival is going to show ACE ATTORNEY, yay.
    Take care. 🙂


  2. Thanks. It’s ironic that when I live in Japan, I hardly have any time to watch and review movies… But I’ll try to keep em coming every now and then.

    Ai to Makoto did receive a favorable response at Cannes, and I feel I’m in the minority with my negative review. That being said, the first 60 minutes I kept wishing it to get better, and the last 74 I just wished it would end already… And this comes from someone who enjoyed both Yatterman and Crows Zero 2 (the first one was miserable, though).



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