We all wanted to grow up fast at one point. But if you were able to effortlessly switch back and forth between a child and an adult … what would you do?
Based on the classic Japanese manga series of the same name, Akko-Chan the Movie (2012) is a delightful film that will entertain viewers of all ages. Without a doubt, many moviegoers would have done a doubletake and refer Akko-Chan the Movie as the Japanese version of Hollywood’s 13 Going on 30 (Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo).
It’s a stand-off down to the wire — Hollywood vs Japan, who would win? While the Hollywood version is more of a heartwarming romcom with the ever so lovely Jennifer Garner, Akko-Chan dominates with its charming innocence and thought-provoking morals.
Akko-Chan The Movie revolves around ten-year-old Atsuko Kagami (also known as Akko-chan) who longs to become an adult. When a mysterious spirit grants her a magic mirror, Akko-chan suddenly has the power to transform into whatever she wants. And naturally, like any curious kid, she transforms herself into a stylish young woman, making her ultimate wish come true.
In this guise, she then meets the young businessman, Naoto, who takes a liking to her and invites her to work at his company that produces and designs makeup products. Still fresh and trying to catch up with the ‘adult’ world, she soon learns that the company is unable to compete with its rivals and that something fishy is going on behind-the-scenes. Determined to help Naoto out, Akko-chan and her mirror may be exactly what both the company and Naoto needs.
At hindsight, Hollywood’s 13 Going on 30 is rather bland in comparison to Akko-Chan the Movie. Akko-Chan isn’t a generic story where the lead character undergoes a magical adult transformation in an alternate timeline; experiences days worth of being an adult; and is able to return to the original timeline after experiencing some hardship.
With Akko-Chan’s invariable switcheroo transformations from child to adult, the film surprisingly managed the balance very well.
The transformations are consistently quick and snappy — almost humorous in a way — as we see her wake up, pretends to attend school but sneakily goes to ‘work’ instead. This ability to transform at ease pushes Akko-Chan to her limits, and we soon see the downfall of her given power and childish desires.
Akko Chan reminds the audience that being an adult isn’t as glamourous or easy-going as it looks. The film insightfully demonstrates that being an adult comes with responsibilities and decorum, and while being an adult comes with power, there are no shortcuts in life. Learning the difficult way, Akko-Chan realises that not everything can be easily resolved as there are always going to be contributing factors and/or complications involved.
Despite these themes being continuously stressed throughout the plot in order to support the plot’s drama, the film would have been more likeable if the screenwriter focused on the qualities of being a kid, and how kids often take things for granted.
All was well though as the film’s comedy element was the real winner that energized the story. As expected of a Japanese drama-comedy, the film would have felt incomplete without the insert of witty humour. Featuring a talented, friendly-comedic cast with bolstered lead performances from Haruka Ayase (grown up Akko Chan) and Riko Yoshida (young Akko Chan), you know you’re in for a good ride.
Like most kids when they’re young, Miss Riko perfectly played the young, overly-optimistic Akko-Chan with a sense of obnoxious maturity and lively intelligence. Grown-up Akko Chan was also fascinating to watch as Miss Haruka played the character with a five-year-old mindset. While the audience may not agree with the direction of how the story has decided to portray ‘grownup Akko-Chan’, Miss Haruka performed the role quite exceptionally as she goes through extreme lengths of perfecting the childishness and naivety.
The character, however, can be overbearingly annoying, and this may pose difficulty for the audience to connect with her character at times. But by the end of the day, the portrayal shows how ignorant and carefree children are — kids see things in black and white, and they (somehow) always believe things will work out by just having a little bit of faith.
Overall: Akko-Chan The Movie is a fun family film that will charm your mind and heart. It’s not just Akko-Chan’s antics that will make you laugh and cry — the nostalgia and the messages that the film aims to tell will certainly engage with its audience.
The greatest message of the film is to dream about the future whilst living in the present with a carpe diem mindset. Akko-Chan subconsciously instructs its viewers to appreciate the people and things around them. Although it sounds ridiculously cliche, we find ourselves swept in Akko-Chan’s movie-magic … and it’s hard to say ‘no’ to it.
Akko-Chan the Movie (2012) was one of the most popular films at the Sydney Japanese Film Festival 2012.
Interested in the lineup for the Sydney Japanese Film Festival 2013? This year’s films include Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, Gatchaman (Live Action), Library Wars (Live Action), God of Ramen, The Story of Yonosuke, A Boy Called H and also a variation of black and white classics.
For more information, head over to the official Japanese Film Festival site [here].