The story follows Benio "Haikara-san" Hanamura, who lost her mother when she was very young and has been raised by her father, a high-ranking official in the Japanese army. As a result, she has grown into a tomboy—contrary to traditional Japanese notions of femininity, she studies kendo, drinks sake, dresses in often outlandish-looking Western fashions instead of the traditional kimono, and is not as interested in housework as she is in literature. She also rejects the idea of arranged marriages and believes in a woman's right to a career and to marry for love.
I watched this movie at the Akibapass Festival in Frankfurt, Germany. First of all, I have to say that I'm not familiar with the original source (published from 1975 to 1979) or the older anime series, which aired from 1978 to 1979. As it is I cannot compare it to these works and watched it completely unaffected and without any previous knowledge, besides the information which has been included in the trailer. Though as it is written on the manga source page, Haikara-san ga Tooru won the first Kodansha Manga Award for shoujo in 1977, so likely it has been very good as well.
story is put-together enjoyable and the art of storytelling has been made in a very lovely way. The transition between different scenes was often in such a smooth way that you just had to smile at how it was done. As the genre allocation of this anime says Comedy, Historical, Romance, and Shoujo, you get exactly that. I laughed or smiled a lot, while I was watching this movie and as I experienced it at the cinema I was surely not the only one with this expression aka impression of this movie. The historical aspects are also depicted quite well and one or the other scene reminded me of pictures I've seen before (in preparation for a presentation I made) about this era. Also, I haven't seen such a pure romance shoujo for a while, which means some scenes have been worked out almost unrealistically perfect or smooth. But still very enjoyable and sweet. For sure something recommendable for romanticists.
The art was clean, consistent and very lovely. I wouldn't describe it as the most artistic outstanding work ever, but it really was enjoyable. As I've seen this movie only once yet, I cannot further go into detail with this point.
The creators have taken great care of this production. The character design and composition also make it very enjoyable.
As it is Part 1 out of two movies, the story is not yet concluded but the first movie is in its own a great work and is not only the introduction to a bigger following story.
(Like some other multi-part movies have been created.)
Let me ask you: Have you ever heard of an old manga called Haikara-san ga Tooru? Yeah, me either. Not until this, at least. Anyway, the original manga by Waki Yamato, which ran from 1975 to 1977, actually had a bit of a rough history with animation. It was adapted into a TV series from 1978 to 1979 and received 42 episodes. It was apparently supposed to be longer, but from what I've heard, it got cancelled due to low ratings, and as a result, the anime had to end in a different way than the manga. Ever since then, it just sort of faded
into obscurity, as nobody ever really talked about it. The manga and the anime series were never licensed in the US, likely due to their old age and old school artstyle. Considering all of these things going against it, it seemed that Haikara-san ga Tooru would be left into the darkness forever, never to be seen again.
OR WAS IT?!
Apparently, someone decided this story deserved a second chance, rightfully so, and decided to make a bold move: Revive the series! But instead of making it into another TV series, they decided to adapt it into two movies. Not only that, they completely changed the art style to make it appeal to modern anime audiences, with a new look and coat of paint. Having seen the first movie myself now that I have the first Blu-Ray, I can wholeheartedly say that whoever decided this anime deserved a second chance did an awesome job of bringing it back to life, even with its flaws. Because this movie is awesome and I absolutely can't wait for the second movie to come out!
The story takes place in the 1910s-1920s, during the Taisho era, focusing on Benio Hanamura, a happy-go-lucky, ambitious young woman and the daughter of a high ranking military officer in the Japanese Army. She lost her mother when she was young, and as a result, has become quite the stubborn, individualistic tomboy, in stark contrast to the strict idea of the "good wife, wise mother" ideal of womanhood. She studies kendo, drinks sake, dresses in Western clothes, and ardently believes that a woman should be free to choose who they themselves want to marry instead of being forced to accept arranged marriages. When she finds she's been betrothed to a man she knows nothing about, a handsome, sweet natured man named Shinobu Ijuuin, Benio tries everything she can to get out of it, from deliberately messing up her chores and housework (Which isn't hard, since she sucks at housework anyway) to trying to set him up with her best friend, who actually likes him. But things don't always go the way she wants them to, and circumstances might just make her realize that things might be better than she thinks.
Now, the original manga is eight volumes long, so it can be hard to try and cram so much material into two movies, much less one. Many movies have tried this and failed miserably. As of this writing, I haven't seen the second movie yet (Though I do want to, and I'm definitely getting the Blu-Ray once it comes out!), so the review will focus solely on the first one for now. But even with the movie's overly condensed, compressed nature, there's a lot of things that it manages to do really well. One of those things is the animation and the character designs. As you can see, both the original manga and the anime from the 70s have VERY dated designs, with washed out colors, exaggerated sparkly eyes, huge lips, and some weird-looking, gonky faces sometimes. The producers for the new movies radically updated the character designs, making them sharper, cleaner, and more modern but still keeping it true to the shoujo aesthestic, with huge doe eyes, large eyelashes, and the men having some feminized features. The animation is beautiful, with smooth movement, lovely backgrounds and backdrops that really enhance the mood of various scenes, and it even has the characters make comedic, goofy faces like in the original Sailor Moon anime, and it works really well here.
I'm kind of biased when it comes to the soundtrack, as it's done by one of my favorite anime composers, Michiru Oshima, who's worked on a lot of my favorite anime such as Nabari no Ou, My Sister Momoko, Fancy Lala, Snow White with the Red Hair, the live-action Sailor Moon series, and many others. But you probably know her for her work on the original Fullmetal Alchemist, Little Witch Academia, Tatami Galaxy, and more recently, Bloom Into You. Yet again, she hits a home run with the soundtrack here, with oboes and violins that perfectly fit the quaint, romantic feel of the movie, but never to the point of getting obnoxious or overbearing, something that few soundtracks can boast.
I do have some mixed feelings about the characters, which is inevitable considering this manga tries to cram several volumes of manga into one/two movies. I will say that Benio is a relatively good lead character: She has a lot of character flaws, such as being a little too stubborn and argumentative, which can make her come across as bratty at first, but the movie never takes these traits too far to the point of making her come off as obnoxious or a bitch. Plus, while she does eventually fall in love with Shinobu, she still keeps her self-sufficient, independent personality, taking charge of her own fate. She's an intriguing, three-dimensional character with plenty of strengths, weaknesses, and perfectly carries the movie, something which is sorely needed in the anime industry as of right now. The other characters, on the other hand, aren't as lucky in this department. They're all decent enough, and I love the whole ensemble, but because the movie rushes through everything, they don't get fleshed out like Benio does, so every scene they're in lacks emotional impact. Shinobu in particular comes off as way too perfect. His patience for Benio is saintly, he's always nice and kind, never pressures Benio into doing anything she doesn't want to, supports her in everything, and there isn't a bad bone in his body. Now, don't get me wrong, normally I love these kinds of characters, and considering that most shoujo manga/anime tend to give those kinds of characters the shaft in favor of portraying people who IRL would be considered domestic abusers in a romantic, sympathetic light, we need more characters like Shinobu. But the problem with him here is that he doesn't have any flaws. You can't make a character that audiences will like if you don't give him any flaws or traits that he needs to deal with or overcome, and the only time we see him have to deal with a character flaw is at the very end, so it winds up coming way too late. Eh, maybe the next movie will rectify this. I hope it does, because as much as I like Shinobu, you can't deny that he's rather vanilla and too perfect for his own good.
But none of these things detract from my enjoyment of the movie as a whole. Many scenes had me on the floor laughing a lot of the time, and in a really good way. The animation is luscious, the music is great, I love all the characters despite the movie being unable to develop them and flesh them out, and I'm really excited to see the next movie. I guess all of the movie's problems can be attributed to its format: Movies are typically better suited for standalone stories, and trying to cram 10 volumes of manga into two movies won't yield very good results if you want to tell a whole story. Scenes have to be cut out and you have to compress other parts in order to tell the story you want to tell. As far as Haikara-san is concerned, despite its initial missteps, I think the producers did extremely well with what they had and did the best they could to do what they needed to do here. It's a sweet, heartwarming romantic comedy that's sure to get a laugh out of you and take you to a time long past.
All in all, while made missteps in its presentation, Haikara-san part one is definitely one of the better romances I've seen this year, and I normally tend to dislike romance. Now to (impatiently)eagerly wait for the next movie to come out on Blu-Ray!
This is a movie based on a really old manga and takes place at an even older time.
If I were to summarize my thoughts, it'd be to call this movie sloppy. It's pretty apparent that many arcs have been condensed to fit into one hour and a half, which means that it lacks in depth what it has in breadth. Unfortunately this is usually the fate of many long running mangas that have been turned into a movie.
Now to move on to something more specific. This is the story of Benio Hanamura. She's somewhat of a rebel for her time(it's historical after all), outspoken,
unladylike and pretty tomboyish and of course that will get her in all sorts of trouble. Of course her story also deals with her love life.
The basic story is that Benio Hanamura is a pretty atypical young woman for her time. Getting in trouble all the time, being bad at school and having quite some opinions she decides to share with the world at times. Soon she finds herself in an arranged marriage (due to being so bad at following her school's rules) that her father finds it more prudent to marry her off as soon as possible with Shinobu Ijuuin. She's pretty resistant to the idea and puts quite a fight in the beginning, but unfortunately her husband-to-be isn't all that bothered with this arrangement. And that's how their romance officially starts.
Some of the things that surprised me was how feminist Benio is for a Shoujo heroine, even for today and this is manga from the '70s. I mean sure she gets rescued, but she also stands up to herself, be it against her father, some old guy she beats at kendo cause he treats hershe's inferior and even becoming a working woman when it probably was a big deal (I could be wrong though, I'm not the best at history).
Another thing that surprised me was her love interest. I tried to find episodes of the original anime, but I think I only managed to watch 1-2 episodes. The love interest, Shinobu Ijuuin, seemed to me kind of inconsistent between the two adaptations (although I cannot tell you which of the two is more faithful to the manga). In this version he's a lot more gentlemanly and gives the impression that he's mature, while in the anime series he tends to tease and laugh at her like a total dork making me view him as more immature. This could either be my misinterpretation due to some art choices (in the original anime series his reactions are more exaggerated and cartoony as opposed to the movie where his expressions are more subdued) or they kind of changed him and tamed him.
My feelings for this movie are mixed. I think it's very mediocre and the tired tropes are very apparent by what I assume is a lot of content condensed into movie run time, which like I mentioned above leaves little room for depth (maybe the manga has no depth and it's just as bad, I cannot know that at this point).
If you would like to get a taste of some '70s anime/manga with modern animation you may try it. The MC can be refreshing if you're tired of the same old boring passive shoujo heroine. It definitely isn't an authentic experience of 70s anime but it might be an okay sample to get a taste for something so old.