Koi no Mon Special Edition (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, May 02, 2005
Release Date: Friday, April 08, 2005
What They Say
Can being an otaku lead to love? Multi-talented actor/writer/playwright/novelist Matsuo Suzuki makes his directorial debut with the quirky romantic comedy Koi no Mon (AKA Otakus in Love). Aoki Mon (Matsuda Ryuhei of Blue Spring and Gohatto) is a manga-obsessed geek who creates his own manga by arranging colored stones in wooden boxes. Love literally strikes him when he meets Akashi Koino (Sakai Wakana of Kisarazu Cat's Eye and No Problem 2), an amateur manga artist and cosplay fanatic who decides that Mon is the perfect partner for her wacky fantasy cosplay games. But after being dressed up in the costume of her favorite video game character, Mon decides that Koino's obsessed geek-girl tendencies are even too much for a self-acknowledged otaku like him. Still, that isn't enough to deter Koino from chasing her chosen knight in shining armor!
Koi no Mon is based on a manga by Hanyunyuu Jun, and director Matsuo Suzuki brings a colorful, energetic, and utterly charming grace to this decidedly oddball romance. Featuring many in-jokes at Japan's popular manga scene, including cameos from many manga and film professionals, like Anno Hideaki of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and internationally notorious filmmaker Miike Takashi, Koi no Mon is a different and entertainingly offbeat valentine for Japanese media enthusiasts " and everyone else too!
Love and life among manga artists, cosplayers is the focus of this romantic comedy based on the manga of the same name.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this film in its original language of Japanese. In addition to the stereo mix that's here there is also a commentary track. The films stereo mix is pretty decent for the film though it's not exactly an overwhelming track by any means. With it being a forward soundstage only piece, it does some nice directionality at times and uses the stereo channels well, it's not the kind of show that needed the rear channels kicking in. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released to theaters in 2004, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 to and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Japanese films can be so hit or miss, especially depending on the intended style never mind the actual budget, when it comes to how a film looks visually that when you get something so clean and crisp looking it's just a treat in itself. While not exactly at Hollywood level budgets for sets, designs and costumes, this is a really good looking piece that feels alive and vibrant but not overwhelmingly so like some other recent Japanese films that have come out. The transfer for this is essentially problem free from what I could tell and doesn't suffer from any problems and looked especially good in upconverted to 1080i format.
Released in both a standard keepcase special edition and a box set collectors edition, we picked up the keepcase edition. The cover art for it is pretty eye-catching in a near-garish way with the two leads in a standard pose underneath the films logo while speed lines emanate from them in lighter colors against the deep pink background. Other characters round out in headshots along the bottom and overall this looks like a film that could be over the top in colors but it's a bit deceptive in that. Our recent viewing of Survive Style 5+ has sort of raised the bar in that department anyway. The back cover provides a few shots from the film and lots of information and blurbs about the show and a listing of its features. It is of course all in Japanese so I can't really say much about how they sell it. I was disappointed that there wasn't a technical grid to go with this and even more so that there was no listing of even the basics of the release, such as aspect ratio or even running time. The keepcase has a hinge inside to hold the movie disc while the space behind it holds the second disc of extras. The insert is really nicely done as a dust jacket cover for one of the manga mentioned in the series while the interior of it has notes about the film and some shots from it.
The menu is fairly standard as it uses the full screen with a clip from the show of an exploding rock that makes sense once you see it. The menu selections are lined along the bottom and a bit of music plays along with sound effects to the clip. Access times are nice and fast and the layout fairly intuitive to navigate though it's completely without any English other than in the subtitles section. The disc did correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.
The extras for the film disc are pretty minimal outside of the audio commentary that's included as it has just a pair of theatrical trailers for the film and then a pair of TV commercials for it. There looks to be a good amount of extras on the second disc but these are never subtitled and my Japanese is worse than a newborn's so we didn't bother to put that disc in the player.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Koi no Mon, based on a manga by Hanyunyuu Jun, caught my eye from just a few line description when I saw it listed for preorder. A film about manga artists that fall in love and the trouble they have along the way isn't that far removed from a couple of anime series I'd seen before and the formula is fairly standard but it's the setting that could make it of particular interest. After all, with it set in an area that's mildly familiar, you want to see what you can pick out of it and to see just how your own vision of things jives with what's there.
The story introduces us to a young man named Aoki Mon at age twenty who is practically a bum or drifter at this point as he's making his way to a new part time job that he's gotten. Lost and finding that the maps on his hands are becoming useless, he brightens when he sees a rock on the ground and reaches for it only to have a young woman's spiked heel scrape his finger and wounding him. While he's focused on the rock, she apologizes but internalizes about how sexy he is and leaves him her bread while she runs off. To Koi Akashi's surprise, he's the new part timer at the job where she works but out in the warehouse. His introduction to the company is priceless as it's a pure conformist place. During his welcoming party that evening, where he still looks like he's one step from the grave, he gets a chance to talk about himself and he reveals that he's really a manga artisan.
Not artist, or "comic writer" as it sometimes gets translated here. But artisan. And not just any artisan, his manga is done as rocks in a box with the words painted on them and laid out in a story. The laughter is infectious as his manga definitely qualifies more as a different form of art than you'd normally think of manga. If there's an argument about what qualifies as manga, this one really takes the cake for expanding the realm of what could be consider it. When things go badly after that, he finds that the woman he met earlier helps him out and ends up bringing him home with her. The two drink for hours and before he realizes it, they're kissing passionately and it all blurs.
When he awakens, he's ecstatic over the thought of no longer being a virgin. But as he shakes the sleepiness away, he suddenly finds that he's wearing a strange outfit and a wig. She's changed him in the middle of the night into Yunsung from Soul Caliber II and she's dressed up as Mina. Suddenly her apartment becomes clearer and he can see all that's there from the toys, the cosplay, the huge amounts of manga. She reveals herself to be a manga artist herself and talks about the Comiket and how her books have pulled down about a million yen each time she's sold there, moving upwards of 800 copies and so forth. Their relationship enters a strange realm from here where he's freaked by the cosplay stuff but the possibility of actual sex keeps him coming back to her.
Their romance is plagued by all sorts of problems, from a lack of money that forces him to get a job at a manga bar that's fairly upscale in some ways to a woman who seduces him and then ditches him with her kid. The owner of the manga caf� falls for Koi and uses the passions she inflames in him to reignite his own manga career that he let dwindled many years earlier. The economy falls into place as a problem and all sorts of other little bits. It's a fairly formulaic story in its own way but it's the way it pulls in from all the manga and cosplay areas that makes it stand out for someone like myself. One of the best moments that had us laughing a lot was when Koi's parents show up at the Comiket and they're both in cosplay (as characters from Ideon no less) and they talk about how they've been going to Comiket for twenty years. We're getting close to that point for a lot of people on this side now with conventions and other anime/manga related events and especially for those of us with kids who wonder how they'll be when they grow up, as well as ourselves.
Like a lot of Japanese movies of this vein, there's some surreal moments that I'll attribute either to just a certain style of writing or cultural, but others were clearly influenced from its manga origins, such as when Koi's father punches Mon and he goes flying sideways for a length. Manga caf�'s certainly aren't anything new and I'm assuming a slightly more upscale bar with liquor isn't all that odd either, though it certainly makes me wish things like this were a little more common over here for books in general, but I live in the sticks so it's pointless for me. Being able to pick out various manga series shown here and there as well as the numerous cosplay moments was a lot of fun and it made the film something that was very easy to laugh at. They don't quite make fun of the characters or their passions, but they do show how each of them at first finds the others to be strange for different reasons before realizing what they're doing.
The two leads for the show do a good job with the parts. Mon's always wearing the same outfit where he looks like his shoes are going to fall apart and is fairly haggard. He's even got the pencil thin moustache and the bit of chin hair that's strangely in style in far too many places. His internal monologues are fun and he has the right look of being befuddled at times and then almost crazy as he tries to put it all together but mostly he has the right looks and expression for the role. Koi's a good choice as well as she's fairly attractive but not the over the top type where you wonder why she's doing the job she does. When she does the cosplay stuff she lights up a bit more which is fun to see and there's a definite small shift in personality between the two modes for her.
Koi no Mon had us laughing out a loud a lot during it from the absurdity of some situations such as the rock manga to the way that Mon seems to throw up at exactly the wrong time every time. The romantic angle is played out well and has some of the standard formula that the show talks about with shoujo romance manga but it messes with it a bit as well. The cast is fun and they work their roles well with all the small subplots along the way and some of the just general strange things that happen. The manga bar owner steals a lot of the scenes he's in but overall it's a solid and enjoyable romantic comedy about the two leads who are trying to find their real paths in life through their art and each other.
This is the kind of movie where the more you know the more you enjoy it, so it has a lot of replay value. As it says in the "what they say" section, there's some amusing cameo's along the way and with the number of costumes and manga, it's almost like a game for the hardcore fan to play in picking out what you know.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Japanese Subtitles,Audio Commentary,Theatrical Trailers, TV Commercials,2nd Disc of Extras
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: All
Region: 2 - Japan
Released By: Other
Running time: 114
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Koi no Mon