Tokyo Girl -- Film Review

BOTTOM LINE: A light time-warp fantasy romance meant for a young audience.

Pusan International Film Festival
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The concept of two lovers communicating across different temporal spheres, a popular subject in Korean romances in the early 2000s, may be enjoying a second wave in recent Japanese cinema. Following the success of time-travel films "Bubble Fiction" and "Cyborg She," "Tokyo Girl" concocts a romance-fantasy in which two young Tokyoites living 86 years apart connect through a mobile phone.

The science fiction element is only a small component in "Tokyo Girl," which is ultimately an adolescent story touching on subjects that teenagers relate to such as problems with parents or identifying future goals. With attractive and relatively fresh faces in leading roles, and a romantic angle that is innocent and non-physical, it is specifically geared toward the early to late teen crowd. Its simple accessibility and TV drama-feel helped the film sell to Korea and Hong Kong.

The plot device of two people connecting through airwaves is very similar to the classic Korean romance "Ditto," in which lovers two decades apart converse through a ham radio. However, while the former is sentimental in a heart-tugging way, "Tokyo Girl" maintains a lighter mood and more upbeat key.

During an earthquake, college student Miho drops her mobile phone, which accidentally falls through a worm hole into the hands of Tokijiro, a well-to-do young man living in 1912. Somehow, the airwaves are activated when the moon rises, so the two become confidants who find common ground in their dream to become novelists.

1912 was the last year of the Meiji era, which propelled Japan on the road to modernization and super-power status. The seismic socio-historical and ideological changes are not examined in any detail, and comparisons between the past and present are in the form of jokes on anachronisms. The real dramatic focus is on how Tokijiro helps Miho accept her widowed mother's remarriage, and the mystery of whether Tokijiro ever realized his ambition to publish his writings.

The highlight is an amusing scene in which the protagonists go on a "date" visiting local haunts in Tokyo's downtown area Ginza. There's a clever plot gimmick involving the delivery of a love token, which also set ups the twist at the end.