'Tremble All You Want' ('Katte ni Furuetero'): Film Review | Tokyo 2017

TREMBLE ALL YOU WANT  Still 1 - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Tokyo International Film Festival
It can feel like drowning.

Welcome to the schizophrenic world of Japanese chick lit.

Perhaps it was the delightfully rounded performance of young Mayu Matsuoka, playing the role of the 24-year-old virgin Yoshika in Risa Wataya’s 2010 bestseller, that convinced the Tokyo Film Festival to give Tremble All You Want (Katte ni Furuetero) a slot in this year’s competition. Aimed at Japanese females under 30, chick lit on screen generally occasions smiles, yawns and rolling eyes. In this upscale example, experienced genre veteran Akiko Ooku (Tokyo Serendipity, Tokyo Nameless Girl’s Story, Fantastic Girls) directs a comedy about a kooky young lady who can’t decide between a fantasy guy and a real, imperfect boyfriend. Well-made and amusing if overlong at two hours, it is an Asian flavor that should work well at home but would have a hard time getting a foothold beyond.

The gem of the comedy is Matsuoka, who handles her first leading role with notable ability to suddenly shift from tortured introvert to exuberant winner in the bat of an eye. She even sings in one scene. Whether you are interested in following her slow growth from an 8th grade personality to a fairly with-it young woman is another matter that is probably culturally determined.

Yoshika Eto (Matsuoka) is introduced on her emotional lowest rung. She fantasizes about touching the blonde hair of a waitress dressed in a Disney-type costume and anguishes about not being able to speak her mind and say what she really thinks. Working as a junior accountant in a cubicle, she appears to often sleep overnight in the office on mats with the other girls, rather than brave a long commute home. The fact that she’s pretty, not plain, makes her perennial lack of a boyfriend more noticeable. 

Instead of seriously looking for someone, she drifts through fantasies about a tall, romantic looking boy in her high school class, Ichi (Takumi Kitamura), who she was too shy to approach. Instead she drew comics starring him as the Natural Born Prince. That was ten years ago. Gathering her courage (sort of), she organizes a class reunion under a false name and meets him again. He’s nice enough but doesn’t remember her name, and this wounds her ego so deeply that she erases him from her dreams.

In Yoshika’s mind, Ichi is No. 1 – her top marriage partner. But there is also a No. 2, Kirishima (Daichi Watanabe), a grinning, goofy, obnoxious young accountant in her office who has his eye on her. When he asks her out on a date, he gets so drunk he throws up. But he also asks her to be his girlfriend – the first time she has ever received a declaration of intent from a man -- and their relationship drones on, amid Yoshika’s grave reservations.

Guess who she ends up with in the final reel?

Ooku has a feeling for the immature, neurotic female mind and she hits the nail on the head many times. Though the insights may be the novelist's, as entire pages seem to be read by Yoshika in voiceover.

Ooku's screenplay is free and easy moving from reality to fantasy, and it takes some time before the viewer realizes that all the scenes of Yoshika’s friendly social life with her neighbors are unreal. She actually never breaks through her shell enough to talk to them. The joyful scenes of her dancing through the streets on a high express her inner feelings, while in reality she's too self-conscious to approach anyone. Kirishima is just the opposite -- so spontaneous about expressing himself that he’s the perfect match for her. But just as this is established, Yoshika gets offended again over him knowing she’s a virgin and masochistically tells him she’s pregnant, so the foregone happy ending is delayed for another twenty minutes.

Production company: HoriPro Inc.
Cast: Mayu Matsuoka, Daichi Wtanabe, Anna Ishibashi, Takumi Kitamura, Shuri, Hairi Katagiri, Kanji Furutachi, Tomoya Maeno
Director: Akiko Ooku
Screenwriter: Akiko Ooku, based on a novel by Risa Wataya
Music: Masaki Takano
World sales: Phantom Film
Venue: Tokyo Film Festival (competition)
117 minutes