Matsuzaki Hatori sees life as a story book in this comedic shoujo manga by Koda Momoko (also the author of this manga). Of course, she sees herself as the heroine of the story; there are the supporting characters, like her best friend Nakajima; and then there’s Terasaka Rita, her childhood friend and the hero to her heroine. Hatori is so sure she is Rita’s heroine that she doesn’t even bother to confess her long-held feelings. Rita is constantly in and out of short relationships but t tragedy strikes when Rita begins seriously dating class nerd Adachi Miho and rejects Hatori’s confession.
Intrigued by Hatori’s jealousy, playboy Hiromitsu Kosuke takes an interest in her…However, something happens, and the future she has been so sure of is suddenly put into jeopardy. Will she end up with Rita? Or will her love remain unrequited?
The live action was released in September, 2015 with Mirei Kiritani and Kento Yamazaki (surprise) playing the lead roles of Matsuzaki Hatori and Terasaka Rita. The author Koda Momoka had revealed that Hatori had been modelled after Kiritani herself, perhaps the reason behind the actress’s flawless performance.
Heroine Shikkaku (Heroines Disqualified) begins with some unique features for a shoujo manga or a live adaption. The lead, Hatori is given qualities rarely seen in shoujo heroines – she is pretty, but only because she makes an effort, she is disciplined but only because she struggles to maintain her routine, and above all – she is petty and mean, but only because she envisages herself as the ‘heroine’ of the manga. In other words, she is the closest any mangaka has ever come to making Regina George the titular character.
Rarely have shoujo mangas stumbled from the well-established path of dense, clumsy, bumbling heroines since Kaichou wa Maid Sama ended in 2010. And even if they did, it did not last beyond the first 20 chapters. In Kiritani’s Hatori, we find an almost true adaptation of the manga, complete with added animation and exploding bubbles of anger, supported by an excellent cast.
Kento Yamazaki plays the elusive Rita, Hatori’s best friend and childhood crush but is currently in a relationship with Adachi, who is described as a loner. She is overweight and wears thick glasses. We watch as the movie begin to fall into the realm of stereotypical-shoujo-adaptation of loner-girl-dating-cool-guy.
But Rita isn’t your average shoujo male lead either! He is “mysterious” and “aloof” enough, but is also indecisive and selfish. This keeps the ending a surprise for the viewers. Will Rita break-up with Adachi and realise he loves Hatori? Will he keep dating Adachi? Will he choose to run away from both? Our experiences teach us that all shoujo movies MUST conform to rule no. 1. However, Heroine Shikkaku gives us a male lead who defies norms – he is at times self-centre, cowardly and purposefully dense.
The movie also balances the main lead well with the side characters. Adachi instead of being the usual antagonist who resorts to dull tricks, actually turns out to be a well fleshed out character who has a much bigger heart than our protagonist. She checks out all the boxes that a typical shoujo lead should possess – average beauty that she is unaware of, a heart too good for this world, and a brain dense enough to make mercury float. She is forgiving, kind and anaemic. She is also blissfully unanimated and makes for a snoozefest on screen with her deadpan expression and fumbling fingers. She would be, in an alternate universe, the ‘heroine’ of this manga.
Hatori also faces this realisation midway and wonders if she actually has been the anti-heroine all along while Adachi and Rita are the main couple of the manga. The perspective shifts as one clearly pictures Hatori as the trio of mean girls, out to avenge the protagonist for stealing their limelight. But before her fears see the light of day, we cut to scenes where we wonder if Adachi is low-key manipulative?
Hatori’s ridiculous theories are sometimes supported, mostly ridiculed by her friend Nakajima played by Ayano Fukuda. Unlike typical shoujo leads, Hatori has no problem making friends. She flits in various social circles and her dynamic with Nakajima is already established from the beginning. Again, a refreshing change from the usual trope, Nakajima also proves to be an invaluable friend whose appearance makes for some comical episodes. She is the one who comes up with the “great” plan to steal Rita from Adachi.
And of course, for a movie to be successful, it is essential that all viewers suffer from Second Lead Syndrome. Hence, there exists the character of Kosuke Hiromitsu played by Kentaro Sakaguchi.
With Adachi and Rita dating and Hatori’s feelings being disregarded, she falls straight into the arms of our strategically placed playboy Hiromitsu. Rita is reluctant to leave Adachi because she is anaemic and ‘needs’ him. However, he still finds time to poke holes into Hatori and Hiromitsu’s relationship. Hiromitsu puts in genuine effort in their relationship to leave no stone unturned but can’t deal with Hatori’s insecurities anymore, while Adachi reveals a slightly worrying psychotic side to her love.
It’s a messy affair with four teenagers stuck near but not with the person they love and it makes for a wonderful angsty watch! The strings come together in the end with each character learning life lessons or choosing a path of redemption (maybe?). While many may find the end disappointing, Heroine Shikkaku is one of the most original, if not unpredictable shoujo movies released in recent times. It contains all the classic tropes that shoujo mangas have going for them – tsundere leads, some good comedy, the festival at the end where everyone is crying in kimonos, but it both celebrates and parodies them in the time given. The movie topped ‘Attack on Titan’ at the Japanese box office and earned a total of $1.95 million.
Overall, Heroine Shikkaku makes for a great, fun, emotional ride and deserves 8/10 Turnips. But I’ll add a 0.5 for whoever decided to cast Kento Yamazaki and Kentaro Sakaguchi in the same movie.
The manga is available for reading at Manga Rock where it is currently ranked 1702.
Reception and Soundtrack
Asian Wiki gave it a 95%.
mydramalist.com has given it a 7.9/10.
imdb.com has marked an 6.7/10 for the series with over 800 reviews.
Soundtrack: The OST by Kana Nishino doesn’t stand out amidst the drama on screen. It is available on Youtube.
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the trailer here.
Total runtime: 112 mins
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