Darling wa Gaikokujin live-action film due out next year

The news from Cinema Today (via @matt_alt). Here’s a quick and dirty summary:

Shooting has started on the film Darling wa Gaikokujin (My Darling is a Foreigner) starring Mao Inoue and Jonathan Scherr as the featured couple, Saori and Tony, set for release in spring 2010 from Film Partners [the people who brought you live-action Gegege no Kitaro…].

The film is based on the hit manga series. The first scene involved Tony reacting far too literally to Saori’s sarcastic humor. The two actors reportedly interacted with the same lighthearted sprit as the original.

The producer Kazuya Hamana (head of TV content at TBS)  spent five years preparing for this film and plans to try and recreate the feel of the original comics for a story that everyone can relate to.

While the theme is international marriage and the culture barriers, it will no doubt include scenes that everyone can relate to even if their partner isn’t foreign. Expect both happy and sad moments as the couple faces ironic misunderstandings arising from their misguided attempts at being considerate to each other.

Can’t say I’m looking forward to this. It’s a Japanese film shot by a mainstream studio (and produced by a TV producer no less), strike one. The title role goes to a gaijin talent from a jimusho, strike two. And they promised touching moments, which means they will probably inject some dorama-style schmaltz that didn’t appear in the original (one of the few things going for it), strike three.

My verdict: Stop checking the Cinema Today site this moment and ignore all the hype. This won’t even be so-bad-it’s-good, it’ll just be a source of frustrated hair-pulling and ulcers.

It’s not my intention to offend people of course. But really, I have been burned so many times by having any expectation of quality from the Japanese entertainment industry that I trust nothing offered to me. I really hope I’m wrong.

41 thoughts on “Darling wa Gaikokujin live-action film due out next year”

  1. After seeing Mr. James, I am more doubtful than ever that Darling was such a great step forward. Meh, it’s not that far from the truth but come on, that’s kind of a cheap shot.

  2. I don’t necessarily want to be mean, but if you can show me a decent dramatic performance by a gaijin tarento I will be very very surprised. It’s not all the actors’ fault exactly – it seems like a solid performance is just not allowed for some reason. Why does everything have to seem so damn stilted?

  3. Adamu, I am in complete agreement with you and glad I am not the only one. I find them utterly unwatchable for that reason. It’s like labuki, where the way the role is played has been set for centuries and so “anger” is shown in one set way, “sadness” in another, and so on. Ironically, I find more naturalistic acting in cartoons like Crayon Shin-chan.

  4. “I have been burned so many times by having any expectation of quality from the Japanese entertainment industry”

    20th Century Boys was pretty good, I thought. Could have been way worse. I don’t think you really need the “Japanese” operator there- most films made from comics/books turn out pretty badly, I think.

    I say knock back a few beers, decrease expectations by about half, lower IQ by about 50, and throw it on. I gotta say that I liked the little cartoon skits that used to show on the Yamanote line.

  5. I’m reserving judgment until they cast Tony’s beard.

    Seriously, it is indeed like kabuki, in the sense that it’s a different tradition, consumed and produced with different expectations. It’s no more insulting than being served raw fish instead of cooked.

  6. The problem with the quality of TV media in Japan is flawed due to the quality of the people involved. Gaijin tarento are hired on the basis of their looks for the most part, not their acting ability, and the base pool of gaijin tarento is so small that there’s little hope for real acting ability.

    I’m vaguely interested to see how this is portrayed mainly because I’ve met Tony and he’s a genuinely interesting and likable person (if somewhat eccentric as portrayed by his wife.)

  7. Adamu: Why does everything have to seem so damn stilted?

    Because of the influence of . . . drumroll . . . KABUKI


  8. Curzon, while I am looking forward to it in the sense that I will probably watch it, I have to agree with Adamu that it will most likely be a staggering crap-o-saurus of ill-conceived Japanese TV.

    Right off the bat, Tony and Saori are in their mid to late thirties by now. Mao Inoue is 22, looking 17. It’s not a trivial detail, either.

    From my wife, a Japanese, who has read even more of Oguri’s comics than I have:

    “Wow, It seems from the article that they are going to focus on how they met than their actual married life, because it says 嫁入り前. Whatever they do though, it’s going to suck. I know it.”

  9. Well, a lot of the first volume is about how they met and their early life, and in fact the entire volume is before they got married.

  10. “I have been burned so many times by having any expectation of quality from the Japanese entertainment industry that I trust nothing offered to me.”

    Come on, don’t throw the whole industry under the bus because TV dramas tend to be overly-compromised. Which I’m sure will be the case with this film, but there are nuggets of goodness waiting out there if you’re willing to sift through the cack.

  11. OK I’ll admit that condemning something *just because* it’s Japanese is problematic. Maybe it’s enough to say it comes from the same filmmaking machine that produces junk like Gegege live action.

    One film that looked interesting was the one where Tsurube plays a doctor, but again I am so wary of current Japanese film I didn’t want to risk it.

  12. Jade Oc,

    True, although the actual naresome is only one small part of the first volume. And they weren’t in their early twenties. (Then again, the teacher in Dangerous Minds didn’t look like Michelle Pfeiffer either.)

    I’ll still watch it, even if it blows, and even if McDonald’s is a sponsor and runs Mr.ジェームス commercials.

    PS: While we’re on the subject of amusing manga, has anyone read “Nihonjin Ga Shiranai Nihongo” about Nagiko-sensei and teaching foreigners Japanese?

  13. More from the wife, with a little cross-Kanto snarkiness thrown in for good measure:

    Many times when they these movies or TV dramas, they just borrow the concept or title that is fairly known already and give it a commercial twist.
    極道の妻たちwas just a collection of interviews of woman married to the yakuza, yet they managed to create a whole soap opera consisting of episodes not mentioned in the book at all.

    The end result is nothing like the original. I’m sure the movies will attract all those Saitama girls who want to marry blue-eyed foreigners (oops, was that mean?).

  14. The Tsurube doctor film is “ディア・ドクター”, IMHO probably the best Japanese film of the year so far and well worth your 1800 yen if it’s still on near you.

  15. Don,

    That movie doesn’t look bad at all, and I will agree that Japanese film has its winners each year.

    But here, we’re discussing adaptations of manga. Do you have any examples of decent adaptations of manga? Every one (an admittedly small sample size) that I can recall trying to watch has been fairly painful, with lots of goofy camera close-ups and Spike Jones sound effects.

  16. Sorry, didn’t mean to go off topic.

    Off the top of my head I can’t actually think of many recent manga adaptations that have worked for me, or at least didn’t conform to Peter’s description.

    I will say that this year’s “Zeni Geba” TV series benefited from a great scenery-chewing performance by Matsuyama Kenichi and was surprisingly subversive and overtly misanthropic for a prime time show, despite being let down by the usual mediocre plotting and casting issues.

    In terms of big screen adaptations, Tsuruta Norio’s 2008 film “Orochi” based on Umezu Kazuo’s manga was a mostly successful gothic melodrama about sibling jealousy that paid stylish homage to “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”. Well-acted and directed.

    The “Detroit Metal City” movie had its moments too, but it does overdo the manic gurning at times. I don’t think that’s necessarily because it was a manga adaptation though – most of Kudo Kankuro’s work is ostensibly original material but it could do with a heroic dose of ritalin.

  17. Clips of “DTM” made me laugh when they were shown as part of public service messages before other movies, but I was dismayed to find out that they would turn it into a live action flick.

    Is it possible to make an amusing full-length animation flick out of manga? If it is, then why do film makers opt for the crappier product of actors and actresses trying to portray the characters from the manga?

    I’m sure there are answers to these (partly rhetorical) questions, perhaps pertaining to animation costs, or the appeal of the actors and actresses (like Mao Inoue), but in a country that has done so well with animation as a genre, it seems a waste to let a good manga get turded on in the adaptation…

  18. “decent adaptations of manga”

    Kekko Kamen, while hardly quality, at least doesn’t take itself remotely seriously and shows plenty of fantastically gratuitous boobage, which is always a plus….

  19. I’ll watch it because I am a 外国人 and my wife calls me ダーリン. This makes me feel like a savant on the gaijin guy marries Japanese girl concept.

    I am annoyed but not surprised the producer is a TV power broker who will cater to the only audiance he understands; the domestic market. (common gaijin stereo types will be exploited for entertainment value).

    Johnathan Sherr’s resume looks a little interesting. All his roles were in English so japanese language is surely weak or average but more than enough to get by – perfect for the role. He comes from a jimusho because that is all there is if your a gaijin and want to enter the 芸能界. His most valuable experience is having cut his teath in the Tokyo Comedy Store. Funny or not, improv performance experience is not scripted thus brings out the actor’s creativity. He might shine in this movie because having lived here for so long, he’s a natural Japan based foreigner not a Hollywood actor acting like a local gaijin.

    If this movie is a success, it might become a boom for Japanese to marry foreigners.

  20. How much input do you think Saori and Tony will have in the making the film? Do you think they just sign away the rights and deal with whatever gets spewed out?

  21. Well, as my wife mentioned, Shoko Ieda was apparently fine with “Gokudo no Onna-tachi” being transformed into a fictional drama instead of an accurate depiction of her non-fiction novel. She probably made gads on it as well, and with the notoriety went on to write Yellow Cab and other strangeness. And isn’t it industry standard to compromise the integrity of the original story in order to have the screen sell your name? (Cf. Bernard Malamud’s “The Natural”)

    I’m guessing Saori and Tony have realistic expectations about how mangled the manga will end up. Like I said, the casting alone has already made it a different story altogether.

  22. KogaK: “I am annoyed but not surprised the producer is a TV power broker who will cater to the only audiance he understands; the domestic market. (common gaijin stereo types will be exploited for entertainment value).”

    Exploited stereotypes aside, what other market could you possibly imagine as a good one for this project? I don’t see the “bearded European marrying an Asian manga artist” vehicle as a good one for breaking out to international success, especially not when the entire thing is based on comic books that have been read only in this country to begin with.

    And in any case, the whole raison d’être of the comic series is to take “common gaijin stereotypes” and turn them on their ear. I’d wait until the film is actually out before you accuse the director of trashing Oguri’s beneficial cross-cultural messages in favor of LOL gaijin buffoonery.

  23. Aww, Durf. You bought into Tony Lazlo being European…you played right into the trap. The whole “born in America of Hungarian and Italian ancestry” line.

    If he’s European, then I’m a Hapsburg.

  24. @Peter: Well let’s be fair then; Saori isn’t Asian, she’s Japanese! (I was getting more at the ethnicities involved, but of course you’re right about his nationality.)

  25. Perhaps he means “European” as in racial / ethnic ancestry. As opposed to African or Asian.

  26. Naw, I’m just being a pissant, laughing at the fact that the comic always qualifies his nationality with his ethnicity. (As if to bust through that stereotype that all Americans look and talk like Dave Spector.)

  27. @Durf. My comment was a prediction based on the background of the film’s final decision maker – not an accusation. As I said, I will watch it.

  28. Well kids, I just came back from the sneak preview of ダーリンは外国人 at Roppongi Hills. My wife is a fan of the first couple of books, and probably ended up on a mailing of some sort along the line, through which we got invited. Apparently they only invited international couples, and interestingly enough the movies subtitles were in Japanese for the English dialog and in English for the Japanese dialogue.

    The movie was just about at, or perhaps even a bit worse than, my expectations. I liked the use of splicing in clips of Oguri’s animation, as well as spot interviews with international couples. But… There were more than a few scenes where I was biting my fist a la Bea Arthur from The Golden Girls, and there was only one scene in which I laughed: Tony Laszlo himself makes a well-placed cameo in the movie that was worth a chuckle. But screenplay, casting, pacing, music, etc. was on par with the average Japanese made-for-TV movie.

    Inoue Mao looks less like Oguri and more like Asada Mao. Jonathan Scherr looks less like Tony and more like Dustin Diamond (Screech from “Saved By the Bell”). Oguri in the story is not from Kansai, and Tony ends up being from New Jersey. I guess no one cared about these details to begin with.

    Following the movie, Inoue, Scherr, the director Ue, Oguri, and Tony came out on stage to say a few words and answer pre-screened questions from the audience. All of them were a bit nervous, but regardless of that I was surprised at how clumsy some of the exchanges were.

    Q: If you moved to a foreign country and had to take one thing (mono) with you, what would it be?

    Tony: In Japan, ‘mono’ can be 者, in which case I would bring Saori. If the ‘mono’ had to be a thing (物), then…I would bring dried seaweed (nori).

    MC & Audience: …. (huh?)

    Looking at the post above, I notice this quote:
    “The producer Kazuya Hamana (head of TV content at TBS) spent five years preparing for this film and plans to try and recreate the feel of the original comics for a story that everyone can relate to.”

    I don’t think any of the feel was recreated, and it’s kind of sad to think that five years of work went into this movie. I mean, this movie was pret-ty damn bad…

Comments are closed.