A 26-year-old cop becomes engaged to a 16-year-old high school girl, and her mom and dad more or less go along with it (dad a lot less than mom). Sound like a pervy fantasy?
It might, but that’s the premise of “Policeman and Me” (“P to JK”), an un-PC charmer by Ryuichi Hiroki based on a hit shōjo manga (girls’ comic) by Maki Miyoshi. Its main targets are not heavy-breathers scrolling through porn sites, but female fans, who are mostly about the same tender age as its heroine.
The film is accordingly tilted more toward light romantic comedy than serious drama about age-inappropriate love, though Kota, its cop hero played by pop idol/actor Kazuya Kamenashi, is the soul of sincerity. And, as his teenage fiancee Kako (Tao Tsuchiya) gleefully observes, he does look great in uniform.
Even with these and other exculpating factors, including Hiroki’s lyrical direction, the film is bound to rub some viewers the wrong way. Why, they may rightly ask, doesn’t the heroine aspire to wear that uniform herself — or just enjoy her youth and freedom instead of settling down with an older guy?
But Kako has her reasons, starting from her first, inauspicious encounter with her cop. After she and a bestie sneak into an adult mixer and she strikes up a friendly acquaintance with the still single Kota, she gets into trouble that lands her in the hospital, despite Kota’s desperate intervention (no need for details).
Kota feels both angry (since Kako lied about her age) and guilty (since she saved him from danger, but he couldn’t save her). He did, however, intend to date her before learning she was under 20 and became “off-limits.”
Then an honorable solution presents itself to his straight-arrow mind: wedlock. As a law-abiding police officer, he can’t date her, but he can legally marry her with her parents’ consent. Kako promptly agrees to his proposal, as do, incredibly, her understanding mom and understandably reluctant dad.
There is more to the story than Kota’s desire to ease his conscience and restore his masculine pride, but Nami Yoshikawa’s script is short on explanations, at least initially. What’s obvious, however, is Kako’s delight at playing house with her hubby-to-be in his (too big for a policeman’s salary) house, though she swears her aforementioned friend to deep, dark secrecy about the engagement.
Meanwhile, Kota behaves like a perfect gentleman with his teen inamorata. In their moments alone they exchange little more than smiles and the occasional hug, initiated by a giddy Kako. This interlude of innocent bliss is short, however. Okami (Mahiro Takasugi), the moody, blond-haired punk who accidentally put Kako in the emergency room, becomes Kota’s nemesis, as do his delinquent pals.
Also, the realities of being a wife to an often-absent guy in a dangerous job begin to impinge on Kako’s fantasy world. She becomes jealous, fearful and doubtful. Can Kota ever see her as another human being, rather than a charge he must protect?
As the local industry’s go-to guy for romantic dramas, Hiroki directs with a firm, sensitive touch, keeping the camera at a suggestive, discreet distance rather than zooming in for the standard explanatory close-up. Also, while not smoothing the story’s rougher edges, which include violent outbursts, he keeps the tone upbeat and, in one big scene, buoyantly musical. Think “La-La Land Comes to Japan.”
If you can’t get past the age gap, Kota’s profession or Kako’s thing for uniforms, this film is probably not for you, since its attitude toward all three is smiling approval, not frowning indignation. My own takeaway: True love is beautiful — and if I were Kako’s dad I would want Kota’s head.
But in almost any imaginable universe outside this film I would not be in his shoes, would I?