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‘Okuda Tamio ni Naritai Boi to Deau Otoko Subete Kuruwaseru Garu’: A bumbling Romeo falls into love

by

Special To The Japan Times

Many are the Japanese movies about virginal guys who are hopeless with women. One template is “Train Man,” a 2005 hit about a shy otaku (geek) who lucks into a date with his dream girl — and needs an online support network to survive it.

Hitoshi One’s awkwardly if accurately titled “Okuda Tamio ni Naritai Boi to Deau Otoko Subete Kuruwaseru Garu” (literally, “A Boy Who Wished to be Tamio Okuda and a Girl Who Drove All Men Crazy” comes close) takes this scenario several erotic notches higher. Based on Chokkaku Shibuya’s manga, a socially inept magazine editor named Yuji Koroki (Satoshi Tsumabuki) falls hard for the flirtatious Akari Amami (Kiko Mizuhara), who does PR for a fashion brand. Miracle of miracles, they hook up. But his ecstasy soon turns to agony for reasons any idiot but the besotted Koroki could have foreseen. “Okuda” is thus a rare reality-based romantic comedy, though it’s perhaps inadvisable as a date movie.

One, director of the similarly themed “Moteki” (2011), has fashioned his hero’s world with a fanatic attention to detail, starting with the authentic clutter of the lifestyle magazine office where Koroki works. He has also drawn performances from Lily Franky, Sakura Ando and other members of a talented cast that are crazed but crafted to deliver actual laughs.

The film’s subject — the erotic and romantic education of a man-child — has become a minefield, however, and “Okuda” is certain to set off explosions. Filmed in sexy outfits and seductive attitudes designed to melt the brains of hero and audience alike, Akari is, to put it in academic-speak, objectified for the male gaze to the umpteenth degree.

More than a retrograde sex comedy, however, “Okuda” is a tough-love coming-of-age movie, with Koroki’s fall from the heights of infatuation the key to his later growth. And Akari is no one’s victim.

How does singer-songwriter Tamio Okuda enter into it? Koroki loves his laid-back attitude, which includes slobby habits that Koroki admires. (Naturally, Okuda’s music features prominently.)

Why is the impeccably attired Akari attracted to this goof? Though something of a ditz, she is not so stupid as to court Koroki for his clout: he has none. Instead, she likes his eagerness to please. And, minus the beanie, he’s pretty cute.

However, not long after Koroki enters this paradise, he begins to worry (with reason) about expulsion. A suave senior editor (Hirofumi Arai) flips out when he hears that Koroki is a possible rival. And the magazine’s avuncular chief editor (Suzuki Matsuo) saddles Koroki with oddball writers who steal away precious hours of bliss.

Tsumabuki seems to have been cast for his signature crying jags: No other male Japanese star turns on the waterworks as easily and copiously. The film, in fact, overuses this ability. The intent may be self-parody, but the result is off-puttingly pathetic.

Mizuhara nails Akari’s mercurial moods, down to her look of world-weary wisdom when the mask finally drops. But her Akari is also a caricature, guilty of overkill. Her arsenal of seduction techniques, detailed in the film’s program, break down Koroki’s resistance like a sledgehammer smashing a butterfly — but what a way to go.