The menstrual cycle isn’t the most likely topic for a commercial film. In fact, Shunsuke Shinada’s “Little Miss Period” is the first I know to address it.
The inspiration is a comic by Ken Koyama that, after debuting in a web magazine in 2017, quickly became popular with women (who were evidently OK with its creator being a man). It is currently appearing in Comic Beam, a monthly magazine aimed at teenagers. So the progression to film is not totally surprising, given the vast number of manga-based movies made here.
As the title hints, the film combines quirky fantasy and quotidian reality to funny, heart-warming and instructive (at least to male viewers) effect. The structure is episodic — reflecting the comic’s standalone-story format — and the plot lines are predictable, but the firmly grounded performances of leads Sairi Ito and Fumi Nikaido help steer their stories away from the cartoony and the treacly, the Scylla and Charybdis of so many manga-based movies.
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We first see Nikaido as Aoko, a frazzled editor at a publishing house who is scrambling to meet a deadline when she is felled by her period, personified as a big, plush, heart-shaped character with mascaraed eyes, red lips and a white cross for a nose. Though clumping in on her stumpy pink legs at the most inconvenient times, Little Miss Period is also an ally, giving Aoko’s obnoxious boss a sock in his paunch and occasionally serving as her confidante (if not one who will shorten her stay).
Meanwhile, a young janitor at the company, Riho (Ito), is surreptitiously inputting caustic observations about the people around her into her smartphone. She, too, encounters her monthly visitor, though, in contrast to Aoko’s wincing resignation, her reaction is irritation, shading to anger. “Why do you even come?” she asks it, having reconciled herself to a life of lonely singledom.
Finally, Hikaru (Risaki Matsukaze), Aoko’s teenage sister, is in her room with her boyfriend (Kyohei Kanomi) studying for a big test when her Little Miss Period shows up. Though smaller than Aoko’s (which we see the poor woman hauling about in a cart), she is still unwelcome. Not that the boyfriend notices: He is occupied with his own intruder, the penis-shaped Mr. Sex Drive.
After these awkward, if cute, introductions, the story kicks dutifully into gear. Aoko has a nice, well-off widower boyfriend (Yoshinori Okada) who wants to marry her, but his prickly 11-year-old daughter (Hana Toyoshima) hates her. How to make friends?
Also, Riho turns out to be a popular blogger that Aoko’s nerdy, eager-to-please colleague (Ren Sudo) sees as both a potential columnist and a soulmate. Will she reciprocate?
Hikaru, meanwhile, is eager to lose her virginity, but will Little Miss Period cooperate?
The answers to these questions are hardly difficult to guess, telegraphed as they are from the beginning, but the film’s main value is as a whimsically engaging, gently insightful look at a subject usually consigned to the shadows and passed over in silence — or by guys in ignorance.
“If only men got a period once a year,” Aoko asks out loud in frustration. Since that’s not going to happen, barring some miracle, “Little Miss Period” is an entertaining alternative. And painless too.
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