If you want a time capsule of Tokyo’s late-2010s building boom, you could do worse than “Georama Boy, Panorama Girl.” Everything in the film seems to be under construction: the city is a patchwork of scaffolding, temporary fencing and cranes rising over the skeletons of half-finished buildings.
The movie’s characters are also a work in progress, poised on the threshold of adulthood and trying to figure out who they want to be.
Gangly, bespectacled Kenichi (Jin Suzuki) is a diligent student until, just before the university entrance exams, he suddenly announces he’s done with school. After dropping out in spectacular style, he starts loafing around in Shibuya, toting a skateboard in an effort to look cool.
|Rating||out of 5|
|Run Time||105 min.|
It seems to have the desired effect on Mayumi (Misato Morita), a flirtatious older woman who lets him take her on a date, only for a male companion to turn up and give the precocious teen a good thrashing.
On his way home, Kenichi stumbles past Haruko (Anna Yamada), a 16-year-old dreaming of the kind of romance you see in Disney films. When Kenichi collapses at her feet, she jumps to the unlikely conclusion that she’s found her Prince Charming. However, he’s still more interested in Mayumi, even after he learns that she’s the kind of woman who charges by the hour.
Although it seems to be following the standard teen romance playbook, “Georama Boy, Panorama Girl” keeps you guessing whether its characters are star-crossed lovers or just have their wires crossed. While it can feel episodic and meandering, this playful take on the seishun eiga (youth movie) genre certainly isn’t predictable.
There’s a perkiness to the early scenes that reminded me of the late Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1980s high school movies, even if director Natsuki Seta doesn’t have the same visual flair. The film also provokes less flattering comparisons: When Suzuki and Yamada deliver overlapping voice-overs that converge in unison, they sound like a wan imitation of Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name.”
The film is based on a late-1980s manga series by Kyoko Okazaki, published at the height of Japan’s bubble era. However, it fits with the bullish mood that was coursing through the capital before COVID-19 came along.
This is just the latest in a series of adaptations of Okazaki’s work, following “Helter Skelter” (2012), “River’s Edge” (2018) and “Chiwawa” (2019). “Georama Boy, Panorama Girl” is lighter than any of those films, although it allows hints of darkness to creep in.
As they make strides toward maturity, Haruko and Kenichi repeatedly find themselves out of their depth. Meanwhile, glimpses of TV news reports hint at wider social unrest, even if the characters seem mostly oblivious to it.
The cast appears to be having fun: Morita throws herself into a role that’s patently absurd, while Riko Narumi is typically solid as Kenichi’s older sister. Suzuki has a puckish energy that makes a character who could have come across as a jerk seem oddly likable.
The most impressive is Yamada, who visibly matures as the film progresses. Toward the end, there’s a lovely scene of her walking home alone, a range of emotions flitting silently across her face. It’s the kind of shot you wish would go on a few minutes longer. It’s like watching a girl become a woman.
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