Viz Media // 2007 // 115 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 30th, 2009
I'm poor and miserable, but that's okay as long as you're here.
Based on a popular Japanese comic strip, Happily Ever After is an oddball romantic comedy that shows flashes of wit and weirdness, but ultimately grates.
Despite its comic roots and the quirkiness of the disc case, this is not a comedy. Happily Ever After is more of a drama with random humor elements woven in. If you're going into this expecting the import lunacy of Japanese slapstick, you will be disappointed.
Here's how this thing unfurls: Yukie is a young woman who's had a sad life. She eventually marries a former gangster named Isao who turns into an apathetic loser with a violent temper. How do we know he has a violent temper? Because he repeatedly tosses the dinner table over in slow motion. Yukie's friends and neighbors beg her to ditch the guy, but she resists because of a loyalty from her past, which we eventually see in an extended flashback. Everything changes, when Yukie finds out she's pregnant with Isao's baby.
Happily Ever After has its good points. It's exceedingly well-crafted, shot with style and a stylized look befitting its manga origins. There's a nice, understated atmosphere that surrounds the storytelling and fits well with the quirks of the main characters. Both Yukie and Isao are understated -- aside from sporadic fits of table-tossing fury and weeping nervous breakdowns in the corner of the house -- but neither are particularly likable; Yukie's a doormat and Isao's a prick.
What might catch viewers off guard is the drastic change of tone that happens about halfway in. Until this point, the story plugs along like a black humor piece, with Isao's outburst and crap disposition played mainly for laughs. There's a nosy neighbor who keeps track of the number of time he flips out, a friend of Isao's who has a knack for Pachinko (much to Isao's chagrin), and Yukie's repeated attempts to keep the dinner table stable. Then, quite suddenly, the domestic disturbances turn serious and, with Yukie's big flashback look at the origin of their relationship, the duo's story becomes a lot more serious. Despite lollygagging in places, it works, even with the oddly inserted flashback nuking the pace of a particularly frenetic scene.
What grates are those initial comedy set-ups with Isao. That slow-motion table overturning gag is milked relentlessly (I'm thinking it was a key component in the comics) and always set to the same music. In fact, the music is some of the most repetitive and irritating I've heard in a long time.
The DVD is sparse, sporting a clean 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with a Japanese 2.0 stereo mix (English subtitles attached, of course). The only extra is a set of liner notes.
I'm not enamored, but you may be, if eccentric Japanese romcom is your
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Viz Media
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Liner Notes