Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
I watched this rather chick-flick-y movie a while ago and found it to be surprisingly good. Beware some light spoilers (that hopefully shouldn’t ruin the movie) might make it into this review.
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is based off a book of the same name which was authored by Gabrielle Zevin. She was invited by Hans Canosa to write the script and screenplay for the movie. What’s interesting is that she and the director are both Americans based in America and for some reason or another they decided to change the setting to Japan and have about 2/3rds of the cast be Japanese while the remainder were English speaking Americans.
The setting is Tokyo American School where you have 3 types of students:
1. The Caucasians who speak in heavy American slang 90% of the time and mutter some horrendously pronounced Japanese words from time to time but appear to understand their Japanese classmates perfectly.
2. The Japanese students who speak Japanese 90% of the time and occasionally spit out shudder-worthy sentences of badly enunciated Engrish. (NAO AHM PEEAAACED…)
3. The perfectly bilingual Japanese students who can fluently speak English in an American accent while also able to converse in Japanese in a metropolitan Tokyo accent.
This mix of characters makes for a strangely utopian little pocket within Japan where the Western world melds almost seamlessly with the Japanese world especially when you have scenes where Japanese and English words are exchanged between friends similar to how Mandarin and English are spoken interchangeably in Singapore. However, I would have preferred that the 2 Japanese male leads have put in as much effort as the female lead into working on their accent and trying to speak proper English.
Meet Naomi, played by the beautiful Horikita Maki who apparently went through a crash course on English prior to and during the shooting for this role. About 30% of her script was English and I think she did a respectable job of it – a surprising cut above the usual shoddy Engrish that one gets in Japanese Doramas.
Naomi is the heroine in this story, a teenager who falls down a staircase in school and loses 4 years of her memory.
She then has to deal with this guy:
and this guy:
and then her boyfriend:
The way she pronounces her boyfriend’s name is humorous to say the least.
Character development was decent, and because the story is told through Naomi’s eyes, you learn about them the same way she does – the awkward “I’m supposed to know you but this is the first time we’ve met” to begin with, their seemingly strange behaviour, and eventually all is explained so to speak.
The camera work was typical of American directing and it wasn’t till this show that I realized how characteristic and different American filmography was from Japanese filmography. The way the camera pans, the way people are framed in a shot etc all reminded me of those Hollywood shows we’re all so familiar with.
What was different though was the heavy use of “picture in picture” in scenes such as those shown above which is reminiscent of some phone ads that I’ve seen on TV lately. It’s certainly a breath of fresh air and strangely satisfying sometimes (when they show a guy taking a picture, don’t you get really curious about how the photo looks?).
Hmmm…what else haven’t I talked about? Oh yes…plot! It’s everything you’d expect out of a book you’d pick up off the shelf with the name of “MEMOIRS OF A TEENAGE AMNESIAC”. Pretty much, it’s a chick flick with decidedly less cheese and starring Japanese actors/actresses which is quite novel. That being said though, I was kept interested the whole way by the good pacing and the storytelling.
Horikita Maki’s performance was…believable, for want of a better word. She fits into the schooling girl role very naturally and is able to give life to the character she is playing. Matsuyama Kenichi who starred as Miwa Yuji did well to portray his character as emotionally unstable but he, together with Tegoshi Yuya who starred as Hasegawa Mirai were unable to get me to like them at all.
There was alot of variation in the soundtrack, mostly composed of English songs here and there (the credits have an enormous list of songs) with mild “slice of life” type instrumentals filling in the rest. Some of the scenes relied on white noise (such as crowd noise, birds chirping etc) to provide atmosphere which I found to be more natural most of the time I didn’t even notice that there was no music playing.
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is a decent movie all round but what sets it apart and makes it a must watch is the way American filmography meets Japanese culture. I found that the whole production came together in a very unique fashion (there was a mix of Japanese and American staff across the board) which made for an interesting watch.