Tomorrow I Will Date With Yesterday’s You (Boku wa asu, kinou no kimi to dêto suru)

Japan (2016) Dir. Takahiro Miki

I am sure there are countless people who have found their true love and on occasion wondered “This is too good to be true” – I know it would be that case for this ugly old git if it ever happened. But imagine you discovered the major caveat in this seemingly perfect relationship, how would you handle it? Would it make a difference?

Takatoshi Minamiyama (Sota Fukushi) is a 20 year-old art student on the morning train to his class when he spots across the busy carriage her spies a young woman in falls instantly in love with her. Getting off at the same station, Takatoshi plucks up the courage to speak the woman, who introduces herself as Emi Fukuju (Nana Komatsu), also 20 years-old.

After a verbal commitment to meet again that Takatoshi didn’t take seriously, Emi surprises him at the zoo the next day. The couple exchange phone numbers and prompted by his friend Shoichi (Masahiro Higashide) Takatoshi calls Emi to arrange a date. Soon love blossoms until Emi leaves her diary behind one night which Takatoshi reads but doesn’t understand, forcing Emi to reveal a secret about herself.

Perhaps you have already guessed the nature of the secret by the whimsical title although it doesn’t actually give way the exact details of the central conceit which is a neat ruse by director Takahiro Miki. The film is based on a novel by Takafumi Nanatsuki with the snappier and equally enigmatic title My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday which this is also known by – in fact, it doesn’t appear on screen until 40 minute in.

I don’t wish to spoil the plot further by explaining the twist in detail but it also makes it difficult to discuss the story and its emotional core and potential cavils without mentioning them either. Suffice to say this is a tale in which parallel timelines exists and the future and past are both manipulated in a loose way, although if one was to break down the science behind this concept with a forensic eye, it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

But it is used to facilitate the budding romance between two sweet people so we are asked, very politely, to suspend our disbelief and leave our over-critical sensibilities in the cloakroom with our coats and bags, and indulge Miki and his adorable cast as they proceed to play one sweeping sonata after another with our heartstrings. This is no joke either – the sci-fi fantasy premise actually makes this the touching experience it is.

For the first act, one could be forgiven for thinking we are in for another conventional romantic drama, with two cute 20 year-olds fumbling their way through the typically formal and tentative stages of the Japanese dating game. Takatoshi is the tousle haired, glasses wearing shy nerd and Emi is the enigmatic vision of loveliness with enough cheeky pep for them both without being overtly gregarious.

Everything plays out nicely enough, with Takatoshi asking for permission to walk Emi to her train at night ahead of her strict midnight curfew, to asking if they can use first names and hold hands, before finally asking if Emi will consent to being his girlfriend. For the record, Takatoshi asked Emi to her face and not via text message since Emi doesn’t have a mobile phone – the last of the true gentlemen.

Remarkably, Emi and Takatoshi share something unusual together – when he was five Takatoshi fell into a river and was saved by a mystery woman; when Emi was five a man saved her from being caught in an explosion in a nearby building. In Takatoshi’s case, the woman returns one day and gives him a box which she instructs him only to open when they meet again.

If your plot detector is going off, it has good reason to but all I can tell you is that it is not quite what you think. To fuel your curiosity, Takatoshi becomes oddly suspicious when Emi accurately predicts that his drawing of a giraffe will be hung in his school hallway, and that she knew to add a secret ingredient to a beef stew Emi makes Takatoshi just like his mother does!

What I can say about the direction this goes in is that, as already suggested, it does lead to some confusion about the feasibility of its execution and certainly the denouement isn’t as straight forward as Miki presumably thinks it is in explaining the perspective we are watching from. And if that muddies the waters further this is because of trying to skirt around the issue without giving anything away.

Aside from the cheesy musical score that intrude on every major scene to not-so gently prompt the audience to reach for their tissues rather than the emotion of the scene speak for itself, we become fully invested in our star crossed lovers even before the twist through their delightful chemistry and general sweetness without being sickeningly perfect.

Much of the poignancy born out of the fantasy element suggests it is a metaphor representing a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia and this impending sense that the couple will eventually lose each other is cruelly palpable and moving, even for an old cynic like yours truly.

Whilst Miki’s direction resembles a TV melodrama in feel and presentation, the two leads stretch themselves to make this memorable and effective. Sota Fukushi undertakes the “geek to man” journey with little contrivance but the real treat is seeing Nana Komatsu play a nice role, having only seen her dark incendiary side in The World Of Kanako and Destruction Babies.

Tomorrow I Will Date With Yesterday’s You is a clunky but admittedly eye-catching title for such an interesting and different weepy that has the power and emotional hook to win over those who usually avoid Japanese romantic dramas. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have something in my eye. It wasn’t there tomorrow…