After The Rain (Koi wa ameagari no yô ni)

Japan (2018) Dir. Akira Nagai

If you are feeling a sense of déjà vu from seeing this title, that is understandable as it is the inevitable live-action adaptation of the popular manga and anime series After The Rain, my review of which you can read HERE.

17 year-old school student Akira Tachibana (Nana Komatsu) is a former track runner, now working at Cafe Restaurant Garden. Despite being a stoic and stern looking girl, Akira finds herself in love with her 45 year-old manager, single father Masami Kondo (Yo Oizumi), which he is naturally oblivious to. Akira lucks her way into being alone with Kondo, and eventually summons the courage to reveal her feelings to him.

Kondo is stunned and tries to dissuade Akira from seeing him in such a way but Akira is undeterred, so Kondo flippantly suggest they go on a date to see how the age difference makes them so incompatible. Meanwhile, Akira risks ruining her long time friendship with fellow runner Haruka (Nana Seino), her obsession with Kondo coming between them, whilst Kondo finds new doors opening to him that rekindle an old passion.

Reviewing a live-action film based on an animated predecessor one has already seen brings with it the inevitable problem of discussing the differences between the two. This doesn’t necessarily mean one is better or worse than the other, but the detailing of the comparisons and what has changed or has been omitted is often inescapable. After The Rain is such an example of this dilemma for yours truly.

Director Akira Nagai had the unenviable task of condensing the story from a 10-volume manga/12-episode anime series into 110-minutes. Changes and excisions are therefore unavoidable, making a difference if you’ve seen the anime; an obstacle both adaptations faced was the fact the manga was still running whilst they were in production – the film finished shooting at the end of 2017 but was released in May 2018, two months after the anime ended.

Expedience in the set up is evident almost straight away but easily accepted given it is mostly incidental details involving Akira and her co-workers at the restaurant, who are relegated from major support roles to almost background characters. This includes Yui Nishida (Honoka Matsumoto) and Takashi Yoshizawa (Shono Hayama), the latter’s crush on Akira is relayed in a more subtle but effective way here, as opposed to the comedic overtures in the anime.

Comedy is at a premium in this version, making a huge difference in shaping the tone of the film, but given how it is more manic and exaggerated in the anime, duplicating this without compromising the film’s integrity would have been nigh on impossible. Taking a more disciplined approach is the right way to go, and this is no more apparent than when the subject of the May to December romance is explored.

One aspect of the story the anime had the time to delve into was the possibility such a relationship could have blossomed between Akira and Kondo, teasing us with frequent signs the older man was about to concede to the pressure from his teenage admirer. No such thing occurs in this version, as Kondo does his damndest to keep Akira at arm’s length, instead choosing to help her regain the desire to run again, though she remains persistent in her pursuit of him.

Therefore, Riko Sakaguchi’s script counters the controversy of the age gap drama and focuses instead on what Akira is missing out on regarding her erstwhile running career. This adds to the emotional tumult of the relationship with Haruka that Akira continues to jeopardise, concurrently affording time to the subplot of Kondo’s own love of writing which he abandoned to become a husband and father also reignited.

A minor incident in the anime is turned into a late blooming subplot here – a girl from a rival school Mizuki Kurata (Maika Yamamoto), who is also a track runner, once had the same injury as Akira but returned after seeing Akira run and vowed to beat her 100m sprint record. Mizuki’s mean spirited goading of Akira has an effect on her where Haruka and the school team’s pleas previously failed.

Perhaps the most underutilised character in this version is Kondo’s son Yuto, appearing in three scenes when his role in the anime was far more integral. Also given a lesser ride was restaurant chef Ryosuke Kase (Hayato Isomura), still slyly trying to woo Akira but he doesn’t force himself upon her as he does in the anime. Given the family friendly tone of the film this would have jarred drastically had it been included here.

Something else both adaptations share is avoiding taking the main premise of Akira’s desires into sensationalist territory and playing up to the wish-fulfilment likely to appeal to some audiences. Both take a pragmatic and mature approach in their covering of this issue per the original writing; objecting voices naturally appear in fiction but absent from judgemental outrage, meaning a scandal is averted all round.

Nana Komatsu seems to be racking up quite a list of live action anime adaptations on her CV but she proves an inspired choice to play Akira. Her animated counterpart might be a sharper in appearance, but Komatsu translates the same blend of steely confidence and teenage confusion into her performance with acute precision, truly breathing life into the character. Yo Oizumi is a little less gormless than anime Kondo but still a fun figure to follow and a great foil for Komatsu.

Whilst the anime had more time to tell the story in greater detail, this live-action After The Rain offers a concise telling of the saga that suffices in getting the main tenets and ideals across with the merest of narrative sacrifices. Its feel good sentiment refuses to be superficial even if it takes the edge off the drama.

Those who have seen the anime may choose it as the more satisfying version but this is one of the better live-action adaptations by far.

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