Even If This Love Disappears From The World Tonight (Konya, Sekai kara kono Koi ga Kietemo)
Japan (2022) Dir. Takahiro Miki
As we get older, our memory start to fail us and yes, the hackneyed joke about going into a room and forgetting why you went in there is true, something which is of huge embarrassment to me now as I had a phenomenal memory as a child. However, I am fortunate can still remember important life moments which some people can’t.
High school student Toru Kamiya (Shunsuke Michieda) stands up to bullies picking on his friend, who agree to back off if he makes a false confession to classmate Maori Hino (Riko Fukumoto). The deal is done with the scene filmed and passed around the school to tease them, but Maori, even after learning it wasn’t genuine, suggests they pretend to be a couple anyway, only with three strict rules.
First, they shouldn’t speak until after school; they keep all communications simple; and they must not fall in love. After a couple of getting to know you dates, Toru realises he is falling for Maori but she has a secret too – she has anterograde amnesia, meaning she loses her memory each time she falls asleep, and keeps a diary to record her actions and important notes. Toru decides to make each new day count for Maori.
Short-term memory loss is something that has been explored a few times recently in Japanese cinema, with films like It Stopped Raining, 50 First Kisses (the remake of Adam Sandler’s 50 First Dates) and in the anime series One Week Friends. Director Takahiro Miki throws his hat into the ring with this adaptation of the mouthful-titled novel by Misaki Ichijo, which on first inspection has little new to offer.
This isn’t being flippant – the premise may sound fertile for drama, comedy, or even sci-fi but there is only so much you can do with someone resetting their memories on a daily or regular basis, without it becoming a repetitive cycle a’la Groundhog Day. Ichijo seems aware of this, lulling us into a false sense of security about where the story is going before hitting us with a sudden (perhaps too sudden) shock development in the third act to stir things up a bit.
Maori might be a typically sweet, chaste romantic heroine with an incurable ailment but she doesn’t play the victim or allow her condition to define her which is the first notable difference about her. Naturally, Maori wakes up confused every morning, then reads her diary and abundance of notes about the bedroom before having the same conversation with her parents, reminding her that she was injured saving a youngster from being hit by a car.
Yet, instead of self-pity, Maori is more concerned of being a burden to her parents but they won’t hear of it. The only thing they insist on is she keeps her condition secret from others unless she knows they are trustworthy. On the list so far is just one person, Izumi Wataya (Kotone Furukawa), typically good hearted, slightly overprotective, with moxie, quick to interject herself into this faux-relationship with Maori’s best interests in mind and a cautious eye aimed towards Toru.
Luckily, Toru isn’t a lech or someone looking to add notches to his bedpost. He is quite a sensitive lad, living with his one-time published author father (Masato Hagiwara) whose inability to write a follow up after the death of his wife has driven him to drink. This has left Toru to take care of the housekeeping whilst his dad wallows in drunken pity, so any chance to enjoy new adventures with Maori by way of a distraction is gladly taken.
Unusually for a story with a severely ailing protagonist, Toru’s story accounts for just as much screen time as Maori’s, possibly more, another small diversion from the expected. There is an air of mystery surrounding Toru’s taste in literature, citing a writer named Fumino Nishikawa as someone he admires. Izumi is also a big fan of hers, which Toru plays down at first but is later forced to make an admission to Izumi, heralding another layer to his personal story.
With Toru taking Maori’s condition into consideration, he asks that she doesn’t include him or their dates in her diary so each day is a fresh experience for them both. However, like Toru, Maori breaks rule three and having fallen in love, only omits what she wants to about Toru. Then, the aforementioned development occurs and Izumi finds herself in an impossible situation trying to honour two people’s wishes, and struggling with the moral implications.
Because this is a romantic drama, there is a degree of tweeness about the presentation with the schmaltz regularly topped up, but Miki isn’t completely reliant on this to sell the story. The poignancy regarding how precious memories are plays into both Maori and Toru’s lives – even Izumi gets a look in – whether it is making them or cherishing them, is vital to driving the drama. Without being to didactic, Miki implores us to protect the photos on our phones as much as the images in our heads as life is fleeting.
Riko Fukumoto has an aura of innocence about her that suffuses her portrayal of Maori’s daily wonderment of discovery with enchantment and natural awe, whilst the weight of her condition is a looming spectre. Shunsuke Michieda is a shaggy-haired pretty boy but brings an air of vulnerability to Toru to give his character some substance, though it is hard not to consider Kotone Furukawa as Izumi the scene stealer – friend, empath, and emotional rock all rolled into one, you end up rooting for her.
Even If This Love Disappears From The World Tonight plays with a familiar concept to suit a specific audience yet errs on the right side of saccharine to be inclusive enough for those usually adverse to lachrymose drama. Its message is nicely imparted though its one sub plot too many doesn’t justify the 121-minutes run. Unashamedly sappy and sentimental, but not soppy.