After work on Saturday, I rushed to Chiba Chuuou to catch the film. kuroe said he would be there, but after I'd bought the ticket he told me he'd probably be late. Agh! And cinema tickets are so expensive here...!
Anyway, as it happens, I told the ticket vendor that he'd be late and if she could give the ticket to him if she saw him. He actually arrived before the trailers had even started, but I wasn't to know that was going to happen.
Anyway, the trailers consisted of Kimeru, Death Note and Jun Bride. I can't wait to see the Death Note movie!
Highlight: Kikumaru vs Mukahi wuxia battle.
As you may be aware, Sakuno got replaced by a new, generic female character. I can't recall a time I saw a more pathetic and weak character. I hate her!
The first time we meet her, in the opening scenes, she's quite literally taken the place of Sakuno. Sasabe is swinging his racket on the train and hitting the pole next to her. It really did look as if she could get injured, so I initially thought it was an improvement. However, she mouths 'please stop' at him silently, then quietly. Of course, Ryouma is sitting on the same train and deals with them. It's the Eastern Grip, not the Western Grip, fools!
Sakunobot doesn't appear again for ages, until she spots Ryouma under a tree. She gets out her notebook and writes a note to him. He takes one look at her and asks who she is, and this time I think he genuinely doesn't remember her (as opposed to the anime, where he's just being snarky).
She appears a third time. She finds Ryouma sleeping on the grass. Too shy to wake him up, she wanders away and plays her flute. I'm not making this up!
The fourth time, she watches Ryouma play tennis. At a key point, she shouts out to encourage him (so it's NOT a medical condition -- no way!). And then... they never meet again. What a stupid, weak, pointless character!
(Oh yeah, she's the main villain's sister. So what?)
Anyway, now I've talked about the worst bit of the film, onto the highlights.
First off, everything looks real. I never really thought about it before, but the musicals aren't able to show actual locations. I'd thought I'd got over seeing real people as the Seigaku Regulars, but - in fact - seeing real people as the Seigaku Regulars in real locations is new. I love the way the tennis courts look -- like real, used, tennis courts. The shrine in the forest looks like many I've visited. Believe it or not, it's amazing.
The film spends time establishing the reality of its world and making you believe in it -- the cgi at this point is only slightly over-the-top. It gets you believing, and only pulls out its full-on tennis wuxia once it has you. Nicely handled.
Once again, I find myself liking Ryouma. I tend to start liking him whenever I see him portrayed by a real actor. Here, the pacing is responsible for that attitude. It emphasises Ryouma's repeated losses to his father and Tezuka and glosses over Ryouma's defeat of pretty much everyone else.
Ryouma is less snarky in general. When he gets his Seigaku shirt, he actually looks pleased. He's never allowed to become the star of the show until the end, usually due to Nanjirou's interference.
Shirota Yuu-san doesn't seem to know how to act Tezuka unless Tezuka is singing and dancing. Although, to be fair, maybe the rigid body language IS his interpretation of Tezuka (I bet some fans wold agree). His Tezuka seems to enjoy staring at Ryouma's half-naked body at any rate.
Which brings us to Nanjirou (no, really). First time we see him, he's reading Playboy, which amuses me. His chosen reading material in the anime is so tame that he might as well be reading a clothing catalogue. Oh, and he suddenly appears naked in the bath with Ryouma... there's plenty of fanservice!
Speaking of details, I have to mention Atobe. I was a little dubious about him at first, particularly since I wouldn't even be able to pick him out as Atobe in a Hyoutei line-up. But he's great. I wonder if he's wearing a modified Hyoutei uniform, or if that's really the uniform? Because when you get close up, you can see it's actually silk with a pattern of white roses.
When he first appears, Atobe silences everyone with just a snap of his fingers. It really worked well.
My favourite bit was Kikumaru versus Mukahi. Their acrobatic tennis was fantastic! And the end of their match, with Ooishi clutching a defeated, shaking Kikumaru was love. :)
The film moves very quickly, so it's interesting what moments they included. Takasan's father mistaking Tezuka for a teacher and Fuji fetishizing Takasan's bloody racket all made the cut.
Horio also appears, briefly, next to Ryouma when the line-up is being announced. He has the hair-style, but not the monobrow. Lots of other cameos, which I'm not remembering. They're really difficult to recognise, since the film makes a token attempt at copying their hairstyles in a realistic manner, but never the colouring. Finally, the next teams they'll have to face - including Rokkaku and Rikkai - appear at the end, including some familiar actors. Is it a cameo or a set up for a sequel...?
Overall, I enjoyed it -- you just have to ignore Sakunobot. I want to go into Toukyou on my day off to see it -- hopefully with a fuller cinema.