Kanna-san, Daiseikou Desu!
GENRE: Romance, Comedy
Directed by: Koichi Inoue
Written by: Yuko Matsuda, Yumiko Suzuki (mangaka)
Actors: Yu Yamada, Shizuyo Yamazaki, Aoi Nakabeppu, Akira Nagata, Hitomi Sato, Takashi Kashiwabara, Yuko Asano
2009 Hexagon Pictures
Kanna Kannazuki (Yu Yamada) is a bijin/美人 (a pretty girl) who, after being maligned in her past as a "fat and ugly" girl, took out all of her life's savings (a whopping 4 million yen) to give herself a comprehensive head-to-toe makeover. But even after her makeover, she realizes that she must do everything in order to become a believable "natural" beauty. Such is supported by her company's beauty and top management protege Reiko Sumidagawa (Aoi Nakabeppu) in order for her to snag Kousuke (Akira Nagata), the only handsome guy who was ever kind to her during her "ugly" years.
Joining forces with Reiko and a formerly maligned "ugly" co-worker, whom she and Reiko endearingly call Kabako / Hippo girl (Shizuyo Yamazaki). Kanna initially has some great successes advancing herself in a highly competitive career in fashion, having surrounded herself with "natural beauties" who do not know of her secret. That is until envy among the ranks of these powerful beauties threaten to reveal this secret to the public.
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200 Pound Beauty
It was one in the morning and I was ready to sleep until I caught this showing on the Asian channel. Yu Yamada, Japan's supermodel by right of being exclusive to its top teen magazine Cancam, plays Kanna. Yu Yamada was a delightful surprise as I saw her strut on the street as a former "ugly" girl trying on her new "pretty girl shoes" and falling flat on her face in front her biggest crush. Now, I didn't expect former models to be good at acting. But Yu Yamada actually delivered as a pretty klutzy yet lovable lead as expected from a Japanese comedy. (If you don't know yet, the Japanese are excellent at purposely shallow comedies and have a penchant for making an art form out of it that makes its audience satisfied with crazy laughter in the end.)
The first part of the story seems a little boring as the flashback of Kanna's "ugly" past was shown in claymation. (As in, they really look the cartoon Bob the Builder.) But this quickly eased out to focus on Kanna's transition into the "pretty girl world." It was a world that Kanna truly and deeply aspired to be in, enough to save 4 million yen for her transformation. She stalked the beautiful Reiko and took down notes on Reiko's every action. (For example, "Pretty girls don't have to apologize." Or "Pretty girls don't have to pay.") She took notes until she has compiled the seven principles of pretty girls and posted this in her apartment like some sort of vision board. Yes, Kanna is fully engrossed in becoming a pretty girl! Yet instead of acquiring Reiko's effortless poise and grace, all she effortlessly does is trip in front of cute Kosuke and greet visitors with exaggerated speech and diction. Oh yes, I find it amusing that Yu Yamada, who in real life is a "natural beauty," has managed to act out how truly difficult it is to transition into the "pretty girl world." (Who woulda thunk?) It is in these parts where we see that Kanna, even though she is now a pretty girl, still wanted to use her 'powers' for good instead of using them to become a diva.
Whether it is by sheer luck or the inner pureness of heart that led Kanna Kannazuki to instant success, you will still cheer for her through all this. I cheered for Kanna to get together with Kosuke. I cheered for Kanna even as she ran in her high heels like a drunk giraffe!
Come to think of it, I didn't find any annoying character in this movie. I loved them all, even as they exaggerated their roles. (Emphasis is part of the wit...and sarcasm.) Plus, everyone is really pretty up to the top cougar boss. Kanna's love interest Kosuke is a very cute, kind-hearted, salaryman, who's just the right type of simpleton, beloved by Kanna just by being kind. (Isn't it great that love is really simple in comedies?) The other guys such as Kosuke's senpai and second-in-command Yuki are also cute so there's a lot of eye candy that should be enough to watch the movie. (Right?)
The movie also manages to break stereotypes. Reiko of course, despite playing the role as the naturally blessed beauty, is the token 'non-bitch.' You know, all the other women in fashion where Kanna and Reiko work are bitches who revel in their style and position. (They even have a special sequence where they enter the building in runway style, led by the chief executive cougar boss played by Yuko Asano, who channels a Japanese Miranda Priestly of The Devil Wears Prada.) But of course, Reiko is that one person who's beautiful inside and out who must beat the stereotype. (Let me add, though, that Yuko Asano's rendering as top cougar boss is in a class of its own. She has her own presence, that of a cool sophisticate who cares less about her adoring public and yet has a sequenced and stylized bowing ceremony from her subordinates when she enters the meeting room.)
The other gem to beat the stereotype is Kabako (Hippo-girl), who I thought at first was a man, as she looked like Filipino comedian Michael V in drag. (Sorry.) But as it turns out, Shizuyo Kanazaki is a top comedienne. You will love her here as she undergoes her own transformation and play as the only umm...hippo-girl in the friendship.
But let me end with a contrary disclaimer: Don't expect too much. I actually didn't, which is why I thoroughly enjoyed it. My raves are all about getting enough amusement from the characters and the comedic timing that I didn't expect from its actors. What I mean is that this is not a life-changing rom-com. It's clear, mindless fun with a moral lesson which was enough to make me finish it until 4 am.
Note: This is based on the manga of the same name by Yumiko Suzuki. A Korean movie based on the manga entitled 200 pound Beauty was also made prior to this Japanese movie. I have heard good things about the Korean movie too.
Individual Rating: Casting 8; Story 7; Characters 8; Sounds 7