La La La at Rock Bottom / Misono Universe (2015)
Directed by award-winner Nobuhiro Yamashita (Tamako in Moratorium, A Gentle Breeze in the Village) and screenwritten by Tomoe Kanno (Miracle: Devil Claus' Love and Magic, The Girl in the Sun), La La La at Rock Bottom tells a story of a young man (Subaru Shibutani) who runs on stage during a live band performance and impresses the crowd with his singing before suddenly passing out. The band's manager, Kasumi (Fumi Nikaidō), takes him into her care and finds out that he has amnesia. All he has is a sudden burst of urge to sing. She makes him her band's lead vocalist while he gradually regains his memory and his mysterious past unfolds.
The film may not have the most original formula for a memory loss-cum-redemption story nor does it have strong emotional drama but it is an enjoyable Japanese oddball comedy backed by committed performances by the cast. Lead actor Subaru Shibutani (Eight Ranger) won Best Actor at the Fantasia Film Festival 2015 for his portrayal here as the man who starts off in the film as a lost fellow and then reveals to be this totally different person later. It's almost like he had to play two different roles with only one thing in common — great vocals and a soul when he sings — and Shibutani nails it. Kanno, too, won Best Screenwriter at the same festival for his work with this film.
La La La at Rock Bottom's best moments are its wide angle shots of long, funny scenes with one focus in front progressing the story while the other characters are active in the background. It gives this very anime-ish feel to it that I really fancy. The film is also somewhat musical as well with raw and engaging live band and vocal performances. Even when some songs are repeated, they're sung with different emotion and style at different moments, perhaps to convey the main character's feelings of frustration, hope, sadness to a sense of closure. Although the film's aim of some sort of meaning at the end doesn't quite hit a home run, and despite the seemingly intentional plot hole in the final act, I find myself satisfyingly entertained by the film's adorable charm and humour.
Malaysian censorship: Although the film stars model Fumi Nikaidō (Scoop!, Himizu), I doubt anything was required to be censored.
Verdict: If you like Japanese comedic style, music and culture, you'd likely enjoy this.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Country / Language: Japan / Japanese
Japanese Title: 味園ユニバース
Genre: Comedy drama, musical
Running Time: 104 minutes
Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita
Screenwriter: Tomoe Kanno
Cast: Subaru Shibutani, Fumi Nikaidō, Sarina Suzuki, Katsumi Kawahara
Malaysia Release Date: 6 April 2017 (GSC International Screens)
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Production: Bridgehead, GAGA, J Storm, Matchpoint
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