Futari Ecchi (2011) is… Japanese.

Futari Ecchi (2011) is… Japanese.

Hello. I’m Benjamin Wagner, this is my blog and today I…. talk about topics in which I am unknowledgeable and unskilled. Futari Ecchi is, in my opinion, one of the most important manga of the 1990s. In a culture where sexuality and speaking about intercourse is often regarded as taboo, a manga that attempts to inform and educate the population on information regarding sex, relationships and various bodily hang-ups is an incredibly brave thing to publish. The manga began in 1997 and is still being written and published to this day; with well over 500 chapters, spinoffs and anime adaptions to its name. And, from the 150 or so chapters I have read, it is great. It informs. It entertains. It’s relatable. Just an all-around good time. However, this movie, a live-action adaption of the manga’s early days is a little different. It can often feel jarring seeing characters that fit so well into a manga be brought to life by a real skin and bone human being. Does Futari Ecchi (2011) fall for this trap or does it bring itself to an impressive climax? Find out as I review Futari Ecchi (2011).

As this is an adaption of a long-running manga, I believe whilst you can take your preconceived knowledge of the source material in with you, you have to be willing to allow some creative freedom on the part of the showrunners or moviemakers to change what needs to be changed for the story or concept to work in a different medium. Remember, Futari Ecchi has over 500 chapters of manga material to work from and the characters and tone are well established by this point. Even when the film was released in 2011, there was a wealth of content to reference and work from. This preamble is to attempt to temper some peoples expectations as we begin to address the big two questions regarding the cast and the story. So, let’s get on with it.

How has the plot been condensed or changed to accommodate for the different media type? What has been sacrificed in the transition?

Futari Ecchi follows a newly married couple, Yuna and Makoto, as they begin their married lives. However, this couple is a little unusual as not only did they meet through a traditional style marriage meeting (お見合い omiai) , but they also have no experience in terms of sex either. In cruder terms, they are both virgins who are blissfully naive and unaware regarding the erotic world and, following their awkward first night, they attempt to breed a relationship where they can both feel satisfied emotionally and sexually. This is the long and short of it and the movie doesn’t go much beyond this. There are definitely some bumps along the way as the supporting cast attempt to get their claws into Yuna and Makoto’s relationship and the movie is certainly a little more ‘dramatic’ than the manga. The manga’s tone was always a little more tongue-in-cheek; a little more willing to mock itself. This movie doesn’t do this and attempts to lead the viewer down the garden path on more than one occasion.

WARNING. Spoilers for a movie you will never watch. You have been warned.

The main conflict in the movie stems from Makoto’s premature ejaculation and his inability to please his wife. This leads Yuna’s adorably devilish younger sister to attempt to help her sister but unintentionally get her involved with a skeezy yoga instructor who persistently pursues the new young housewife through whatever means necessary. Makoto has much the same problem, with a colleague who seems hell-bent on having her way with Makoto now that she knows he is married, in an attempt to bolster her little ego. This story thread is sort of present in the manga but neither is as big as a deal as is portrayed in this movie. The yoga instructor, for example, has no real redeeming qualities other than that he is moderately attractive and is, presumably, sexual proficient. And probably packing a large sausage. Personality-wise, he is scum, he seems okay with that and that is all there is to him. The honey-trap colleague has even less build-up; going from one of Makoto’s drinking buddies to wanting his man-rod in the space of about fifteen minutes.

In terms of the relationship between Yuna and Makoto, this has been portrayed moderately well. You don’t really get the level of affection from the couple that you would expect, with them seemingly acting more like acquaintances rather than a couple of newlyweds, especially when others around them continue to remark how in love the pair are. This is told and not shown. And this movie suffers from that a lot of the time. The temptation that is thrust at each of the protagonists would be much more effective if we could see the bond between them beforehand. I mean, how are we expected to believe in their love if Makoto happily dry humps his wife’s sister in front of her. I mean, I would kill to have done that but I’m not married. Their excuse is that they’re doing it to improve Yuna’s sex life but that is bullshit and borders on disrespect. Rika gets a pass because she is always portrayed as a tease and as promiscuous in both the movie and manga, but, as a man, Makoto does himself no favours here.

This story is not going to win any awards and, honestly, doesn’t really have any high points. Frankly, it feels like a plot to a bargain bin porno and this does a disservice to the much more mature manga. Most of the humour rises from Makoto’s utter stupidity regarding sex and there is very little beyond this. However, this doesn’t mean that everything is bad. A lot of it just tends to… exist. I watched this with a friend and we both agreed that the 1hr and 13 minutes runtime felt much longer than the numbers would suggest. I have long held the opinion that bad media and good media alike can be enjoyed. Boring media or average media can prove to be much more of a slog. The movie is far from a trainwreck but it also never really pokes its head very far out of the ground either.

To what level of effectiveness do the cast bring the characters to life? Are they believable and relatable?

I hate to be derisive but these actors clearly weren’t chosen for the role because they are overly skilled but most likely because they fit the budget. Physically, the main cast fit their roles but, honestly, their performances are pretty stilted overall. And, whilst examining the cast list, the reasons became clear. Miura Riki, who plays Makoto and Morishita Yuri’s, who plays Yuna, CV’s aren’t exactly glowing and it seems as if they tended to take on modelling work and roles in B-movies instead of setting the drama world on fire. My favourite character and, spoiler, the best actor of the bunch, Yokoyama Miyuki, who plays Rika was actually predominately an AV actress and porn star. It says a lot about your cast when your best actress comes from an industry renowned for terrible acting and over the top reactions. On the contrary here, the performance is surprisingly good and the character adds the little bit of risque behaviour that the movie teases but lacks most of the time. She really does light up the screen when she appears and, near the end of the movie, her character acts as the catalyst for Makoto to make the move to fix his relationship that has become strained as the movie progressed. She may be a member of the supporting cast but, without Rika, the movie would be in a far worse state than it is here.

There really isn’t much else to say about the cast; the performances across the board are only average at best and the ones that are truly bad and amateurish, are usually in the minor roles so it can be looked over. This movie just really isn’t that good.

And that’s pretty much it. Overall, the movie just feels… amateurish. Low effort. A classic b-movie. For a manga that has run as long as this one, for one that is as culturally important as this one is, this feels like a great disservice. I mean, I enjoyed my time with this movie because I watched it with someone, and we could take the piss out of it while we watched. Analysed as a stand-alone piece, Futari Ecchi (2011) only barely passes as a movie and if it were even five minutes longer, the score would probably be even lower. So, on that, I score…

Score: 5.0/10 The very definition of average

So, after this average critique of a pretty dodgy film, one which has two direct sequels that I cannot locate for the life of me, it’s time for me to sign off. I’ve been Benjamin Wagner, and I endorse this message.

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