Veteran filmmaker Ryuichi Hiroki's films include some of the most endearing (and intense) love stories in Japanese movies, including April Bride (Eita + Nana Eikura), The Lightning Tree (Masaki Okada + Yu Aoi), The Egoist (Kengo Kora + Anne Suzuki) and the more recent Sayonara Kabukicho (Sometani + Atsuko Maeda). For 2016, he's doing Wolf Girl and Black Prince with Kento Yamazaki and Fumi Nikaido.

I would consider the pairing to be quite unexpected (even odd) since I always think of Nikaido as more of a dramatic actress in the same vein as Sakura Ando, Hikari Mitsushima, and Aoi Miyazaki. Many also considered Miyazaki as her doppelgänger or vice versa. AND that she would venture on playing quirky and dark characters rather than rom-com. But on second thought, playing Erika Shinohara may provide her fans with a new side of her. On the other hand, Kento Yamazaki has been grabbing these rom-com roles of late, but there was a time when he was playing characters completely different - especially his two movies with Ai Hashimoto (Control Tower and Another). This is not the first time they are paired together - in 2010; they were cast in Satoshi Miki's TV mystery thriller Atami no Sousakan as school mates, so this new movie is like doing a full circle. What sort of on-screen chemistry will they have? Now, that's the reason for much of the anticipation for this movie!

Based on the manga series "Okami Shojo to Kuro Oji" by Ayuko Hatta, the story centers around Erika Shinohara, a 16-year-old girl who tells her friends' tall tales about her romantic exploits, but she has no boyfriend. She says that a handsome boy in a candid photo is her boyfriend, but it turns out that boy is a schoolmate named Kyōya Sata. She has no choice but to make him her fake boyfriend. However, Sata may look like a sweet person, but he is an ultra-black-hearted sadist. Sata takes advantage of Erika's weakness and treats her like his dog.

I watched the anime in a marathon because it's the kind of show where you get hooked by the story and become curious about the characters as the episodes roll. For me, Erika appears to be a naive girl at first, but then she showed flashes of intensity and assertiveness that make her more endearing in the end. She may seem to be "weak", but she can be a bulldog sometimes, especially when she wants something. 

On the other side, we got Sata - the fucking-gorgeous-handsome guy who can turn everyone's head in a blink of an eye. He appears to be very confident and cocky, but then again, he has his inner demons to conquer too. What I like about the guy is that he's sincere and real than you take him during the first impression. He is entirely unfazed even during tough competition though he can be quite tentative at the beginning and would recover in a few to assert himself. The term cocky is not appropriate, but he has an inner glow to him - he's not a dark character in the sense that he wishes people to die or something like that. He is a genuine person who can be quite sweet and caring.

What started as a compromised dare turned into something serious where both boy and girl find something in common - the realization that things can go even further.

Nikaido's quantum leap regarding her acting mileage is due to her Himizu casting, with Shota Sometani. Her ascent was further boosted by such movies as My Man, Why Don't You Play in Hell?, Au revoir l' ete, The World of Kanako and La La La At Rock Bottom. No one - among her peers - has come up with something similar to the kind of casting coup she has done for the past two years or so. 

Yamazaki, on the other hand, initially struggled with his career path. Whether this stifle has something to do with his agency is beyond me, but for someone who has already proven his acting potential early on, getting mediocre roles must have sucked. People still can't agree on whether he was successful with his take on L Lawliet in the Death Note TV series, but I still contend that he did amazing. 

I suggest that you go back and watch both Nikaido and Yamazaki in Atami no Sousakan (熱海の捜査官) because the 2010 TV series is just a spectacle of young, talented cast, with Shota Sometani playing a geeky, nerdy character. That is not to mention  Joe Odagiri and Chiaki Kuriyama playing the main characters!

Complete cast:

Fumi Nikaido - Erika Shinohara

Kento Yamazaki - Kyouya Sata

Nobuyuki Suzuki - Nozomi Kamiya

Mugi Kadowaki - Ayumi Sanda

Ryusei Yokohama - Takeru Hibiya

Elaiza Ikeda - Aki Tazuka

Tina Tamashiro - Marin Tachibana

Ryo Yoshizawa - Yuu Kusakabe

Nanao - Reika Sata

I can feel that there's more at stake here than just box office numbers. 

Wolf Girl and Black Prince is slated for release, May 2016.



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