Many years ago at the Toronto film festival (2000 or 2001 in the time warp), I was captivated by the Japanese film Blue, about an introverted school girl who has a lesbian relationship with a classmate. I think the same year (or the year before), I was equally captivated with All About Lily Chou Chou and its focus on how cyber culture can be a unifying and destructive force. Combine the two, mix in anime magic realism, remove real violence, and you get Wonderful World End (dir Daigo Matsui). Though it lacks the emotional depth of Blue and the cold violence of Lily Chou Chou, it is a cheering, uplifting film.
Shiori (Ai Hashimoto) lives with her boyfriend (Yu Inaba) in a one-room Tokyo apartment and works hard at her career as a “model” with her agent (Go Riju). Shiori constantly tweetcasts, blogs, and promotes herself to her adoring fans with an eye on the counter and the comments. Ayumi (Jun Aonami), a 13 year old fan, arrives at one of Shiori’s events, and eventually displaces Shiori in the apartment. Ayumi’s attempts to emulate Shiori captivate the semi-professional web personality who takes the girl under her wing.Though things seem like they’re going to go All About Eve, the two have an obsessive, ambiguous text relationship that is something between a mentor/mentee, lovers, siblings, and a best friends.
On her webcasts, Shiori is a persona: a cute, child-like girl, dressing in gothic lolita clothes and giving make up tips. She signs off with peace signs and smiles. However, when the camera is off, she’s hustling for her career and her dream to appear in drama. Her only release seems to cute punk rock music.
The film explores a situation where a 17-year-old resists the media industry’s push into adulthood. Shiori tries on adulthood the same way she tries on her costumes, but always falls back to her “just joking” when she’s said something that is too far from her familiar shore. She toys with adulthood, joking with her boyfriend that he’s impregnated her. Her agent doesn’t find her the drama jobs she wants and the gothic lolita thing isn’t doing enough, so he pushes her to late-night talk shows, things intended for an adult audience.
Ayumi’s arrival forces Shiori to confront some of the uncomfortable truths about her life. Her relationship is shallow. Her career isn’t going where she wants it to. With Ayumi, Shiori can be who she really is: a kid.
The film is very likable, but has some incoherency and/or randomness. Some of it I loved. Some of it drove me nuts. Where does Shiori stay when she leaves the apartment? Doesn’t anyone stop her from webcasting in class? The filmmaker responds with scenes of magic realism that are reminiscent of anime and avoids any definitive stamp on the relationship between Ayumi and Shiori. In blurring these matters, the film stays lighter (and shallower) than Blue and All About Lily Chou Chou.
Wonderful World End played at the Fantasia Film Festival