There’s one thing unceremoniously honest about the way in which “Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko” handles parent-child dynamics and the seeking for validation that consumes a lot of 1’s time as an adolescent. This new Japanese animated characteristic from director Ayumu Watanabe (“Children of the Sea”), with a screenplay by Satomi Ohshima tailored from Kanako Nishi’s same-title novel, presents quirky magical realism in a tonally offbeat package deal.
“Fortune Favors” opens with Kikuko (Cocomi), a timid preteen, narrating a lively overview of the various failed romantic relationships that led her mom, Nikuko (Shinobu Otake), aka “The Meaty Lady,” to maneuver to the small seaside city the place they at present reside. In a montage that makes use of vivid silhouettes and a big piece of meat as its canvas, we study Nikuko’s never-ending kindness that others are inclined to benefit from.
Paired with that indefatigable upbeat nature, the corpulent lady has an entire disregard for different individuals’ notions of her lovingly imprudent conduct and lavish clothes. Kikuko, involved together with her friends’ acceptance, feels ashamed, and questions why they don’t look something like it. Nonetheless, essential to the lady’s emotional development over the course of the slice-of-life narrative is embracing Nikuko as she is.
Later, in a movingly solemn passage, Kikuko ponders what, if something, her mom did in her previous lives to deserve the various heartbreaks and monetary hardships which have adopted her. “Ordinary is the best of all,” repeats Nikuko each time her daughter disparages her mundane pleasures. Her motto doesn’t converse with the suppression of 1’s singular traits but of her capability for wonderment even in the commonest circumstances.
Contrasting with the meticulously conceived backgrounds brimming with lived-in particulars—just like the rust on metallic objects from their proximity to water—there’s an endearingly chaotic power to the animation, particularly when Nikuko is on display, that calls to thought the work of one other modern animation auteur Masaaki Yuasa (“Mind Game”). Curiously, two pictures specifically work as apparent, however pleasant homage to Hayao Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro,” using the other physique sorts of the protagonists and forest setting.
Totally incorporating the theme of self-worth and celebrating uniqueness as a part of the aesthetic, Watanabe’s staff designed Nikuko with exaggerated facial expressions and cartoonish motion to vary from the look of anybody else in the town. By visually distinguishing her from the remainder of the characters, they guarantee she captures our consideration.
In instances, her larger-than-life demeanor and blunt humor tonally clash with the extra introspective occurrences Kikuko faces in school. Nikuko seems to be on a wholly totally different wavelength, and although this storytelling alternative definitely reinforces the disparate personalities, it may throw one for a loop while attempting to observe alongside. Equally, the puns and wordplay that Nikuko cherishes don’t precisely translate humorously.
Though her dimension additionally units her aside from most others around, Nikuko by no means expresses any want to alter the way in which she appears to be. Quite the opposite, consuming nicely in the restaurant when she works brings her loads of guilt-free pleasure. Kikuko and their neighbors make feedback about her gaining weight, however, although these remarks by no means flip blatantly offensive, they appear to reference Japanese tradition’s perspective on bigger-bodied individuals.
Kikuko additionally stands out from the remainder of her classmates. Opinions about her brief hair and the truth that, not like many ladies in her class, she hasn’t begun her interval, plague her with insecurities, particularly around Ninomiya (Natsuki Hanae), a bizarrely charming boy whose coping mechanism is to tug awkward faces. As exhibited in “Children of the Sea,” a way more intricate outing narratively, Watanabe excels at portraying the impulsiveness and fragility of adolescents—even when he struggles to discover tonal equilibrium.
However outdoors from that burgeoning crush and petty drama together with her greatest buddy, which at her age feels extraordinarily related, Kikuko’s personal distinctiveness comes throughout in her obvious capability to listen to animals converse encouraging seagulls, tardy lizards, and even a resentful penguin. From the number of incidents that we witness Kikuko endure, an air of maturity develops around her that she tacitly shares by way of voiceover. That features the way in which she sees Nikuko.
Slowly, with every passing season and main college occasion, a secret begins to peak its head from Nikuko’s previous that may check their bond. But, the extra the operating consists of Kikuko’s coming-of-age and interpersonal challenges, the extra one persistently needs we’d see extra of Nikuko and the way she spends her days. Invested within the youth, “Fortune Favors” solely sometimes zooms out to allow us to revel in the heat weirdness of the film’s major grownup.
Misshapen components and all, “Fortune Favors” fulfills its goal as a joyfully eccentric tribute to private authenticity. Because the title displays, regardless of all of the unsavory conditions destiny has served her, Nikuko gained’t ever interprets her journey as a tragedy, as long as she has the largest fortunate break of all by her facet: her reluctantly affectionate daughter.