Opinion Prone

My opinions, let me tell them to you.

Review: Last Quarter

November 15, 2010 Review

I have been meaning to watch this movie for years, ever since I saw Moon Child. It is HYDE’s only other film, and though his acting in the aforementioned is pretty decent, I was pretty sure that Last Quarter (originally Kagen no Tsuki) wouldn’t be any good. But I wanted to watch it anyway.

The DVD was licensed for R1 distribution by Geneon and released in 2006. I’m awful about getting around to things on my massive to-watch list, but despite being out of print, the DVD’s price has been steadily declining on Amazon for ages (an indication of suckage?). So finally, at less than five bucks, I figured, oh, why the hell not. (And even then, after it arrived, it sat on my desk for three weeks until I got around to it.)

(this review contains minor spoilers)

Since HYDE’s involvement was the only reason I wanted to see the movie, I didn’t find out until considerably later that this was actually an adaptation of a three-volume Ai Yazawa manga of the same name. I thought this pretty interesting since HYDE and Yazawa later collaborate on the theme song for the first NANA movie, but I guess Japan is a pretty small country.

The story opens with a girl named Mizuki Mochizuki (Chiaki Kuriyama) finding out that her long-time boyfriend, Tomoki Anzai (Hiroki Narimiya), had been cheating on her with her best friend. Pretty typical teenage drama. Wandering home angrily, she is lured into a creepy house by a melody she didn’t think anyone else knew and finds a strangely familiar and mysterious man named Adam (HYDE) playing guitar. Pretty typical teenage drama with supernatural hints! Adam’s introduction provides obligatory intrigue, but I was distracted by lack of realism. I did not find it at all convincing that a girl wandering alone in the dead of night (with one shoe and a bleeding foot) would enter a (creepy) house uninvited just because she hears a familiar song. Even if she’s never met anyone else who’s known the song, shouldn’t she at least knock?

Mizuki’s interactions with Adam the night they meet do not amount to much more than “what’s your name?”, and little can be gleaned about their relationship from their brief interactions. But a day later, it seems she’s decided to move in with him. A week after that, she’s ready to move out of the country with him. Even on the rebound of a nasty break-up, and even with that “unexplained” feeling of familiarity, this feels a bit extreme. After she makes this decision, things get weirder and more interesting; unfortunately, they also get more frustrating.

Having not read the manga, I have nothing to compare to, but I do suspect that the events that unfold did so in a more understandable manner in the source. The storytelling is incredibly choppy and poorly paced. Scenes drag on in silence, only to shift abruptly to something seemingly non-sequitur. This is one of my biggest movie pet peeves and it seemed to happen constantly in Last Quarter. One minute we’re on the streets of Shibuya and the next minute we’re in an ethereal forest. To be fair, this confusion was probably intentional to an extent as many things make more sense in retrospect, after certain facts revel themselves, but I feel like scenes could have been threaded together in a way that flowed much better.

The story itself is a bit convoluted, and once I stopped being confused, I lost interest very quickly. It difficult to sympathize with the characters, as is almost always the case when there are characters “in love,” but there is nothing that really demonstrates this. Mizuki’s attachment to Adam is not really her own; the familiarity that possesses her belongs to someone else, but even that someone else gives me little reason to sympathize with her longing. The same can be said of Mizuki and Tomoki’s romance. Why does she keep forgiving him if this is apparently not the first time he’s cheated on her? Tomoki’s angst at the possibility of losing Mizuki is also unconvincing, considering this promiscuity.

I just can’t take the movie’s word for it that they are “in love.” I need to be convinced! I need to see why they care about each other, miss each other, need each other. But Last Quarter is too busy showing me clips of Mizuki and Adam playing the same melody over and over again on piano and guitar to do this. The schoolchildren that get caught up in the mystery are more vehicles to move the plot forward than characters themselves, but their curiosity is one of the few things that feel genuine in the entire movie.

For the most part, the acting doesn’t really help either. Supposedly, HYDE turned down the role at first saying that he is “a musician, not an actor.” I could not agree more. HYDE is a fantastic singer and guitarist, but his demonstrated acting abilities in this movie are abysmal. He was cast for his fame, nothing more. It’s perhaps lucky that Adam, despite being pivotal to the plot, does not actually appear on screen often and did not have more than a dozen speaking parts in the entire movie. He spends most of his time staring awkwardly back at whoever is talking to him or otherwise hiding out in trees, playing guitar. When he does speak, it’s as if he’s reading cue cards, and there is rarely any emotion behind his voice — shocking from a vocalist who often delivers very emotional lyrics.

Of course, by comparison, Chiaki Kuriyama, who is most known Stateside for her role as Gogo in Kill Bill, does an infinitely better job. But that is mostly by comparison. Unfortunately, Kuriyama’s portrayal of Mizuki is also lacking in the emotional sincerity needed for a convincing performance. This is in spite of the ample opportunity she has to demonstrate — Mizuki yells and throws things and runs away, but her feelings are always expressed more through her actions than her words, her voice, the more subtle things. Her portrayal just feels very typical, I guess. Alongside HYDE, that is more than enough, but in the grand scheme of things, it is decidedly unimpressive.

On the other hand, Hiroki Narimiya did a great job as Tomoki. In fact, I think he did a better job than the character deserved. Despite never seeming remorseful of his betrayal of Mizuki in the first place, Narimiya’s portrayal of Tomoki, especially later in the movie, was distraught and full of suffering. The emotion he expressed made me feel bad for the character, even though logic told me he didn’t deserve sympathy. Deservingly, after Last Quarter, Narimiya goes on to be cast as Nobu in NANA and NANA 2, as well as Morita in the Honey and Clover drama series. The two kids that end up helping out, Hotaru and Masaki, are pretty standard. They are bland in that purely innocent and well-intentioned sort of way, but the acting was solid enough and they do their jobs. The same could be said for the rest of the supporting cast.

“THE CAPE OF STORMS,” a single off HYDE’s first solo album, Roentgen, is Last Quarter’s theme song — it is the familiar melody Mizuki hears the night she wanders into the creepy house. Naturally, the melody is repeated ad nauseum throughout the movie. Adam plays it on his guitar. Mizuki plays it on the piano. Bits of the official music video for the song intercut parts of the movie. It plays in the background of many scenes. I was never a big fan of the song and HYDE’s Engrish is rather unintelligible, but “THE CAPE OF STORMS” is a nice enough tune. All the same, I definitely wish it didn’t make up the entire score. The emotional relevance of the song to the characters isn’t really revealed until the near end of the movie, but the failure of Mizuki and Adam to draw my sympathies means the song doesn’t have nearly the same impact as, say, “glamourous sky” did in NANA.

The special effects in the movie were predictably awful. It obviously wasn’t a big budget film, but I still could have done with out the terrible glowy and transparency effects for ghosts. These weren’t even hilariously bad! They were just bad.

In the end, Last Quarter failed to really engage me in anything. The story had potential, but the lack of sympathetic characters, underscored by poor acting, made it hard for me to care about the outcome of their circumstances. The music was repetitive and its relevance somewhat forced. The original manga was probably much better, but this movie adaptation doesn’t make me curious at all. HYDE’s performance as Adam was extremely disappointing, which is somewhat surprising considering I expected it to be bad. But again, his role in Moon Child the year prior was decent and I suppose that did instill a bit of hope. What happened here? Lack of interest? He didn’t want the role to start with and had to be convinced. Was his friendship and camaraderie with co-star and fellow J-rocker Gackt the only reason he did well in Moon Child? And yet, I don’t regret buying this movie just to watch him fail and if HYDE ever acted in another movie, I would probably buy that too. /fantard

So basically there’s really no reason to watch this movie unless you’re 1) a fan of the manga and want to see how this turned out, 2) a fan of HYDE and want to see how badly he fails when he isn’t singing or playing guitar.

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