Film review: 『すーちゃん まいちゃん さわ子さん』by Osamu MINORIKAWA

Note: I am giving up the “Japanese immersion” format of my previous Friday post. Last Friday, I wrote about Japanese music only and I liked how the post turned out. From now on, the Friday post will be devoted to only one topic like music, films, drama and other cultural things. Let’s start with a film review!

『すーちゃん まいちゃん さわ子さん』(official site) is a film directed by Osamu MINORIKAWA (御法川 修), featuring Ko SHIBASAKI (柴咲 コウ), Yoko MAKI
真木 よう子) and Shinobu TERAJIMA (寺島 しのぶ). While it has an English title (Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship), I don’t know if it came out in many countries outside Japan. In Korea, it was released under the title 
결혼하지 않아도 괜찮을까, which means something like: “would it be okay not to marry?”.

Here is the trailer:

I don’t think that I would have had wanted to watch this film if it weren’t an adaptation from the series of 4-koma manga 『すーちゃん』by Miri MASUDA. As far as I know, there are 4 books in this series. I love Miri MASUDA’s work and 『すーちゃん』is not only one of my favourite books, but also one of the very first books/manga I was able to read in Japanese.

The 『すーちゃん』series by Miri MASUDA

Sue, Mai and Sawa are in their thirties and none of them is married. Sue lives alone and works in a café, Mai is working in an office, she also lives alone and is in a relationship with a married man. Finally, Sawa lives with her mother and her old grandmother who needs constant care. As we follow them in their daily life, we see them struggle with self-doubt and anxiety concerning the future, but they are always willing to give the best of themselves in their work, their family and relationships. This story is about life, choice and regrets, a little about love, a lot about friendship. In this respect, it is very close to the book.

However, I found that Miri MASUDA’s work had a much broader impact. Even if you are not a woman in her mid-thirties, working and wondering if she should get married, it is easy to identify with Sue. Everything she says and thinks can resonate with a lot of people. I could easily identify myself with her. The drawing style of Miri MASUDA also helps to connect. She leaves a lot of room for the reader’s projection and imagination to complete. 

We often see the protagonist coming home from work thinking how tired they are. Who cannot relate to that?

A film adaptation was bound to give its own interpretation of the blank space left by Miri MASUDA, and it didn’t quite fit my own vision of Sue and her friends. I felt that I could not possibly identify myself with any of the characters, and felt like an outsider. This is why I didn’t like the beginning of the film.

However, I soon stopped comparing the film with the books and started to enjoy the film for itself. It is a very good film if you like this kind of lighthearted sentimental comedy-drama that makes you smile and cry and smile again. I am not a fan of the genre myself but I loved all the aspects of Japanese society you get to see in this film. Some attitudes and decisions are truly beyond understanding for a Western mind (or maybe it was just me.) 

I also liked how the film reflects on happiness, showing that it depends less on the path we choose than our attitude towards it. When facing a major choice for our life, it would be easy if one were labelled “happiness and fulfillment” and the other one “regrets and melancholy”. But it is not as easy and every step we take certainly brings a little of all of these with it. This is why change is both exciting and frightening and the film makes you eager to see how the three friends will deal with it.

While I don’t usually like this kind of film, I watched this one with interest and commitment. It is easy to sympathise with the characters, and the film shows interesting aspects of the Japanese conception of marriage. All in all, I enjoyed watching it very much, but I do prefer Miri MASUDA’s comics!