My Rainy Days leaves its conscious, woke viewer with mixed feelings.
Director: Yuri Kanchiku
Starring: Nozomi Sasaki, Shosuke Tanihara
The most distinct feature of My Rainy Days aka Tenshi no koi (2009) is its aesthetic cinematography. That is probably the only reason it gets away with its portrayal of a variety of tricky themes. A 35-year old man agreeing to date a 17-year old high school girl would be called pedophilia. Instead, in My Rainy Days a young and pretty Rio (played by Nozomi Sasaki) follows the sombre-looking Kouki (played by Shosuke Tanihara) to the subway station and is called a stalker. The irony!
Perhaps one can argue that Rio is a special case of a 17 year-old, who used to be involved in Enjo-kōsai and thus, her relationship with Kouki is justified. But pedophilia is pedophilia without exceptions. And consent is much more complicated than mutual enthusiasm, even in a country where the age of consent is as low as 13. What is even more problematic about this portrayal is that Kouki was majorly torn not because of the fact that Rio is a minor but because of his declining health. He was also coerced albeit, a bit too forcefully by Rio. And yes, Kouki was a hopeless man looking at death in the face when he met her that he probably thought “Yeah, why the hell not?”. As if all this was too much for the audience, the film ends with Rio turning 18 and graduating from high school before she goes to get a final glimpse of a post-surgery Kouki. Cue: if anything sexual developed between the two afterwards, we can always say Rio was no longer a minor.
My problem lies with poor Rio madly driven by passion that the idea of taking care of a potato-turned Kouki does not seem undesirable to her. Some might call it “true love” but some also call it youthful and naïve stupidity. Rio was fortunate that Kouki’s surgery only caused him to lose his memory fleetingly and did not take away his nuts and bolts. Because if that was the case, My Rainy Days wouldn’t have been so romantic after all.
Problematic concepts shrouded in aesthetic cinematography and a heartwarming background score is nothing new to the regular film enthusiast. Remember Call Me By Your Name? An Education? The Indian films Arjun Reddy (2017) and Om Shanti Oshana (2014) are also worth looking at. Every frame in My Rainy Days is an artsy photograph. That is also the probably the reason why people (including me!) go back to watch it again. Be it the protagonists holding umbrellas in the rain or even an anemic Rio lying on a hospital bed, the film makes everything look glossy and fashionable.
My Rainy Days did not spark controversy.
Neither did it raise brows when it gained popularity with an international audience. Most reviews by online audiences seem nonchalant about the fact that an older man is dancing along to the fancies of a minor. Everyone is obsessed with how the director captures the romance in a simple story and presents it in such a deliciously palatable format. Props to the director Yuri Kanchiko for this — it sure is a skill to make your audience conveniently forget about the controversial aspects of your film.
There is a fanfiction style of story-telling which can be attributed to the fact that the screenplay was adapted from a cell phone novel. You find yourself wondering if the young and boisterous Rio actually gave up her expensive lifestyle and that free condo in exchange for this quirky, introvert of a man? We could call this a character arc, but such drastic development occur overnight only in Shakespeare dramas! It’s also funny how Rio makes such a show of loving Kouki wholeheartedly but also believes she can swallow her past and keep it from him until the climax.
The story isn’t “risky” in any way.
It evades depiction of any and all possible dangers involved in Enjo-kōsai. Mistreatment by pimps is almost non-existent because Rio is apparently a strictly professional, heartless queen. When Rio decided to put an end to her services in compensated dating, Yuuji (played by Motoki Fukami), the stupidly chivalrous pimp, accepts it with grace and leaves Rio in peace — something that would never happen in a real life setting. There is a scene where Rio receives a call from Kouki and abandons her client for the night in the middle of the street to get to him. She does this without any consequences, but under normal circumstances a man would be very offended and resort to violence of some kind.
In a move to avoid controversy and pass the Japanese film rating system, the director steers clear of sexual connotations and focuses on motifs — a naked Rio on a bed surrounded by cash, her being escorted by an older man at a classy restaurant and her group of friends walking with elderly men. Perhaps, the girls’ innocent description of a “man’s thing” to Tomoko was pushing it too far.
The most striking part of the movie is probably its lesson in expensive fashion taste.
Rio’s lifestyle of Enjo-kōsai, expressed in her Vuitton umbrellas and accessories is indicative of Japan’s consumerism. When Kaori walks in, her Louboutin heels take center stage. Rio is dressed to perfection in every single scene and Kouki’s suits are equally captivating. The girls frequent expensive jewelry stores, swipe credit cards on each and everything they like, visit the hottest clubs and live a life of luxury. That’s also what Kanchiko ends up doing — she provides a glossy, glorified version of the Enjo-kōsai lifestyle in Tokyo, that doesn’t look altogether bad.
The original soundtrack is sweet and scenes accompanied by the pop-y multi-lingual songs makes them all the more delightful. My Rainy Days leaves its conscious, woke viewer with mixed feelings. What is the film trying to do? Is it promoting prostitution? Is it in support of pedophilia? Why are none of the other viewers concerned about an adult man kissing a minor girl in a public library? Why do I like everything about the film despite these issues? These are questions yet to be answered.