Princess Toyotomi is a beautiful experience. That said, there is a difference between having a beautiful experience and having a good experience. You see, for the first hour, you are led into the most intriguing beautiful world of Osaka but the plot doesn’t pay off in the end, it all builds to a rather unconvincing, downright cliché climax which felt terribly dated. During their stay (and the journey they take you on), they stumble upon a secret which has remained closely guarded for over 400 years. The name of the film is after the Toyotomi Clan, who clashed with Tokugawa Ieyasu and were eventually defeated in the Tokugawa shogunate’s Siege of Osaka.
The film tries to give you a basic history lesson but in the film’s alternate version of history, descendants of the Toyotomi Clan were actually hidden away and protected by Osakan citizens, leading to a bizarre situation in which Osaka could actually be considered an independent country. I do give plenty of credit to the film for its historical mystery motif, in this case having government officials pitted against a mysterious, tightly-knit group in Osaka. The discovery of this and the centuries of cover up by Osaka citizens eventually bring life in the prefecture to a halt, putting all of Japan in a potential crisis. All the lead characters are intriguing in their own way, particularly Torii who’s innocence, cuteness and zest for Osakan food makes her a Japanese Amelie Poulain of sorts. A stunningly beautiful city, sympathetic protagonists and loads of delicious Japanese food – can this movie go wrong? Oh yeah, that’s right…
Perhaps it’s because I am not Japanese, that I don’t really get the whole concept of having regional identities within Japan – but surely that’s the job of the film to draw me in and make that clear to me. In my opinion the film is about the passing down of this story from generation to generation and although some funny things happen it’s just at the end, a feel good movie about fathers and sons and the bond between them. Three government inspectors visit the city to audit a mysterious Osaka foundation called OJO. In reality it protects this royal line and during the film the investigation takes the protagonists to uncover the story. While local Japanese audiences may find the idea of an independent Osakan state hilarious, I just didn’t get it.
Given the fact I can bet most of our readership is American, I can sadely say you will agree with my assessment. There is also a gay/transgender subplot that seemed important in the first half of the film but is strangely abandoned in the second half of the film. Princess Toyotomi takes a good premise and makes it silly, sometimes on purpose. An intriguing mystery at first, but it never decides what it wants to be, before muddling its conclusion. Don’t expect too much plot like the Da Vinci code, or complication in the characters. This film gets a negative score and one I would urge you to quit before you even get started.