Afuro Tanaka has a lot of charm and is frequently inventive but it pushes this style of comedy to an extreme and at times it was too much for me handle. Splendid romantic comedy in the broad Japanese vein, meaning that characters do a lot of face-pulling and vocal histrionics, here in the service of a story about a young man with an incredibly lush head of kinky curls (brought into existence by sheer childhood will). The winning Shota Matsuda plays the titular lead with a blend of twentysomething bravado and insecurity, chasing any number of potential female candidates to ride his arm for a high school chum’s upcoming wedding. Naturally, his dream girl shows up next door (an effervescent Nozomi Sasaki), but misconceptions and fate keep them apart for the majority of the running time. Hey, we wouldn’t have a movie otherwise, right? An endearing and well-crafted amusement, full of heart and relatable scenarios.
“But what about the Afro?” you ask. Well, Tanaka has one and that is the extent of it’s involvement in the story. His decision to style his naturally abundant mane into the titular fro is in fact his only discernible claim to coolness. I couldn’t quite make sense of the ridiculous afro, it was funny for a moment but over the course of the film, which stretched to nearly two hours, it starts to become a bit of an eyesore. Meanwhile, first-timer Matsui directs the action with a precise comic timing that keeps the laughs coming in steady waves rather than explosive bursts. To find any of this funny, of course, it helps to be a male who has ever entertained idiotic delusions about sex, romance or life in general. A category that includes almost half the human race.
The manga’s comedic flair found its way to the set of the movie. Matsuda revealed, “Right before we started shooting, the director made us play a strange game. When we arrived, he told us, ‘Get into your underwear!’” He added, “That made no sense at all.” In response, director Matsui Daigo explained, “Because of that, we were able to become so close. We got in a circle and introduced our characters…” As for his vision for the movie, the director said, “I aimed to make a movie thatwould be loved by both fans and people who don’t know the manga. I had the support of Shota-kun and the rest of the cast.”
The script contents itself with situational comedy for the most part which is a shame as I think some more focus on the characters and a stronger plot may have yielded a much stronger film. Anywho, it is clear that fans of the manga will get the most kick out of this film. Yes, we understand that Hiroshi is different, but the film tries a little to hard at times to show it. Despite these setbacks, Afuro Tanaka is an entertaining comedy that is also genuine in its exploration of contemporary dating.