Handsome Na Kanojo

April 3, 2009

I happened to come across this title while I was browsing what animes should I watch in the near future. Well, the name of this series seems to have caught my eye and attention, which is Handsome Na Kanojo. You know, since I found out that there is going to be just 1 episode in this OVA, my usual habit tells me that it won’t be such a bad thing to try and watch this series.
Now, this is quite an old production in the sense that this OVA was first released way back in the year 1991. Wow. Very long time ago. Look how far anime has come and developed throughout the years. Thus, the drawing, art and animation won’t appeal to those who are more into the contemporary styles of anime drawing. Furthermore, this OVA unlike others has a little longer running time. Yup, it lasts approximately 37 minutes. Half a dozen and one more minutes than those half hour OVAs. Perhaps they have a little more story to tell but not long enough to make it a movie length feature.
Going by the name of the series which means ‘handsome girl’, one might think that this series is probably about a girl who dresses up as a guy or vice versa or that a girl is so manly that she looks quite the prince charming most males are. Wrong. Though the term may be a little misleading, it’s just your typical drama romance genre about a 15 year old student, Mio Hagiwara, who is also an upcoming actress in the showbiz world and her (short) trials and tribulations with the person she loves, which is the young cool film director prodigy, Ichiya Kumagai. That’s it. Short enough? If not, continue on reading.
The series starts off with a biker being chased by a couple of cars on a seaside winding road. The brakes of the bike are not working so he crashes through the barrier and off the cliff. At the same time, we see Mio standing in the studio when she comes face to face with Ichiya. If you think they’re a lovey-dovey couple already than think again because Ichiya comes up to her and says how her acting stinks (in a polite manner, that is) and that it’s enough only for festivals at school grades. He advices her to think more like a pro before leaving. Even if he sounds stuck up or that criticism is in good faith, one can’t blame Mio for feeling really upset. It’s like so in-your-face.
The next scene shows Mio talking to her best friend Aya Sawaki about getting that scathing remark from that jerk. We also learn that Mio has been exposed into the acting world ever since at very young age and that she’s looking at acting as a career path. Meanwhile we see Ichiya and his pals talking to the director of Somy Corporation, Okita, about their demo video. Hey wait a minute? Somy? Copyright thing? But how come I noticed the motorbike scene they put actual brand names like Suzuki and Shoei? Anyway Okita is very impressed with the demo tape they have and is even more astonished by the fact that Ichiya is still schooling and the choice actress that he chose for the video. Thus, Okita decides to sponsor them for their upcoming movie project and will be betting on their success. Ichiya and his friends are overjoyed.
We also see that Aya is a singer in the entertainment world and has her own popularity as well. After putting up another dazzling performance on stage, Mio goes to congratulate her when Ichiya comes in. Everytime Mio sees that guy she’s like so annoyed. Aya knows him and proceeds to tell Mio that this former classmate of hers went overseas to study movie production in America for 2 years and has recently returned back home. Before Ichiya leaves, once again he tells Mio to go study properly on acting. He sure enjoys pissing her off.
On the way home, Ichiya remembers what Okita told him earlier this morning. He wants him to make a promo video to project themselves and get word of it around. That is, Okita wants Ichiya to use his talented gift to carve his name and talent’s into people’s mind, after which they will hold a reception to introduce the movie. Not only that, the movie is also for the pride of Somy, Aya. Over the next several scenes, we see Ichiya and his crew filming Aya in their promotional video and soon it becomes a hit. As Aya celebrates with Mio at a nightclub, Mio once again becomes annoyed to know that Ichiya is there as well. When they’re done, Ichiya and Mio got into the same cab sine their home is in the same direction (and to save cab fare of course!). Ichiya takes the opportunity to tell Mio that though she has a good acting sense, she’s a coward when doing her lines. He didn’t mean to be rude when he said she sucked but if she puts a little more effort, she’ll definitely be a good actress. With that, Mio’s perception of Ichiya changed and she can’t help think about what he said as she lay on her bed. Then Mio suddenly gets a call from her manager to turn on her TV. It seems there is a press conference on Ichiya and Somy announcing their upcoming movie production in which Mio is the main star. Oh, she’s going to make her silver screen debut.
The next day, she heads to Ichiya’s place to find out more details. Mio is introduced to the filming crew and the reason her name was announced during the reception was because Okita felt that it would create an impact. Everyone is happy that Mio agrees to act in their film and gets down to work right away. Later Ichiya invites Mio to go watch a movie with him. He shows her a movie whereby several females have been dubbed ‘Handsome Women’ because of their cool, sophisticated and imposing effect, even though that handsome term is generally reserved for men. Ichiya thinks to find someone like that is exciting and that it has been his dream. Thus, when Ichiya first saw Mio on TV, she felt that she too fell under that category and wants to capture that beauty on film. Now after hearing all those sweet words, I think any girl would definitely want to become a handsome woman. The next few scenes show Aya doing a wonderful acting job.
As the filming reaches its end, Mio meets up with Aya and the latter seems gloomy. Aya says how the love is gone and that she’d somehow forget. What is she talking about? We learn that Aya and Ichiya once dated each other and Aya’s first kiss was from him. Mio looked so shocked. Is she feeling guilty that she stole the love of her best friend? They broke up when he left to study abroad. Though Aya wanted him to say to wait for him in 3 or so years, he left without saying a word. That’s why Aya in a way feels envy for Mio because she’s always with him.
At Ichiya’s place, Mio was passing by when she overhears a conversation between Ichiya and one of his buddies, Osamu. Osamu is telling Ichiya to take note of Mio’s feelings for him. It’s so obvious that everyone can see it that everytime Mio sees him, there is that love in her eyes. However, Ichiya says that he loves her as an actress and not as Mio as a girl herself. This shocking news sends Mio running out and Osamu may have noticed too late that she was eavesdropping on their conversation. Though Ichiya didn’t go after her, but the look on his face indicates that he may have regretted what he said. As Mio is running away in tears, she laments the fact that Ichiya sees her as a tool for his movie making purposes. This affected her acting as her mind becomes disturbed by it.
Meanwhile one the filming crew is in Okita’s office and he is receiving the bad news that the company is pulling the plug on their movie, even if there is just 1 scene left. Though it isn’t Okita’s decision, but the president of the company, which is his dad, who like a typical businessman, thinks that making movies is a bad investment. When he comes back and relates it to Ichiya and the rest, Ichiya is determined to film the last scene and finish the movie, even if it means mortgaging his apartment to fund it. Yeah, he’s put his life, heart and soul in it and at the same time cast aside his school, family and friends. He can’t back out now. Not when he’s so close.
The final film scene is a car chase scene in which Ichiya will be playing the role of a stunt actor riding a motorbike as well. Though Mio isn’t part of the scene, she comes by to watch and support him. Yeah, she’s afraid for him. You know what that means. I think Ichiya gets what she is trying to say. The shooting begins and everything goes well as planned in perfect timing, the car crash and all. Then as Ichiya approaches the bend, he finds that the brakes aren’t working. The crew wonders what is wrong because he’s supposed to be slowing down by now. I don’t know if he has any experience in racing in MotoGP races because he tries to corner like one at that high speed. Of course he crashes through the barrier (that same scene in the beginning). Everyone is horrified because the bike burst into flames as soon as it crashes (wow! A really huge flame!). In addition, Ichiya did not response through his mini microphone. Mio is devastated and almost collapses but then they heard Ichiya’s voice and are relieved to know that he is still alive and goes to help him.
Ichiya is recuperating in hospital and is relating his near-death experience to Osamu. He also tells him why he turned his back on his true feelings for Mio because he wanted to make a good movie without making any compromises. Thus he has to put everything aside for it. I mean, it would be bad if their love got into the movie’s way, right? Osamu says that he’s an idiot and doesn’t want him to just tell him but Mio as well. If he doesn’t, Osamu will promise to make his life miserable. Speaking of which, Mio then comes in to visit. Ichiya wobbly gets up from his bed to hug Mio. Outside as the duo chat, Mio wonders if he’ll use her if he ever makes a second movie. The answer is a definite yes because Ichiya won’t allow anyone to use her as she is his personal heroine… for life. You can take that as a compliment or insult. But for Mio I think she takes the former and is glad to be with Ichiya.
For a very short one-off story, I guess it’s pretty much okay. I mean at that era, the setting and story are kind of like that. Your typical girl-meets-boy, falls in love, a little tension and suspense, everything works out in the end, and they live happily ever after. Unless you dig this kind of short love stories, I guess that there are better ones out there. Besides, the focus is mainly on Ichiya and Mio. I felt that the rest of the characters weren’t so prominent nor do they have any impact on the show. Especially Aya’s character. After she tells Mio that she and Ichiya was a couple, her role ended just there.
As mentioned that the drawing is old school type, but If the drawing of the characters reminds you of another old series, namely Marmalade Boy, that’s because that series and this one are done by the mangaka, Wataru Yoshizumi. Speaking of which, the Marmalade Boy series comes after this one and I read from Wikipedia that some of the characters in Handsome Na Kanojo do make a short cameo appearance there. The opening and ending theme are actually the same song entitled Maigo Ni Sasenaide by Erika Haneda and sounds like a typical pop song from that era.
So will Mio turn into the handsome woman Ichiya hopes for her to be? And will their love for each other grow stronger? You’ll have to read the 9 volume manga if you want to find out more. Me, I’m just stopping here. Besides the term handsome woman in this world, I’m sure we have also a lot of cross-gender terms like pretty boy (yeah, that song by M2M comes to mind too), metrosexual and ubersexual. It’s such a topsy-turvy world after all. But remember it’s not the appearance that counts, it’s what inside and the heart that does.

Handsome Na Kanojo
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