Hello my dears!~ Today’s Live Action Sunday review is on the Japanese movie 君の膵臓をたべたい/Kimi no Suizo wo Tabetai, also known as “Let Me Eat Your Pancreas” or “I Want to Eat Your Pancreas”. Yes, the title sounds weird and gross. And yes, it may sound like some kind of gory zombie movie or a creepy horror movie. IT’S NOT! It’s actually a very sweet (bittersweet) and beautiful movie. Let me first say that I wasn’t really expecting much when I started this film, but I absolutely loved it! I enjoy Japanese dramas and movies. They’re fun to watch, but tend to fall short in comparison to like Korean dramas and films. The thing is Japanese movies and dramas tend to feel like mostly fluff. It’s a bit hard for me to explain, but Japanese movies and dramas tend to feel pretty shallow. Particularly the movies, since they feel kind of rushed. They’re enjoyable, but there it doesn’t have that emotional substance that really hits you right in the heart. Enjoyable fluff, yes. But it’s not usually something that feels particularly memorable or unique. You don’t feel as emotionally invested.That’s basically why I tend to enjoy more Korean films and dramas. However, Let Me Eat Your Pancreas was the first Japanese movie in a long time that I really felt impressed by. It had a beautiful story with actual emotional substance and depth. It may even say that it may be my favorite Japanese movie so far.
The anime movie will be released in 2018.
Before I get into the plot and my thoughts and opinions, let’s get into the background info! Let Me Eat Your Pancreas was originally a webnovel (light novel) that was published back in 2015. It is slated for an official English release later this year. If you’re interested in reading an (unofficial?) English version, you can find it [Here]. The novel’s popularity led to a manga adaptation that ran from 2016-2017. I actually originally discovered Let Me Eat Your Pancreas through the manga first. Though, there were only a few chapters available at the time, I found it to be quite interesting. I was a bit excited to hear about the live action adaptation, but considering how I’ve been disappointed by so many adaptations…I didn’t want to get my hopes up. The live action movie originally premiered in July 2017. And lastly, an anime movie adaptation will be released later this year!
One day, I—a high schooler—found a notebook in the hospital. It had “Disease Coexistence Journal” written in it. It was a diary that my classmate, Yamauchi Sakura, had written in secret. Inside, it was written that due to her pancreatic disease, her days were numbered. And thus, I coincidentally went from Just-a-Classmate to a Secret-Knowing-Classmate. It was as if I were being drawn to her, who was my polar opposite. However, the world presented the girl that was already suffering from an illness with an equally cruel reality…
The movie version is told in sequences that jump back and forth from the present to the past. I know some people don’t care for it, but I think it worked well for this film.
[Warning: Some Spoilers Ahead!]
“I” is the main character and narrator. Throughout the story, his name isn’t mentioned. Instead, he’s often referred to as names like “Secret-Knowing-Classmate-kun” or “Plain-Looking-Classmate-kun”. It’s eventually revealed that his name is Shiga Haruki. “I” is an outcast. He’s a bookworm who lives a mundane life of keeping to himself. He prefers reading his novels over socializing with others. He’s a bit of a coward, but he’s a genuinely sincere and nice guy. He becomes curious and somewhat interested in Sakura after finding out her secret. What he was most curious about was how such a young and bubbly girl still smile when she’s terminally ill? Initially he feels somewhat forced to hang out with Sakura and to go with her flow. However, he always complies and shows genuine concern for her. He starts to change because of her. In the movie, Haruki grows up to become a teacher at his former high school. He is portrayed by actor Oguri Shun. I’ve been a fan of him for ages. Since his Hana Yori Dango days (2005…Yes, I’m hella old…). I’ve seen alot of his works from Hana Kimi, Detective Conan, Lupin III, and Gintama (I’ll eventually talk about all of these in future posts). It’s so interesting to see him play a variety of roles and different personas. I liked seeing him play a more serious and tender role though. I could really relate to the adult Haruki who seemed unsure with his life and what to do.
How I remember Oguri Shun: The F4’s cool and charming Hanazawa Rui from Hana Yori Dango.
Yeah…that image was shattered by him being a fucking kappa in Arakawa Under the Bridge… ლ(¯ロ¯”ლ)
The high school version is portrayed by Kitamura Takumi. Apparently he was in Koi to Uso (Love and Lies) and will also be in Harumatsu Bokura (We Hope for Blooming). He was also in Nobunaga Concerto: The Movie with Oguri Shun. Both actors did a fantastic job on portraying the Haruki’s emotions. I thought Takumi was fantastic at portraying the innocent and raw emotions of the character. I could really feel the pain and my heart broke watching him cry. I admit that the younger version was more subtle and chill compared to the manga version. However, I’m pretty sure the manga version was made to be more extra than the source material as well. But it’s not particularly a bad thing to be more subtle. It’s a more realistic portrayal, and I think a more accurate portrayal of the novel. For me, it shows just how much of an introvert he is and how he’s independent. I think a part of the portrayal was to show how he’s a bit lost. He’s kind of innocent and unsure of his emotions, as well as to the effect that Sakura had on him. This subtle portrayal also really allowed Sakura to really stand out and shine.
Yamauchi Sakura is portrayed by actress Hamabe Minami. I recognized her from Anohana. She was also in Ajin, and will also be in Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (My Little Monster). Sakura is the complete opposite of “I”. She’s pretty, popular, sociable, and has a bright and bubbly personality. Although, she also seems to have a bit of a mischievous side. So it’s a huge surprise for “I” to find out that Sakura has a year, at most, to live. In the manga, she’s a bit more pushy and extra. Again, I feel like the movie was a subtle and more realistic approach. I really liked Minami’s acting though. Sakura seems incredibly positive and bubbly despite her disease. She hides it well, but she is very afraid of dying. Still, she wants to use her last days to make memories with “I”, and just enjoy life. She’s afraid to be honest and tell her dearest friends, particularly Kyoko, about her disease. Yet, she can be a bit more open with “I”. She seems to be interested in Haruki. Although, she’s still quite cryptic at times and still puts up a front. What drew her attention to Haruki was how calm and almost unfazed when learning her secret. She was curious about this calm, quiet, and unsociable classmate of hers. Minami really made me like and empathize with Sakura. Also, I just really liked Sakura because of her mindset. It really made me step back and look at things from a different perspective.
Kyoko is Sakura’s best friend. The adult version of Kyoko is portrayed by Kitagawa Keiko. The high school version is portrayed by Otomo Karen. Kyoko is very protective (almost overly protective) of Sakura. Sakura treasures Kyoko as well. Kyoko has bad tastes in guys, so Sakura worries about Kyoko. Kyoko also seems quite strong, but Sakura knows that she’s actually very weak. Because of that, Sakura kept her illness a secret from Kyoko. Kyoko also really hates Haruki. She’s suspicious of him and constantly glares at him. She also tells Haruki that she’ll never forgive him if he hurts Sakura with half-hearted feelings. Sakura is pretty mischievous and tries to get Haruki in trouble with Kyoko. However, Sakura really does want Haruki and Kyoko to be friends. I think it’s because they both have some similarities and because they’re both people that Sakura treasured.
Between the circumstances and their polar opposite personalities, Sakura and Haruki’s relationship is seen as odd. It’s to the point that everyone at school finds it shockingly strange and wonder if they’re dating. Rumors start to buzz around. The typical one is that they’re dating, but there’s even a rumor that Haruki is stalking Sakura. Their relationship is one that’s not quite that of romantic interests, but they’re not quite just friends either. Personally, I felt like their relationship fit that of the Korean term “some”; Meaning that it kind of borders between friendship and love…as if there’s something between them. I haven’t finished the novel, however, I did skim it a bit at the beginning and end. I totally plan to finish it though, because I really liked it. Anyway, I think the novel version shows their romantic interest much more clearly. I’d say the movie does show that they have some romantic interest in each other. Although, it could also just be interpreted as just platonic friendship.I’d say it’s more clear that Haruki had a romantic interest in Sakura. Sakura sometimes seems to jokingly flirt with Haruki. But it’s hard to tell if she’s serious, or if she’s just trying to push Haruki’s buttons.
I was really fascinated by some of Sakura’s thoughts and her overall mindset. Many stories use the idea of “fate”, “destiny”, and “coincidences”. However, Sakura rejects that kind of idea. Sakura believes that she and Haruki –CHOSE– to meet. The idea that the actions and choices we choose leads us to different paths. It’s in this idea that we -choose- what we are now, who we meet, and our relationships. Haruki is also surprised at how Sakura seems to want to live everyday like normal despite her terminal illness. However, Sakura makes a point that we all die eventually. We never know when we can die. It can be today, tomorrow, a few days, months, or years from now. We can die from illnesses or accidents. We don’t know, and yet we continue living everyday like normal. There isn’t much of difference. For Sakura, it’s best to just enjoy the normal things. But another thought provoking thought from Sakura was the idea of living. Typically, everyone thinks of living as “Enjoying life to the fullest”. Things like doing all that you can or having a bunch of material goods. Her idea of what it feels to live is the relationships she has with other people and the things that she feels.
Whether their relationship and feelings were romantic or platonic, I thought it was simply beautiful and moving. They were polar opposites who were essentially strangers. Their secret relationship was not typical. However, it was as if they needed each other and grew from the time and experiences they shared.
The cinematography was beautiful as well. It wasn’t stunning. But it was soft and everything really complimented the story. I especially loved the shots with all of the cherry blossoms (Sakura). The movie seemed to follow the novel quite well, although there are some differences. One major difference is that in the novel, Haruki is telling this story not too long after Sakura’s death. Whereas the movie shows Haruki, Kyoko, and Gum-kun (A classmate who always chewed gum) as when they were high schools and as adults 13 years later. The movie shows Haruki as a teacher at his former high school. He seems somewhat lost and unsure with things in his life. He encounters visions of Sakura in the old library, and it’s as if he’s searching for those answers and closure. In the movie, he’s telling this story to his student who seems to remind him of himself. In the novel, Haruki finds Sakura’s will immediately after reading the “Disease Coexistence Journal”. It is written at the end of the journal and pointed out to Haruki by Sakura’s mother. I also believe that the novel also showed more interaction and growth in regards to Haruki and Kyoko’s relationship. The movie just slightly touches on it. As much as I loved this film, I admit that there are some flaws. Particularly like how none of the classmates, like Kyoko, was gonna give Haruki shit right after Sakura’s death.
The music was beautiful as well. I don’t really find many Japanese movie OSTs that memorable for me, especially in regards to background music used for setting the different scenes. However, I found the soft piano pieces here to be really beautiful and fitting for the movie. I also loved the theme song, “himawari” (Sunflowers) by Mr. Children. I remember enjoying their music back in the day, so it was a pleasant surprise to see they had a contribution to this film!
I said it before, I’m a sucker for human dramas and stories. I love a good story full of emotional depth and growth. Let Me Eat Your Pancreas is definitely one of those stories. The main character tells this story from his high school years. He’s plain looking, introverted, somewhat gloomy, and doesn’t like to get involved with others. He’s an outcast and he doesn’t really care. However, his life starts to change when he learns his classmate’s secret. Sakura is the complete opposite of him. She’s popular, pretty, sociable, and bubbly. Since he’s the only one outside of her family to know of her secret, they start secretly hanging out. They kind of give each other what they need. Haruki gives Sakura a sense of comfort and normalcy. Sakura is pulling Haruki out into the world and teaching him what it means to live. It’s obviously a tragedy, but I didn’t quite expect the ending. Still, this film was absolutely beautiful. If you liked One Week Friends, you might like Let Me Eat Your Pancreas. Though it wasn’t perfect, I enjoyed One Week Friends. However, Let Me Eat Your Pancreas was a beautiful and moving film. This is going at the top of my favorite Japanese films. I highly recommend it!