Japanese Film Festival 2016 Film Review: Wolf Girl & Black Prince (Japan, 2016)

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Fans of the Wolf Girl and Black Prince magna and anime will be absolutely smitten with this new live action adaption. The story follows quite closely to the original, with a few alterations here and there to help move everything along in film format. But the characterization of Erika and Kyoya and their relationship is all still there.

For those unfamiliar with this shojo the story revolves around Erika Shinohara (Fumi Nikaido), an good-hearted but easily persuaded high school girl who has recently started first term at her new school. Afraid of being left alone, Erika joins a group of girls (in the original story arc there are just two girls, but in the film the group is expanded to four) and in order to blend in pretends that she has a boyfriend. When the group start to doubt her lie Erika determinedly snaps a photo in the street of her “boyfriend”, unbeknownst to poor hapless Erika that same boy attends her school.

Soon her lie is in very real danger of being uncovered, but Kyoya Sata (Kento Yamazaki) patiently hears her out, eventually agreeing to go along with her little charade. The perfect prince coming to her rescue right? That is until he orders her to turn around three times and bark- “I’ll go along with your charade if you agree to be my dog”.

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And so begins their uneven “fake” relationship- Erika running (literally) at Kyoya’s beck and call. But his roughness might just be around the outside. Kyoya carefully defends her in front of her “friends” and rescues her from a terrible “date”. As Erika’s one true friend Ayumi Sanda carefully points out “he looks like a sweet prince and he may be black-hearted, but he is helping you”. Although lovable the whole “Master/Dog” situation can feel a little bit backwards (come on Erika- show your girl power and stand up to him!) but if you’re willing to just let that slide a little in the presence of a cute story then all’s ok.

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In any case, what with one thing and another Erika starts to fall for Kyoya. And although fiercely denying it himself, the feelings are beginning to be reciprocated. That is until a rather poorly timed confession and a very harsh response in return threaten to break Master and Puppy apart forever. Luckily there’s a school trip in which everyone can sort out their feelings and a (this time well-timed) confession will send all the girls in the cinema audience into squeals of delight!

Unlike the manga/anime though, here’s where the film stops. Which I guess makes sense for a film- the big moment! But it does mean we don’t get to see any of the struggles the real couple go through, and their learning and developing together (and those very important moments where Erika is a bit more even in the relationship). And there are a couple of other changes in the adaption too- Nobuyuki is still the playboy who begins to idolize Kyoya but interestingly he’s also the guy that takes Erika on that first fake date. There is also an almost complete absence of any adults whatsoever- no parents are shown, and very few teachers. Although Kyoya’s amazing sister Reika does make an appearance, its brief (luckily it does include the dessert battle though), and there is no visit to their mother. Another big change in the story was that Erika confesses her lie to her group of friends and they are quick to abandon her, leaving her just as alone as she always feared.

Overall the adaption does wonderful justice to the original story and the actors were well chosen- although I did imagine Kyoya as being a little bit more of a presence. One thing I did really wish was that it had a better OST, rather than it’s rather random selection of out of place songs, but can’t have everything I suppose!

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Review score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Wolf Girl & Black Prince will be screening in Sydney on the 25th November and in Melbourne on the 25th November.

The Japanese Film Festival is in Sydney until the 27th November, then in Melbourne from the 24th November to the 4th December.

Visit Japanese Film Festival for more information and session times.


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