Love & Pop 1998 Hideaki Anno Film Review

And a discussion retrospective.

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Love & Pop is a live action directed by Hideaki Anno after directing Neon Genesis Evangelion so it has the same psychological monologues. The protagonist this time is a high school girl, Hiromi, and there are sadly no mechs. If you liked the live action scenes at the end of The End of Evangelion you will probably like this film too as I did. Score: 7/10.

The subject matter is enjou-kousai, compensated dating, which is the practice of paying a few hundred quid (however many Yen that is lol) to a girl to pretend to be your girlfriend for a few hours. This may or may not involve sexual services. The setting is late 90s Tokyo, Japan.

The movie is technically an adaptation of an untranslated novel, Topaz II by Ryu Murakami. I didn't realise that this was a novel at all while watching this and neither did ThoughtAgent or Siegneozeon.

The runtime is almost 2 hours which was too much for ThoughtAgent and Sieg but I liked the grainy atmosphere so I didn't mind it at all. Anno played a lot around here with unusual angles and first person perspectives though the camera is thankfully not shaky at all like those found footage films. In order to take these unusual angles and occasional upskirting Anno used handheld cameras, camcorders, specifically the Sony VX 1000, but ThoughtAgent felt like the video quality was too bad because of this, especially for a film which came out in the 90s.

I didn't mind it though, it added to the seedy-shady atmosphere of the city and also made it seem lived in but lonely, like a concrete jungle behind whose walls other leery, lurid and interesting stories might take place not just the one which is on film. The subdued, understated colours add to that feeling of manifold stories with solitary protagonists occurring all at once with us only being aware of one, of Hiromi's.

The duration of the film covers one day out for Hiromi in Shinjuku, Tokyo, her first day doing compensated dating. First with her friends doing shopping and doing enjou-kousai with weird and sometimes preachy men, and then later by herself in a quest to aquire a topaz ring before the end of the sale that day or before her desire for it disappeared.

Her friends are introduced at the start in a monologue with a montage but then after they disappear the only reappear at the end for the credits scene where they walk in a canal as cheery, hopeful 90s jpop with female vocals plays in the background. The more interesting bits are seeing the girls interact with the creepy, weird, and lonely men who shamelessly give their money to be with these girls and get worse and worse as the day reaches its end.

Sieg observed that the film is not preachy towards the girls and I would agree as the only people who reprimand these girls for their action are the hypocritical men who pay them for compensated dating. I think it works. Hiromi looks innocent and weak but neither I nor ThoughtAgent nor Sieg felt like the film was making excuses for their behaviour. As for the weird men, well it was fun to watch them - kind of reminded me a bit of the live action "Portrait of an Otaku" scenes in Otaku no Video, in that there was something comedic and stylised about the portrayal of these men and it came through between their sad and disgusting predicaments.

The message is a simple one of valuing oneself for the sake of those who value you or something you could have thought of yourself easily. The merits of this film lie mainly in the presentation and the atmosphere, not the sort of thing that is objective enough that it can be conveyed in words. This explains why I and Parz probably enjoyed it more than ThoughtAgent or Sieg. This rewatch sadly did knock-out a score from my valuation of it, which is why I am always worried whenever I re-watch something I liked, whether it will live upto my memory of it.

This worry proved true especially when I re-watched Area 88 with ThoughtAgent. It wasn't nearly as good as I remembered it. The cure to this is to rewatch it yet again and again until you can find things to enjoy in it, both new and old. I will definitely be rewatching Love & Pop. This would be a good place to end this review, and in fact it is over, but I have a few left-over thoughts from my first attempt at writing this review.

Left-over thoughts

The two hour conversation ThoughtAgent, Sieg, and I had on this film was a bit too unfocused even for me. There just wasn't a lot to say, as you can see by how short this review is. The only way which would have forced us to come up with something to say that I can think of would have been if we had gone over the events of the film little by little like we did a couple of days ago for Panty & Stocking. But would it have worked on a film based on atmosphere?

I was much less busier when I first watched this film for the first time and now re-watching it, it took two-sittings, two days. No actually that's a lie, it's not that I was less busy back then but that I just used the internet to watch anime and stuff like this film rather than listen to random guys on YouTube. I was more focused on fiction, I guess. It's not that my attention span is shorter otherwise I wouldn't be able to listen to youtube videos about history and politics which are multiple hours long. I am just less focused I guess.

I think I might have watched on a mobile phone, probably my Galaxy S3 (rest in piece), and in a weird sense maybe the small mobile screen is closer to the big screen in a cinema than a computer screen because you can't have multiple windows open on a mobile phone, you can only focus on one thing at a time. And so the mobile screen might be more like the mixture of a novel reading experience and a big screen, I say novel reading because you hold it in your hand and watch it privately unlike say a television where someone might walk in and start watching with you.

Size matters, but other than that another thing which the big screen has got is something that it has not got, the bar at the bottom which tells you how time there is left for the film to end, the ability to pause the film, and the lighting around you which gives you an indication of time. Perhaps if Sieg & T-Agent had watched it at a cinema they wouldn't have felt it drag on for too long.

For better and for worse, a cinema also has other people. Imagine watching Shinji cum at the start of the EoE while sitting with a bunch of strangers or worse yet your friends or worse yet your relatives. Also keep that hospital scene in mind when watching L&P. It'll come in handy.

Cinema also has an advantage over novels, and for that matter tv series, in that by virtue of the pages left or the episodes left to watch you are aware of how much is left. More stuff can be more stuff dividing you from the medium rather than connecting you through your senses.

In my original review which I scrapped I said that Anno would be remembered for Neon Genesis Evangelion whether he likes it or not. I just dawned on me that he is working on a bunch of popular properties now, like Ultraman, but the difference with those is that he would only be adapting them, just adding to a universe which belongs to many others, he wouldn't be an auteur director and has to live within the frame and traditions set by previous authors of previous iterations - his Godzilla movie had to be another Godzilla movie, in fact it was a return to form for Godzilla away from the western cancer Godzilla movies.

He can get away with being an auteur in Love & Pop despite it being an adaptation because nobody knows the source material, sorry Ryu Murakami, so peoples eyes won't be tinged by previously imparted impressions of the characters. Apparently it was Anno who chose to adapt Love & Pop so maybe it already fit his mind's mold at the time.

The Making of Love & Pop documentary was pretty interesting and probably just as fictional as it was real, but that's the fun to guess which is which while unthinkingly looking at it as if it was real when convenient. In The Making of Eva 4.0, he explained he made these Making Of documentaries since he made one for The End Of Eva live action sequences because people appreciate it less and less when things are left unsaid, a mystery, I wonder if this was a sneed at people who wanted an explanation for what happened in Eva.

Sometimes I wonder whether Eva is so influential only because we want it to be, because we wished it were the case, that single studio of fans could affect the industry. That wish came true, or did it? If it did, was it a Monkey's Paw?

The only other media I have read related to compensated dating, is the Rental Girlfriend manga unfortunately I am still hate-reading it because I want to see where this trash goes so I can review it when it ends, hopefully soon. The problem is that rom-coms and compensated dating do not go together, it's like building your ice house next to the mouth of mount Vesuvius, the simp protagonist keeps on literally giving money to her love interest so she may spend time with him, and we are supposed to pretend there is any love here.

There's a little bit of bad CGI at the end of L&P, the bit where Hiromi and the stuff in her bedroom starts to float around the room. Hiromi looks really CGI there. Having that said there's a lot of neat "practical effect" ( I don't know if that's the word for it, I am not a film guy) in the dream sequences Hiromi has, I wonder if the dreams have some sort of double Freudian meaning given that Anno made some Freud references in Eva with everyone and their mom having mummy issues and going back into their mom in a cockpit. Is the Hedgehog's Dilemma really a psychological term or did Anno & Co come up with it on the go? Not bothered enough to google it on duckduckgo.

Mobile phones were apparently not that common in the 90s or whenever this thing is set, anyway the Hiromi and the girlz have to use a phone they borrowed to use the compensated dating thing, in Rental Girlfriend there's an app, anyway I kind of found it funny that the first thing a bunch of girls want to do when they get their hands on a mobile phone is to sell themselves for money to buy clothes and a piece of expensive jewellery.

I guess that's spoilers for people in the 90s of what was to come. The film of course puts the blame squarely on the pushy pathetic men doling out their hard-earned money to these high schoolers, so if you are feminist don't worry that's just my view, not the films. Then again you will nag so why do I bother. I too have fun complaining and being angry on the keyboard sometimes. It can be helped though.

I guess there's a sub-theme, or a concurrent theme introduced at the start that all the girls around Hiromi, who also did this compensated dating thing a bit, nevertheless are moving on with their lives whereas Hiromi is stuck in a rut and aimless. It felt a bit on the nose, and quick too, with montages of Hiromi's girlfriends buying PCs, getting auditioned as dancers, and buying PCs (I guess PCs were a big deal in the 90s or maybe that girl was becoming an programmer?), generally growing up and leaving Hiromi alone.

There's a beach episode that you can watch if you want to see the girls in swimming suits. The Making Of documentary claims that this was supposed to be the real ending of the film but the film got spoiled and so it's just included as an extra. I think it would have been silly to add this. Come to think of it the girls do go shopping for swimming suits in the film, so it may not be  a total lie but then I can feel Anno's nonchalant smile at having fooled another one.

In the film it is shown as normal that they would drift away as most people who go to school together do, but I do wonder whether that was normal in the past and we have had to become tougher or if this yet another weight modernity puts on us. I for one am glad to have moved on from the people I knew in highschool but I wonder if that's just post-hoc rationalisation to justify something that happened as good. Well, if it is it might be better left that way. As No Thankyou said, the city is more like a jungle than an orderly beehive. People don't care for you  and that's a bad thing obviously but it's also a good thing because other people won't bother you in your pursuits.

The film is obviously accentuating the sexuality of the girls because it can and wants to but it also shows what is lost, what is being made light of, what has become not genuine by the introduction of money into the equation, and in a sense by being privy to a nakedness which must be exclusive it points at, not obviously, at the cruelty that that exclusivity must entail.

Apparently a JAV director/actor fren of Anno was present on set, I am not sure whether he added anything, but maybe that explains the first person POV camera angles. I think Anno in turn helped this JAV director film his own film Kantoku-Shikkaku (Disqualified as a director, a play on Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human title, Ningen-Shikaku obv) but that's another story.

And that ends my stray-thoughts, throw-away thoughts, left-over thoughts, call them what you like thoughts on the film and discussion on the film.

By Otaking, or The Good Student