Arranged marriages are an old tradition that you don’t hear much about these days. Times change and so do the traditions along with it. Haikara-san: Here Comes Miss Modern (Part 1) is an anime film that symbolizes that change and the struggles of those who apply that change incurs. When you wrap that notion around a love story and add in a sprinkle of comedy, you get an interesting recipe. Does this particular recipe produce satisfactory results for Haikara-san: Here Comes Miss Modern?
Benio Hanamura is a tomboyish girl raised by her father who is a high-ranking official of the Japanese military. Benio attends a finishing school for girls who are set to be involved with arranged marriages. In Benio’s case, she is to marry Shinobu Ijuuin, who is also a member of the Japanese military, in order to fulfill a long-standing vow between their two families.
Of course, Benio is against the arranged marriage and believes that women should make their own choices in life when it comes to those they want to love and marry. Add in the fact that her childhood friend and next-door neighbor Ranmaru is also in love with her and you have a great comedic story of Benio trying every way possible to get out of her arranged marriage in order to be with Ranmaru… or so we think.
Despite the fact that she got dragged into this arranged marriage kicking and screaming, she begins to see Shinobu for the kind, gentleman that he is. The problem for Ranmaru begins when Benio begins to actually fall in love with Shinobu. Things begin to escalate to the point where Benio was planning to inform Shinobu of her acceptance of the arranged marriage when a turn of events takes place and Shinobu is sent to fight in Russia.
I will avoid talking about the movie’s story any further as to avoid spoilers; however, I will say that this story really surprised me. I’ve experienced romantic comedies of this nature before and most of them felt rather flat and generic but Haikara-san: Here Comes Miss Modern had that extra spice to it that not only made it interesting but highly enjoyable as well!
The story packed itself full of emotion and drama and mixed in comedy at the right moments and almost made it seem seamless. It made you laugh when it was appropriate and it made you connect and feel for the characters at the times where it mattered most. Nippon Animation and Warner Bros. took great care with the story of this film and made sure that every character’s appearance, every story plot point, every line spoken had a purpose and a reason for being there. No characters ever felt like that they were thrown in for the sake of getting screen time. Everything came together to help tell a compelling story that made me lose track of time!
Speaking of the characters, there is a small cast of them but each one of them held a significant purpose and only enhanced the story.
Benio’s personality is that of a brash young girl who is sick of tradition. She feels that women should have more of a say and a role in society and doesn’t want to be looked down upon by anyone. She’s not afraid to get involved in issues that she feels is unfair nor is she afraid to defend herself both verbally and physically. She is a very strong-willed main character but still has an incredible gentle side to her that helps remind us all that she is still a girl at heart.
As the movie progresses, you end up getting a sense of a change in her personality. At first, it’s a nice slow burn; however, certain events cause her character development to skyrocket at a moment’s notice. Despite that, it’s not a completely different personality that makes the character seem unfamiliar. Instead, her attitude change is handled in such a way where she retains all of her tomboyish mannerisms, keeping the character familiar yet feeling fresh. Benio is a very solid main character and truly made this film something special!
Okay, putting aside that he is voiced by my favorite seiyuu Mamoru Miyano (It’s an El Psy Congroo!), Shinobu is the shining example of a gentleman. He is fully aware that Benio doesn’t love him and she wants nothing to do with this arranged marriage. Despite all of that, he finds all of her little quirks amusing and still takes everything that she can dish out at him with a smile on his face. He never showed any sort of disrespect towards her in any way, shape, or form and did everything he could in order to make this unwanted transition as comfortable as possible for her.
The fact that Shinobu came into this entire situation expecting this helped things quite a bit. Whenever you see these arranged marriage stories, they are often centered around well-to-do families with the groom-to-be playing the role of the high society snob who cares about nothing except for wealth, personal social status, and the position that their family and/or business will be in should they marry. While Shinobu does live in a high society-style house, he has none of those characteristics. He is probably comparable to the anime version of Prince Charming. A well-mannered and respectful young man who is just trying to make the best of a bad situation for Benio. He is committed to fulfilling the vow between their families and recognizes the importance of it. It’s all of these different facets of his character that really begin to chance Benio’s attitude towards the entire ordeal. While he seemed a little TOO perfect, it wasn’t hard to get attached to him as a character!
He is Benio’s childhood friend and next-door neighbor who is training to be a kabuki actor. He had a very feminine look to him and even gets mistaken as a girl at one point! Ranmaru hid his feelings for Benio for many years until he learns of her arranged marriage. He confesses to Benio out of the blue which gets the two of them into a pretty comedic situation! At the end of the day though, with Benio’s thoughts about the arranged marriage starting to change, you can’t help but feel sorry for Ranmaru. Here is someone who has loved Benio almost his entire life and now he gets to stand on the sidelines and watch all of that slip through his fingers.
Such is life, though. Sometimes life isn’t fair and you can’t always get what you want… especially in love. While Ranmaru loves Benio with all of his heart, it’s very clear that his love is very one-sided. Those kinds of love stories often leave a painful sting and this one is no different. I won’t lie… I was cheering for Ranmaru and hoping that the arranged marriage would fall through allowing the two of them to get together; however, in the end, it was something that just wasn’t meant to be. Still, Ranmaru is a good friend and some of the lengths he goes to just to be around Benio are absolutely hilarious!
Tamaki is Benio’s classmate and friend from her finishing school. Her personality doesn’t really stand out but it’s not really meant to. What really throws a bit of a monkey wrench into the arranged marriage is that Tamaki is in love with Shinobu but she never really got a chance to confess her love for him. All hope is lost when she finds out that Shinobu is arranged to be married off. Things get a little complicated when Tamaki finds out that it’s Benio who is the one set to marry him.
Tamaki shows off her strong will here to forgive Benio realizing that since she never truly confessed her feelings she was never, technically, shot down by Shinobu. She only had herself to blame but this doesn’t stop Benio from feeling guilty about it. Again, the film takes a serious situation like this and adds a flair of comedy to it by having Benio try to use Tamaki’s love for Shinobu as an excuse to try and get the arranged marriage canceled. It’s another great example of the film blending drama and comedy together and even though Tamaki didn’t have a major part in it, that one little facet about her was enough to spark a pretty hilarious scene in the film!
While that wraps up the major characters, I want to say that the rest of the cast really add unique flavors to the film. Benio’s father is the strict fatherly type which is something you would expect a hardened and battle-tested member of the military to be. Both Benio’s grandmother and Shinobu’s grandmother shared very similar personalities in the fact that they are both kind, gentle people who have a lot of patience and understanding… especially when it comes to Benio. Even later additions like Kichiji and Shingo Onijima added their own personalities that only enhanced the story and fulfilled their jobs as supporting characters perfectly.
Art, Animation, and Sound
For a film that came out in 2017, it didn’t have a lot of “vibrancy” to it. By that, I mean there was barely any CG graphics, no huge special effects or anything that is commonly used in modern anime. The use of flatter colors and a more traditional look really made this film stand out and gave it a certain charm. Even the character designs didn’t look like something you would see in a film from this era and all of that was done on purpose and for good reason.
This movie was based on a television anime called Haikara-san ga Tooru which ran for 42 episodes from 1978-1979. The story was set in the mid-1920s and that had to be carried over to the 2017 film. The use of color, the character designs and the style of animation did an amazing job of taking those concepts from 40 years ago and bringing them into the modern era without making it feel too modern if that makes any sense.
I felt that the movie’s love and feel really helped absorb the viewer into the world while the score was subtle during the dramatic parts and more upbeat during the comedic scenes. Sadly, I can’t really recall any tracks that stood out but a film like this doesn’t need a soundtrack like you would find in Sword Art Online or Attack on Titan. It just needs music to enhance what is happening on screen and as long as the music helps drive home the scenery and the lines spoken by the characters then the OST can rest knowing that it has done its job properly and that is exactly what it does here in Haikara-san: Here Comes Miss Modern.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed Haikara-san: Here Comes Miss Modern. I was pulled into the story and becomes connected to the characters. The film put forth great comedy and drama and told a believable and compelling story that made its 90-minute runtime fly by. That’s just a testament to how well this film holds your interest.
If there was anything negative to say about the film, I would say that some of the comedy was a little too over the top in its artistic presentation. The jokes themselves were fine but I think that it went a little too “in your face” at times. Despite that, those kinds of comedic moments are “a flash in the pan” levels of quick and you don’t really endure them for long periods of time. Other than that, I can’t really think of anything that this film does wrong.
I will elude a bit to the ending of the film, though. It was a bit of an expected twist so I can’t really say that I was taken by surprise but the good news is that it leaves it wide open for a sequel… which is actually set to begin screening in Japan on October 19 of this year!
As for us here in America, ELEVEN ARTS Anime Studio is bringing the film to theaters on June 8! Whether you are reading this review before or after that date, I highly recommend making plans to go see it as I think it will be well worth your time!
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Review Disclosure Statement: A screening copy of Haikara-san: Here Comes Miss Modern was provided to us by ELEVEN ARTS Anime Studio for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Until next time,
Haikara-san: Here Comes Miss Modern
Haikara-san: Here Comes Miss Modern blends a charming art style with relatable and engaging characters with a compelling story to create a very pleasant experience.