Yuya Ishii has made a career of shooting films about quirky, occasionally nerdy, but definitely unconventional characters, with “The Great Passage” being the highlight of this prowess. Thus, it comes as no surprise that his latest movie deals with another character of the sort, in a film based on Yuki Ando’s manga, “The World of Machida Kun”.

Almost A Miracle” is screening at Fantasia 2019

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The Machida of interest is definitely an atypical student. He is not good in studying, sports and does not even show any interest in girls, but instead thrives on good will, to the point that he insists on helping everyone he sees in trouble, no matter the person, the place or the circumstances. This trait has made him famous in the area, to the point that a number of people call him “Jesus Christ”. One day, however, he meets Nana in the infirmary of his school, a girl who states that she dislikes all people. Soon Machida starts caring about her and she begins to have feelings for him. Their worldview and overall life practices, however, seem to be in the way, while a number of friends also play an important part in the unfolding of the story: Rira, a student who watches from the background and is set on helping the two get together, Ryota, a friend of Machida’s who also harbors feelings for Nana, and Yu, a teen model who is spoiled as he is a womanizer.

Yuya Ishii directs a very sensitive, coming-of-age film that focuses on a rather interesting concept,  if one can be kind and helpful all the time, and the “consequences” this practice can have both on him and on the people around him. Nana functions as the catalyst for this question in the harshest (at least for teenagers) fashion as she watches her love-interest asking her to go out with Ryota in order to give him a chance, not pushing away the advances of another student towards him in fear of hurting her feelings, and even agreeing on helping Yu meet with Nana, despite the fact that she hates him, although unbeknownst to Machida. In that fashion, Machida’s good will pushes Nana to despair, and the fact that he does all this from pure kindness makes things even worse, since the fact that she hates his actions makes her feel little and undeserving of his love.

Through this interaction, Ishii makes a point of highlighting the fact that one cannot be good towards everyone, because in that way, others may be hurt, as so eloquently Nana shouts during one of the most dramatic scenes in the film. Instead, what the story proposes is that you have to be good first to the people you love and then pick where your “goodness” is directed. Otherwise, you can kiss love relationships goodbye and instead sacrifice yourself for the common good, maybe like Jesus Christ did.

Ishii’s directorial approach to the aforementioned concept is impressive, with him analyzing his characters to the fullest through a number of different situations, while the fact that he has Machida running hopelessly towards the next good deed, despite his disappointingly low speed, serves both as a great focal point in the narrative and as a source of hilariousness. However, and as is the common, recent blight of Japanese films, the movie is a bit too long, while the last part, which becomes totally surrealistic, has nothing to do with the rest of the film, instead prolonging it unnecessarily. This, however, is not enough to ruin general sense of delightfulness and entertainment the movie offers.

The acting is in complete resonance with the overall aesthetics. Kanata Hosoda plays the eccentric, constantly running, helplessly benevolent Machida with gusto in a quite nuanced performance. Nagisa Sekimizu as Nana is very convincing in highlighting her growing frustration, both for Machida’s attitude and as she acknowledges her own feelings.

The cinematography is another of the film’s traits, with the framing and the coloring and the overall photography capturing the essence of the manga quite accurately, while also highlighting the production’s big budget.

“Almost a Miracle” is a very entertaining film that uses an interesting approach to deal with a unique social comment. It would have been better, though, if it was somewhat briefer.