[Fantasia 2023] AS LONG AS WE BOTH SHALL LIVE -- A Dull and Overstuffed Adaptation of MY HAPPY MARRIAGE
Review by Sean Boelman
Every year, Fantasia screens a few popular international IP-driven flicks that have yet to make their way to Western audiences. Adapted from the popular light novel series My Happy Marriage, the live-action feature As Long As We Both Shall Live will struggle to keep the viewer’s interest, much less immerse them in the world.
The film follows an unhappy young woman who is married off by her powerful family to a stolid army commander, only for both of them to discover things about themselves through their relationship with one another. Oh yeah, this is also set against the background of a society where people with supernatural gifts protect the world from demons. In other words, it’s just another day in Japanese fiction.
As is the case with many adaptations with rich source material, As Long As We Both Shall Live is held back by its runtime. Even at an hour and fifty minutes long, the movie feels like it’s trying to do too much in too short of a time. It’s telling that My Happy Marriage is also being adapted as a currently airing anime that has 12 half-hour episodes. This feature film simply doesn’t have enough room to breathe.
The movie’s technicals don’t do it many favors either. Although some of the symbolism is inspired, the production design often looks like it’s from a soap opera or a well-funded community theater production. As a result, viewers won’t really feel drawn into the film’s world as much as the movie would have required.
For the most part, the film is a somewhat bland melodrama — there’s a bit of palace intrigue throughout, but it’s hard to get invested in — but there are bursts of fantasy action throughout. Given that the movie is based on literature aimed at young adults, the genre bending should come as no surprise. Still, the film is disappointingly unable to strike an affecting balance between the romance and the action.
Admittedly, the character development likely works better for those with a familiarity with the source material. An obligatory exposition dump at the opening of the movie throws us into this generations-long dynasty. However, to an outsider, it feels like a combination of familiar beats. Take a lot of Pride and Prejudice, add in a splash of Romeo and Juliet, and you have As Long As We Both Shall Live.
The performances are about as one would expect from a light novel/manga adaptation. Ren Meguro and Mio Imada both give very big, showy performances. It’s clear that they’re doing exactly what was asked of them, and their chemistry is decent enough, but they both feel artificial in a way that doesn’t allow the emotional beats to resonate.
As Long As We Both Shall Live had an admittedly monumental task in bringing this world to live action, and unfortunately, it is crushed under the weight of the burden. Oh well — the anime’s reception among the source material’s fans seems to be much stronger. Perhaps that’s more worth your time.
As Long As We Both Shall Live screened at the 2023 Fantasia Film Festival, which runs from July 20 to August 9.