Review by Sean Boelman
Ayumu Watanabe’s previous film, Children of the Sea, was released to wide critical acclaim internationally for its alluringly hypnotic visuals. His newest, Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko, is unlikely to receive the same reception because its plot is equal parts uninteresting and misguided.
Based on the novel by Kanako Nishi, the film follows an unorthodox mother-daughter duo who face a conflict as the mother stands out with her eccentricities and the daughter wants nothing more than to fit in. It’s a coming of age story — something that isn’t all too uncommon for anime films — but not a very compelling one at that.
Ultimately, the core message of the film is to be yourself unabashedly and embrace the things that make you who you are. However, this warm-hearted message is unfortunately buried beneath something that is disappointingly mean-spirited, to the point of making the film nearly insufferable to watch.
One of the main characters of the film is plus size, and ends up being the butt of many of the film’s jokes. What could have been an easy opportunity to promote a message of body positivity — a type of representation that is far too often ignored in film — is instead turned into yet another example of fat-shaming that ridicules its characters.
Some of this could have been forgiven if the characters had genuine, interesting arcs, but that aspect is sorely lacking here. The daughter’s growth in the film is superficial in a way that we have seen dozens of times before, and the mother is a character that is designed mostly to push her daughter’s character along her path.
As a result, the film ends up feeling like a series of fat jokes with some forced emotional beats interspersed in. It definitely would have helped if some of the beats in the ilm were less telegraphed, because then they would have had more of an emotional impact. As it is, the film feels contrived and trite.
And worse yet, the film doesn’t have the gorgeous visuals of Watanabe’s last work to compensate for its narrative shortcomings. Although the film isn’t poorly animated — the level of detail here is at least somewhat commendable — Watanabe fails to create a world that is even the least bit immersive.
Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko is one of those films that had the potential to do something extraordinary and beneficial but ended up missing the mark completely. Generic, but even worse, mean-spirited, this is not a film that is easy to recommend.
Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko screens in theaters on June 2 before opening in theaters in June 3.