Film review: Mix! – Yui Aragaki, Eita in table tennis-themed romantic comedy
Junichi Ishikawa’s story revolves around love, romance, cheating and table tennis, and although predictable, it makes for a pleasant human drama
Table tennis is at once a community pastime, a competitive sport and an epitome of the characters’ passion for life in this crowd-pleasing feature by Japanese television drama director Junichi Ishikawa, who made his film debut with 2015’s April Fools.
After winning the hearts of many as a young woman struggling for both love and proper employment in the recent TV series The Full-Time Wife Escapist, popular actress Yui Aragaki again stretches our credulity in a role whose charm is obvious to all but herself.
Traumatised as a kid by the sporting ambitions of her table tennis trainer mother (Yoko Maki), Tamako (Aragaki), now 28, has grown up to be an ordinary office worker without a boyfriend. But the irony is lost on her when she starts dating Ejima (Koji Seto), the star of her company’s table tennis club.
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When she finds him cheating on her with his mixed doubles partner Airi (Mei Nagano), Tamako quits her job and returns to her provincial hometown, where she ends up frequenting the rundown table tennis club founded by her late mother and takes up the sport she once played as a prodigy.
There Tamako meets construction worker Hagiwara (Eita), a former boxer who has been abandoned by his wife and daughter after a dramatic episode in his past. Tamako soon trains with him with an aim of rivalling Ejima and Airi at a national tournament, and a mismatched romance is on the cards.
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While the story ultimately revolves around Tamako and Hagiwara, it is peppered with likeable characters that range from Ryoko Hirosue as an old friend and an unhappy housewife, to Yu Aoi hamming it up as an exceptionally rude waitress at a neighbourhood Chinese diner.
Mix! is no groundbreaking effort in story or form, but the original screenplay by Ryota Kosawa, who also scripted April Fools, does manage to blend romantic comedy, sport film tropes and ensemble human drama into a pleasant if mostly unsurprising whole.
Mix! opens on November 9
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