Even though Natsuki Seta’s oeuvre is small, the few films she crafted have always been well received. Her first feature film A Liar and a Broken Girl (2011) was widely praised and Parks (2017), a movie she made to celebrate the 100th birthday of the famous Inokashira park, pleased audiences in the cinema. Can Seta’s third feature film Georama Boy Panorama Girl, an adaptation of Kyoko Okazaki’s manga, confirm her talent for creating pleasing compositions and writing fresh narratives?
One day, while on the way back home from shopping, high school student Haruko Shibuya (Anna Yamada), who is so aching to fall in love, encounters Kenichi Kanagawa (Jin Suzuki), a student who has scandalized his teacher and his classmates by walking out the classroom proclaiming he quits school, because he does not need it.
She falls for him, but Kenichi’s mind is already romantically preoccupied with a woman called Mayumi (Misato Morita) he met earlier that day. While he could spend a nice moment with her at a cafe, their meeting was violently cut short by Kinya (Shintaro Yuya), a guy who is equally crazy about her. As both wandering around searching for their beloved in an ever-changing Tokyo, can a love between our georama boy and our panorama girl blossom?
Calling Georama Boy Panorama Girl a mere romance narrative would do a disservice to Seta’s refreshing exploration of the stage of falling-in-love. Seta does not only highlight the deception that marks this stage, but also beautifully highlights that different subjects enter the field of falling-in-love in a different manner.
Haruko becomes enamored by Kenichi, because something of his bodily presence succeeds to entrap her romantic desire. The narrative does not make it clear what element of his body-image exactly lured her desire, but, at least, if we follow the visuals, we can assume that Haruko’s romantic entrapment took place when their eyes met for the first time. Yet, the shining element that she, in the moment that their eyes met, perceived in the body-image of this male other is of the order of the illusion.
The more interesting element of her desire is the fantasies that accompany her romantic longing. While one could argue that it is Haruko’s sudden desire that causes these fantasies, it is more correct to state that the fantasies, fantasies playing with the notion of fate, blossom precisely to support and strengthen her romantic interest.
The romantic dynamic between Kenichi and Mayumi is very different. As the peculiar way of their encounter reveals, whatever woman who crossed his path would have sufficed. It is, thus, nothing in the female shape that entrapped his romantic desire. Rather it is Mayumi’s compliment that imprisons his romantic desire. Why? Because this compliment reveals, for him, that she is romantically interested in him and that he possesses the thing he didn’t know he had, the phallus (Psycho-note 1). In it, in other words, under her beautiful gaze that he can feel to be worth something, that he, as a man, can approach her in a sexually manner.
Yet, Mayumi, despite her rather flirtatious presence of being, violently refuses his sexual approach. Such refusal deeply confuses Kenichi, who was so convinced in his phallic ownership due to her fateful reappearance and her playful and inviting interactions. Besides her refusal, the appearance of ‘his’ Mayumi at the side of other men further puts his feeling of phallic possession – she desires me – into doubt. Nevertheless, each positive response by her, be it a signifier or an act, is interpreted by Kenichi as a sign of her romantic interest and the presence of his phallic shine (psycho-note 2 (minor spoiler)).
Given these two different ways of entering in the game of romance, we can evoke the main riddle Georama Boy Panorama Girl poses to the spectator via a variety of intertwined questions: Is Mayumi interested in Kenichi in a romantic way? Is it possible for Kenichi to perceive Haruko as a possible romantic partner? What will Haruko do if she sees her beloved Kenichi circling around the seductive Haruko? Will she give up and hide herself in a shell of depression or will she refuse to accept romantic defeat and fight for her love? Can both go beyond the imaginary element – for Haruko, beyond the mere fixation on the phallic shine of the other and for Kenichi beyond his attempt to satisfy his phallic possession – and meet each other in such a way that the establishment of an inter-subjective romantic bond becomes possible?
The composition of Georama Boy Panorama Girl stands out due to its dynamism and the pleasing flow it gives to the unfolding of the narrative. Yet, this cinematographical dynamism is not merely used to enhance the rhythm, but also utilized to strengthen certain emotions on display. This ‘secondary’ use allows the spectator, who gets a visual sense of certain emotions, to feel a certain imaginary closeness to the character.
The cinematographical flow is also supported by the rich musical accompaniment. Besides infusing some rhythmicality in the composition, the various musical pieces are also instrumental in keeping the atmosphere of the narrative lighthearted.
Georama Boy Panorama Girl makes use of the narrating voice in a rather creative way. While the voices, the voice of Haruko and Kenichi, are used to introduce certain narrative elements, the way they inaugurate these elements adds a subtle poetic flavour to the narrative. Yet, it is not only the narrating voice that gives the narrative its element of poetry. Certain interactions, especially those between Haruko and her friends, are structured in such a way that a poetic touch is allowed to characterize the vocalized signifiers, the movement of the characters, and the playful rhythm of certain conversations.
Those spectators expecting a straightforward Japanese romantic melodrama might be very disappointed with Seta’s poetically composed Georama Boy Panorama Girl. With the fresh breeze she blows into the romance genre, Seta does not only vividly explore the different ways a subject can enter the romantic game – either by perceiving the phallic shine in the other or by feeling one has the phallic shine for the other, but also charmingly evokes that the start of a true romance lies beyond the initial deception that marks the encounter between two subjects.
Psycho-note 1: It should be clear that the phallus is something that has no substantial ground. The role it plays within the field of romance is, entirely, fantasmatical and fictional.
Psycho-note 2: Kenichi’s attempt to make Mayumi stop her escort-work resembles the heroic fantasies many men have. The fantasy of saving such kind of woman is structured around a belief that one has the phallic shine that can persuade the escort to develop a ‘monogamic’ devotion to the fantasizer. Yet does he really have such a phallic shine for Mayumi or is he sorely mistaken about the nature of her interest in him?