After the CJAS viewing of Mimi O Sumaseba, I was somewhat surprised to hear a round of applause. I didn't expect to hear such an enthusiastic response because, while I liked the movie, it wasn't the greatest. And certainly, works which I felt were better than Mimi received no ovation. That being said, I felt compelled to write this article to provide my view of Mimi and how it compares to other titles that CJAS has shown this year.
After seeing Mimi for the second time, I realized that my feelings toward this film are very similar to those I hold for another movie (live-action) called the The Cutting Edge (any figure skaters in the audience, please, don't kill me).
The Cutting Edge is a romantic comedy in which the male lead, an Olympic hockey star, is forced to become a professional figure skater (as though any hockey player could make this transition with the ease of the male lead) after sustaining an injury which damages his peripheral vision. His partner, the female lead, is a stuck-up rich kid who can't get along with anyone. Needless to say, but I'll say it anyhow, they fall in love and win the big championship. However, despite the weakness of the plot, the characters are surprisingly interesting, and the writing is very clever. Compare this to Mimi, a story in which a girl fantasizes about the Prince of Books, only to find out he is actually that boy who has recently been tormenting her. They fall in love, dreams are pursued, and marriage is proposed. Like The Cutting Edge, while Mimi is predictable, a bit clichéd, and unrealistic at times, it was entertaining. However, unlike The Cutting Edge, Mimi is often referred to as a great movie.
Certainly, Mimi is a visually appealing movie, with carefully crafted backgrounds. Mimi also possesses an excellent soundtrack, with BGM (background music) that complements the mood extremely well. However, neither of these qualities are necessary for a work to be great, nor is greatness defined by such qualities. A film is not merely a picture, nor is it merely a song; it is a story. The art and the music are there to flesh out the tale. For example, the animation in Video Girl Ai was not, for the most part, amazing like Mimi's. Nor is the BGM up to the quality of that in Mimi. However, Video Girl Ai is still a compelling story. Although improvements in the visuals and BGM would have been nice, Video Girl Ai is a strong work because of the excellence of Katsura's writing, an excellence which I feel is lacking in Mimi O Sumaseba.
Mimi also differs from the standard anime fare in that it uses the everyday world as its setting. This is neither intrinsically a detriment nor an advantage. Certainly, a very real setting has been used to provide many memorable stories, such as those by John Steinbeck. One advantage of using an environment that is familiar and believable to the audience is that a work can more easily absorb you if you see the setting as being one from the world you know, as opposed to one in which giant mecha battle for supremacy. Mimi uses this effect very well for most of the movie. Shizuku is a very believable character and was well written. However, certain character action broke the mood for me periodically by being unrealistic or awkward. Two examples are the entrance of the musicians into Seiji and Shizuku's duet, which seemed trite, and the proposal, which seemed a bit over-dramatized.
Mimi got a round applause at CJAS, unlike Video Girl Ai, To-Y, or Manie Manie (especially the first one), all of which I felt were better than Mimi O Sumaseba by virtue of superior character depth (Video Girl Ai), more intelligent themes (To-Y and Manie Manie), or more interesting plot (all of the above). I'm not asking for you, the Mimi-loving reader, to reject Mimi. Rather, let's all better appreciate the true gems which CJAS has to offer.
And hey, if nothing else in this article convinces you, at least check out The Cutting Edge for a fun non-anime film experience.