Image Source: 映画『PとJK』公式 on Twitter

The story of P&JK (P to JK, lit. Police & High School Girl) isn’t a normal love story—it’s about a 26-year old police officer who wants to date a 16-year old high-schooler. How would that work in real life? That’s what the live-action film adapting the manga seeks to portray.

P&JK isn’t an obscure title—it was ranked one of the top manga of 2014 by Japanese bookstore employees, and one of its compiled volumes ranked in the top-selling manga volumes of 2016. The story of both the manga and the film begins when high-schooler Kako (played by Tao Tsuchiya) fills in for a friend at a group date party for adults, and she pretends to be 22 instead of her real age: 16. While she never intends to fall in love, she hits it off with Kota (Kazuya Kamenashi), who seems to like her back. That all changes when he finds out that she’s still in high school. Moral implications aside, Kota’s a policeman, and as a representative of the law, he can’t date a minor.

Image Source: 映画『PとJK』公式 on Twitter

In the film version of P&JK, Kako protects Kota from an assailant on the very same night they meet, and he proposes to her only hours later in the hospital. In film adaptations, things have to be compressed. I understand that. But by rushing the relationship of the leads to such a degree, it makes their bond hard to believe. Completely ignoring the source material, as a standalone movie, it doesn’t make much sense.

There is an obvious lack of focus put on the romance between Kako and Kota despite this being a romance flick. Instead, the film focuses more on things like Kota getting Kako’s father’s permission to marry her, Kako’s classmate Okami, as well as a completely original, film-only plot that only served to take up precious time that was really needed to expand the romance between our leads. There is a lack of attachment to the couple when the film reaches its climax because the lack of time they’ve actually spent together.

And that’s too bad, because the lovey-dovey scenes the two do have together are heartwarming. Seeing Kako try to spruce up her new husband’s lonely, giant mansion (how did he pay for that place on a policeman’s salary?) and him trying to deal with the fantasies she has of married life are really cute. The scene in which he comes home tired from work only to sit down on a couch filled to the edges with stuffed animals is pretty darn adorable.

Image Source: 映画『PとJK』公式 on Twitter

It’s just a shame that Kako (seen above) doesn’t exactly stay as a likable heroine she starts as. During the first half of the film, she’s a normal, cheery, humorous high school girl with dreams of romance with her true love. She opens up to the school delinquent Okami despite him injuring her before and her friends telling her not to talk to him. But suddenly, as we reach the second half, she begins to complain constantly about how she wants Kota not to be a police officer and not put his life on the line—wanting him to take better care of himself, in turn denying his identity.

As soon as the illusion of an “always happy married life” starts to not be as perfect as she expected, she leaves his side, and it’s quite abrupt considering how cheerful and loving she was during the first half. Even though she apologizes for her actions at the end of the film, it’s hard to redeem her as a character after all she has done to Kota.

Image Source: 映画『PとJK』公式 on Twitter

The biggest strength this film has is, without a doubt, its beautiful shooting locations. Whether it be Kota’s classic Japanese house, the seaside, the rustic school, or Kako’s parents’ modern apartment, every shooting location is fresh and gorgeous. Though wideshots are a bit overused to show off this beauty, the lighting and colors are bright and happy, and almost remind me of the pastel ones used in the original manga’s covers and color pages.

Image Source: 映画『PとJK』公式 on Twitter

Despite my qualms with the character, Tsuchiya’s portrayal of Kako is very cute—I especially liked the moments early on in the movie when she was imagining being in romantic moments with her sweetheart, getting so excited that she crab walked on her bed. She makes the dreaminess of the character cute, but convincing. Mahiro Takasugi (seen above) also fits the character of Okami very well, and plays the role of the delinquent with a soft side very convincingly. While Okami takes away lots of the time that should have been dedicated to the couple, Takasugi made his character so enjoyable with his switch between tough bad guy and sweet dude that I felt myself more invested in his character than anyone else’s.

Overall, P&JK begins strongly with heartwarming moments, but lacks the character development and substance to hold the attention of romance fans by the end. Despite this, it is a very visually enticing film.

The live-action P&JK movie opened in Japan on March 25. There is no word on an international release. The P&JK manga has not been licensed for English release.

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