Starring: Fûka Koshiba, Tom Fujita, Hidetoshi Hoshida
Director: Mana Yasuda
Running Time: 89 mins
TUNA Girl is a Japanese film about a cheery but clumsy student who takes up a placement at a seaside tuna research facility, but struggles to fit in.
Yet another delightfully quirky but admittedly superficial Japanese comedy-drama, TUNA Girl has enough of the cheery fun to put a smile on your face, but doesn’t quite do such a good job with what is intended to be somewhat more of a touching, heartfelt story, lacking the screenplay to really hit home with some of its more tender emotion.
But let’s start on the bright side, with the fact, for all its quirks and oddities, there’s no denying that TUNA Girl is an irresistibly upbeat movie. Following a clumsy but endlessly cheery student as she negotiates a work placement in a tuna research facility that she’s hardly best suited for, the film does a great job at making you smile as it tells a story about persistence and finding your own voice, as we see her try hard to do her best for the organisation, no matter under what guise.
It’s a simple and potentially even cheesy main theme, but with a film that is so relentlessly happy, it’s difficult not to really enjoy it, and along with character development that follows somewhat of a predictable track, you can at least just sit back and relax with this movie.
Narratively, TUNA Girl isn’t quite so impressive, initially lacking the dramatic impetus in the face of its eternally cheery vibes, and ultimately failing to hit home with some of its more emotional themes. As much fun as it is to watch our leading lady power through all her struggles with her attitude, the film fails to really bring the same degree of enjoyability to other parts of the story, particularly when it comes to some rather underwhelming romantic story elements.
That’s not to say there’s no fun to be had away from the main character’s smiley attitude, as the movie also takes a fun-loving attitude to the scientific study of tuna. Okay, that doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but with its zany and quirky atmosphere, this film goes full speed ahead and introduces you to all manner of fun fish facts in a surprisingly entertaining way.
And finally, the lead performance from Fûka Koshiba is really lovely. Again, with not much of a screenplay underneath her, there isn’t much to really show off in her performance, but she goes all out with her character’s irresistibly cheery attitude, and brings a delightful brand of energy to the film, making it immensely more entertaining than likely would have been the case without her.
Overall, TUNA Girl isn’t the world’s most impressive film. Lacking a genuinely engrossing narrative and missing the mark with some of its more emotional themes, it’s not a film that will grab you from start to finish. However, with a relentlessly happy attitude, some good humour and a delightful lead performance, it still does more than enough to put a smile on your face right the way through, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3.