O-tonari: the sounds from the other side of the wall

Satoshi is a photographer who would rather capture landscapes than the magazine models that he works with; Nanao a florist who dreams of going to France to learn from masters in her art. Although they’ve never met, each takes comfort from the sounds of daily living that come from the other side of the wall they share. However, that paper-thin wall also means that they inadvertently eavesdrop on somewhat more intimate details in each others’ lives. As a day of departure approaches, will their eyes ever meet…?

Knowing my interest in Japanese culture, a friend invited me to see this film when it was screened at my university last year. And as with many other Japanese stories, it left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

There is just something about Japanese stories that American filmmakers can never seem to replicate. I think it has to something to do with the manner that most Japanese people seem to have, a quiet, sensitive manner that I simply can’t imagine appearing in most American women, much less the men. (Not so sure about the British, because this tour guide I once encountered there gave me a similar impression, though intersped with the biting wit that I love; not to mention they certain can produce stories with a somewhat similar atmosphere, like Pride and Prejudice.) It’s not so much that I can’t imagine an American guy quietly trying to comfort a neighbour through a thin wall, but rather that I do not believe that most Americans – and even Australians – simply wouldn’t be interested in watching a scene along those lines without pulling some sort of face. The commentary on a few anime series over the last year only support that impression of mine.

Not to say that O-tonari (lit. ‘the gentleman/lady next door’) is perfect. At times, I felt that the coincidences were a little too convoluted, the developments of the school reunion in particular coming to mind. But one thing that the filmmakers accomplished very well, IMHO, was the ending. I’m not sure if others will feel the emotions I did (and elaborating on what those emotions were would pretty much involve giving the ending away), but O-tonari is certainly a film worth watching when you need a little reassurance in your life.

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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