Actress Mio Imada and actor Ren Meguro’s protagonists may be living in a fantasy world in their new action film, As Long As We Both Shall Live, but that doesn’t mean they have to give up on their real-world dreams. The characters are fighting both human and supernatural enemies in the romantic drama to not only survive, but also find and keep the true love and acceptance they’ve long for all their lives.
The historical Japanese movie, which is based on the popular light novel and manga series My Happy Marriage by Akumi Agitogi, was written by Tomoe Kanno. The franchise’s live-action screen adaption, which accompanies an anime television show that premiered last month, was directed by Ayuko Tsukahara.
Set in a fantastical version of 19th-century Japan, As Long As We Both Shall Live follows Miyo (Imada), the daughter of a loveless, arranged married couple, as she’s ostracized from her family following the untimely death of her mother. As a part of the respected Saimori clan, her father remarried when she was a child, to continue the family’s tradition of using their supernatural talents to protect humankind from demonic entities called “Aberrations.”
Miyo is shunned from not only her father, but also her stepmother and golden-child stepsister for being born without any powers. As a result, she’s reduced to servitude by her abusive family until she turns 19, when she’s betrothed to a ruthless military commander, Kiyoka Kudo (Ren Meguro of the J-pop band Snow Man).
The military officer’s previous fiancées all fled within three days of their engagement. But Miyo is determined to stay with her husband-to-be, who’s the heir of the fearsome Kudo family, and is reportedly cold and cruel. The bride-to-be has accepted her fate, after learning to live with the abuse from her family when she was a child, and the fact that she has no where else to go.
Against all expectations, however, Miyo soon discovers that her fiancé is far from the tyrant he’s rumored to be, as he treats her with grace and kindness. However, Miyo’s seemingly happy ending is soon put into peril when a new supernatural threat looms over the city, and Kiyoka must join the fight before their love can fully blossom.
The historical romantic drama is anchored in part by the stellar, emotionally gripping performances of its lead actress and actor. Imada delivers a touching performance as Miyo by highlighting her refusal to stop believing in a better future for herself. The actress also maintains the gentle kindness and respect that’s expected of her by her family, peers and society.
Meguro, meanwhile, effortlessly captures Kiyoka’s alluring but stern personality and fierce leadership abilities. Despite the actor’s commanding portrayal of the military officer, Tsukahara’s meticulous direction allows Imada to truly shine in the film’s refreshing feminine point of view.
Imada and Meguro’s captivating portrayals of the newly engaged protagonists are bolstered by As Long As We Both Shall Live‘s dazzling visuals. The drama’s costume designer, Masae Miyamoto, assisted in chronicling Miyo’s physical and emotional transformation throughout the movie.
Upon meeting Kiyoka and realizing that he appreciates her ability to be completely honest with him while also being respectful of their roles, Miyo gains more confidence in the way she presents herself, both physically and emotionally. As she becomes more comfortable in her new role as Kiyoka’s fiancée, Miyamoto outfits in bright pinks and floral prints, much like the character’s mother wore during their time together. Forgoing the plain white kimonos she dressed in while serving her family for glitzier and more fashionable and colorful styes, Miyo showed her comfort in her new role in part through her new outfit choices.
As Long As We Both Shall Live also uses its settings to its advantage in telling its story. Shot in some of Japan’s most picturesque natural locations, the settings emphasize the luxury of the higher class that Miyo and Kiyoka were born into and raised in.
The film’s overall production design, particularly its art direction by Eri Sakushima and set decoration by Hiroaki Horiguchi, interweave the lavish settings of the protagonists’ lives with their well-defined personalities and backstories. From the humble fortitude of Kiyoka’s home to the bureaucratic, impersonal building where the military commander works and the grand estate that the Saimori family lives on, each location offers a visual cue into the personalities of the characters who live and work there.
The epic tale of feminist empowerment and unlikely romance is not only infused with stunningly reflective locations, but also high-stakes action sequences and visual effects. As Long As We Both Shall Live‘s cinematographer, Shoji Ehara, captures every detail of the visuals.
That precision draws attention to the intimate nature of the fight sequences and battles that Kiyoka leads his fellow military officers into. They fight to not only protect Miyo from the continued condemnation her family, but also all of their fellow citizens from the Aberrations that have been mysteriously unleashed upon them.
The drama also thrives on the visual effects that that amplify the physical and emotional supernatural powers the characters possess. For instance, Kiyoka uses his to ability to create electrifying fire for even the most mundane activities to help make Miyo happy, such as heating up the water for her bath. But the fire is even more captivating when he uses it to stop his enemies from advancing during their intense fight sequences against each other.
Overall, the stunning visual effects add to As Long As We Both Shall Live‘s illusion that the protagonists are using their supernatural powers to fight back against the people – and entities – that are trying to harm them.
The fantasy world have never been as charming, glamorous and provocative as it is in Tsukahara’s new historical action movie. The romantic drama not only features commanding, relatable performances from both Imada and Meguro, but also captivating visuals, from its costumes to production design, stunts and CG effects. Overall, As Long As We Both Shall Live is an overall emotionally gratifying and visually stunning introduction to one of Japan’s most exciting up-and-coming multi-media franchises.
As Long As We Both Shall Live is having its Quebec Premiere in the Selection 2023 category of the Fantasia International Film Festival this Tuesday, August 8.
Final Grade : A-
Here’s the trailer of the film.