Poison Berry in my Brain / 脳内ポイズンベリー / Nounai Poison Berry (2015)
Director: Yuichi Sato
Screenplay: Tomoko Aizawa, Setona Mizushiro
Cast: Yoko Maki, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Yuki Furukawa, Songha, Yo Yoshida
I guess I could start this review by listing every brain related pun I can think of but instead I’ll just say that this is not only a funny film but possibly the most scientifically accurate portrayal of what happens in the brain. In particular what happens when one is in love. Based on a manga (Heartbroken Chocolatier), the story centers on Sakurai, a 30 year old woman whose decisions are made by a five member committee that reside in her head. The members are Yoshida (The chairman, main speaker and initiator of meetings), Ishibashi (An optimistic man), Ikeda (A pessimistic woman), Hatoko (An impulsive child) and Kishi (The note-taker who retrieves past memories). Sakurai falls hard for Saotome, a much younger 23 year old man but soon another prospect arrives in nice guy, Ochi.
This is your classic love triangle but it’s in the details or in the head that defines this romantic comedy and makes it stand out from the countless others out there. The film is very funny at times and a lot of that is due to the interaction of the members, particularly when someone other than Yoshida speaks for Sakurai. With the exception of Yoshida and Kishi, each member clearly reflects a different facet of Sakurai’s emotions. What happens in Sakurai’s brain when regular relationship stuff occurs is rather exaggerated yet totally logical in a way. When she cries, it rains inside her head, if she’s pushed or knocked down, an earthquake occurs. A mysterious sixth member (portrayed by Yoko Maki) also appears at a few moments. The members are mostly seen inside a room but there is an “outside” so the speak and when this is shown CGI often used but it comes off looking very poor and cheap. That is my only real criticism of the film and it’s minor at that.
Yoko Maki performs wonderfully as Sakurai. In past films, I’ve seen her more as a cold or serious character but here she exudes charm and clueless awkwardness very well. The other actors who are her love interests hold their own very well. Yuki Furukawa’s character is seen more and easily exudes an attractive magnetism as Saotome but does well portraying some of his insecurities. The main characters have emotional depth and you do feel sad for each of them at different points in the story. Their situations and emotions are realistic and ones which most will be able to relate to and likely have experienced. As romantic comedies go this one is both funny and smart. I do not hesitate to give this a full recommendation.
On a side note, there was a great live performance by two musicians, a violinist and keyboardist whose names I forget. Their group name is Projet Gensei. They played various anime theme songs, which I didn’t recognize since I don’t watch anime, but I enjoyed the music a lot. The group will be performing at Matsuri Japon on Saturday, August 15.
Seen in the theatre at Fantasia 2015