Wedding High (2022) by Akiko Oku

As Haruka (Nagisa Sekimizu) and Akihito (Tomoya Nakamura) prepare for their wedding day, many of the guests are also working hard to ensure things go without a hitch. The young couple set about organizing their big day; inviting old friends, family and colleagues to join them. These include Shinji Souma (Akiyoshi Nakao), a film-maker who sees a chance in their wedding video to create a masterpiece of cinema; Akihito’s boss Toshihiko Zaitsu (Katsumi Takahashi), whose speech on behalf of the groom is an opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of his subordinates; Haruka’s boss Inoue (Sarutoki Minagawa), who will not allow himself to be outdone comedically in his own speech; friends who plan to perform; and Haruka’s ex-boyfriend Yuya (Takanori Iwata) who sets off to interrupt the ceremony with his own confession of love. Meanwhile, wedding planner Nakagoshi (Ryoko Shinohara) tries to keep things on schedule while keeping everyone happy.

“Wedding High”, written by comedian Bakarhythm (Hidetomo Masuno) and directed by Akiko Oku, is a raucous comedy set around a wedding reception. It plays out as an anthology of shorts with the characters overlapping one another at the event. In this way it keeps up a quick-fire of comedy as the various guests attempt to give their all to make it a special occasion. The use of flashbacks, voice-over, and showing events from different perspectives ensure that there is never a dull moment. The final thirty minutes of the film show almost an entirely separate story woven through the main action, and it is fun to see how things come together, tying up unexplained moments from earlier. The large cast, with a few exceptional comic performers, do a fantastic job, giving the sense of a real wedding with different personalities coming together, some more serious and some less so.

A feel-good comedy showing the stress and excitement surrounding a wedding reception. Anyone who has attended such an event will be familiar with elements such as the speeches, cake-cutting, changes of dress, and attempts to make sure that everyone feels involved and the film does a great job of showing this. The seriousness with whcih Zaitsu and Inoue take their speeches on behalf of the groom and bride are a particular highlight. Well worth a watch if you’re looking for something light-hearted with a great sense of community and fun.

Jimmy (2018)

A dramatization of the early career of Jimmy Onishi, a popular comedian and painter. An early talent for baseball ends in ignominy when young Hideaki Onishi (Akiyoshi Nakao) is dropped from the high-school team. Despite being a great player his lack of intelligence leaves him unable to understand or calculate the hand signals from his coach. His underwhelming academic skills see him leaving school having failed every subject and joining the Yoshida theatre, where he is employed as a sort of gofer for the comedians. After an encounter with Sanma Akashiya (Tetsuji Tamayama), one of the theatre’s top performers, he is brought into their circle where his stupidity turns out to be a boon, making him naturally funny and an indispensable member of the cast. Jimmy has no interest in becoming a comedian, but soon finds himself on stage performing. Lacking any other discernible career options, Sanma decides this might be the best for him. His life takes a second unusual turn however when he’s asked to produce an amusingly bad painting for a television show sketch. His work ends up being highly valued and he finds himself with a new life as a painter.

Fans of Jimmy Onishi will find a lot to enjoy in seeing how this unlikely star made his way onto television. It is hard to know exactly what is true and false as the drama is somewhere between a sitcom and a biopic, with many scenes played for laughs (usually at Jimmy’s expense). The show was produced by Sanma Akashiya, with the roles played by actors. Jimmy, played by Akiyoshi Nakao, often appears more like a caricature, cartoonishly idiotic and devoid of self-awareness. The same is true of Mr. Okure (Seiji Rokaku), while other characters, including Sanma are portrayed with more depth. Through the silliness the show manages to be genuinely moving at times, particularly in the heart-to-hearts between Sanma and Jimmy when he tells him about being bullied, or when Sanma is giving him life and career advice. It is clear that their relationship is something special and this is also apparent when the real people appear on screen. Each episode is bookended by a short conversation between Sanma and Jimmy. Being honest, these sections are usually funnier than the show itself, stripped of the clowning of the actors. It is more amusing to hear them tell these stories (I guess that’s to be expected given they are practiced comedians) than to watch the parody version of the show. They usually explain how close to reality the episodes are and you can feel the warmth between them. Overall, an enjoyable comi-drama detailing the unexpected and incredible rise to stardom of an unwitting and often unwilling buffoon.