Shunji made his first version of this film and based on his own novel,
in China in 2018 (read more about this Chinese film on my
Japanese film page 1) and i liked this version too and maybe especially
the great Zhou Xun (one
of my favourite Chinese actresses)
in the main role as the sister going to the school reunion (Zhou Xun
I thought the Chinese Last Letter to be just a little
bit too melodramatic and sentimental, or mainstream maybe to suit my
it was pretty good still. Now after watching this second version of
his "Last Letter" the Japanese one, i found it to be even
sentimental and with too sugary piano music from Takeshi Kobayashi (the
great Takeshi Kobayashi, who provided Iwai with some
fantastic soundtracks as i.a. the magic music to masterpieces "All
About Lily Chou-Chou" and "Swallowtail Butterfly") i'm
but sugary piano fragments is NOT needed to underscore the already sentimental
Like the Chinese version "Last Letter" feels like a mix of
"Soul Mate (Qi yue yu an sheng)" and Iwai's early 1990's Hit
Which film version do i like the most ? 2nd "Last
Letter" starts in a light-hearted almost comical tone, and then
to turn into melo-
drama and maybe Shunji Iwai should've stuck with one style (and preferably
a slightly comical one as the Chinese film already
have been melodramatic. The films are very much alike but maybe, just
maybe the Japanese version feels more fluid, and the girls
playing the double roles - Suzu Hirose and Nana Mori (who also sings
the end credits song "Kaeru no Uta") were very good and
felt natural in their performances, much alive, and Shunji Iwai is known
for his fine work with young actors, and he really seems
to like working with them. Yes, i know, Zhang Zifeng was great also
in the Chinese version as one of the sisters.
Takako Matsu as Yuri Kishibeno posting one of her letters.
Matsu that 22 years ago played the lead in Shunji Iwai's delightful
whimsical 1998 "April Story" where she played a student coming
from the northern island of Hokkaido.
The Japanese "Last Letter" :
The film starts with the funeral of Misaki
Tono who has died only 44 years old. Her sister Yuri
Kishibeno (Matsu) is married
Manga illustrator (Hideako Anno) and has two children, a young son and
a teenage daughter, Soyoka
(Nana Mori in a double role).
Soyoka decides to stay with her friend, her cousin Ayumi
(Suzu Hirose, also in a double role) the daughter of Misaki Tono, over
the summer. Ayumi handles over a letter sent to Misaki to Yuri, and
it's about a High School reunion meeting after 25 years.
Yuri goes to the school reunion to tell Misaki's classmates that Misaki
is dead but somehow can't say it, and everyone there thinks
she's Misaki. When she leaves a man from the meeting is following her,
and he's novelist Kyoshiro Otosaka (Masaharu
a man that tells her he's always loved her - Misaki, and still is. She
doesn't tell him that she's Misaki's sister.
They exchange contact info and he then starts sending
her mobile phone messages and old time letters. There are lots and lots
letters written in this film. Dear Misaki .... Dear Kyoshiro .... Dear
Misaki .... and so on. She writes back to him.
Yuri's husband gets very annoyed when he sees her messages, she explains
why, but he "punishes" her by inviting his mother to
stay for a week and by getting two enormous dogs, Irish Wolfhounds ....
for Her to take care of. So far in the film Japanese "Last
Letter" has a decidely more comical tone than the Chinese "Last
Then also the girls starts writing back to Kyoshiro as Misaki.
Then comes The Flashback. How Kyoshiro first met Yuri
in High School, Yuri who was Misaki's younger sister, and how he fell
love with beautiful Misaki at the moment he saw her for the first time.
He started writing her love letters which he gave to Yuri to
give to her big sister. Cruel as Yuri (Nana Mori) was in love with Kyoshiro
and he didn't notice, and Misaki wasn't in love with him.
The Mystery of the resemblance ?
As mentioned this high school triangle drama resembles very much the
Chinese 2016 film "Soul Mate" (Qi yue yu an sheng) a film
based on a serialized web novel written by Li Jie AKA Ann Baobei or
Annie Baby, where Shunji Iwai has based his Last Letter
films on his own novel. So .... who has ripped who ? Has Li Jie ripped
Iwai or has Iwai ripped Li Jie ?
I haven't been able to find out who's writing came first ?
The film is presented in widescreen (ratio not stated)
and with japanese audio Dolby True HD 5.1 or Dolby Digital EX with english
subtitles, only a trailer as extra. This is a REGION A bluray edition