「 Little Forest 」 Ichiko’s Life in Komori All Through the Four Seasons

A lot of shows appeal to us because in one way or another, we identify with one or some of the elements of the shows. Usually, it’s with the characters. Either in their way of thinking, the circumstances they have been through or is undergoing, their relationships with other people, and some more others. At times, it’s enjoyable to watch something you’ll be able to relate to. For me, Little Forest is one of those shows.

Ichiko  lived in a big city, but goes back to her small hometown Komori, located on a mountain in the Tohoku region. She is self-sufficient. Ichiko gains energy living among nature and eating foods she makes from seasonal ingredients. (source: asianwiki)

Based on the manga series of the same title by Igarashi Daisuke, Little Forest is a four-part film with the Summer & Autumn part released on August 30, 2014 while the Winter & Spring part released on February 14, 2015. Mori Junichi, the man who directed Laundry and Gravity’s Clown, is the writer-director of this movie.

Little Forest is a relaxing, simple film. It shows the life of Ichiko (Hashimoto Ai) who lives in Komori, a small community in a village somewhere in Tohoku region. Her house  is surrounded by the stream, forest, and fields. We follow her as she plow through their field to tend for the crops she works hard to raise, chop firewoods, gather fruits and preserve them, cook different meals using the ingredients found on the field and around the house while she adapt to the particular season, and other everyday life in a humble village. She makes sauces akin to Worcestershire, hazelnut spreads like Nutella, potato breads, and a lot more dishes. It’s even shown on screen if it’s already the 3rd or 5th dish presented!

Ichiko is shown frying, grilling, kneading doughs, cutting vegetables, making sake (alcohol), and a whole lot more. The proportions may not be indicated, but the preparation for making the dishes are shown, so it is effective in making the viewers salivate. Not good to watch when you’re hungry! Even if I already ate when I watched the films and even if I have no idea what the actual food tastes like, I still got hungry because she (and at times, Kikko as well) looks like she’s really enjoying the food.

Aside from Ichiko, there are Kikko (Matsuoka Mayu) and Yuta (Miura Takahiro) who are her friends who eat with her at times, especially Kikko. There are also times when Ichiko’s mother (Kirishima Karen) is shown, usually cooking.

My initial motivation for watching the film is Matsuoka Mayu. I just love that adorable girl because she’s not just a pretty face; she’s a good actress, too! Hashimoto Ai‘s roles lean more on the serious side (I wish she would venture on to act other types of characters), so I had no doubts she could pull of the character when I first saw the trailers. I was pleasantly surprised by Miura Takahiro, too! He is a new face to me, but he left a good impression. He looked so natural when acting, as if he’s been living in that town for years. And this goes the same for the two girls and the other actors.

Honestly, at first, I thought it would bore me, but I was drawn in it. I was captured by the cinematography and the simple living it portrays. I’m really a sucker for anything related to agriculture or nature (thus, my love for Gin no Saji [manga and anime] and Wood Job!) because I myself live in a province where there are a lot of rice fields around. My mother’s family, my grandparents, are also living near the mountains (where there’s no electricity and you’ve got to fetch water on the stream!) so I got to experience chopping firewood, planting corns, and the like. I’m also studying in a campus of a national university situated near the foot of a mountain and near a rice research institute. So yes, I got attracted to it because it all feels so refreshingly familiar.

Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 12.19.39 AM

I totally have a girl crush on Matsuoka Mayu!

Some people may find the movie boring, though, as it isn’t a film for everybody. Little Forest is like a documentary on the life of Ichiko in Komori for four seasons. We can say that there’s no plot, as there’s no conflict to resolve. The problems she encounter are wilted plants, failed cooking attempts (not many), broken lightbulbs, and just… some minor difficulties you can encounter in life. The issue of her mother isn’t really explored that much, though we get to know what she decided to do for her life. We also get to see what happens to Ichiko and others after five years, so there are some definite changes.

The movie features lots of beautiful shots of the place. Even the way the food are prepared is shot well to make them appetizing to the viewers. I liked how there are transitions like those on the GIFs above where the screen is halved, third, or quartered before the whole of the following sequence is shown.

Another beautiful part of the movie is its music. The sound of nature, like the crickets or water from the stream, is at times accompanied by a simple, beautiful music in the background. The ending songs are sang by FLOWER FLOWER (YUI‘s band) because they are commissioned to do four songs, appropriating the themes based on the seasons. For me, they did well expressing the particular season’s feels through their music.

If I were to describe Little Forest in two words, those would be ‘simple’ and ‘beautiful’. But, yes, it’s not for everyone, or at least not for the mainstream audience? Anyhow, I hope more will at least attempt to watch this. I bet there are going to be some who’ll check it out once the Korean adaptation comes out, though.


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