Tori Girl (Bird Girl) is a Japanese movie about Yukina, a freshman at a science university who gets pulled into in the school’s human-powered flight club because of a cute guy.
On orientation day, Yukina rides the bus surrounded by nerdy-looking guys in glasses and plaid shirts. Feeling like there is no point in going to this school if that is the only option for a boyfriend, she gets off the bus in disgust. Then someone else zooms past her on a bike, and without seeing his face, she knows he is awesome. Immediately she perks up; life might not be in vain after all!
In class, she meets Kazumi, one of the few other women students, and you should see how dismissive they both are about nerds in glasses! Kazumi is interested in checking out the human-powered flight club. There they meet Kei, apparently, the only male student who is considered cute. You get the feeling that Kazumi knew about him already, but she doesn’t let on, and Yukina falls for him at once. They both overlook the fact that he is wearing glasses like all the others. Kei is one of the pilots from last year and gets Yukina to try out also.
The story is based on the Birdman Rally that is held every summer at Lake Biwa in Japan. University students from all over the country build aircraft that are powered only by the people riding in them. They see how far they can fly over the lake, and it is no easy feat; sometimes, they collapse right off the pier. Contestants are followed by safety officials in boats and on jet-skis, who pull the pilots and planes out of the water.
The school’s plane is designed to be pedaled like a bike, and the club is looking for good cyclists. Yukina makes the team since she rode a bike 12 miles to high school and back every day for three years. This prompts Kazumi to ask if she lived in Africa! Kazumi gets on the club’s PR team and shows up everywhere, taking pictures.
The other pilot from last year is Sakaba, who Kei wants on the team again. He is definitely the strongest cyclist, but he doesn’t want to be involved anymore because he didn’t like crashing into the water. Kei takes Yukina to meet Sakaba and tells him she is the new pilot, knowing he would be incensed to have a girl chosen over him.
The pilots train together on bikes. Sakaba is usually surly, calling Yukina out for being short and making her jump to look taller. In fact, they argue all the time, and the other club members think they shouldn’t be pilots together. Kazumi, however, notices that they work together better when they are bickering.
This is somewhat like an underdog sports story, except almost all of the characters are geeks. There are problems like injuries and broken plane parts that happen during practice runs, and there is a competition between three pilots for a two-person vehicle. We get some romance, although the focus is more on friendship. But we do get confessions, not all of which are accepted.
This is a fun show and very interesting. The acting is good, and there’s none of that slapstick style that you often see in Japanese comedies. It’s quite family-friendly except for a back view of someone with dropped pants and a couple of instances of flipping the bird. (I wondered if that was intended as a joke, considering the title of the show.) Other than that, it’s a light watch and quite cheerful. Let us know if you like it!
Until the next Japanese movie,
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi