La Chance smiles at Madame Nikuko: a tender and touching mother / daughter story through…

The new film by Ayumu Watanabe, the director of Children of the Sea is released this Wednesday at the cinema. Everything you need to know about the touching Luck smiles on Mrs. Nikuko.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT ?

Nikuko is a plump and proud single mother, full of desire and zest for life – a real outrage to Japanese patriarchal culture! She likes to eat, joke, and has a weakness for men who are not always worth it. After tossing around her daughter Kikurin for half her life, she settles in a small fishing village and finds a job in a traditional restaurant. Kikurin doesn’t want to look like her mother, and her relationship with Nikuko isn’t always easy. Until the day when a secret from the past resurfaces.

Three years after brilliantly adapting children of the seathe Japanese director Ayumu Watanabe comes back with Luck smiles on Mrs. Nikukoadaptation of the novel by Kanako Nishito whom we also owe the novel Saraba for which she won the 152nd Naoki Prize, which rewards the best works of Japanese popular literature.

La Chance smiles at Madame Nikuko portrays a mother like no other and her teenage daughter. The age when one is not always tender with one’s parents.

The young Kikurin, narrator of the story, seems to see only the faults of this extravagant and naive mother, who loves food and bad boys too much. She also imagines her mother as a meat woman who explodes every time she thinks about food.

The film gradually unveils the relationship of this tender mother-daughter duo and deals with the transition to adulthood: rivalries at school, the first emotions, relationships with the body, the first periods, the feeling of embarrassment and of shame that parents can sometimes make us feel…

With a lot of benevolence, the film presents Nikuko’s story little by little and makes the character more and more touching and endearing. The highlight being the revelation of the secret that binds these two beings.

La chance smiles at madame nikuko: a tender and touching mother / daughter story through...
2021 MOVIZ/

A renowned technical team

Ayumu Watanabe began his career at Studio Mates in 1986, before moving to Shin-Ei Animation where he worked for television on anime series Doraemon. He also directs some episodes of the hit series Ace Attorney.

Recognition arrives with the 12-episode miniseries After the rain, broadcast by Prime Video. The latter continues with the series Komi is looking for his words, streaming on Netflix. Released in July 2019, children of the sea is his first feature film.

Luck smiles on Mrs. Nikuko is produced by the Japanese comedian and presenter Sanma Akashiyawho fell in love with this story and wanted to adapt it into a feature film.

The film is released under the banner of the 4°C studio, to which we owe Princess Arete by Sunao Katabuchi, The Animatrix (a Warner Bros co-production), Mind Game by Masaaki Yuasa (6 times awarded at the Fantasia International Film Festival) or even Bitter Concrete by Michael Arias.

Kenichi Konishi is the animation director. He cut his teeth at Ghibli, directing the animation of films My neighbors the Yamada, The Tale of Princess Kaguya or Tokyo Godfathers by Satoshi Kon. The latter has already collaborated with Ayumu Watanabe on Doraemon and Children of the Sea. His singular style and his technique (he uses paintbrushes and brushes) have a great impact on the Japanese animation industry.

La chance smiles at madame nikuko: a tender and touching mother / daughter story through...
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“A film that invites hope to exist”

Luck Smiles at Madame Nikuko mixes classic animation with more cartoonish moments, especially when Ninomiya, Kikurin’s friend, makes faces.

The director explains:I wanted to make the most of the freedom that animation provides and free myself from the classic framework imposed on the drawings. Because I think that this feeling of freedom makes it possible to overcome the tragedy of the content thanks to the charm of the characters.

Also, as Nikuko is the most caring and welcoming person there is, she constantly pulls the viewer along with her. My goal was for the latter to switch from the “a character like her doesn’t exist” stage to the “I wish she existed” stage. This is a film that invites hope to exist rather than a film that talks about existence.”

A feminist story

The feature film is adapted from the work of the novelist Kanako Nishi and features strong female characters, while the rare male characters (Sassan, the restaurant boss and the young Ninomiya) are secondary.

If the young Kikurin is discreet, serious and worries about what others may think, her mother, on the other hand, does not go unnoticed and seems carefree.

La chance smiles at madame nikuko: a tender and touching mother / daughter story through...
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It is rare to see this kind of character being the star of an animated film. The director states in the film’s press kit: “I think it’s the first time that such an out-of-the-ordinary character has starred in a Japanese animated film. If the viewer is content to observe Nikuko’s figure, it can indeed make the film less appealing. But there is an important meaning to this. Where is the true value of a person? Where is true love hidden? That’s what Nikuko teaches us. And if at the beginning of the film, there is a chance that you will mock his physique, I am sure that at the end you will love him deeply.

Because this extravagant, spontaneous and greedy woman has her heart on her sleeve, her naivety makes her a touching character that we want to protect and love.

The feature film also deals with important subjects such as the transition to adulthood and the first period. A theme very little discussed in animation cinema (the latest Pixar film, Red alert refers to it).

This immersion in the intimate life of these two women takes on its full extent in a scene which recounts Nikiko’s youth. We then understand all the generosity and benevolence of the character.

The filmmaker chose to place this scene 20 minutes before the end of the film in order to “dto avoid an overly classic conclusion and to create something new that would have the contradictory effect of offering the viewer the pleasure of learning more through cleverly hidden details, while allowing the gradual assimilation of this shock of the revelation“.

Watanabe adds:

Through all of this, I wanted to portray the unconscious heritage between parents and children that is hidden in everyday acts. By assembling these little things to which we normally pay little attention, the film chooses to get as close as possible to the reality of this relationship.

La chance smiles at madame nikuko: a tender and touching mother / daughter story through...
2021 MOVIZ/

Wink at Totoro

On several occasions, Kikurin compares his mother to Totoro, the hero of the feature filmHayao Miyazaki, My Neighbor Totoro. Ayumu Watanabe explains that he is a big fan of Ghibli, during the presentation of the preliminary drawings the link between Nikuko and Totoro then seemed obvious to him.

He underlines : “In the scene at the bus stop in front of the shrine: I tried to make Nikuko’s own fantasy elements a bit more familiar by putting them under the sign of deja vu. In the awakening scene, at the beginning: I wanted one or two spectators in the room to stifle a little laughter when they noticed the reference, nothing more.

Shinji Kimurathe artistic director of the film, explains that he was inspired by a scene inspired by My Neighbor Totoro: “the one where Nikuko and Kikurin stand next to each other at the bus stop. This is the Totoro bus stop scene that I drew myself over 30 years ago. It was a little moment of nostalgia that made me happy.”

La Chance smiles at Madame Nikko, released in theaters this Wednesday, June 8.

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