REVIEW: ‘Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko’ Offers Vulnerability and Vibrancy

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko - But Why Tho

Balancing vulnerability and joy is a tough task, and Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko does this brilliantly. Animated by STUDIO4°C and directed by Ayumu Watanabe, Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko is a heartwarming and moving dramedy that uses the whimsy of magical realism to tell a story about family and belonging.

Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko is about an unconventional family and the bonds that they share in their sleepy seaside town. The family in question is the brash and jubilant single mother Nikuko. She’s well-known for her bold spirit, being everyone’s friend, and well, her appearance. But her daughter Kikuko is the exact opposite.

Pensive and imaginative, Kikuko just wants to be normal, to fit in, and her mother’s embarrassment is keeping her from that. Kikuko navigates the everyday social dramas of middle school, a crush, bullies, and balancing her need to be normal with her mother’s push to be in love with being yourself. While living in the harbor is peaceful, a shocking revelation from the past threatens to uproot the pair’s tender relationship.

Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko is vibrant and joyous while also being vulnerable and emotional. The film balances melancholy with joy both visually and narratively, weaving together Nikuko and Kikuko. On the outside, Nikuko is as bright as can be, with yellows and pinks separating her from the crowd. Kikuko, on the other hand, is awash in grays and neutrals, her light skin the only feature keeping her from blending into the background. As their story evolves, the two begin to cross a bridge to each other, embracing the love that binds them by exploring the parts of each other that are uncomfortable.

While the film’s narrative storytelling is wonderful, with poignant dialogue about the importance of the family you choose and the bonds between a mother and daughter, it’s the animation that seals the deal for me as a viewer. It’s one thing to balance emotional queues in dialogue, but it’s another to bring it to life visually. Throughout the film, Kikuko’s scenes are dulled, using more neutral tones both in her design and how the environments are presented, shadowed, or isolated. In contrast, Nikuko’s scenes are as vibrant as the character situated in them. When these two elements meet, specifically in the film’s emotional third act, it peels back Nikuko’s layers, and that magic happens.

You see, it’s easy to resign Nikuko into the tropey joyous fat character. The world around Nikuko is constantly cruel, and her kindness makes the ridicule she faces from the world around her and her daughter hard to carry as a viewer. At first, Nikuko is nothing but sunshine, unaware of how uncomfortable her daughter feels or the judgment of those around her, or so it seems. The meanness that surrounds Nikuko is difficult, and the comedy that surrounds her is more depressing in a vibrant casing than funny. But the film manages to push beyond this.

In the film’s third act, the color almost drops out as the twist in their relationship is revealed, and Nikuko’s fear and loneliness come into full focus. She is joy, but she also holds a depth of trauma that she has dedicated herself to keep away from her daughter. As the past unravels and the future becomes clear, it’s how the two blend their personalities and individuality with respect and love that shines.

Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko hits hard. It’s a beautiful look at untraditional family units, the choices we make, and the love that binds us to those around us. It’s about learning how to understand instead of judge and how to let people in. It runs a full spectrum of emotions that’s largest flaw is that I wish I had gotten more time in the world that Director Watanabe and STUDIO4°C  have created.

Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko was released in the United States on June 3, 2022.


Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko hits hard. It’s a beautiful look at untraditional family units, the choices we make, and the love that binds us to those around us. It’s about learning how to understand instead of judge and how to let people in.