REVIEW: Real (2013)

Koichi dives into the consciousness of his lover Atsumi in an effort to wake her up from a coma.

By Raymond Arcega
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Original Title: リアル ~完全なる
Year: 2013
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama, Thriller
Director: Kurosawa Kiyoshi

Atsumi (Ayase Haruka) and Koichi (Satoh Takeru) have been sweethearts since childhood. Atsumi has recently fallen into a coma because of a failed suicide attempt. With no real explanation physically as to why she’s trapped in a coma, it’s come to the conclusion that the problem must be mental. Thanks to a new technology called “sensing”, Koichi can dive into Atsumi’s consciousness and communicate with her, hoping to find out what’s wrong and how to bring her back.


She tells him that she refuses to wake up because of a writer’s block that has shaken up her self-confidence, and the only way that she can gain it back is if he finds a drawing of a plesiosaur that she drew for him when they were children. Koichi soon becomes entangled in a journey that takes him to a place where the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred, as well as the past and present.

Director Kurosawa Kiyoshi is no unknown in the realm of Japanese cinema. Many of his previous works have received much acclaim, including his horror films Pulse and Retribution. His most successful work, Tokyo Sonata, has moved the hearts of many audiences. He’s back with this film, Real – an adaptation of the novel A Perfect Day for Plesiosaur.


Satoh Takeru and Ayase Haruka are also two names that have made names for themselves over the years, and their performances are very charismatic. Both characters are ridden with pasts that are shrouded in mystery that slowly get revealed throughout the course of the film. That being said, one of the most interesting parts of the film is trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not, reflective of the characters themselves trying to discern reality from fantasy.

As hinted, the film takes a dip into the world of the surreal, utilizing many forms of symbolism to reflect on the nature of the characters. This is done a lot through the forms of haunting and twisted hallucinations that Satoh’s character Koichi experiences after he “senses” into Atsumi’s unconsciousness, and even the different locations in which scenes take place. In a way, the film feels like The Matrix, but without the cool action sequences and fights, instead adopting a dry and mysterious atmosphere as cloudy as the fog enveloping Atsumi’s unconsciousness. A great atmosphere for a film fit for its inviting premise.


According to director Kurosawa, about 70% of the film features content altered from the original novel, which is said to be a complex read. One of the changes made was a nice surprise that takes place in the middle of the film, which totally flips the story on its head. But, it’s both a good and bad deal. As far as the story is concerned, it makes an interesting turn of events. However, what we lose is a lot of Kurosawa’s trademark psychological horror-like atmosphere that was set so well in the beginning, shifting the story into one of childhood angst and drama.

While the film promised an interesting concept with its premise, it’s very hard to say with confidence that the piece lived up to it. Visually, it was stunning at times, yet iffy in others. Certain characters did things that were so sudden and unseeming of their personality that it became out of place, teasing plot developments that never happen. And as charismatic as the individual performances of the two leads were, it didn’t really feel like there was much of a romantic relationship between the two to salvage.


Real is definitely not one of Kurosawa’s greatest hits; far from it. It had potential to be an amazing story, but didn’t fully deliver. With all the star power featured in the film, Real turned out to be more of a letdown than a satisfying experience.

Watch this film…

…if you’re a fan of Satoh Takeru and/or Ayase Haruka, and want to see them do something they don’t usually do.

About the Author

Raymond Arcega


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