The sappy and satisfying teen rom-dram “The Quintessential Quintupluets Movie” stands out among this year’s bumper crop of movies based on popular Japanese anime series. Much like other recent anime crossover hits, like “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” and “One Piece Film: Red,” “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” primarily addresses its franchise’s established audience.
You either already know who’s who and what’s already happened prior to this movie’s events, or you’re likely to get pretty lost.
That kind of insular appeal might seem like a handicap for uninitiated viewers, but several anime franchise spinoffs have already dominated the Japanese box office and enjoyed weeks-long, nationwide releases in American chain theaters and multiplexes. “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” also has all of the melodramatic revelations and puppy-love intrigue of the preceding anime series, based on Negi Haruba’s manga comics.
Then again, “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” crams too much of everything into an oversized 136-minute special that mainly serves to wrap up the anime series’ loose narrative threads. This movie takes place right after the anime’s second season and answers a mystery that was left unresolved at the end of that season’s finale: Now that studious dream boyfriend-tutor Futaro Uesugi (voiced by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka) has helped the Nakano quintuplets to ace their senior year high school exams, which one will he marry?
Futaro’s relationship with the Nakano sisters has changed throughout the series as they’ve developed their personal interests, which in turn has helped them to develop as characters. He’s either clashed with or been chased by all five siblings, including the aggressive Nino (Ayana Taketatsu), who was initially very defensive around Futaro, or the kind, but introverted Itsuki (Inori Minase), who pursued Futaro during the show’s second season. Now everybody shares their feelings for each other during Futaro and the Nakanos’ final days as high schoolers.
Over the course of two seasons, the series’ writers have diligently rationalized the Nakanos’ generically idealized physical appearances, including backstories that involve the Nakanos’ dead mom Rena (Yuki Kyoka) and sentimental grandfather (Yutaka Nakano). A handful of main characters have also distinguished themselves during and now after the second season, especially Itsuki, an aspiring teacher who worries that she’s based too much of her life and personality on her mother, who was also a teacher.
Other members of the Nakano family remain fairly one-note and quirky even in this movie, as the Nakanos prepare to celebrate their final days as high-school seniors. Nino’s still loud and well-meaning while Ichika (Kana Hanazawa), an aspiring actress, now has a little perspective after achieving her professional goals. There are also some movie-specific twists, like the arrival and almost immediate dismissal of Mudo (Jiro Saito), the Nakano sisters’ estranged biological father. Yotsuba (Ayane Sakura) also expresses herself to Futaro in ways that will make sense only to her fans. The movie’s unexpected emphasis on Yotsuba can sometimes also be charming, given how hard the series and now the movie’s creators have worked to keep viewers guessing.
“The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” flies by at the same dizzying clip as the preceding anime series. The movie’s overlapping sub-plots also help to break up the monotony of watching a pile-on of overheated dialogue exchanges and pep talks, most of which are over-scored with swooning strings and lazy piano-bar pirouettes. Some of Futaro’s conversations with the Nakano girls tend to be more eventful than others, and as with many anime movie spinoffs, there’s too much emphasis on major plot twists and not enough on low-stakes hangout drama shenanigans.
Many of the Nakanos’ stories come to a too-neat conclusion in “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie”; most of these convoluted sub-plots also have their moments. Itsuki’s mommy issues get a welcome and satisfying resolution thanks to Mudo’s unexpected arrival. She delivers some blocky but enjoyable speeches — “If you loved us, you could tell us apart” — which will probably appeal to series fans after Futaro and Itsuka’s season two romance. Insecure middle sister Miku (Miku Ito) also makes some decisive steps towards pursuing a career as a chef, a passion that she’s struggled with since the first season.
It’s hard to know how uninitiated viewers will react to scenes where Miku tells Futaro that she’s forgoing college so that she can attend culinary school, or when Futaro helps Itsuki to finally accept her similarities to Rena — as long as that’s what she wants. The dialogue in these scenes remain clunky and sentimental, and the canned nature of these conversations sometimes diminishes their emotional impact.
Your feelings for Yotsuba and Futaro’s scenes might help you decide whether or not you’ll enjoy this movie, either as a series wrap-up or a stand-alone feature. Something as simple as the sound of wind on the soundtrack adds a certain poignancy during the best of these heart-to-heart conversations, moreso than other, more overt displays of emotion. If you like unabashedly corny teen romances, there’s a fair chance that the sheer too-much-ness of “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” will appeal to you.
“The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” opens in US theaters Dec. 2 via Crunchyroll.