The latest GKids Films release, Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko, is set to arrive on home video from Shout! Factory with a host of special features that celebrate the last adaptation of author Kanako Nishi’s work. In this case, the adaptation is handled by Children of the Sea (2019) director Ayumu Watanabe via animation house STUDIO 4°C (Poupelle of Chimney Town). Those familiar with Watanabe’s Children of the Sea understand his experienced hand with telling coming of age stories with a magical bend. Though such enchantment is more understated in Lady Nikuko, offering splashes of magical realism versus entire sections, the film as a whole retains a wonder and magic through its exploration of relationships.
As a small child, Kikuko moved from town to town, picking up and leaving each time her mother, Nikuko (Shinobu Ôtake), would mistake a kind heart for a bad deal. By the time she reached the age of 11, Kikuko (Cocomi) and her mother would find shelter in a sea-side town, her mother working in a local restaurant while Kikuko went to school. Things seem tough enough for Kikuko has she tries to fit in, but things grow harder when a long-kept secret comes to the surface.
If you’re interested in learning about Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko without spoilers, I recommend heading to the initial theatrical review. Moving forward, there may be spoiler details included.
The description for Lady Nikuko is a tiny bit of a bait-and-switch as the “secret” isn’t addressed until almost the literal end of the film, and it’s resolved quite quickly. In fact, much like Kikuko’s reaction, breadcrumbs were spread throughout the film, though likely masked by Nikuko’s infectious optimism. The secret? Kikuko is adopted, her mother being a former close friend of Nikuko. The entire film different characters proclaim how different the two are, partially related to their physical differences (Kikuko slim, Nikuko not), but mostly regarding their personalities. It’s not too strange for a child to develop differently from their parents, it happens all the time. It’s just that, in this case, the proclamations from friends, classmates, and fellow citizens rings true. The reason to mention this is that, if one does consider this revelation a big deal, the film rushes through it toward the climax, Kikuko acknowledging Nikuko’s admission as past knowledge and then the film ends. Not abruptly, mind you, but with such speed that one wonders why this was ever considered such a large secret (based on the plot description) to begin with. The entire film is from Kikuko’s perspective and the narrative, as it meanders from one thing to the next, is centered on Kikuko’s coming of age and the trials of being an 11-year-old in a small town. One might expect the news of her adoption to carry more weight given how frequently Kikuko herself hides from or tries to shrug off her relationship to her mother, yet it’s not because she figured it out some time before. Amid so many beautiful and playful aspects of this sweet story, this portion sucks the energy from the film, making it feel like it’s all building to a grand disclosure, but, like all of Nikuko’s plans, it seems to fall like a stone instead. So, in a way, it’s on brand?
For those who saw Lady Nikuko in theaters, the prospect of revisiting the film at home may be an exciting one. According to the release info, the Blu-ray is a 1080P high-definition transfer with a Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, while the DVD is an anthropomorphic widescreen with a Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 track. I don’t recall any English-language cast announced for this release, as sometimes happens with GKids Films releases (ex: BELLE; Promare), and as there is no English-language option, that seems to be the case with the home release. Subtitles are, of course, included on both Blu-ray and DVD editions for English and Spanish, however, only English-language subtitles are provided on the bonus features. As I only have access to the physical edition, not the digital, I can’t speak to whether this is the case with the digital edition, but chances are likely they will be identical.
Regarding the special features, there is a lot included, though the joy in them may vary. Across five pieces of bonus materials, not including the three U.S. & International trailers, there are over two-and-a-half hours of content to explore. The bulk of these are taken up by four conferences/special events marking the completion of the film, its premiere, a birthday event for producer Sanma Akashiya, and a guest speaker event including members of the cast and crew. Those with some light sensitives be advised of a lot of flashing lights from members of the press and general audience members. Each of these four events enables the home viewing audience to listen to members of the cast and crew discuss the creation process of Fortunate Favors Lady Nikuko, which is quite interesting but a tad formal (even at its most informal). In contrast, the 72-minute “Making of” film is a tad more traditional in its informality, providing a sense of hanging out with the cast and crew as they make the film. This allows for opportunities to interview principal individuals about the process of casting, what it’s like to record without anyone else in the room, aspects of the score, and animation. If your interest in Lady Nikuko lies with the technical, the “Making of” film is where you want to focus your attention.
There’s no big event to prep or plan for, no final assignment, or external tension, it’s just a tale about two women at different stages of being who coexist together in relative harmony. There doesn’t always have to be a fire to put out or a beast to save in order for a story to compel its audience. Here, the magic comes from the imagination and the willingness to see beyond what is into what could be. Especially as one is forming their own worldview, recognizing that life is all about perspective early will help to avoid some of the more basic pratfalls that someone like Nikuko may make. Having had a woman in my life similar to Nikuko (boisterous, joyful, more often than not led with her heart), Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko brings with it a special affability. But, again, this isn’t her story, it’s Kikuko’s, and what we receive is sweet all on its own.
Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko Special Features:
- Making Of (1:12:26)
- Film Completion Press Conference, May 26th, 2021 (26:55)
- Official Premiere Event, June 12th, 2021 (18:34)
- Sanma Akashiya Birthday Event, July 4th, 2021 (18:03)
- Guest Speaker Event, July 7th, 2021 (19:55)
- Three (3) Trailers
Available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital from Shout! Factory July 19th, 2022.