I believe somewhere in my search for Japanese authors on Amazon, I came across Hideo Okuda's novel, Lalapipo. Surprise, surprise! I didn't know that the movie I saw was based off of a novel, so I had to get my hands on it. I finished the book a couple months ago and I was impressed. While reading the novel on my lunch breaks, it triggered inspiration to do another comparison post.
Lalapipo, both the book and movie, have a dark comedic tone to it that makes you think. It's mini stories overlapping into one big picture. We follow a handful of characters in their laughable yet hopeless lives. All the characters share a similar pattern in their daily lives. The story focuses on their income, the starting point of their normal life to a saddening one, and a common solution to their problems: sex.
Both the book and movie have several stories going on and linking to another character's story, they execute it in a different order and the movie omits one character that the book mentions. I'll start off by giving a run down of the story based off the novel.
We began with Hiroshi Sugiyama, a 32 year old freelance writer who has face-to-face communication problems due to his interaction with a co-worker in his company he had a crush on. He keeps to himself and, in the book, we hear about his isolated life and the comings and goings of his upstairs neighbors. He gets an interesting young male neighbor that brings in attractive women nearly every night and the activities going on above him become a new hobby for him between downtime. He becomes a bit obsessed with it and begins following the women to see the face behind the erotic noise, then takes a step further to buy something to hear things a little better while pleasuring himself. He soon runs into a woman at a library (or bar, according to the movie) and sleeps with her occasionally, despite his lack of physical attraction to her. Although, his life began promising by reminding himself of his academic achievements, but his lack of social skills overwhelm him to an emotional breakdown in the end...at least, it's better explained in the novel.
Next, we have 23 year old "talent scout" Kenji Kurino who grew up learning that lying is the way to happiness. He lives above the previous character, until he snags some money and moves to a fancier apartment. He uses his charming abilities by scouting beautiful (and ditsy) women on the street to work in hostess/cabaret clubs, then manipulates them by moving them up the ladder of the sex industry such as "massage parlors" and pornography. Surprisingly, while catering to one of his clients, he becomes attach to her and at the same time convinces her to do adult films. He gets himself in a mess of trouble while managing her and realizes that an older client he picked up is related to his love interest and his story ends just a bittersweet as the first.
Living next to a young looking neighbor with an obnoxious dog and a heap of garbage surrounding the inside and outside of her home, 43 year old Yoshie Sato holds many secrets from her family. She started as a housewife and took care of her mother-in-law, but things went downhill during her caretaking. She felt that her husband and daughter didn't care about her and became a bit selfish and useless at the same time, until a man approached her and offered her a job as a adult film actress. She signed a contract without hesitation as long as they blurred out her face and it satisfied her repressed sexual desire that she lacked in her marriage. Later, she changes managers to a young man [guess who? XD] and demands different working situations and higher pay. Even though her family situation wasn't looking good, her career made up for it until officials bring over a notice for her to clean up her home as neighbors were complaining about the smell. She figures out a quick solution to get rid of her horrible living situation, as well as the secret she's been hiding on the second floor, and asks the mystery writer that's been sending threatening letters to her oh-so perfect neighbor with the dog to burn her house down. Things seem falsely happy in the end and the novel's version keeps us in suspense of what happened next.
Next up is no thrills 26 year old karaoke box worker Koichi Aoyagi. He's a pushover and has a hard time saying no, even though he really wants to. He puts all his anger into letters he sends to a young neighbor with a noisy dog. His lack of assertiveness gets him in a lot of trouble, not only in his own apartment, but at his work place with a pimp. He goes along with turning the place into a business for high school girls to exchange sexual favors with older businessmen for money, but the perk is that Koichi and his co-worker can get a free handjob as long as they keep everything on the down low. Between his work turning into a sexual hotspot and his pent up anger toward the dog's excessive barking throughout the night, things quickly get out of hand.
A 52 year old literary fiction writer turned erotic novelist Keijiro Saigoji gets lured by a pimp and a nicely built young high school girl to try out the ways of compensation dating at karaoke bar. His career has gone a different direction than originally set and his wife disrespects him whenever she gets a chance. He uses the opportunity to pay for sexual favors with these easy high school girls as a means of research, but trouble arises and he has to run for his life.
Lastly, we conclude the story with 26 year old erotic novel transcriber Sayuri Tamaki who lures lonely/desperate men at the library to her home and secretly records their sexual encounters. Once they leave, she looks at the videos and sells them to an adult shop. She accepts that she's not beautiful and her self worth is very low when a postal worker and his friends come by and play rock, paper, scissor over her like an object. One of her victims deniably becomes attach to her during their meet ups and she points out how they're meant to be. This ends bittersweetly, but ties up a couple loose ends to some of the other characters' stories mentioned throughout the novel.
Between the novel and the movie, there are some differences. As mentioned before, there is a character missing. He does get some face time in the movie, but he is not one of the chosen characters to be followed. Most of the stories are a bit rushed to fit the time frame, but can be easily assumed what's going on. The director also portrays each piece a little more lightheartedly than the novel describes. If you think the characters' lives in the movie are pathetic and sad, then you have to check out what is left out to these characters' stories. Other little things that are different: Kenji's escape from the police, Sayuri's location of seduction and her career/aspirations, a further exploration of what happened between Yoshie and her daughter Tomoko, lack of detail of Kenji's occupation and relation with his clients and co-workers, and Koichi's illegal troubles and lack of assertiveness as well as his feelings toward the neighbor with the noisy dog.
I've seen the movie before and after I read the book and my impression of it remains the same more or less. The movie is pretty decent and even though things are left out of the storyline that would've been helpful, it's still easy to follow with common sense. The execution and colorization is reminiscent of Kamikaze Girls and still maintains the message the novel gives. Of course, this time around, I believe the novel leaves more of an impression in the mind than the movie. The tales from each character give a stronger and shocking impact as the book progresses. Nonetheless, I recommend both mediums.