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Film ● Review: Once Upon a Crime

English Title: Once Upon a Crime

Japanese Title: 赤ずきん、旅の途中で死体と出会う。[lit. Little Red Riding Hood on her journey encounters a dead body.]

Director(s): Fukuda Yuichi

Screenwriter(s): Kamata Tetsuo & Fukuda Yuichi

Studio: Credeus, TV Asahi

Released: 2023

Runtime: 1h 45m

Starring: Hashimoto Kanna, Araki Yuko, Iwata Takanori

My Verdict: Fairy tale–inspired crime comedy. Not bad but under-developed and fails to move on after hitting its beats so it loses energy.

Once Upon a Crime

● This film is based on the novel of the same name written by Aoyagi Aito. Please note that I have not read the novel so the review is purely of the film.

● Akazukin or “Little Red Riding Hood” (Hashimoto Kanna) meets Cinderella (Araki Yuko). Witches then give them a makeover so they can attend the ball to meet the prince (Iwata Takanori). Riding the carriage to the ball, they accidentally run over Hans, the royal hairdresser. Convinced that Hans died prior to the impact, the film in essence follows Akazukin as she plays the detective and tries to solve the crime.

● It is a fantasy crime comedy. It has elements of a parody but it is apparent that it is not strongly intended to be a parody.

● There is some snappy dialogue in the opening act which helps hook the viewer but some of it is overdone. Like the rest of the film, the pacing is a bit off.

● To mention another example: there are a lot of long speeches by Akazukin as she conducts her investigation. Hashimoto does a decent job but as a scene, it needs to hit its beats and move on. This is particularly important with this type of comedy that is supposed to be energetic.

● The mystery is moderately intriguing and, like any decent whodunnit, there are multiple suspects although there can be better signposting with some elements. Either way, the film is able to maintain its hold on the audience.

● It doesn’t look bad with its costumes and rich palette. The cinematography can be more stylized. It is a fantasy so it can get away with it.

● In terms of storytelling, the premise and general plotline are nothing special. That is fine, but there is so much more material from Grimms’ Fairy Tales to make fun of as well as making the worldbuilding fuller. It is as if the script is a good first draft: generally well-written but under-developed.

● On balance, the film is not outright slow and unwatchable, but it needs to be tightened, it needs to move on after hitting its beats to maintain a certain level of energy.

Cinderella (Araki Yuko) and Akazukin (Hashimoto Kanna) at the ball.
Cinderella (Araki Yuko) and Akazukin (Hashimoto Kanna) at the ball.

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