A live-action romantic com isn’t necessarily something you’d expect to see gracing UK Anime’s hallowed pages, but South Korea’s Petty Romance is something a little bit special.
Jung Bae is a down on his luck comic artist desperately trying to get his big break. After getting stung by the rejection of his masterpiece, he decides to enter a contest to draw a new adult comic. With a huge prize at stake he decides to get a writer to help him out, turning to the (unbeknownst to him) inexperienced, virgin sex columnist Da-Rim. As with any good romance A soon leads to B and before you know it the end credits are rolling over the big kiss. So far so Richard Curtis, right? Wrong!
For starters, unlike the majority of rom-coms, Petty Romance is actually funny. In fact it’s downright hilarious in places; a shower scene near the beginning will have your sides splitting and anyone who cannot laugh at the films torturous love scene needs a sense of humour injection!
Then there’s the big hook for animation fans like us – there is a ton of animation here, mostly of the erotic material, and all the action scenes are done with animated characters in a variety of styles ranging from line drawings to fully rendered sequences through to Who Framed Roger Rabbit-style mixes of animation and live action. The quality is superb and it really helps the film stand out, allowing it to go places that would otherwise have risked an 18 rating or at best some fairly heavy editing. Better still, it all fits with the tone of the film and stays light and just a little titillating rather than allowing the film to descend into soft-core "hentai".
It’s not a perfect film though - Petty Romance does suffer the same third act issues as the rest of the genre with a somewhat forced break-up of the main characters involving a painting sub-plot that never really gets going and just feels tacked on at best. Other than the two leads, the other characters are a bit one-dimension and are really under-used which in turn causes several other sub-plots to wander around awkwardly before the film decides it would rather everyone forget they were ever introduced.
All-in-all I can look past these issues as the film as a whole is just so refreshing and is a genuine joy to watch. It’s the sort of film that you could easily see Kevin Smith making (in fact if anyone would like to offer him the remake rights.....) particularly if you’re a Chasing Amy fan like me. I honestly urge everyone to check this film out - even if the genre isn’t generally to your taste, this is the kind of film that with just a little success could be one of the few genuine cult classic romantic comedies.