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Parents' Guide to

Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Mother-daughter story is bold and moving but fat-phobic.

Movie NR 2022 97 minutes
Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko Movie Poster

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This memorably animated adaptation is both a big-hearted and disappointingly fat-shaming story of a mother and daughter who share little in common except their love -- and love of food. The filmmakers focus on Nikuko's weight from the beginning of the narration, when Kikuko divulges that her mother is the equivalent of 4'11" tall and weighs 150 pounds but is somehow depicted as round as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. There are multiple jokes (puns) about how stinky she is, how much she overeats, and how her sleep apnea snoring is earth-shattering. The caricature continues throughout, with Nikuko nearly always eating, thinking about eating, or preparing food -- to eat, of course. It's not necessarily always mean-spirited, because Nikuko is vivacious and kind, but the constant focus on her weight and eating will likely make some viewers cringe. At least the animation is wonderfully precise, depicting the setting and the food in such detail that audiences may be inspired to seek out the Japanese snacks and treats in the movie.

In contrast to Nikuko's antics, the slender, young Kikuko is afraid of puberty and hopes that her chest never grows and her period never starts. The parts of the movie set at school or among Kikuko's peers include bittersweet coming-of-age storylines, tension with her friends, and a mysterious boy with his own secrets. This isn't a plot-heavy film but rather a character study about a quirky mother and daughter who might be fish out of water but, thanks to Nikuko's exuberance, have managed to make a small place for themselves. There's also an ultimately lovely, gentle message about family and love -- but there's no way to ignore the sour taste of the fat jokes that pepper the first half of the film in particular.

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