An accident at a temple in Onomichi swaps the souls in the bodies of two teenagers - a pushy overachiever (Kobayashi) and an effeminate slacker (Omi) - and predictably, misadventures ensue. Despite its banal premise, Obayashi's sixth feature towers over negligible piffle like Vice Versa and is at least the equal of its most recognizable counterpart, Freaky Friday. Influence of both his early avant-garde output and television commercial experience were wholly evinced in the veteran director's juvenile freakout debut, House, but this more conventional offering also indicates an assiduous stylism that surpasses mere genre craftsmanship.
In the displaced leads, Kobayashi and Omi are equally adorable and remarkable, playing their gender-bent characters with uncanny conviction. Besides their disconcerting aptitude in simulation of the opposite sexes, they've also an amiable screen chemistry, and convey depth in their characterizations that may not have been suggested by Hisashi Yamanaka's unassuming script. Their co-stars nibble pleasantly at the lush scenery and are likely to coax at least a few giggles from any receptive audience, but they're little more than agreeable distractions from the stars' preponderance. Even the most contrived scuffles and plot twists here are engaging as enacted by this charming cast.
At a leisurely pace, the film's touching, amusing, boisterous story is complemented by Yoshitaka Sakamoto's gorgeous cinematography, which exhibits the modest beauty of coastal Onomichi. Vibrant color photography is bookended by picturesque grayscale sequences which open and close the picture. These proceedings are scored with sparing efficacy by erudite standards: Tchaikovsky's Andante Cantabile, Meditation from Jules Massenet's Thaïs, the rousing overture of Offenbach's Orphée aux enfers, an aria from Bach's third suite and most lovely of all, Schumann's Träumerei, which imparts a perfect pathos to the beginning and bittersweet end. Pedestrian though this may at first seem, anyone who comes away unmoved by this movie's denouement may well be carved from concrete.