One of my all-time favorite Japanese movies is “Be with you” or [いま、会いにゆきます] (ima ai ni yukimasu) in Japanese. It’s a heartwarming love story that came out in 2004 and, unfortunately, isn’t widely recognized outside of Japan, China, and Korea. In my opinion, it’s a hidden gem of Japanese cinema that’s definitely worth watching.
During my high school years, a friend from the internet recommended a movie that was gaining popularity in Korea. With the help of English subtitles created by someone online, I managed to find a copy of “ima ai ni yukimasu”. To this day, I have not come across a Japanese film that has moved me as deeply as this one.
The movie trailer:
Get the feel for what kind of movie it is? Great! Let’s dive in.
The Story (Spoiler-free)
The movie opens with a funeral where a father and young son are present. The wife Mio has recently passed away at a young age. This leaves the husband Takumi and his son Yuji alone in the world. Yuji is too young to truly comprehend death and Takumi is in despair that the love of his life is gone.
He feels can’t properly take care of Yuji due to an illness that prevents him from doing things normal adults can do. However, his coworker sees that he’s doing his best in his daily life.
One day while walking through a forest near the house, Takumi and Yuji discover a woman resting against a small shack. That woman turns out to be the recently deceased Mio, but she’s alive! When she notices Takumi and Yuji, she asks them who they are. Mio has no memory of them or herself.
Why is she alive? What happened to her memory? These questions get answered as you experience the adventures together with the main characters.
What makes “ima ai ni yukimasu” great?
The movie does an excellent job of portraying the story on a small scale, with all the focus on the main characters. The cinematography is fantastic and contributes to the enchanting vibe of the film. The story takes place in a small town and centers around the main family’s home, creating a cozy and intimate atmosphere. It’s what I like to call a “small universe” movie, and it feels just right. The people in the movie are not malicious, which makes it incredibly comforting to watch. It’s a peaceful movie that provides a refreshing respite from action-packed films. Despite not being an avant-garde movie, it’s not too slow-paced, and it tells the story effectively, leaving you intrigued by the outcome.
The lead actors portraying the husband and wife were exceptional. Yuko Takeuchi’s performance as Mio left me in awe. Her grace and emotional portrayal were truly moving. I have become a fan of hers after watching this movie.
In the film, Takumi’s role was played by Shido Nakamura, whose performance was incredibly convincing. While watching him on the screen, you can sense the character’s hesitation and struggle to make decisions. His portrayal of a man who has lost his wife yet remains kind to those around him is what makes the character intriguing to watch. The film’s music is beautifully composed and perfectly complements both the upbeat and sad scenes. Even without the soundtrack, the movie would still be good, but with it, the movie becomes excellent. I personally own the soundtrack, and every time I come across its tracks in a playlist, I vividly recall scenes from the movie.
Link: Ima Ai ni Yukimasu (Be with you) Soundtrack (CDJapan)
Things that could be better
- The child actor for Yuji.
His acting is really lousy and took me out of the movie sometimes. However, it didn’t prevent me from enjoying most of the film.
- A lot of background information was left out or not explained from the novel. I really enjoyed some of the supporting characters but was disappointed when they didn’t get more time for the audience to learn more about them.
- There hasn’t been enough exposure of this movie to Western audiences! It’s a hidden gem and should be seen by more people. It’s a real shame that it wasn’t picked up for release by some studio in the US. The retail Japanese DVD does not have English subtitles, so you have to buy a Chinese DVD or go online to find them.
How can I watch “ima ai ni yukimasu”?
As I mentioned, the retail Japanese DVD does not include English subtitles. You’ll need to purchase the Asian version of the movie which includes English subtitles. In the past, there were Chinese edition DVDs, but those are now out of print. I managed to find a region 1 DVD (works on US DVD players) with English subtitles on Amazon.
Link: Be with You DVD (Amazon US)
If you’re not able to buy the DVD, there is a streaming version available here: Ima Ai ni Yukimasu (Be with you) 2004 Movie on KissAsian
I strongly recommend buying the movie if you can, though. It’s absolutely worth owning.
The Japanese novel
The original novel is the reason why the movie was able to be made in the first place. I was pleasantly surprised years ago when I discovered that a translated version in English was made available in the US. If you enjoy watching this movie and want to know more about the characters and the background information, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the novel. Or if you prefer to know the source material before watching the movie, that works too.
The translated English version is available on Amazon.
Link: Be with You (Amazon US)
TV Drama Series
The “ima ai ni yukimasu” movie must have been a success because a TV drama was made a year later in 2005. The TV series is a different interpretation than the movie and that’s ok. Remember how I said I wish the movie could have included more background information and details? The TV series consists of 10 episodes and explores other aspects of the story that the movie simply didn’t have time to.
Would I recommend the TV series over the movie? I would not, but I will say that if you enjoy the movie, it’s worth watching the TV series because you’re going to enjoy the story and characters being expanded upon. The actors are completely different from the movie, but that’s to be expected.
“Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu” is one of my favorite Japanese movies ever made. If you’ve never tried watching a Japanese movie or something besides Japanese animation, I encourage you to check it out.
If you see watch the movie/TV Drama or read the novel, do me a favor and leave a comment down below. I really want to know what you think of this story. Did you like it? Hate it? Too mushy? Not enough guns? Let me know.