Perhaps surprisingly, Japanese cinema has never been afraid to tackle the sometimes taboo issue of menstruation but Little Miss Period (生理ちゃん, Seiri-chan) is certainly the first time it’s been turned into an accidental protagonist. Inspired by a popular web manga by Ken Koyama, who is male as is the director Shunsuke Shinada, the film revolves around the titular Little Miss P who arrives every month in the form of a giant pink fuzzy monster and generally causes havoc in women’s lives, but for all the trouble, pain, and inconvenience she causes Little Miss P also becomes a symbol of female solidarity and an accidental confidant whose presence can also be a comfort in regrettably patriarchal society.
The first victim is Aoko (Fumi Nikaido), a young woman working in a busy publishing office who receives an inconvenient visit from Little Miss P while trying to sort out a problem with an uncommunicative writer which eventually leads to more trouble after the author begins bad mouthing them on social media and Aoko is given a public telling off by her sexist boss for failing to appreciate artistic temperament. Aoko’s boss is an unreconstructed chauvinist who makes deliberately inappropriate comments in the workplace and then jokes that he hopes he won’t be accused of harassment. He complains about Aoko looking tired and exclaims that these are the reasons he doesn’t like working with women, but running into a colleague in the ladies’ room, Aoko gets some practical though unhelpful advice coming from another woman to the effect that they can’t ever use Little Miss P as an “excuse” because it will just be seen as another reason to deny women the same rights and privileges as men.
Aoko wishes that men could experience what it’s like to host Little Miss P if only once year and then perhaps they’d understand, though they also have problems of their own as manifested in the large white Mr. Sex Drive who appears out of nowhere to bother the boyfriend (Kyohei Kanomi) of Aoko’s younger sister Hikaru (Risaki Matsukaze). While Aoko laments the sexist atmosphere in the workplace that leaves her feeling as if she has to make a choice to be seen actively prioritising her career, being more present, more productive than the men just to be seen as equal, the office cleaner, Riho (Sairi Ito), resents her invisibility as a faceless service worker many regard as little more than a bot or real world NPC with no identity or interior life. She makes caustic comments about the vacuous lives of the office workers around her but has fully internalised this view of herself as worthless and undesireable. She resents Little Miss P in part because she doesn’t understand what the point of her visit is when it seems so unlikely that she would ever bear a child.
Riho is so invested in her inferiority complex that she cannot comprehend that Aoko’s company want to hire her for writing gig after figuring out her secret blogger identity, believing it must be some kind of trick. In one sense, she might be right in that Aoko’s colleague Uchiyama (Ren Sudo) has an obvious crush on her, but still she finds it impossible to accept that she has a right to expect recognition as a human being and indeed as woman. Each of the women find themselves in dialogue with Little Miss P who often provides a quite literal shoulder to cry on as well a reassuring sense of “you got this” security. Aoko apologises to Little Miss P as she bids her goodbye for another month, admitting that it can’t be nice that in general no one is glad to see her (though there are of course cases in which they might be rather more than glad), but Little Miss P takes it all in her stride as part of the job and as much as she often causes trouble and inconvenience is also a warm and reassuring presence which unites women not so much in shared struggle but gentle camaraderie.
It’s Little Miss P who helps Aoko bond with her prospective step-daughter Karin (Hana Toyoshima), while she perhaps remains ambivalent on the idea of marriage with its consequent loss of independence and the responsibility of suddenly becoming a mother for the first time to an adolescent girl. Female solidarity trumps family or romance, or at least so it seems as Aoko looks back on getting her own first visit from Little Miss P which threw her recently widowed single-father into an ambulance-calling panic but also resulted in a comforting dish of rice with red beans, traditionally eaten at moments of celebration. “Not everything about it is bad” Aoko tells a troubled Karin, “there’s nothing good about it. Not one thing” she replies, but Little Miss P has at least brought them together in female solidarity as they return to their respective, disappointingly patriarchal, worlds.
Little Miss Period is available to stream online (Worldwide except Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, & Myanmar) from 9th to 14th June as part of this year’s Nippon Connection Film Festival.
Original trailer (English subtitles)