Based on the novel of the same name from author Takafumi Nanatsuki, Tomorrow I Will Date With Yesterday's You may initially be viewed as one of the latest additions to the overly crowded teenage romance genre, but it is far from it. It offers a surprisingly clever plot, and its original premise elevates itself as a romantic teenage drama willing to creatively challenge the conventions of the genre. With the novel's storyline upholding a reputation as being one of the saddest to be released in Japan, a film adaptation would soon seem apparent considering the story's popularity and the Japanese film industry's willingness to adapt "safe" teenage romance novels for mainstream audiences. Fortunately, Tomorrow I Will Date With Yesterday's You faithfully adheres to its source material's tradition as a heartfelt tale that focuses upon the minute but significant moments in which a youthful relationship flourishes, combining said moments with a touch of the supernatural to provide that much-needed spark of creativeness and originality. These same supernatural elements complement, rather than overtake, the emerging relationship between the two main characters, never seeming entirely farfetched and works in its favor of supplementing its distinctiveness within the teenage romance genre.
The story follows Takatoshi (Sota Fukushi), a college student currently attending a university in Kyoto. One day while taking the train to his class, he sees Emi (Nana Komatsu), a lovely girl whom he instantly falls in love with a wants to ask out. Gathering all of the courage that he has, he follows her off the train and speaks to her, eventually starting to date her. As the two begin to date each other, Emi soon reveals a surprising secret to Takatoshi that will change their relationship - and time together - forever. It is this secret that alleviates the film from much of the conventionality that has often plagued similar films within the genre, being astutely aware that those overused tropes have done little to elevate the genre as a whole.
A veteran when it comes to the teenage romance genre, director Takahiro Miki handles Tomorrow I Will Date With Yesterday's You with a certain astuteness that centers the situation that two main characters are experiencing as plausible despite its inclusion of supernatural elements. Whereas other films may rely entirely on their supernatural elements to advance their narrative, Miki instead focuses primarily on the characters themselves as they live their daily lives learning more about one another, positioning the aforementioned supernatural elements to the background for the relationship between Takatoshi and Emi to develop naturally. Small and seemingly unimportant events shared between the two, such as going to a friendly gathering or visiting family members, hold considerably more emotional weight given the film’s supernatural circumstances interwoven throughout the narrative in the subtlest of ways. The subdued nature of the story is the film's greatest strength because it does not rush the relationship between Takatoshi and Emi, allowing plenty of time for us to get to know them and to see them develop as a couple.
It is these little moments that situate the film as a slice-of-life story mainly centered on a couple eagerly wanting to learn more about one another and spending time together in the most conventional of activities. Sota Fukushi and Nana Komatsu do an excellent job at conveying such a blossoming and genuine relationship, establishing a chemistry that does not appear as contrived, as is the case with so many other films of the genre. The nuances of their relationship also shine through exceptionally well, and when the film delivers upon Emi’s “secret,” we as viewers begin to see their relationship in an entirely new and exciting light. There is a note of sympathy for what they are enduring, with an element of expected loss that permeates their every meeting. Miki handles the switch in narrative structure relatively well, making sure to depict events that transpired with careful attention to the details chronicling their relationship and their differing perspectives on those events. Once we as the audience finally realizes what is occurring, it makes each meeting they have a crucial development towards understanding the decisions and outcomes they have achieved thus far.
Tomorrow I Will Date With Yesterday's You succeeds because of its careful interweaving of romanticism with that of supernatural elements that plausibly promote the growth of its two main characters and their loving relationship. It does not fall into the overly tried notion of tragedy and loss that you may come to expect, especially considering how many other films usually have one of the characters have some deteriorating disability or terminally ill disease to advocate ideas of forcible separation. While that is not to take away from the ability to sympathize with such adhered narratives explored in other films, Tomorrow I Will Date With Yesterday's You also chooses to take such a familiar route of love and loss but do it completely different in its capacity. Its uniqueness in narrative structure separates it from similar films upholding to the genre, and coupled with an excellent cast and direction produces a viewing experience that is emotionally touching, unconventional, and ultimately quite memorable.