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3 Movies of Thwarted Love to Break Your Heart For Tanabata

Love can be a bumpy road

Two celestial lovers banished to opposite sides of the Milky Way come together only once a year, on the night of Tanabata. The ill-fated love story of Orihime, the weaver star (Vega of the Lyra constellation), and Hikoboshi, the cowherd star (Altair of the Aquila constellation), is not solely a Japanese folktale: Similar legends of star-crossed lovers are celebrated in China’s Qixi festival and Korea’s Chilseok festival.

The Japanese legend tells of Orihime, an outstanding weaver, and Hikoboshi, a dedicated cowherd, who fall in love and marry. They are so devoted to each other that they neglect their duties and anger Orihime’s father, the emperor of heaven, who banishes them to opposite sides of the night sky.

Orihime’s heartache is so great, however, that her father grants the lovers the chance to meet once a year, on Tanabata, the night when the weaver star and the cowherd star are closest together.

Those on Earth celebrating Tanabata do it to honor the lovers’ annual reunion by writing wishes on slips of paper called tanzaku, which they attach to bamboo branches along with other paper decorations.

How many are wishes for true love we’ll never know, but it’s a guarantee that the heroes of the next three movies, struggling with their own heartbreak, would fill their tanzaku with prayers for their very own Orihime or Hikoboshi.

1. Permanent Nobara (パーマネント野ばら), 2010

Post-divorce, Naoko returns to her rural hometown with her five-year-old daughter in tow. She settles in with her mother, owner and stylist at the town’s only hair salon, which doubles as a gathering place for the town’s women. There, the women provide each other with comfort and support as they deal with life’s frustrations, which mostly revolve around the town’s sorry lot of cheating, hostess-chasing men.

While Naoko’s childhood friends Micchan and Tomo-chan deal with their own relationship troubles, Naoko rekindles a romance with her former teacher, Kashima. But not everything is as it seems between the two lovers: Why is Kashima always disappearing on Naoko? Will Naoko be able to face the truth?

Cast:Miho Kanno, Yosuke Eguchi, Eiko Koike
Director:Daihachi Yoshida

2. Just Only Love (愛がなんだ), 2019

For Teruko, meeting Mamoru is a game-changer. Falling madly in love, she pours her heart and soul into what she believes is a blossoming relationship, neglecting both work and her friends in the process. Unfortunately, the feeling is anything but mutual, and when Mamoru removes himself from Teruko’s life, Teruko is left hurt and confused — not to mention jobless thanks to her habit of always putting Mamoru first.

Months later, Mamoru reappears in Teruko’s life— with a new, older woman he is pursuing. Sumire, with her pink-dyed hair and funky clothes, is an unwelcome shock to Teruko. But Sumire brings with her a breath of fresh air, and with her indifference towards her relationship with Mamoru, provides him with a much-needed dose of his own medicine.

Cast:Yukino Kishii, Ryo Narita, Mai Fukagawa
Director:Rikiya Imaizumi

3. The 100th Love With You (君と100回目の恋), 2017

In all the years that Aoi has known Riku, she can’t recall a single instance when he’s been less than perfect. This is because Riku has a secret: He can turn back time.

When now college-aged Aoi is involved in a serious accident on her birthday, a desperate Riku turns back the clock; only this redo, Aoi realizes she’s reliving the same week of her life. With no choice but to come clean, Riku shares his secret — but time-traveling is not the only truth to come out: Both Riku and Aoi have been harboring deep feelings for each other.

Together, at last, they bask in each other’s love, but day by day, the clock ticks nearer to Aoi’s birthday. Will they be able to overcome Aoi’s fate? Or is her destiny set in stone?

Cast:Miwa, Kentaro Sakaguchi, Ryo Ryusei
Director:Sho Tsukikawa

As our protagonists — and the celestial lovers of Tanabata who came before them — illustrate, love is euphoria and love is agony; it rarely unfolds the way we wish. But even if love (occasionally) stinks, its potential beauty it worth it despite the pain, and we hold out hope, each time, that it will be everlasting.

Text by Helen Langford-Matsui