I thought both versions (Japanese and American) of Shall We Dance? were good in their own way. However, I am glad I saw the Japanese version before the American version. I felt the Japanese one had more meaning, and I gained a deeper understanding of the story. Although it required a bit more effort to capture the emotions and passion while reading the subtitles at the same time, I felt the characters had more depth to their personalities. Both films contained humor and had touching parts that I enjoyed. There were a couple of parts I didn’t care for and a couple of scenes that I liked.
I thought the supporting actors added humor to both films. For example, I liked Mr. Aoki/Link who wore the wig to disguise himself. Although he was humorous—like in the dance scenes and the bathroom scene—he also provided a universal message to be oneself and not hide one’s identity. I also enjoyed watching Toyoko/Bobbie with her outrageous costumes and vibrant personality; her character was very similar in both movies. She seemed a bit overwhelming and on the border of obnoxious at times, yet I gained a new appreciation for her character when she was in the hospital and found out how hard she worked when she was not dancing. Along with the humor aspect of this movie, I admired the fact that all of the characters were so passionate about dancing.
Tanaka was one character I particularly admired from the Japanese film. He put a smile on my face because one could see how much he was enjoying himself. I was torn when Toyoko criticized him and made him cry. It was heartbreaking when he was describing that Toyoko’s criticism brought back memories of the first girl he liked. Tanaka said dancing made him feel good: all cares were gone; he felt drunk; his heart was singing; it was like fireworks were exploding; he loved dance. I was glad to see that he still stuck with dance despite the rude comments from Toyoko.
Although I wasn’t too thrilled about the reason both men initially enrolled in dance lessons (because of the beautiful dance teacher), I was more considerate toward Mr. Sugiyama. In Japanese culture, it was improper for a man to take part in such an activity like dancing. In the American version, I was a little disturbed when Mr. Clark and Paulina had a very sensual dance scene. I felt like there was a little more than dancing going on and that he was being unfaithful to his wife. However, that thought of being unfaithful to his wife changed for me towards the end of the movie.
Two of my favorite parts were in the American version towards the end of the movie when Mr. Clark was getting ready to go to Paulina’s farewell party. I thought the gift from his wife was a very sweet gesture and very clever because it related to the beginning of the movie; she was able to give him something that came in a box. Also, when Mr. Clark bought the rose, I had anticipated it was going to be for Paulina. However, when he arrived to his wife’s job and presented the rose to her, I thought it was very romantic; it showed his loyalty, faithfulness, and love towards her.
I believe both movies were enjoyable to watch. I liked watching the American version after the Japanese version because I already knew the storyline. The American version is more fast-paced, includes more contemporary music, and has familiar characters, which makes it an entertaining film. I appreciate the Japanese culture and feel that film is more proper and refined. If I want to watch a movie for depth and content for a good story, I would definitely recommend the Japanese version. However, if I want to watch a movie for entertainment and light-hearted humor, I would recommend the American version. Regardless of which movie one chooses, the dance scenes in both were phenomenal! Having never taken dance lessons of any kind before, this movie makes me want to get out of my comfort zone, and try it one day!