This rather whimsical comedic drama clearly has designs to be the Japanese Amelie, and for a large part it succeeds. We first meet Mitsuko (Riisa Naka) slumped in a chair, crying as a recently unemployed businessman tells his story on TV, nursing her pregnant stomach. When her parents call, we discover that they think she's in California, but she's actually still in Japan, and through her stubborn refusal to ever take charity, she finds herself moving back into the tenements she spent her formative childhood in.

Riisa Naka's performance as Mitsuko is a little uneven, at first she's doe-eyed yet forthright, somewhat naive as she barges in on her new neighbour to offer her a pickle, and quietly nodding as bills and expenses start mounting up, yet giving the last of her yen to the very same businessman she saw on television earlier. In the first hints of Jean Pierre Jeunet-like quirkiness she hails a taxi and asks the driver to go in the same direction as a particular cloud, which leads her to her childhood home.

Through an extended flashback we learn about her family's financial woes, born of an economic crisis, and the eccentric neighbours they wound up living with.  Chief amongst them is Yoichi (Aoi Nakamura), who runs a deserted restaurant with his Uncle Jiro (Ryo Ishibashi), the boy who 15 years ago fell in love with Mitsuko.

Here the film really comes to life, becoming charming, funny and bittersweet with an air of Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums. The eccentrically drawn characters and events buoy the action; the panic when Mitsuko's parents realise their new home is potentially situated on unexploded World War II bombs is hilarious, whilst their landlady's tearful soliloquising is punctured with wry humour. In a flashback, the child actors who play Mitsuko and Yoichi do a very commendable job of making their romance work, without it ever becoming too schmaltzy or creepy.

Unfortunately, as the film moves towards its climax writer/director Yûya Ishii struggles to balance the elements in quite the same magical way that Jeunet did, and the film occasionally collapses into farcical melodrama; the finale which should have the verve and warmth of Little Miss Sunshine has an awkward mania with characters suddenly acting like distorted, heightened cartoons of themselves. Luckily, the performances of Rissa Naka and Aoi Nakamura manage to rein things in at the last minute and save the film a little dignity, likewise, Ishii keeps the pace reasonably tight and it ends on just the right note.

A bright, warm-hearted film - as eager to please as its lead character - and, for the most part, as successful. A delightful ensemble of characters and a pleasing, if predictable plot, plays out nicely to make for an endearingly daffy film.