Review: ‘The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie,’ an anime comedy film about five sisters competing for the same man

April 9, 2023

by Carla Hay

Pictured clockwise, from top left; Ichika Nakano, Itsuki Nakano, Yotsuba Nakano, Miku Nakano and Nino Nakano in “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” (Image by Negi Hanuba/Kodansha/Crunchyroll)

“The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie”

Directed by Masato Jinbo

Available in the original Japanese version (with English subtitles) or in a dubbed English-language version.

Culture Representation: Taking place in Japan, the animated film “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” (based on the manga series and TV series) features an all-Japanese cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Quintuplet sisters, who are in their third year of high school, have crushes on their young male tutor and compete to be the one to date him. 

Culture Audience: “The Quintessential Quintuplets” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the manga series and TV series on which the movie is based and anime films that are centered on teenage characters.

Tutaro Uesugi (center) surrounded by, from left to right in front row: Miku Nakano and Nino Nakano and Yotsuba Nakano, and from left to right in back row: Itsuki Nakano and Ichika Nakano in “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” (Image by Negi Hanuba/Kodansha/Crunchyroll)

“The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” is meant for people who enjoy or can at least tolerate anime that is very “kawaii” (the Japanese word for “cute”) in how the story’s enviroment and the main characters look as the movie version of “The Quintessential Quintuplets” manga series. Fans of the manga series should like the charming visuals and voice performances of this movie. What doesn’t translate as well cinematically is the somewhat creepy story of teen quintuplets being love rivals for their tutor. The movie is also too long: The total running time is 159 minutes.

Directed by Masato Jinbo and written by Keiichirō Ōchi, “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” is based on the manga series “The Quintessential Quintuplets,” which was adapted into a 2019 to 2021 animated TV series. The movie is faithful to the main storyline of the manga series: Five identical Japanese quintuplet sisters, who are about 16 or 17 years old and in their third year of high school, have developed romantic feelings for their young adult male tutor, whose name is Tutaro Uesugi.

The movie (like the manga series) is told as a series of flashbacks remembered by Tutaro on his wedding day to one of the sisters. He is getting married to her five years after this story takes place. It’s revealed at the end which of the sisters he is marrying. Even if viewers don’t know Tutaro’s decision before seeing this movie, it becomes fairly obvious at a certain point which sister he will choose.

The five sisters who are part of this convoluted and sometimes messy love competition are listed as follows, in the order that they were born:

  • Ichika Nakano is an actress who appears in TV commercials and wants to become a movie star. As the eldest of her sisters, she wants to be perceived as the wisest and most responsible sister, but she’s often flaky, and she drops out of school to pursue an acting career.
  • Nino Nakano is an aspiring chef and is the bossiest of the five sisters. Nino, who is very status-conscious, is also the sister who’s most likely to lose her temper and hold grudges. She’s also in a five-member female singing group.
  • Miku Nakano is the shy and meek sister, who feels insecure because she hasn’t decided yet what she wants to do with her life. She is not academically gifted, and she hasn’t discovered any specific talent that she could turn into a career.
  • Yotsuba Nakano excels at sports, but she gets the worst academic grades out of all of her sisters. Yotsuba is very generous and empathetic. She has a tendency to put other people’s needs above her own.
  • Itsuki Nakano wants to become a teacher. She has two sides to her personality: She can be sweet to people she trusts and hostile to people she doesn’t trust.

The Nakano sisters come from a wealthy family and are currently living on their own in a high-rise apartment. Their mother Rena (who was a teacher) died six months ago. And the sisters will soon have to find a new home because their apartment building will be demolished for construction of another building.

Rena’s widower is the sisters’ stepfather Dr. Maruo Nakano, who has become a distant father figure since Rena’s death. Dr. Nakano was the one who hired Tutaro to be the sisters’ tutor. The sisters’ biological father is not in their lives. They have been told that he abandoned the family when the sisters were too young to remember him.

“The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” has a lot of typical concerns that are in stories about teenagers. A major subplot is about the school’s big annual festival, which is considered a major social activity of the students. And a charismatic teacher named Mudo Jinnosuke-sensei causes quite a stir when he visits the area for a special lecture. In his flyers, he is advertised as being able to teach “unrivaled scholastic prowess.”

But the movie’s story always comes back to the sibling rivalry over Tutaro. There are several scenes of envy and scheming, as the sisters compete for Tutaro’s attention and possibly affections. Predictably, all five sisters get jealous when they see Tutaro on a date with a young woman named Takabiashi, who is former schoolmate of Tutaro’s.

One of the flaws of “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” is that it has minimal discussion of how inappropriate it is for Tutaro (who is in his late teens or early 20s) to date one of his students. He tries to keep his professional boundaries. However, it’s already announced at the beginning of the movie that he’s marrying one of the sisters, and this movie is supposed to show how Tutaro and this sister fell in love. The quintuplets have no adult supervision at home, which makes it easier for this type of relationship to happen.

At the time ths movie was made, Japan’s minimum age of sexual consent was 13 years old. However, in 2023, the Japanese government took steps to raise the minimum age of sexual consent in Japan to 16 years old. That legislation was pending at the time this movie review was written. In other words, “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie,” in its cultural and legal context of Japan, shows an adult dating a 16-year-old or 17-year-old as socially acceptable and legal. However, many viewers will still think it’s still inappropriate for an adult tutor to date a student who’s 16 or 17 years old.

The voices of the “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” characters are portrayed by different cast members, depending on the version of “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie.” The original Japanese version (with English subtitles) has Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Futaro, Kana Hanazawa as Ichika, Ayana Taketatsu as Nino, Miku Itō as Miku, Ayane Sakura as Yotsuba, and Inori Minase as Itsuki. There’s also a U.S. version, with the dialogue dubbed in English, that has Josh Grelle as Futaro, Lindsay Seidel as Ichika, Jill Harris as Nino, Felecia Angelle as Miku, Bryn Apprill as Yotsuba, and Tia Ballard as Itsuki.

Even with some of the serious subject matter that is in “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” maintains a light-hearted tone that puts an emphasis on how this unusual group of sisters will have to come to terms with their family bond, even when the quintuplets have their many conflicts. Viewers will have to suspend a lot of disbelief that five sisters could be “in love” with the same guy at the same time and don’t seem to be attracted to anyone else. There are plenty of love rivalries in real life that are a lot more bizarre than what’s in this movie. Despite being very lengthy, “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” has an exuberance that anime fans will find hard to resist.

Crunchyroll released “The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie” in select U.S. cinemas on December 2, 2022. The movie was released in Japan on May 20, 2022.

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