Pompo: The Cinéphile is driven by passion, enthusiasm, desire, etc. — all revolving around filmmaking! That said, for anyone in the creative realm, there’s a lot you might relate to. We have our lead character, Gene, who’s essentially the runner for a production company that’s…been putting out a bunch of B-movies. It seems incredulous when you have a talented actress like Mystia and the daughter of the legendary movie producer, Pompo (Full name: Joelle Davidovich Pomponette) churning out basic, mindless works.
But Gene still thinks there’s a lot to learn, and with his days growing up watching all sorts of films, he believes he’ll find the time to accomplish his dreams and become a director. He ends up getting the opportunity sooner than he thinks — he’s put in charge of a film that Pompo believes will be a “Nyacademy” Award winner. And he’ll have to work with a famous actor who supposedly retired a decade ago. And he’ll have to guide a new, young actress in her film debut.
Something tells me he’s gonna be sweating buckets all over the place…
Actually, he does sweat nervously a good amount of times in Pompo: The Cinéphile, as Gene finds himself slightly intimidated by some of the talent he meets. It’s only until he’s challenged a few times by Pompo (read this script and identify the key scene, finish a 15-second promo by tomorrow) that, while he doesn’t necessarily change completely, his love for film takes over. Maybe in a more obsessive way though (spouting all the movies he’s seen in detail with the actor who starred in those films)!
Overall, I’d say this manga is a more idealistic take on life in the movies. There are general struggles between individual characters, one I’ll get to a bit later, but this seems more devoted to championing filmmaking and some of its processes, which is fine as long as it’s done well. It explains why sometimes it’s preferable to do B-grade cinema and how ultimately as a director or producer, a film’s done if the talents look good, among a few other things, including a debate on the ideal film length. It doesn’t get too technical, but we get a bit of the commercial side of it (marketing for example) and the creative aspect, where a bit of misfortune (rain on the set) can actually be taken advantage of in a positive manner.
There is also no shortage of films referenced in this one volume, as the characters we meet, from our two main leads Gene and Pompo to actress Mystia, share their top 3 favorite films. They did have a few I’ve seen (The Godfather, Fight Club), but it informs their personalities and their overall goals or styles. Like we have the aforementioned Mystia, who is inspired by one particular actress that informs the type of acting she does now, and then we later on get the top 3 of one director who has nothing but anime films — those being Magical Sisters Yoyo and Nene, Welcome to the Space Show, and Princess Arete. Those films get separate sections where you either get their history or an explanation of why they’re a person’s favorite. And it’s quite neat.
Overall this manga feels more like a positive affirmation of the film process, but there are highlights of general overwork. Sleeping in the office or working a bunch of part-time jobs while trying to act suggests lots of sacrifices. This last one is reflected by Nathalie, whom we see doing different jobs (traffic guard, window washing, construction!) while also learning she’s bombed 30 auditions in a row. Her character was interesting as she goes from unknown talent to finding herself in the middle of a major production. All it took was the whim or feeling of something missing from one powerful person, and the rest is history.
It was interesting, by the way, for Pompo to tell Nathalie to stop working and start taking more classes instead.
Anyways, while the comedy aspects are light, the art has a charming style to it that makes everything feel positive. That again seems to sum up this manga, where sometimes you can forget you have corporate hounding you for X, Y, or Z as you motor through hours of film, or simply getting your big break is a result of creating your luck. This first volume ends in a self-contained manner, so I’m curious what volume 2 has in store for everyone then.