Monday, December 21, 2009

Ramen Girl Dead at 32

It was a cold Winter’s Solstice of 2009 that I was saddened to hear the news of the untimely death of the actress Brittany Murphy. She had passed away after collapsing in her Hollywood Hills home by natural causes at the ripe young age of 32. I can’t say that I had been a really big fan of hers or that I didn't know her name until five months ago. But after some reflection after leaving the Koyasan Temple, I felt that I should weigh in on this and express my thoughts on this tragic passing. As you are probably aware, I like to watch many Japanese films and television dramas and as a result I tend to dominate the film picks around here. But as a fair exchange with my girlfriend Tinahime, I will now and then screen film picks she finds and every so often she finds a winner or two that I wouldn’t have otherwise shown interest in or heard of. So there we were on summer night last August having our usual debate about Samurai Dramas and the occasional chick flick she tries to sneak in when we came across a curious little film that starred Brittany Murphy called Ramen Girl.

At first I was not sure I was even going to like this film but Tina insisted I give this film a chance. American “chick flicks” generally do not interest me and often let us down but this turned out to be more than just a chick flick. This actually had a cool story that had all the familiar Japanese elements that you would hope for. In this film, the late Brittany Murphy plays a young American girl named Abby. She goes to Tokyo to be with her boyfriend Ethan who dumps her there while he bails off to go to Osaka. Heartbroken, she goes to a Ramen shop which is in the process of closing for the night. The chef played by Toshiyuki Nishida and his wife played by Kimiko Yo do not speak English and try to their best to turn the sobbing American away but to no avail. In an attempt to calm the girl down they serve her the last bowl of ramen for the night and she instantly loves it. It is in the midst of her palletary delight that she hallucinates that the lucky “Maneki Neko” cat seen at the entrance of the ramen house beckons her to come closer which leads to her grand epiphany to become a ramen chef.

Ramen Girl is a delightful film where Brittany Murphy played the role of Abby with the heart and passion worthy of a Japanese production. Cross cultural tension plays it’s hand as the performance of Toshiyuki Nishida and their Sensei / Student relationship really draws you in. So much so I want to own a DVD copy. Nishida almost reminds you of the late Toshiro Mifune with his intimidating grunts and hot temper but ultimately his sympathy for his student’s desire to become a true ramen chef.

And in this cross cultural exchange a transformation begins from kohai to sempai. If you wind up becoming involved in these characters you really wind up rooting for them as they warm your heart to the point I got really into cooking Soba and Udon noodle after this.

The film had been compared to the Karate Kid but I would give it better props than what it received. Ramen Girl is in both English and Japanese and was release in 2008. It was a truly a memorable stand out performance by Brittany Murphy that brought a rare smile to face. I’d like to think that there was more of Brittany’s true personality and charm infused into her character. And that is why I so saddened to hear of her death being so young and full of life. And now that we just come to know her in Ramen Girl it is such a loss. Brittany Murphy is better known for other roles in 8Mile, Uptown Girls, and Clueless but for me she will always be the quirky the Ramen Girl who will continue to live on in my heart.

Rest in Peace.
Sayonara Brittany,


  1. I was shocked. How can someone that young die from cardiac arrest?

  2. She had been underweight in recent times. If drugs were not a factor, I will place my bet on self starvation causing the heart to shrink and ultimately fail. But we'll see what the coroner says.