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The Kirishima Thing

January 15, 2013

Sleeper hit is one of the 2012 highlights

Kirishima bukatsu yamerutteyo (2012)

Japanese high school community turns upside down when one student unexpectedly quits the club. Daihachi Yoshida’s excellent film is one of the best Japanese movies of 2012. The film examines Japanese societal roles and hierarchy which almost no one is expected to escape. One student’s unexpected move triggers a chain reaction which touches half dozen main characters, some of whom are only loosely linked.

Though almost lacking any storyline, Yoshida pulls it off admirably with stylish filmmaking and strong cast. The film looks gorgeous on 35mm film – a format getting ever rarer in Japanese cinema these days. Yoshida has the patience to let scenes run long and often without music or loud acting getting in the way.

The film’s commentary on Japanese society, which despite appearing ever more individualist in global media, still builds on concervative structures, is spot on. A high class student’s sudden resignation from a club becomes a factor of anger, shame and frustration for his friends who can not understand such behavior.

The recent news of an Osaka high school student who took his own life under the pressure and physical violence by his sports club, make the film even timelier. It comes as no big surprise the author of the source novel for Kirishima was also a student (of Waseda University in Tokyo) at the time of publication.

Yet, Yoshida’s films is eventually hopeful and not all that heavy. The small bits of storyline, secondary they may be, are pure mainstream cinema. The well acting cast is made of young and beautiful stars. It is the film’s major strength it brings the qualities of a good indie film into an easily approachable, wider appeal production.

The titular student Kirishima is the film’s driving factor, though no one has seen him, not even the viewer. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Yoshida’s focus is on other characters whose stories are cross-cut in a way that makes the somewhat episodic structure disappear. Unlike most “made-clever” films these days, The Kirishima Thing does not even attempt to tie all loose strings.

The movie theater encounter between Ai Hashimoto and film club leader Ryonosuke Kamiki serves as a romantic highlight. The film playing on the screen in Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo – The Iron Man (1989).

The film was not a major success upon its August 2012 release, but has slowly turned into a sleeper hit. 5 months after its initial release date, staff in a small Sapporo theater were carrying chairs into the theater to allow all viewers fit in.

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