Archive for April 12th, 2012

In a remote part of Shimane Prefecture (down in Southern Japan), just 1 small school combined together (elementary and middle) is enough to teach 6 children that live in the area. The kids range in ages from as little as 6 years old to 15 years old. The eldest pupil being Soyo Migita. They’re a tight group and help/rely on each other as there’s no one else of the same age around. Into the school comes Hiromi Osawa, a 15 year old boy recently transferred from Tokyo with his mother who has recently had a divorce. A new pupil is exciting news in itself for the 6 kids and they all welcome him but things sour between Soyo and Osawa after she gives him something to eat after having cleaned up the pee of one of the youngest pupils in the school Sachiko and he comments that her hands smell of piss! His bluntless shocks Soyo who starts to dislike him. However, Soyo changes her mind when he rescues her from being run over by a train when she falls on the railway tracks. Both begin to like each other……well sort of. Even after letting Osawa try to kiss her in exchange for his coat, it’s not enough to convince her to fall completely for him. After a trip to Tokyo, Osawa decides that he wants to go back there to study in high school. Will another kiss from Soyo persuade him to change his mind about leaving?

This is a prime example of why I love Japanese movies so much. A slice of life/coming of age story with a nice, gentle and relaxed pace about it. Nothing too overdramatic except to show the sensitive nature of the lead female character. Soyo is a person that worries too much (not that she’s a neurotic teen girl!) about her mistakes. She tries to balance her life out by caring about the feelings of those around her such as family and friends but also going through something that she’s never felt before – her first romantic experience. The movie is also about nostalgia and enjoying the things that you did as a kid such as going to the beach, school, hanging out with your friends and falling for someone for the first time. Soyo is such a naive young girl but living in such a rural area you’d expect that somebody like her wouldn’t be exposed to many things that city kids get up to. We do get to see a clash of cultures with a school trip to Tokyo. Soyo has always wanted to go there but after experiencing the hustle and bustle of the big city she realises that there’s nothing quite like home in the country. I did enjoy this part of the movie seeing her shellshocked look in Shinjuku Station not knowing what to do as it reminded me of how I felt when I landed there myself for the first time. I was worried about getting lost in the vast labyrinth of the station. It is easy to become lost there if you’re not sure where you’re going!!

Kaho is quite brilliant as the innocent Soyo, a person not being able to express her feelings properly. She was perfect for the role, charming and so likeable. The chemistry between all of the kids is wonderful to watch, they’re like a small extended family due to the place where they live being a small knit community. You’ll be stunned at the breathtaking countryside scenery that’s shown to you. A kind of place perhaps you wished you could live there yourself…..well I did anyway! For those of you thinking that running a school with so little pupils is a bit far fetched, the truth is these kind of places do exist in Japan. I was instantly drawn to the story and the characters. You can relate to them. I don’t think the sideplot about Soyo’s father and Osawa’s mother (they seem to have had a relationship in the past) was really necessary and only distracted you from the main story. I knew I’d like this movie instantly when I realised that the director Nobuhiro Yamashita had also made the awesome Linda, Linda, Linda.

I can see some people tagging this movie as being too slow and boring but I’m a kind of person that loves these kind of heartwarming movies. It was such an absolute pleasure to watch.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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