ゆかちゃんの愛した時代 「Yuka-chan no Aishita Jidai」
Release Date: July 11th, 2020
Duration: 30 mins.
Director: Yun Hayama
Writer: Yun Hayama, Nishio Hiroshi (Script),
Starring: Yun Hayama, Keita Yamashina, Sayu Higashi, Marc Panther, Shiho Tanaka,
With the retirement of Emperor Akihito and the ascension of Crown Prince Naruhito to the Chrysanthemum throne, the transition from the Heisei era to the Reiwa era¹ sparked a lot of nostalgia in Japanese who looked back over the cultural shifts felt during the 80s and 90s. Yun Hayama indulges in the same thing and is clearly writing from experience with this film which is a flashback to the fun of the 90s.
It is April 30th, 2019, and the Heisei era will end in an hour. At one coffee shop in Osaka, Yuka Yukawa, a local talent born in 1989 (the first year of the Heisei era) is having a meeting with her manager Masao (Keita Yamashina). While Masao is pressuring her to do work (including, quite cynically, a film with an erotic scene), Yuka is more interested in talking about her memories of the Heisei era and as she talks her sweet and infectious desire for the Heisei era begins to overflow into the conversation.
It is said that the things we listen to and watch as children and teens are what we continue to like well into adulthood and this film shows how as, during their talk, we get flashbacks to Yuka’s childhood, the trends (like the Nostradamus prophecy and hairclips) that were popular on the school playground and the TV shows and music that inspired her to become a talent. The aesthetic of late 90s pop feels accurately captured in these flashbacks that have a variety of made-up programmes and pop groups like Happening Girls who, with their dance moves and costumes, are a perfect homage of Morning Musume (I immediately thought of their song Love Revolution) since that was the one I first heard/saw when I was in school.
We watch the effect all of these things have on inspiring young people like Yuka and her friends and this inspiration is effectively conveyed through cute child actors who are bursting with enthusiasm and feel believable in their DIY attempts to recreate idols. They are then contrasted with the more mature and uncertain adults Yuka and Masao who we meet in the present tense narrative and the contrast allows us to see that they have lost sight of what inspired them. However, by the end of the conversation and the examination of memories, that innocent enthusiasm comes back.
The backbone of the film is the conversation between Yuka and Masao. Their personalities are well defined: he is dressed for work, on his phone making deals, and relentless about talking business and rather direct in his speech (even suggesting nude scenes), while she is more innocent, wears bright clothes and goes on digressions and flights of fancy. Even what they order at the coffee shop tells you something about them, he gets a bitter iced coffee while she has a sugary deluxe parfait. They seem like chalk and cheese at first but as we fish through their various memories and their business conversation they become something of a manzai duo and the infectious, sometimes silly enthusiasm of Yuka’s boke is met with the tsukommi style of Masao in what turns out to be a well-practiced routine.
While retreating into nostalgia suggests nothing but good things, the narrative is very much aware of time and people that have passed and Yuka’s lamentation of that loss as well as changes in culture has the ring of truth since, as we get older, we miss our youth. Also haunting both her and Masao is the idea that they are in their 30s and have to grow up but the film ends on a lovely note that shows reclaiming youthful hopes and maintaining them can lead to a positive mindset that offers hope in the future and this is felt in the way the camera becomes more dynamic as the actors become gradually excited by their memories as their rather innocent and hopeful proclamations of recapturing their dreams spills out, the camera swirling around them, multiple cuts showing their smiling faces.
In making this crowd-funded short film, Yun Hayama brought together Kansai creatives like director Nishio Hiroshi (Soul Flower Train) and others to perfectly captures that sense of nostalgia from a local perspective. She brings it all together through good direction that is snappy, allows the art design to show 90s aesthetic and brings out the performances of the cast who are all strong in their roles. It makes a charming film full of infectious nostalgia for pop ephemera that captures its inspirational value.
¹ Each era is named after the reign of the emperor
For some reason, I felt that Benten-cho in Osaka was the location.