Your Friends きみの友だち Kimi no Tomodachi (2008)

Your Friends                                        Your Friend Poster

Japanese Title:  きみの友だち

Romaji: Kimi no Tomodachi

Release Date: July 26th, 2008

Running Time: 125 mins.

Director: Ryuichi Hiroki

Writer: Hiroshi Saito (Screenplay), Kiyoshi Shigematsu (Original Work)

Starring: Anna Ishibashi, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Ayu Kitaura, Seiji Fukushi, Naoyuki Morita, Nao Omori, Akira Emoto, Tomorowo Taguchi

A train cuts through expansive fields under wide blue skies. As it meanders along the track the landscape changes, the line edging through hills crowded with the houses of a quiet rural town in Japan. Once it reaches its destination off the train steps a journalist named Nakahara (Fukushi) who is heading to a school for disabled children with the intention of making a documentary of the place.

He tries taking pictures of the kids and interviewing them but the pupils are all shy around him and avoid answering questions. However, with their teachers they bounce around in class, giggle and get involved with lessons and display a sense of liveliness and excitability, ingenuity and originality in the way they see the world. One teacher in particular is very popular with the children and she catches the eye of Nakahara.

Genki-Kimi-no-Tomodachi-Nakahara-(Fukushi)-and-Emi-(Ishibashi)

Her name is Emi (Ishibashi), a young woman who attends college and volunteers at the school. She uses a crutch to walk and seems introverted but the kids adore her. One of the things she does is to take photographs of clouds and allow children to pick their favourite ones and take them home when they graduate.

Kimi no Tomodachi Emi (Ishibashi) and Nakahara (Fukukshi) and the Cloud Pictures

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Third Window Films Release The Story of Yonosuke

Third Window Films follow up last month’s release of the ultra-brilliant “Shady” with a more heart-warming human drama about the power of friendship called “The Story of Yonosuke“. As I made clear in my review, I liked it a lot. Here are the release details:

The Story of Yonosuke

The Story of Yonosuke DVD Case

A film by Shuichi Okita (The Woodsman & the Rain)
Based on a novel by Shuichi Yoshida (Villain, Parade)

Japan / 2013 / 160 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / Colour

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The Story of Yonosuke 横道世之介 (2013)

Genki The Story of Yonosuke Review Header Yonosuke (Kora)

The Story of Yonosuke                      A Story of Yonosuke Film Poster

Japanese Title: 横道世余之介

Romaji: Yokomichi Yonosuke

Release Date: February 23rd, 2013 (Japan)

UK Release Date: N/A

UK Distributor: Third Window Films

Running Time: 160 mins.

Director: Shuichi Okita

Writer: Shiro Maeda (Screenplay), Shuichi Yoshida (Original Novel)

Starring: Kengo Kora, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Sosuke Ikematsu, Ayumi Ito, Gou Ayano, Arata, Kimiko Yo, Aki Asakura, Mei Kurokawa, Tasuku Emoto, Aimi Satsukawa, Keiko Horiuchi, Noriko Eguchi,

I was made a fan of Shuichi Okita after watching The Woodsman & the Rain, a film which is a wonderfully observed and rather touching comedy about the art of filmmaking and human bonds. Despite potentially weighty subjects I found it was an amusing and gratifying film that worked through its great characters and well-observed dry comedy. Okita is back a year after that film with a more complex one as he directs Shiro (Isn’t Anyone Alive?) Maeda’s adaptation of Shuichi’s Yoshida’s novel which flits between different time periods with a large cast of characters stretching between the ’80s and now.

The Story of Yonosuke Arrival in Tokyo (Kora)Tokyo 1987, Yonosuke Yokomichi (Kora) has left a small port city and lumbers into Tokyo to attend university. It blows his mind. There are huge buildings covered with ads for Sony and Kiss Mint gum, he sees amateur idol groups performing J-pop on the street and fashionable people everywhere.

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Noriko’s Dinner Table 紀子の食卓 (2006)

Noriko's Dinner Table Review Banner

Noriko’s Dinner Table                                                   Noriko's Dinner Table Poster

International Title: Noriko’s Dinner Table

Romaji: Noriko no Shokutaku

Japanese Title: 紀子の食卓

Release Date: 23rd September 2006 (Japan)

Running Time: 159 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono

Starring: Kazue Fukiishi, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Tsugumi, Ken Mitsuishi, Sanae Miyata, Shiro Namiki, Tamae Ando, Toru Tezuka, Yoko Mitsuya

Noriko’s Dinner Table is billed as the prequel to Suicide Circle and while it may be set in the same universe and explore the same ideas it drops gore for a more intimate and surreal story.

Noriko Shimabara (Fukiishi) is an inexperienced girl who lives a quiet and comfortable life with her journalist father Tetsuzo (Mitsuishi), her mother Taeko (Miyata), and her younger sister Yuka (Yoshitaka) in Toyokawa. Noriko craves excitement and wants to head to a university in Tokyo but her conservative father is set against it and wants Noriko to head to a local university. Noriko feels alienated from her parents but finds refuge in the internet on the site Haikyo.com, a place where teenagers from across Japan gather. Noriko grows especially fond of the website’s chief who goes under the username Ueno Station 54. Noriko runs away from home to Tokyo and meets Ueno Station 54 at Locker #54 in Ueno station. The mysterious Ueno Station 54 turns out to be a young woman named Kumiko (Tsugumi) who introduces Noriko to her business named I.C. Corp which offers clients actors who provide role-play services.  Noriko falls into this shadowy world of role-playing. Six months later, 54 school girls act out their roles and jump in front of a train at Shinjuku station. Back in Toyokawa, Noriko’s sister Yuka has become a member of Haikyo and aims to track down Noriko. In order to do this she heads to Tokyo. This sets in motion Tetsuzo’s search for his daughters and his investigation into a cult named Suicide Club.

Noriko’s Dinner Table is based on a novel Sion Sono wrote in 2002 named Suicide Circle: The Complete Edition which wraps around the events of Suicide Circle, resolving questions and expanding on the story and themes.

Making links between the two films is interesting as we get an insight into who orchestrated the chaos of Suicide Circle and their motives. Whether you wanted an explanation of the site haikyo.com or a behind-the-scenes of some of the most audacious moments of the first film you will get it but as a follow-up to Suicide Circle’s gory events Noriko’s Dinner Table feels very different thanks to its restraint in dealing out black humour, horror and violence. They never overwhelm proceedings but inform them. Noriko’s Dinner Table shows that Sono has grown as a writer and director and he has thought carefully about what he wants to film.

I was ripe for growth

In essence this is a mystery/family drama about existential growth. Noriko’s Dinner Table leaves behind the spectacle of mass suicide and gives a more fulsome examination of the issues of alienation, the generation gap between parents and children, and the battle between individual authenticity and conformism.

Noriko and Her Family in Noriko's Dinner Table

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Adrift in Tokyo 転々 (2007)

Adrift in Tokyo HeaderMiki Satoshi brings his brand of quirky and touching comedy to Adrift in Tokyo, a film which is based on a novel by Naoki Prize winner Yoshinaga Fujita. It won Best Script and Best Film at the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival and it is easy to see why because what starts out as a simple gentle comedy gains great depth.

Fumiya (Jo Odagiri) has been a university student for 8 years and owes money to loan sharks. One named Fukuhara (Tomokazu Miura) comes to collect. Fumiya cannot pay so Fukuhara makes a proposition: He will cancel the debt as long as Fumiya agrees to walk with him across Tokyo to the police station in Kasumigaseki, where he intends to turn himself in for a crime he deeply regrets.  Fumiya accepts the deal and starts a journey which will lead them to various unusual encounters, most of all with themselves.

Adrift in Tokyo is one of those films where the title says it all. Fumiya and Fukuhara are adrift in a road movie without the road, the two travelling along the streets of Tokyo discovering things about themselves, the city and others.

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