BLOG POST BY: SAIKO & POCHI
Pochi: Today we have the impossible task of co-writing a blog post to recommend one – and only one – film in each of five pre-determined categories. Hopefully, you, our dear readers, won’t suffer through Saiko professing his love for Sion Sono again.
Saiko: I’m not entirely oblivious to the fact that I have already mentioned all the Sono films this festival since there are only two. However, I am entirely of the opinion that my purpose in life is to champion cult films.
Pochi: I think Saiko has maxed out all the cult films in his very first blog post… Well why don’t we jump straight into it?
Saiko: I thought Pochi would actually pick La La La At Rock Bottom given her pseudonym is taken from the main character of the film. But since I picked it, let me talk about why I think this should be the one unique drama you should watch: It’s a cool film. Simply that.
Pochi: I must admit it’s a cool film. And Shibutani, playing Pochi in the film, was a natural and gave a convincing performance.
Saiko: With La La La At Rock Bottom the atmosphere, set design, script and acting tie in so well together which makes the film believable. There’s an interesting story and it’s unique without being ridiculous or over-the-top. The songs are also catchy and the real-life band in it, called Akainu, are really cool.
Pochi: Well, I do think the winner of the ‘Unique Drama’ category is at Home. We don’t often see this sort of storyline in Japanese films where they take criminals and put them in the centre of a family drama. Normally if you have criminals you have a crime film, or action, or even comedy. On the other hand, at Home focuses more on life at the fringes of society more than the act of committing crimes.
Saiko: La La La At Rock Bottom involves gangsters and a crime, or should I say criminal, element too. And rock music. I think we know which one is the clear winner.
Saiko: Ladies and gentlemen, the winner is TAG.
Pochi: It has young people but it’s certainly not light! And certainly not free!
Saiko: Sigh. Actually, no, it’s BAKUMAN。
Pochi: Of course you’ll pick the one with the cool guys. Well I pick the one with the cute lead female, No Longer Heroine.
Saiko: If I were female I would want to be Mirei Kiritani. Although Mirei Kiritani is not enough to win this round because clearly BAKUMAN。is the epitome of youth. Two carefree teenagers who decide for themselves that they will create the best manga there ever was before they’re even out of high school. The Takeru Sato and Ryunosuke Kamiki acting duo, supported by a cast including Lily Franky and Shota Sometani, gave stellar performances. This would have to be one of the most entertaining films this year.
Pochi: You forget one crucial thing. Their struggle to manga kingdom actually took away their light and carefree youth which means your film pick technically can’t win this round. No Longer Heroine on the other hand is the epitome of carefree youth, with characters completely engrossed in their teenage world. It features romantic rivalry, weekend dates in the park and laugh-out-loud comedy. I imagine patrons who’ll see this film will leave the theatre feeling entertained and refreshed.
Pochi: BAKUMAN。still landed the number one spot in the box office in its first weekend in Japan. Replacing No Longer Heroine.
Saiko: Don’t conveniently forget that No Longer Heroine also topped the charts after one week.
Pochi: After one week.
Saiko: Can I just say, for the record, that I strongly dislike the word ‘dramedy’?
Pochi: Yes, but there is no better way of describing some of the films.
Saiko: Bouncing off the Young, Light, and Free round I would have to pick Flying Colours then.
Pochi: Well, if I were to pick the best dramedy out of the bunch it would have to be Twilight: Saya in Sasara. Partially because the story telling is also quite comical, showing us that the film doesn’t really take itself too seriously. Although I do believe that the highlight of the film are the bits and pieces of Japanese culture, both modern and traditional, that you pick up throughout the whole film. It’s set in the Japanese country so you find little shrines along the small streets and old style trains. And of course, the main character is a rakugo performer or traditional Japanese sit-down comedian!
Saiko: Flying Colors is bigger on the laughs and also big on the feels. It’s also a family drama in that it draws focus to the family as the main provider of support to the protagonist. I think it also invites discussion around societal pressure to excel in school. The way a lot of scenes were delivered makes it a comedy, but a lot of the issues it chooses to focus on invites drama. Hence, Flying Colors is the clear winner of the dramedy round.
Pochi: I really don’t appreciate you assuming the winners for each round.
Saiko: In an interesting twist, I ended up picking the more popular franchise while Pochi picked the lesser known one.
Pochi: Yes Saiko, but let me remind you, Strayer’s Chronicle is also a popular manga. I would describe it as a Japanese version of X-Men. Normally it would be a bad thing to be compared to a Hollywood movie but Strayer’s is interesting in its own way. It also has an energetic cast of young actors which the other films don’t have so I find that refreshing. Of course, Shota Sometani lends some star power to this movie.
Saiko: Strayer’s is a bit too X-men for my taste and the dystopian alternate universe that Library Wars: The Last Mission occupies appeals to me a lot. There are some cheesy scenes given the romantic angle between the main characters, but overall it is a very entertaining pick. I dare say it’s a film for the family, if parents don’t object to the “war” type violence on screen.
Pochi: You know what, I think you actually win this round. But I still think Strayer’s Chronicle has a much interesting sci-fi premise aka genetic mutation and humans with weird super powers.
Pochi: Mipo Oh does it again this year with Being Good. We all saw The Light Shines Only There last year. It was very hard to watch in some parts but you just can’t stop watching it because it’s a great film.
Saiko: Let’s paraphrase that last sentence to you can’t stop watching it because of Go Ayano.
Pochi: That too, I’m not going to lie, the man can act. Going back to Being Good… we have this film set in a quiet town with all these adorable children. You see Kengo Kora who lights up the screen just like he did in Story of Yonosuke. And then bam—you’re slapped in the face with this really raw scene of a mother beating her own child. What’s so bold about Being Good is it highlights the good by focusing on where that good is missing from. Instead of just covering up the hole, it wakes up the viewer and invites him or her to think about why there’s a hole in the first place and how it can be fixed.
Saiko: Pochi, that’s the most metaphors I’ve heard you use. I dare say you put forward a compelling argument as to why Being Good is great. However, the winner for this category is a no-brainer—Fires on the Plain. Both of these films are overflowing with emotion but the best thing about Fires on the Plain is it must have taken a lot of guts for the director Shinya Tsukamoto to make it.
Pochi: Quite literally, a lot of guts.
Saiko: In terms of being heavy, it would be harder to sit through Fires on the Plain. However, both films equally place the audience face to face with raw emotions.
Pochi: I wish we had a pool of audience to decide who the winner is.
Saiko: Technically, they can, They just need to tag us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #JFF2015AU mentioning their choice!