Monday, November 4, 2013

Reel Asian 2013 Film Review - The Kirishima Thing

Set in a Japanese Highschool in an unnamed town The Kirishima Thing follows a group of Students over a 5-day period leading up to an important parents night. The film focuses on several groups of students dividing them up into those that participate in after class events and those that do not.  The film is based on a novel by Ryo Asai for which he receives a writing credit while Kohei Kiysu and  Daichai Yoshida take screenplay credits.

The school's star pupil Kirishima is absent from class. He is the star of the volleyball team, dates Risa ( Mizuki Yamamoto) who is in the leading female clique in school and is best friends with Hiroki ( Masahiro Higashide) the next best athlete in school who is sought after by all of the school teams. Kirishima is not returning calls or texts but is expected to turn up at class at least by parent's night.

The film hits all of the hierarchical high school roles. The top female group that includes the above mentioned Risa, along with Sana (Mayu Matsuoka) who is dating Hiroki, Kasumi (Ai Hashimoto) and Mika (Kurumi Shimizu). Risa and Sana are above after class events but do stick around after school to wait for their boyfriends. Kasumi and Mika claim that they are not important but both play on the badminton team.  Next you have the Athletes lead by the Volleyball and baseball teams followed by the band and at the bottom the nerds in the Film club.

Where the film has its strongest moments is in its portrayal of Japanese ordered society. The students are uniformed spending long days at school from early morning pre sunrise arrivals to departures in the dark of night. The sporting teams practice and play on both Saturday and Sunday determined to earn honour and recognition for the school. There is great respect for one elders. The students bow to the their teachers when greeting and departing. If given a direction for a project by a teacher they do not go against the teacher's will.

The feature is very well written. The opening sequence titled Friday is shot from four different points of view. In each of the four presentation of the day scenes are repeated from two three and even four different perspectives. The anchor of the sequence occurs when the main characters are all in the same class and the teacher hands out a questionnaire that is to be filled out and returned before the parents meeting the following Wednesday. The multiple angle devise is used again on the following Tuesday which is presented from two different points of view.

As is usually the case in this type of piece the two most interesting characters are outside of the popular groups. The Captain of the band saxophone player Aya Sawashima (Suzuka Ohgo) likes Hiroki and takes to practicing in unusual areas after class where she knows that he will be in plain view. Film club leader Maeda (Ryunosuke Kamiki) defies his teacher by writing and shooting a film about Zombies in and around the school that leads to a climatic confrontation on the roof when the film club, volleyball team and popular kids all end up in the same spot.

Director Daihachi Yoshida uses several different shooting techniques for the film. Many of the arrival shots at the school are shot from above to give the crammed effect of a school full of students arriving for first class. The majority of the scenes use a fixed camera that the action moves toward then away. Yoshida departs from this style in the multiple repeated scenes where he uses different camera angles, framing and even alters the content to emphasis the current perspective of the scene. Another constant feature is characters running throughout the school.  They are running into class to after school practice, to meet up with each other or to where they think one of their friends may be or on several occasions into other students.

Masahiro Higashide stands out as Hiroki, one of the leading athletes at the school but reluctant to continue on the baseball team. He is the title character's best friend but able to share real moments with other students who are struggling to get by.  The above mentioned Ohgo and Kamiki have the most complex roles therefore lots of material to work with and both perform well. Ai Hashimoto and Kurumi Shimizu are both surprising as Kasumi and Mika. Both members of the popular girl clique but each are willing to branch out to interact and support perceived lesser lights even challenging Risa and Sana if they are out of line.

The Kirishima Thing is a superior presentation of high school life that takes a different path. The characters move in and out of expected roles providing an enjoyable viewing experience. Intelligently acted by a pleasing ensemble cast; Yoshida captures the structure of Japanese school life in a piece centered by a robust script. The Kirishmia Thing is a film that I can definitely recommend.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

The Kirishima Thing | Daihachi Yoshida | 2012 | Japan | 103 Minutes.

High School Sports, Extracurricular Activities, Formal Uniforms, Cliques,  School Honour, Teenagers, Non Linear Narrative, Film Club, George Romero, Peer Pressure.

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