Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fantasia 2015 Film Review - 100 Yen Love

Ichiko (Sakura Andu) has turned doing nothing into an art form.  She eats junk food all day long, wears baggy tee shirts and pajama pants as a uniform. Ichiko regular pummels her young nephew in video games and refuses to work in the family Bento shop. When she runs low on munchies she heads to her favourite convenience story where everything cost 100 Yen (a dollar) to refill always leaving a decent tip. Ichiko continues to fight with her sister (Saori) in the family home the later labelling the former as useless and complains that her parent go to easy on her. After one extreme incident between the two Ichiko leaves home to venture out on her own and start anew.

Our protagonist gets a job at her favourite convince store and rents out a top floor apartment nearby. As she has no social life she is willing to work the night shift that the other employees avoid. A boxing gym is beside the store. Ichiko frequently stops in front and peers in at the activity on a regular basis. One boxer (Hirofumi Arai) who catches her eye frequents the dollar store to buy bananas earning the nickname banana man. Eventually Ichiko enters the gym to get in better shape finds she has a knack for the sport then begins to excel and transforming her body and mind.

Director Mashaura and writer Shin Adachi present a story that deals with relationships and finding motivation on many levels. Many of the characters are not likeable for at lease a portion of their time on screen  including our protagonist who's a drain on her family at the out site of the film. Several of the employees at 100 Yen love are very self serving looking to take an advantage possible by evidence on how many instances the store has been robbed by current and ex employees alike.

The real strength of the film is the work by Sakura Andu in the lead role. She undergoes a remarkable transformation for the role. Starting out as a junk food eating but scratching slacker then morphing into a double time rope jumping, precise shadow boxing fighter. Herofumi Arai is effective as an aging fighter. Arai is quiet and moody. He starts a relationship with Ichiko after she takes him in one evenings but he drifts away after taking a job selling tofu out of a street cart.

100 Yen Love is an interesting study of a person who gains self worth through boxing. The sport brings a purpose to Ichiko's life as she now has goals, training, studying to past the government boxing proficiency test then prepare for and have her first fight. The secondary characters at the 100 Yen store all have their quirks some of them possessing character traits and flaws that are more dangerous than others. The films dialogue is rich and full and the subject matter covers a story worth telling. It is a film that I can recommend.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

100 Yen Love | Masaharu Take | Japan | 2014 | 113 Minutes.

Tags: Slacker, Boxer, Clerk, Robbery, Transformation, Fight, Bento Box, Tofu.

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