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One Million Yen Girl May 13, 2011

Posted by ayasawada in Film.
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One Million Yen Girl poster
A lovely, if not entirely absorbing, little film starring Yu Aoi (yes, this was the main reason I went to see this ^^;).

Yu plays the titular One Million Yen Girl, Suzuko, a plain, well-meaning girl who seems to run into nothing but trouble at home. A spiteful acquaintance leads her to jail time and on her parole, she vows to save one million yen and get away from those who treated her so badly. This turns into something of a habit, taking her away from each place she settles when her savings reach the magic number again.

This is one of those quirky, slow-moving, slice-of-life films, which comment on Japanese society and human nature, as we, through the protagonist follow her from town to town, experience friendship, kindness, love and lots and lots of spite. It’s nothing spectacular, but Director Yuki Tanada crafts an empathic story with some lovely moments – Suzuko’s letters to her brother back home are particularly nice. And of course, there’s that lovely lead actress ^^

Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers (2005) January 3, 2010

Posted by ayasawada in Film.
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Turtles cover

Or possibly the most wonderfully random Japanese film I’ve every seen. It’s that randomness that I love most about Japanese movies, and random, slapstick, Japanese movies that I love most. And Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers delivers with aplomb.

The plot, for what it’s worth, is about Suzume, an ordinary Japanese housewife in an ordinary Japanese town who finds life isn’t so ordinary when she takes on a part-time job as a spy. Sort of.

What the above paragraph doesn’t convey is how the film is neither as exciting as that makes it sound, or as pedestrian. One of the two things I really liked about it (after Ueno Juri and Yu Aoi ^^;) is how it tells a coherent narrative while being completely unpredictable. You’re watching perfectly ordinary activities, in perfectly ordinary locations, but performed by people who are just off kilter.

The other thing is its central theme: the celebration of the ‘ordinary’ as a quality of value, be it a person who leads an unremarkable life or a ‘so-so’ bowl of ramen that is neither tasty or terrible. As one of the characters says, “To be truly ‘ordinary’ is a rare skill — one might say ‘extra-ordinary'”.

I don’t want to say too much, lest I give away what is, at 90 minutes, a nicely compact story. But I highly recommend it to those who love modern Japanese movies for the same reasons I do. It’s full of wonderful characters who are  inspiring, funny and almost like you and me.