Quirky Guys And Gals
Slight but enjoyable collection of short films by some of Japan’s, well, quirkiest directors…
Quirky Guys And Gals collects four very modern takes on 21st century life and relationships between men and women, written and directed by Yosuke Fujita (Fine, Totally Fine), Gen Sekiguchi (Survive Style 5+), Mipo O (Sakai-ke no shiawase) and Tomoko Matsunashi (The Way of the Director, Happy Darts).
In the opening segment by Yosuke Fujita , Cheering Girls, Chiharu (Nanami Sakuraba, Summer Wars, Classmates, The Last Ronin) and her friends are ex-High School cheerleaders who have decided to cheer on those in everyday life to encourage them to do better. Until Chiharu suffers a crisis of confidence…
Somewhat sillier than Yosuke’s earlier work Fine, Totally Fine, the girls take to their self-appointed mission with Power Ranger style gusto, recuperating in a local restaurant run by Yosuke regular YosiYosi Arakawa (Ping Pong, Memories of Matsuko, Kamikaze Girls). While fun, it’s a bit too over-the-top, lacking the depth that made Fine, Totally Fine such a superior example
Similarly Tomoko Matsunashi’s segment, Boy? meets girl, skates too close to silliness to have enough impact. Aoi Nakamura (Mitsuko Delivers, Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night) plays Konosuke Muratsubaki, a geeky, nervous student with a mad crush on fellow student Kaori Shiroyama (Misako Renbutsu, Shock Labyrinth 3D), but thinks no one has ever noticed him.
That changes when Konosuke’s friend Kato (Ini Kusano) convinces him to dress as a woman, suddenly even Kaori notices him and wants to make him her photographic muse, never guessing his true identity. Can he tell her the truth without risking losing her friendship completely?
Rather pedestrian in terms of filming, and overly simplistic in plot, this story recalls one of the major plots of Sion Sono’s Love Exposure far too closely. Only the performance of Ini Kusano as Konosuke’s ‘so oversexed he’ll accept anything in a skirt’ friend lifts this fairly flat and even slightly amateurish film.
In comparison Mipo Oh’s rather darker take on customer service gone mad has much more to say about modern day society. Claim Night! Stars Mipo Oh regular Tomochika (Sakai-ke no shiawase) on fine form as Mayuko Kusuhara who is thrown into a rage when her electricity is switched off and she feels (as many of us do) that she is ‘fobbed off’ by a call centre employee who doesn’t really mean what she says.
When the complaints manager, Hideki Kasai (Tenkyu Fukuda, Sword Of Desperation), turns up to make amends, she puts him through a series of excruciating demands, sending him out to the supermarket because the food in her fridge spoiled and she wants to eat pork shabu shabu. She then invites him to stay…
The best part about Claim Night! is the twist in the tale which, though not earth-shattering or totally surprising, says a lot about how demanding we are in the 21st century in our expectations – especially those of us who should know better.
Gen Sekiguchi’s final tale, Sebiro Yashiki, is far tamer in tone, and an oddly laidback way to end the anthology. Kyoko Koizumi (Tokyo Sonata, Survive Style 5+, Hanging Garden) plays, Mayumi, a housewife who starts to take in business men who’ve lost their job, just so they have somewhere to go where they won’t pick up a tan but won’t have to admit to their families what has happened.
In these recession-hit times, she finds more and more of these business men (having had a history for previously taking in cats), until she finds her husband has also lost his job…
A nice comment on Japanese pride for modern times, this lacks a bit of bite that could have added a bit more to the story. (For some reason I kept thinking of the Monty Python sketch with the milkmen?)
Seen together, there’s not enough of a running theme between the films, the content and style is too disparate to come together as a whole even if they can be enjoyed separately.
Sure, this is enjoyable, but a shame that all the films don’t have the bite or social comment of Claim Night!
Distributor: Third Window Films (UK)
Edition: DVD (2011)
A solid release from Third Window which continues their contribution to releasing the best in Japanese cinema when most distributors can't be bothered to get beyond the gore fest, splatterpunk titles.
Bonus features include Special messages and exclusive interviews with all four directors, there's also access to the films separately (which in this case I'd recommend!) However, this release is lacking on some of the finer details: the subtitles seem to omit a lot of credit and written information which I have a feeling would benefit the viewer.