GUYS AND GALS
Third Window Films.
of the Japanese films we’ve covered here at Strange
Things have either been downbeat and grim or explosively
gory exercises in excess – or sometimes, a combination of
the two. But of course, there’s much more to Japanese cinema
than that, and this is a prime example of slightly – okay,
very – oddball pop cinema.
Quirky Guys and Gals is a collection of four
short films, each with rather eccentric characters at the heart
of it. You can watch the films individually if you choose (complete
with introductions from the directors), but I’d recommend
watching it as the full length feature version, if only because
then you’ll get the J-pop backed opening and closing animated
The first film, Cheer Girls, directed by Yosuke
Fujita, follows the adventures of three schoolgirls who dress
like vintage cartoon characters and are cheerleaders – not
for sports teams, but for anyone who needs support – a student
struggling with shoelaces, a suicidal businessman, a restaurant
owner struggling with a too-tight jar lid. Led by dedicated Chiharu
(Nanami Sakaruba) – who is not above beating integrity into
her subordinates should they forget their mission – all
seems to be going well for the trio, until a few misunderstandings
lead Chiharu to lose faith and be in need of cheering herself.
Tomoko Matsunashi’s Boy? Meets Girl sees
gawky schoolboy Muratsubaki (Aoi Nakamura) having a crush on Kaori,
the cutest girl in school. But, convinced she wouldn’t be
interested, he can only watch her from a distance. But when a
friend convinces him to dress as a girl, his life is turned around,
and Miyu, his female side, soon becomes firm friends with Kaori.
But how can her tell her the truth?
Night, by Mipo O, sees Mayuko (Tomochika) getting into
an argument with a call centre operator after her electricity
is cut off and she can’t cook her anticipated meal. A call
centre manager visits to apologise, and Mayuko takes him for as
much compensation as she can get, until she starts to find him
attractive. But inviting him to stay to dinner only leads to further
misunderstandings and conflict.
Closing things out is Gen Sekiguchi’s The House
Full of ‘Abandoned’ Businessmen, which sees
housewife Mrs Okada (Kyoko Koizumi) meeting businessman Mr Hirata
sitting on a park bench looking depressed. It turns out that he
has lost his job, but can’t bring himself to tell his wife.
Mrs Okada invites him to spend the days in her house, and soon,
she is finding other depressed, jobless and stubbornly proud salarymen
to take home – a new replacement for the twenty two cats
she used to own.
There’s a lot of charm in this collection of films. Conflict
is minimal and cartoonish, and the personal eccentricities of
the characters are celebrated rather than mocked. There are several
laugh-out-loud moments, particularly in the final tale, as a house
full of suited but useless businessmen try to defeat a cockroach,
and overall, this is a remarkably sweet, delightfully upbeat,
fun and - as the title suggests - quirky film. It’s fluffy
stuff, certainly – there isn’t anything very deep
about any of the stories, but that’s actually no bad thing.
As a collection of cheerfully eccentric films about cheerfully
eccentric characters, it’s the very definition of feel-good
cinema. An absolute delight.
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