May 24, 2022

Kids Return (1996)

Kids Return is a 1996 Japanese film written, edited and directed by Takeshi Kitano. The film was made directly after Kitano recovered from a motorcycle accident that left one side of his body paralyzed. After undergoing extensive surgery and physical therapy, he quickly went about making Kids Return amidst speculation that he might never be able to work again. It stars Ken Kaneko and Masanobu Ando. The music was composed by Joe Hisaishi, and the cinematographer was Katsumi Yanagishima.

Dropping out of high school, two friends at first find success, one as a up-and-coming boxer and one as a low level gangster. Yet, their life decisions still find a way of catching up with them.
Freddy and Krasnaya Movie Review

K:Hey Freddy! This week we are watching 90s Japanese crime movies, and this is the first movie we watched, "Kids Return", directed by Takeshi Kitano. I liked it! For me, this is a fantastic story about friendship, about the plus and the minus, which, in their combination, provide the dynamics of being, saturating everything with vital energy. The power of friendship between hooligans, Masaru (Ken Kaneko) and Shinji (Masanobu Andō), maintains the vibrancy of life in the surrounding space, which at the beginning of the film is effervesce: riding a bike, pranks on the roof, skipping school - all of this is associated with youth and freedom. It is also about losing a friend, and how we can lose the meaning of life and not find a dream to pursue. And, of course, this is a film about choice, about how we all tried to find meaning after school. Some people find it; some people don't.

F: Hey Krasnaya. I think we're going to keep seeing Takeshi Kitano around here this week. This might as well be Takeshi Kitano week, since the guy dominates the 90's crime movie scene in Japan, it seems. We start gently with this comedy-crime movie. There isn't much violence and much focus on the Yakuza in this one. There are a couple of bloody scenes, but they are nothing compared to today's standards. They do nothing to our long-desensitized minds. The movie feels very naive and a bit cringy sometimes. Some scenes seem out of a child's mind, especially the comedy bits. For me, that made the movie feel even more nostalgic to what it already was just because of having been made in the 90s. It reminded me of simpler times, where you had to be constantly worried about bullies beating you up instead of harassing you in Tik Tok. Everyone is a bully in this movie. There's nowhere to run if you are the weakest link.

Buy me a school uniform please.
I love these school uniforms. They are so stylish.
K: I absolutely loved Joe Hisaishi's music in the film, it complemented the cinematography brilliantly. I even hummed the tune for a while after the movie ended. The acting was on top; everyone coped with their role perfectly. I couldn't help but feel that I was just watching the life of ordinary Japanese kids from the 90s. 

F: That main tune was really catchy. I enjoyed the soundtrack also. But what I enjoyed the most was visiting the places in this lost suburb of Tokyo: the boxing gym, the coffee shop, the streets, the school, etc. The movie does a good job in capturing a feeling of time and place through our two main characters and their little daily adventures. Maybe it does so because of Kitano's semi-biographical aspect. I found that after watching it. The boxing scenes were also pretty nifty. A  large part of the movie is spent on boxing fights, so if you are a fan, I say that you're going to like it. Go sports! Woooo.

Well, he seems happy.
F: I like where the movie ends. Nothing special came about. Masaru and Shinji get some life experience and their colleague dies in a car accident. I like that message. Shy boy Hiroshi (Michisuke Kashiwaya) worried about studying, about getting a good job and, in the end, he dies. Masaru and Shinji don't care much about the future and live in the present moment doing whatever they feel like. Their life goes on and it's just beginning like Shinji suggest in the end scene. Sometimes we need to be like that, just stop worrying and go make someone empty their pockets and give you their lunch money. 😛  Also, an important part of the movie for me, is that you never get to see these boys' parents. I was wondering at times and thinking that maybe they were orphans. Maybe if their parents were around for some guidance, Masaru wouldn't succumb so easily to peer pressure and Shinji wouldn't be such a bonehead?

K: I would recommend Kitano's film for viewing. It has both humor and sad moments. It turned out to be a pleasant, meditative experience, leaving me nostalgic and longing for those long-gone school days.

Your mama's new toy.
The kids have some talent. This is an elaborate prank!
Freddy's Score: 56/100
Krasnaya's Score: 68/100




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