DVD Review: Shady – A Film By Ryohei Watanabe
Watanabe manages to evoke the depression associated with being alone at school!
High school life is a daunting time for older teens, but in Shady director Ryohei Watanabe successfully illustrates how bad it can get. The loneliness aspect is a large issue in most Japanese movies about school life and this is a good example of how an isolated person can be influenced by someone else. Here Misa Kumada and Izumi Kiyone are two girls who share the same pain of being loathed and bullied but for different reasons. Misa is seen as an unattractive girl who is the subject of much hatred while Izumi is the pretty girl everyone wants to be and as a result envies. Misa sits at her desk and hides her face when she writes her essays so she doesn’t bring attention to herself. Realising there is the chance the school bullies will taunt her anyway their usual taunts use her name Kumada as everyone who has played video game Tekken knows a character in it called Kuma is a bear. So you can imagine what image the name Pooh conjures up when they shout it.
Misa has no friends at the school and gets used to having no company. The plight of her isolation and loneliness is felt only by her as she constantly walks around the school with her head bowed, even going so far as to eat her lunch in a remote part of the school to be around the school’s goldfish (who has recently been put in a new tank.) When she can’t take any more of her life of loneliness, she is seen gripping her pen in anxiety and anger but she isn’t alone for long though as Izumi Kiyose is suffering in the same way. The only difference is she is pretty and envied by the less attractive girls in her class. One day Izumi places an exam paper in Misa’s desk and that is the start of their friendship. Together they are considered ugly and pretty. Their respective bullies hate Misa’s unattractiveness and larger body, but at the same time they can’t stomach the sight of a girl like Izumi who is prettier than they.
There are some interesting ways in which this movie has been filmed. At the start, Misa is seen but only from the ground up until she enters the school. She has no self-esteem, is unhappy with her lot and loathes being noticed by anyone even someone who might want to befriend her. During the first part of Shady she is never seen smiling until she meets her new friend. As Misa is seen from the ground up, her friend is seen in a better light, her pretty face smiling most of the time as she breezes through life with a spring in her step. Izumi comes into Misa’s life like a breath of fresh air and it seems they will be friends, if a little more later on. Scenes of Izumi scurrying under the desk at the school library to remove her sock and apply a pressure point on her leg to help her painful menstruation is just one of the acts of kindness she gives her. A funnier one is the sight of her dancing around in the rain with what is left of her umbrella after jealous classmates vandalised it. As the title suggests, Shady is about the reality of what goes on inside a person’s mind when they are faced with the ultimate friendship and later lesbianism. The director manages to evoke the depression associated with being alone at school when others around them are happy in a group but what seems to look like an ordinary story of love between two girls changes direction only to shock the viewer even more. The most incredible aspect of this thriller is that it is director, Ryohei Watanabe’s debut, so many will be waiting to see more of his work.
Label: Third Window Films
Release date: March 24th 2014
Running time: 94 minutes
Director: Ryohei Watanabe
Cast: Izumi Okamura, mimpi*b, Isao Nakazawa, Gota Ishida, Ayumi Seko
Sandie has a keen interest in Anime, Manga and all things Japanese. Her interests other than reviewing are Japanese Language, dress and culture, liking Harajuku Girls, Gothic Lolita, folding some neat Origami, drawing her own Manga characters, writing her own Manga stories and everything in between.