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Film Review: Obon Brothers – A Film By Akira Osaki

A charming and heart-warming portrayal of a man down on his luck!

Obon Brothers

Akira Osaki (read interview here) has not had an easy time in the Japanese film industry. After the failure of his debut film Catchball-Ya, Osaki struggled to secure funding for a new film. Again and again his projects were dropped in the early stages, and this made him frustrated about the film industry he was working so hard to be accepted in. This anger has been translated into his latest film, Obon Brothers, a dark comedy penned by his close-friend, and fellow
‘loser’, Shin Adachi.

Based on their own experiences in failing at love and life, Obon Brothers focuses on alternate versions of the director and screenwriter, Takashi (Osaki) and Fujimura (Adachi). It is centred mainly on Takashi, his failing marriage, and his relationship with his cancer-surviving brother Masaru. Presented in black and white to highlight Takashi’s melancholy, and the unfortunate situation he finds himself in, Osaki’s film is a compelling black comedy. He just can’t seem to get a break, and even when he tries to get a big-name producer to green-light his latest project, the man can’t find the time to read the script in between his busy schedule. His brother is sick of having him around the house, and Fujimura gets angry at him for continuing to see to his girlfriend’s friend, Ryoko, and lie about his marital status. At least Takashi’s wife, who is desperate for a divorce, doesn’t bar him from seeing his daughter.

Obon Brothers

Happiness is an emotion that is only felt by those around him, and the lack of joy in Takashi’s life means that, at times, the film feels a bit over-the-top. Its moving premise does counter this though, and Takashi’s honest and selfless character means that he is certainly a likeable person. It is easy for the audience to support him from the side-lines — hoping that he will succeed in at least one of his endeavours, such is the appeal of rooting for the underdog. Takashi’s charm should be attributed to Kiyohiko Shibukawa, whose raw performance ensures that the audience is on his character’s side no matter what happens to him. It is Osaki’s depiction of Takashi’s wife that is the most interesting, though, because rather than portraying her as vindictive, he makes her rational for divorce understandable, and it is heart-warming to see him present her in such a positive light.

Obon Brothers pic 2

The strength of Obon Brothers, however, is in its direction, location, and cinematography. The film is set in Japan’s Gunma prefecture, which is the hometown of Osaki, Adachi, and lead actor, Shibukawa, which gives the film a realistic and grounded feel to it. Through Takashi’s experiences and adventures around the town, the audience is truly able to experience the tranquil atmosphere of a small Japanese town, which directly contrasts any notion of Japan as a neon-lit nation. Even the decision to film in black-and-white, an idea suggested by cinematographer Masami Inomoto, adds to the atmosphere of the peaceful town. While its premise may sometimes be bleak, and the trials faced by Takashi are considerably harsh, Osaki and his main character can’t help but look on the bright side of things, and the dark comedy it features is almost bittersweet in its effectiveness.

Osaki’s film is not one that can be easily categorised as a comedy, but, despite this, it is a charming and heart-warming portrayal of a man down on his luck. Osaki may love to present losers on screen, but Takashi is one that the audience will whole-heartedly support. Even when the film leaves an open ending, it is reasonable to believe that Takashi will make it as a filmmaker one day — the director he is based on most certainly did.

Obon Brothers poster


Label: Third Window Films

Release date: TBA

Certificate: TBA

Running time: 107 min.

Genre: Slice of Life/Black Comedy

Director: Akira Osaki

Author Profile:

Roxy Simons is a journalist who has been in love with all things Japanese ever since she first set her eyes on Sailor Moon at the age of five. Since then she has become fascinated with the culture, cuisine, and history of the country, and has a particular obsession with Rurouni Kenshin, Shaman King, and Bakuman. When she’s not watching things to review or playing Touken Ranbu, she can be found plotting her next trip to Japan.

Websites: www.mainichientertainment.com, www.viewofthearts.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/viewofthearts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/roxysimons

Related Posts:

Interview: Film Director Akira Osaki

Film Review: Ryūzō And The Seven Henchmen (Ryūzō to Shichinin no Kobuntachi)


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