Sakura Sakura / さくらさくら
Ichikawa Toru’s well-meaning hagiography of late 1800s, early 1900s scientist/entrepreneur Takamine Jokichi, Sakura Sakura, falls hilariously into Ed Woods territory. The story of Takamine, who discovered an enzyme which he named takadiastase and helped discover and isolate adrenaline, is given a completely facetious treatment with super-low budget backdrops that push any suspension of disbelief, dialogue (particularly the parts in English) that’s hilariously written, scenes hamfistedly directed and historical and location inaccuracies that boggle the mind. For example, modern Japanese houses are stand-ins for southern plantation estates and stateside domestic architecture. Takamine is played with a crazed earnestness by Masaya Katou. His Louisiana-born American wife is a complete enigma in the hands of Naomi Grace. Granted, her dialog is abysmal, but the complete miscasting of her and all the gringos (many of whom are Japanese) in this gumbo is consistent at least. If made with more savvy direction, one might suggest that this mess could be defined a postmodern vamp on Takamine’s life. However, Sakura Sakura’s ineptness could, with proper marketing, become a camp classic.
Originally published in EL Magazine, March 2011