Azemichi Road / あぜみちジャンピンッ！
Fumie Nishikawa’s The Azemichi Road is about a young hearing-impaired girl, Yuki (Haruka Ooba), living in a sort of interior isolation the village of Uonuma. She crosses paths with the Jumping Girls, a crew of young teens working on their pop/hip hop dance routine. Invited to join the group by Rena (Misaki Futenma), she faces a classic array of demons to slay – her own physical disabilities, peer pressures, jealousies, insecurity, mother-daughter issues. Of course, she manages to overcome them by the final scenes of the big dance competition. The positivist message is a standard trope of kids’ films, but what makes The Azemichi Road stand out is not only the novel situation of a deaf dancer but Nishikawa’s feel for place and character. From the emerald green rice fields to the crumbling concrete schools and non-descript public halls and domestic architecture to the world of girls – their peeves, insults, trusts and friendships – has a naturalism and connectedness that belie the occasional clichés that drive the plot. All in all, Yuki and the Jumping Girls rock.
Originally published in EL Magazine, July 2011.