a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for December 2012

10 Best Japanese Films 2012

with 7 comments

Among my compatriots – writers, editors, programmers – in the world of Japanese film, there’s been a general agreement. It’s been a piss-poor year for Japanese film. Not only have there been few good films, but there’s been the shuttering of many a theater, particularly here in Tokyo. In the neighborhood of Asakusa, where the first movie theaters in Japan appeared, the last of the revival and pinku houses were closed last October, leaving the neighborhood with none – zero – movie houses.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Hirokazu Kore-eda turned to the TV this year. Their small-screen works have been lauded, but I’ve yet to see them. Also I missed Nobuhiro Yamashita’s The Drudgery Train, which a lot of folks have put on or near the top of their best lists for the year. He’s one of the few directors who’s climbed from indie successes (Linda, Linda, Linda) to making serious and good movies in the more industrial wastelands of cinema. His 2011 film, My Back Page, was one of my favorites from last year. Takashi Miike, still prolific – three films in 2012 – is cementing himself in commercial hackdom. And Beat Takeshi continued his soured and calcified yakuza franchise with Outrage Beyond, a considerably better film than last year’s Outrage, but still pretty much schtick.

That said, with readily available and cheap means of producing films, there are an awful lot of indie films being made here. And most of them are awful. And unfortunately, some of the most awful ones seem to get institutional support. And some of the same directors keep coming out with newer and awful-er films year after year. Among the worst are Tatsushi Omori and Shuichi Okita, who both had their newest efforts premiere at Tokyo’s major film festivals this year.

That said, there are a number of filmmakers who are making great films. Some years, I’m hard pressed to come up with 10 films that are really worthy of saying their the best. This year, I’m completely behind each and every one of my selections.

If there is a trend in Japanese indie cinema, it’s one that recognizes the limitation of budgets and means and allows smart filmmakers to craft intimate dramas that speak to contemporary issues, long-ignored by mainstream media and rarely brought up in the public discourse. Films about the aging population, bullying and the destruction of the old social contract leaving people with less means to prosper – or even survive – are being made. It’s a good sign.

Herewith is my list.

1. Kamihate Store / Kamihate Shoten

Tatsuya Yamamoto’s first feature – he’s been around for a few years as a documentarian and a producer – follows the story of an old woman who owns a rundown grocery store at the end of the bus line on a small island. Her only customers are people who come to this desolate place to commit suicide. They stop at her store to buy their last meals – home-baked bread and bottle of milk. Ex-softcore porn star, Keiko Takahashi delivers the performance of the year as the store’s owner. Yamamoto takes an otherwise very downbeat subject and builds a compelling tale, filled with sadness and redemption.

Website (Japanese)

2. The Charm of Others / Miryoku no ningen

The most thrilling debut of the year was Ryutaro Ninomiya’s The Charm of Others. The rambling story follows the uneventful lives and petty power struggles of a bunch of guys working dead-end jobs at a repair shop for broken vending machines. These déclassé losers are portrayed not just with bitter satire, but also with a lot of affection and understanding. Ninomiya’s canny direction and dramatic set pieces would have made Cassavetes proud. Ninomiya himself plays one of the main roles with an oddly winning and ambiguous charm.

3. Women and Toilets / Donzumari benki

Equal parts Bunuel and post-feminist screed, Haruhi Oguri’s Women and Toilets (a bad translation of fairly untranslatable title) goes headlong down a hysterical path, following a particular dark pathology, twisting it in as many directions as she can, coming to a strangely redemptive conclusion. Rising character actress, Nahana, pulls out all the stops in a truly brave performance.

Website (Japanese)

4. My House

Director Yukihiko Tsutsumi, better known for his 20th Century Boys franchise went small with My House. My House pits the story of a homeless man against that of an upper middle-class boy. When their worlds collide, there’s nothing but tragedy. He posits a perverse romanticism of a self sufficient homeless world against a sterile “normal” life, but doesn’t hold back on the cruelties of life on the street, nor the humanity-stealing world that most Japanese accept as normal.

Website (Japanese)

5. Just Pretended to Hear / Kikoeteru, furi wo shita dake

Just Pretended to Hear, is yet another audacious debut. Director Kaori Imaizumi handles the story of a 13 year-old girl, sensitively played by Hana Nonaka, dealing with the death of her mother. The confusion and grief are compounded by her father completely losing it and the complication reaction she has to another classmate who reaches out to her. Imaizumi doesn’t hold back on the complexities of loss, bringing an emotional heft and honesty to a story, that in lesser hands would merely be cathartic. Just Pretended to Hear leaves the viewer as devastated as the characters.

Website (Japanese)

6. Dreams for Sale / Yume Uru Futari

Miwa Nishikawa, for lack of a better comparison, is like the Lucrecia Martel of Japan. Nishikawa’s been running variations of a theme – doing good or bad things and getting contrary results. In Dreams for Sale, a couple’s lifelong dream – a restaurant of their own – goes up in flames. The husband basically becomes a pimp to raise money for a new place. How he touches lives, how he takes advantage of people, how he destroys his own life is vividly portrayed in all its comedy and tragedy.

Website (Japanese)

7. A Song I Remember

I missed this at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year, so it’s on this year’s list. Director Kyoshi Sugita’s a cinematic minimalist that reminds me of a low-budget Antonioni. A Song I Remember, his feature debut has a bit of Blowup and a real feel for the desolate surrounding that make up the Japanese landscape. The story, about a relationship and the secrets and alienation that underlies it, is pitch perfect. His use of space, sound and time are remarkable, suspending the moments, creating a world imbued with mystery.

Website (Japanese)

8. Flashback Memories 3D

Matsue Tetsuaki’s Flashback Memories 3D is s a very loud movie — and a total head trip. Tetsuaki’s documentary of Goma, a techno-didgeridoo player, follows one performance. In the background a a green screen collage of videos and stills illustrated his career and life. But then, the revelation that brain damage from a car accident means that Goma doesn’t remember any of his life — including, the very performance you’re watching. History, memory, and Goma’s particular way of surviving by performing and living in the present collide, making this testament to a fascinating artist a genuinely moving experience.

Website (Japanese)

9. Nippon no Misemonyasan

Nippon no Misemonyasan is Yoichiro Okutani’s paean to the last freak show in Japan. He spent a couple of years embedding himself with a low-budget sideshow that works the matsuri circuit at shrines throughout Japan. The show highlights a host of low-budget wonders such as a woman who bites heads off of snakes.The film has some rough moments with its decidedly zero budget look, but the subject matter alone makes for a profound foray into an old institution that will soon disappear. Okutani is one of the few brave filmmakers in Japan that gives a shit about tradition and is doing something about it.

Website (Japanese)

10. Love Thy Woman

Love Thy Woman is a short, part of a trilogy of films packaged under the aegis of Virgin. Directed by Koki Yoshida, whose Household X is one of the best films of the decade, it expands of Yoshida’s theme of women-on-the-verge. This time the story’s about a woman, a virgin in her 30s, who first, gets bullied by a high-school boy, then seduces him. Love thy Woman is a strange and compelling exploration of the profound affects of sex. It borders on a strange male fantasy, but the main performance by Sawa Masaki brings a feminine sensitivity to the role that takes the whole film to a new level. Yoshida’s attention to detail and sense of mise-en-scene are, once again, perfect.


Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 21, 2012 at 1:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Festivals: PIA Film Festival & Tokyo International Film Festival

leave a comment »

The fall film festival season in Tokyo commences in mid-September with PIA, which over the past 34 years has been the one to watch for new Japanese talent. Its annual competition highlights work largely by recent film school graduates and has launched the careers of more than a few commercial hacks. But it’s also uncovered geniuses, from Sion Sono, whose Bicycle Sighs screened in 1991, to Kohki Yoshida, whose perfect first feature Household X was produced by PIA’s Scholarship Film program a few years ago.

Charm of Others Ryutaro Ninomiya

The Charm of Others

The pleasure of PIA is discovering raw or sometimes fully formed new talent. There’s a lot of dross, usually well made, but inconsequential at best. The 16 films in this year’s main competition followed suit. By far the most exciting debut was Ryutaro Ninomiya’s The Charm of Others. The rambling story follows the uneventful lives and petty power struggles of a bunch of guys working dead-end jobs at a repair shop for broken vending machines. These déclassé losers are portrayed not just with bitter satire—though there’s plenty of that—but also with a lot of affection and understanding. Ninomiya’s canny direction and dramatic set pieces would have made Cassavetes proud. Ninomiya himself plays one of the main roles with an oddly winning and ambiguous charm.

Town of Whales

The Town of Whales

The Charm of Others won the Runner-up Award and went on to play Vancouver Film Festival’s venerable Dragons & Tigers section a week after PIA. Hopefully festival buzz will keep it in the public eye for a while. The inexplicable Grand Prize winner was Keiko Tsuruoka’s The Town of Whales, an inept coming-of-age drama, overloaded with symbolism and burdened with a plot full of head-scratching motivations. Not only that, it looked terrible. But the film will definitely grace at least one more festival: the award guarantees a screening berth in the Tokyo International Film Festival’s Japanese Eyes Competition.

The Tokyo International Film Festival is the mother of Japanese film festivals. Its nine days are a whopping mix: premieres and test-marketing of international and Japanese product already scheduled for release; an international competition section; the Japanese Eyes section, showing new independently produced Japanese films; the Winds of Asia/Middle East competition; World Cinema, highlighting films that have been hitting other festivals; plus a few other special presentations. This year featured tributes to Hong Kong producer Raymond Chow and Roger Corman, who headed the festival jury. There’s also a market section and a number of sub-festivals and talk sessions. All in all, it’s a week-plus of too much.

TIFF (as the festival is known here—sorry, Toronto) fits uncomfortably between Busan, which gets first dibs on the best of Asian product, and Tokyo Filmex, which in late November delivers a smaller but better curated festival, usually premiering at least a couple of the most challenging new Japanese films of the year. However, amidst the perhaps too generous, sprawling offerings of TIFF, there are always a few surprises.

The biggest one this year was the general quality of the competition section. Programming director Yoshi Yatabe always has his work cut out for him, attracting enough meritworthy work to a festival that’s not quite as influential as it wants to be. The $50,000 Grand Prize generally keeps the pickings interesting, but recently the competition has had a couple of films that stood head and shoulders above questionable cohorts. This year, most of the selections, if not confirmed stand-outs from other festivals such as Pablo Larraín’s No, revealed a fair number of filmmakers showing off some of their best.

Atambua 39 Degrees Celsius Riri Riza

Atambua 39 Degrees Celsius

Of genuine interest was Indonesian director Riri Riza’s Atambua 39 Degrees Celsius, an impassioned drama about a family split by the 1999 referendum that made East Timor independent. If the politics and history can grow a bit arcane, the personal drama and the cultural window that Riza opens are fascinating and moving. Atumba follows the hard-headed and bitter Ronaldo (Petrus Beyleto) who’s taken his teen-aged son Joao (Gudino Soares) to live in Atumba, a town flooded with refugees on the Indonesian side of the new border. Refusing to set foot again in his old hometown on the East Timorese side until there’s once again a united Indonesia, he’s turned into a calcified alcoholic wreck. The son ultimately brings him back home to reconcile with his estranged wife. A cast of first-time actors speaking mainly in Tetun, a dialect heavily inflected with Portuguese, bring color and new life to an archetypal tale.

Accession Michael Rix


Michael Rix’s Accession is a brutal and unrelenting study of a South African man who goes to terrifying and insane limits in an attempt to cure himself of HIV. The doomed trajectory of his life and his reprehensible actions—which include raping a child in the belief it would rid him of the disease—pushed the audience’s comfort level to the extreme. This modern horror story about township life and a particular psychopathology brought up more questions than it answered, particularly in how far a filmmaker should go in representing truly disturbing material. But that’s what Rix sets out to do, and he does so with a striking formal conceit. Short of a few establishing shots, the camerawork never strayed more than a foot or so from lead actor Pethro Themba Mbole’s head. In over-the-shoulder shots as he rambles around his bleak surroundings, or in full close-up as he interacts with off-screen characters, the audience is forced to share his personal space.

Ship of Theseus Anand Gandhi

Ship of Theseus

Another newcomer with an ambitious film and the wherewithal to pull it off was Indian director Anand Gandhi. Ship of Theseus (which premiered at Toronto) turns on a classic thought experiment: when all the planks and parts of Theseus’s ship have been replaced, is it still the same ship, or is it something new? Gandhi probes the idea with an assured trio of stories revolving around transplanted organs. Moral, ethical, and philosophical conundrums abound in the tales. A holy man, long involved in the fight against animal testing, comes to terms with his own mortality and accepts the liver transplant and animal-tested drugs that will save his life; a blind photographer loses her “eye” once she gets new corneas and can see again; and a man tracks down the recipient of a kidney stolen from a poor Indian and demands its return. Neeraj Kabi brings a firm and gentle honesty to his portrayal of Maitreya, the Jain monk facing his mortality. Rising Bollywood star Sohum Shah shows he can handle serious material as Naveen, the apathetic stockbroker who finds a new cause in confronting the scourge of the illicit organ market. Gandhi revels in portraying a modern Mumbai that’s considerably more diverse and interesting than the poverty-stricken hell that’s become a cinematic cliché of this great city.

Feng Shui Wang Jing

Feng Shui

One competition film, Wang Jing’s Feng Shui, caused a bit of controversy, not because of its subject matter—a woman’s life becomes a tragedy of China’s booming Nineties—but because of the souring of political relations between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands. At the last minute, the distributors pulled the film, citing Japan’s intransigence in the latest kerfuffle. Tom Yoda, outgoing chairman of TIFF, kept the politics clean and simple, insisting contractual agreements be kept—and Feng Shui played to an eager house. Wang Jing, unfortunately, didn’t make it for his world premiere.

The Other Son Lorraine Levy

The Other Son

The Grand Prize winner was Lorraine Levy’s The Other Son, a switched-at-birth drama redeemed by exceptional performances from all, especially Jules Sitruk and Mehdi Dehbi as the other sons in question. Of the two Japanese films in the competition, Matsue Tetsuaki’s Flashback Memories 3D was by far the more captivating selection, going on to win the Audience Award. It’s a very loud movie—and a total head trip. Tetsuaki filmed a 2012 studio performance by didgeridoo player Goma and his band of three percussionists, the Jungle Rhythm Section. As the 72-minute concert progresses, Goma’s life is illustrated through green-screen superimpositions of old videos, photographs, concert posters, and whatnot.

All of which amounts at first to a hagiography of the young and talented musician’s rise through Australian didgeridoo competitions to becoming a club favorite in Japan. But then it’s revealed that in 2009, Goma suffered brain damage in a car accident. Suddenly everything shown to this point takes on new meaning, particularly once you learn that Goma doesn’t remember any of it—including, as is explained at the film’s end, the very performance you’re watching. History, memory, and Goma’s particular way of surviving by performing and living in the present collide, making this testament to a fascinating artist a genuinely moving experience. Goma himself appeared at the premiere, bringing down the house with his nakedly emotional response to the film. TIFF has been nurturing Tetsuaki, hosting the premieres of his earlier films Live Tape (09) and Tokyo Drifter (11), both of which featured singer-songwriter Kenta Maeno. Tetsuaki has become one of the more intriguing nonfiction filmmakers working in Japan, mixing up straightforward performance documentation with other, deeper themes.

Akaboshi Ryohei Yoshino


The Japanese Eyes section featured 10 films ranging from the abysmal to the OK. The winner was Yutaka Tsuchiya’s GFP Bunny, unseen by this reviewer. But the best of the rest was Ryohei Yoshino’s Akaboshi, about a grieving woman who finds some reprieve by joining a Christian cult resembling the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She ends up going over the edge in her desperate zealousness. It’s all seen through the eyes of her son, played brilliantly by the young actor Aren, who becomes the emotional center of the film as a kid thrust too soon into a position of responsibility.

2012 marked TIFF’s 25th anniversary. For most of its existence it’s been overloaded and unfocused, trying too hard to be a major player in the international festival circuit. That said, TIFF remains something of a cinematic lifeboat as more and more movie theaters in Japan shutter each year, distributors of foreign films drop out of sight, and the local product from the big three (Shochiku, Toho, and Toei) becomes more banal. Between PIA and TIFF, there are always a few gems, and this year bore some hope-inspiring signs of filmmakers making strong and affecting small films. How they will survive in a rapidly changing world of commercial distribution and exhibition remains to be seen. But at least these festivals, one huge and one tiny, are trying to nurture new talent and keep cinema, and moviegoing, alive.

Originally published on the Film Comment Blog, 11.14.2012

Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 17, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

FILM REVIEW: Donzumari Benki (Japan, 2012)

leave a comment »

Donzumari Benki opens in a high school storage room reminiscent of If… a secret place where a personal rebellion unfolds. Narumi-chan’s with a boy. She pulls her panties up as he begins the patter of how good it was for him. She’s nonplussed. As a cicada begins its electric buzz she asks for 300 yen. Not much to charge for sex, but for Narumi, we will learn, this small fee exacted from the boys in her life represents taking some control. As he starts to fuck her again in voiceover, we hear her dispassionate voice:

“I shaved my legs first when I was in the 5th grade and in 7th grade my armpits. My menstruation stated in the 8th grade and I had my first sex in the 11th grade. I was a woman.”

We then see her with her teacher, Shimada (Shohei Uno) in a lab examining sperm samples, talking about mechanics and miracles – the chance of a sperm reaching an egg, the chance of love. She blithely adds her noncommittal rejoinders while stealing a vial of Shimada’s sperm. She later attempts to self-impregnate herself with said sperm.

Sex itself is a means to something she can’t find – and in her own personal tragedy, will never find. She’s too self-centered, infantile and mixed up. But like a train that can’t stop, she powers on to her own wreck, taking whomever she can with her. Director Haruhi Oguri takes the whole sticky mess and twists it around into a perverse tale worthy of Bunuel, but with a decidedly post-feminist take that slyly lauds Narumi’s destructive energy.

Actress Nahana informs the role of Narumi with a feral intensity. As an up and coming character actor, she risks being typecast as your basic grrl punk. She got a mix of boyishness, electric energy and nihilism that was showcased magnificently in Takahisa Zeze’s Heaven’s Story. In that film, Zeze tamed her character with motherhood. In Donzumari benki, she’s allowed to go to full force into the abyss.

The odd high schooler becomes a disturbed young woman. We see Narumi in an office, arguing with a fellow officer worker. She chases the woman down a hall and stabs her. Next we see Narumi getting out of prison. She goes to the family home, now inhabited by her younger brother, Kei (Kuniaki Kanamura) and his girlfriend, Kana (Keiko Sugawara). Petulant, incommunicative, angry and domineering, she’s ever combative with Kei and shows open contempt for Kana. She keeps a strange hold on her brother that ends up creating the friction that grinds all the characters into frazzled emotional messes. Flashbacks eventually reveal that childhood sex play – right after their parents have died – have left a stain of incest on their adult relationship. Narumi also hooks up with her old professor, now fired from his old job, dissipated, but good for a drunken lay. And a good shattering of any illusions of any sort of relationship with him. Also revealed in flashback is Narumi’s miscarriage a baby – his baby – in a high school toilet stall. The burdens of all these fraught relationships end up in Narumi having a breakdown.

Her only real friend in all this is Aoki-san (Shun Sugata), a coffee shop owner, who takes her away to a small sanatorium in the country. Here, Narumi feels even more a fish out of water amongst a handful of folks who, unlike her, are at very least accepting their conditions and trying to work through them. In the penultimate scene, Narumi escapes and runs back to the city for a final confrontation with her brother, which ends in little brother finally saying “No more” to his sister. Despairing, she runs back to the sanatorium. The final scene finds her at the sanatorium, exhausted. She’s wearing a jacket with embroidered with praying hands and a crucifix. She touches her stomach, Goes to the bathroom. From inside we see her straining and then a difficult plop sound. She looks up to see a young boy, one of the residents, staring at her. She looks back at him, takes her pants down and lifts up her shirt. Cut to the boy as he puts his hands in prayer. Cut to her as she begins to grin. Like Catherine Deneuve in Viridiana, she finally figures out where her power lies and how to use it.

Oguri’s not subtle in anything. She takes some outrageous plot devices and runs with them. She revels in recurring images of cum, blood, toilets, dark rooms and cavernous spaces. She takes an otherwise overblown and baroque story of twisted family ties, pulling it into a stunning whole. With the help of a fine group of actors and her very assured vision, Donzumari Benki is a thrilling feature debut – she’s made several equally interesting shorts – by a wild new talent.

(Editor’s note: As of December 2012, this film has received the English name Toilets and Women)

Originally published on VCinema Podcast and Web Blog, Dec. 12, 2012

Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 13, 2012 at 1:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Chasing Santa Claus / サンタクロースをつかまえて

leave a comment »

imagesIn the flood of documentaries that Japanese filmmakers have been producing about 3.11, there’s an egregious lack of deep thinking. There are the endless sentimental and programmatic NHK documents of the tragedy and the rebuilding that at least have the means and the mandate to document everything they can. Filmmakers with lesser means have brought their own versions to the screen – among the best being Toshi Fujiwara’s No Man’s Zone and Tetsue Matsuaki’s Tokyo Drifter. And then there’s Hiroki Iwabuchi’s Chasing Santa Claus. Iwabuchi follows a hackneyed person documentary style, interviewing members of his family, second-rate musicians and city officials to talk about the annual Christmastime illumination festival in Sendagi and how it brought renewed hope to its citizenry. Give me a fuckin’ break. It’s not that the folks of Sendai don’t need rituals and celebrations to deal with 3.11, but the reification of Japan’s crassest, most thoughtless and insincere of commercial traditions – Christmas – shows Iwabuchi hasn’t given half a thought to the meaning of 3.11, nor to what makes a worthwhile documentary about it.

Originally published in EL Magazine, December 2012.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 2, 2012 at 2:06 am

Nippon no Misemonyasan / ニッポんのみせものやさん

leave a comment »

nipponnomisemonoyasanAmong the best documentarians working in Japan right now is Yoichiro Okutani. He’s finally re-edited and released his paean to the last freak show in Japan, Nippon no Misemonyasan. He spent a couple of years embedding himself with a low-budget sideshow that works the matsuri circuit at shrines throughout Japan. The show highlights a host of low-budget wonders such as a woman who bites heads off of snakes. Listening to the voice gravel-voiced barker who’s honed her routine over decades is almost a show enough on its own. Winning the trust of the hawkers, performers and producers allowed Okutani to wrest tales of tribulations and triumphs over the years – illustrated amply with old posters and publicity pics. The film has some rough moments with its decidedly zero budget look, but the subject matter alone makes for a profound foray into an old institution that will soon disappear. Japan will become lesser for it. Okutani is one of the few brave filmmakers in Japan that gives a shit about tradition and is doing something about it.

Originally published in EL Magazine, December 2012.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 2, 2012 at 2:03 am

Crow’s Thumb / Karasu no Oyayubi / カラスの親指

leave a comment »

250px-Crows_Thumb-p1Crow’s Thumb follows a couple of con artists, Take (Hiroshi Abe) and Tetsu (Shoji Murakami), hoping to make their one last stand, make a bunch of money and butt out the business. Along the way they pick up Mahiro (Rena Nounen) and her maddeningly badly acted sister, Yahiro (Satomi Ishihara) and her boyfriend, Kantaro (Yu Koyanagi). At nearly three hours, Crow’s Thumb a maddening plod of back stories, a moderately engaging centerpiece where the crew rips off some bookmaking thugs and a totally unnecessary coda which attempts a Melville-like switcheroo – putting everything you’ve seen into a new perspective – that ends up being just another MacGuffin in a plot full of MacGuffins. There seems to be a bit of a revival in heist and conmen thrillers coming out of Japanese studios these day that range from the worse to the worser. Director Tadafumi Ito seems to be vying for the worst, with his brain-dead adaptation of a popular novel that replaces any real thrills or anything beyond the numbers with his directorial sloppiness.

Originaly published in EL Magazine, December 2012.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 2, 2012 at 1:59 am

Doko ni mo ikenai / ドコニモイケナイ

leave a comment »

yszhh8gkq5toqdkru172Ruichi Shimada’s debut documentary, Doko ni mo ikenai, follows the life of a young woman, Yuri Yoshimura at two phases in her life – in 2001, when she was a happy-go-lucky vendor/street singer living on the streets of Shibuya and nine years later, after suffering from schizophrenia, back in her hometown, trying to cope with day-to-day life. Shimada documents the simple tragedy of a woman he met in Shibuya 10 years ago with empathy, but without digging too deep into the problems of living on the street with mental illness, how it affects individuals and society or what we can learn from this woman’s plight. His skimming over the surface does show a certain nostalgia for a street-wiser, more human Shibuya filled with young street musicians, hawkers and homeless kids than exists now with everything shaved clean for the more controlled shopping experience that Shibuya is today. And sweet Yuri was young and vivacious, even though a terrible singer whose mental illness has made her into a shell of what she once was.

Originally published in EL Magazine, December 2012.


Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 2, 2012 at 1:35 am