Preview: Japan Cuts 2015 Rocks

U.S. Editor; Los Angeles, California (@benumstead)
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North America's largest film festival for contemporary Japanese cinema is back for its 9th edition, taking place at the Japan Society in New York City, July 9 - 19.

Dustin Chang and Christopher Bourne, our intrepid vets of the fest, bring you an in-depth preview gallery of some of the offerings this exciting and unique festival has to offer in 2015.

 


Dustin Chang and Christopher Bourne contributed to this story.

HIBI ROCK: PUKE AFRO AND THE POP STAR - Opening Night Film. July 9, 9pm [Introduction and Q&A with director Irie Yu, followed by OPENING NIGHT Party!]

Returning to Japan Cuts this year with two films (Hibi Rock and Joker Game), Irie Yu is a familiar face around this part of the world with his crowd pleasing films depicting Japan's indie music scene- 8000 Miles Series, Ringing in their Ears. His new film Hibi Rock: Puke Afro and The Pop Star, once again, plunges us into that music world he knows intimately.

Based on the popular manga by Enokiya Katsumasa, Hibi Rock concerns the minimally talented rock band Rock 'n' Roll Brothers (Hibinuma- guitar/vocal, Yoda- drums and Kusakabe- bass). The film is, more than any other Irie film, at its most cartoonish, but also most fun: lead singer Hibinuma (Nomura Shuhei), with his afro, deer in the headlight expression and his mouth agape, is ripped straight out of a manga page. Keeping in that cartoonish spirit there's also a lot of ball kicking and instantaneous nose-bleeding at exposed boobies.

Always the underdogs, the Rock 'n' Roll Brothers barely survive on cleaning toilets of the small venue they sometimes get to play at. But their luck changes when a super pop idol Saki Udagawa (Nikaido Fumi of Ringing in Their Ears and Why Don't You Play in Hell?) takes an interest in their music. It's not really their skills she's thrilled with, but their infectious energy and freedom. Because what's the point of rocking out if you are not free? Saki reminisces about her humble beginning in a high school band playing guitar. She tells Hibi that she is empty inside even though she is a mega star. She is well aware that her fame and popularity will fade away. She wants him to write her a song.

After getting rejected by Saki's all powerful promoter, the downtrodden Rock 'n' Roll brothers split up. Hibi ends up working at a fish cannery, Yoda in construction and Kusakabe in lumber. Hibi learns the news that Saki is hospitalized and in serious condition and decides to deliver the song he wrote for her. So he runs to Tokyo, the note he wrote the song on in one hand and a dead fish in the other.

As usual, Irie's penchant for portraying lovable losers and youthful energy takes center stage in Hibi Rock. Nomura's perfect as an all out cartoonish front man and a virgin. Even though she plays a sick girl, Nikaido's smile still kills. Hibi Rock is a loving tribute to the spirit of Rock 'n' Roll. - Dustin Chang

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