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Adrift In Tokyo

Adrift In Tokyo

By Arpad Lukacs • March 4th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
Third Window Films

Release date: Februry 27th, 2012
Certificate: 15
Running time: 101 minutes

Country of origin: Japan
Original language: Japanese with English subtitles

Writer and director: Satoshi Miki

Cast: Jo Odagiri, Tomokazu Miura, Kyoko Koizumi, Yuriko Yoshitaka

We all know what it’s like to lead a lazy life with problems piling up and not even trying to deal with them. Or do we? Come to think of it, most of us probably don’t.

I had my difficult moments in my student years, but I would describe these as experiencing feelings of panic rather than apathy. Not knowing what I want to do, what the next step should be or whether I’m on the right course or not all rattled around in my mind occasionally some years ago tormenting me and forcing me to think hard about my life. But when these problems overtook my mind, it always shook me up a little bit – it was unpleasant but quite useful when looking at it in retrospect.

Adrift In Tokyo

Fumiya Takemura (Odagiri Joe) was therefore a character I found really hard to relate to. In Satoshi Miki’s off-beat comedy Adrift in Tokyo, the central character Fumiya is a student who’s heavily in debt but he doesn’t really care. After a very brief character introduction to let us know that he is in debt, a very persuasive debt collector named Fukuhara (Tomokazu Miura) comes to collect the money and when Fumiya is unable to pay, Fukuhara shows him that he means business by stuffing his socks in Fumiya’s mouth.

When they meet the next day however, Fukuhara has a new proposition: he asks Fumiya to walk around Tokyo with him in exchange for one million yen, which is quite a bit more than Fumiya’s debt. And so the journey begins. Before long, Fukuhara tells Fumiya that their destination is Tokyo’s central police station where he intends to give himself up for a crime he regrets to have committed.

Adrift in Tokyo is the story of this journey. And the journey is not a straightforward one; Fukuhara is really not in a hurry, they visit places from Fumiya’s childhood and we begin to get to know them as they get to know each other. In the course of several detours, they meet people and get caught up in various situations in what I’m only guessing is apparent soul-searching.

Adrift In Tokyo

In a sub-plot, a bumbling trio also embarks on yet another journey: they are colleagues of Fukuhara’s wife from work and decide to try to find out what happened to her, but end up taking their own detours and never actually get there. One of them is played by Yutaka Matsushige and the actor actually poses an interesting question in the making of documentary: “I wonder what our place is in the film” – this is something I wondered about myself but couldn’t figure it out.

I watched various strange situations unfold: an old man in a costume (at a cosplay event) jumps off a high building and survives without a scratch. A man is looking for a hose so he can smell his own hair. Fumiya decides to follow a clownish street guitarist, begins to move strangely, lies down on the pavement only to get up again. Fukuhara is challenged to a fight by an old watch shop owner who ends up chasing them for miles and eventually beats Fukuhara, injuring him.

Adrift In Tokyo

I can imagine that in the right context I would find all of this intriguing and funny, but as the film was progressing I realised something: Adrift in Tokyo was trying way too hard. These quirky situations and characters are mere attempts to charm the audience, but quirk itself does not function as such a device, it has to be natural. Fumiya never really starts to care about anything throughout, he is narrated and the narration occasionally tells us that he feels something but we don’t feel anything about him.

The sub-plot following the three goofy characters was also beyond my comprehension: their actions have no meaning or consequences to the story.

As visiting Tokyo is on my bucket list, I enjoyed the realism in the portrayal of this beautiful city that isn’t there to appeal to tourists: while taking a walk with Fumiya and Fukuhara, Tokyo feels very real – almost as a third protagonist. On a Wednesday afternoon, when it’s raining outside, Adrift in Tokyo might be an interesting watch. It tries to say something about family values with some potential to warm the human heart and it has a few funny moments to occasionally make us laugh. But all of that is lost hopelessly in a maze that feels pretentious more often than not.

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad is a Film Studies graduate and passionate photographer (he picked up the camera and started taking stills just as he began his studies of moving pictures). He admires directors that can tell a story first of all in images. More or less inevitably, Brian De Palma has become Aprad’s favourite filmmaker.

Then there’s Arpad’s interest in anime. He was just a boy when he saw Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind on an old VHS and was hypnotised by the story of friendship, devotion and sacrifice. He still marvels at the uncompromising and courageous storytelling in Japanese anime, and wonders about the western audience with its ever growing appetite for “Japanemation”.

Have a look at Arpad's photography site, and you can follow him on Twitter @arpadlukacs.

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