Release Year: 2010 Director: Tomoyuki Furumaya Runtime: 109 mins
As part of the Japan Foundation Summer screenings I watched Bushido 16 based on the anime with the same name. This coming of age high school comedy drama focuses on friendship and competition conveyed through kendo.
The film stars timid Sanae Nishogi (Kie Katano) who beats Kaori Isoyama (Riko Narumi) undefeated national kendo champion in a junior high school match. The tough, aggressive girl is devastated and bears a grudge. She makes it her mission to find Sanae for a rematch, however she is frustrated to find Sanae only plays Kendo causally, with no real desire to win; unlike Kaori, a determined player who has trained at her father’s dojo since she was young. This leads to Kaori helping Sanae train to become a worthy opponent and make her fight to win, rather than run scared in the ring.
Lovers of Kendo or martial arts films will not be disappointed, as despite the low budget the film features several sparring scenes throughout. For those unfamiliar, Kendo is a Japanese form of fencing with two-handed bamboo swords, originally developed as a safe form of sword training for samurai. Although I am not sure how safe the sport is when our protagonists play without their protective gear…
The film features not only many kendo scenes from matches to training, but bonding between the girls, with light comedy added. One of my favourite scenes is where Sanae takes Kaori for a girls day out, ensue cake buffets, photo booths and new shoes! The film briefly deals with the girls overcoming issues they have with their fathers which effects their attitude towards life and kendo. The film could have been strengthened by more of these scenes and less kendo action.
The film does have the slighty cliché feel of two people from opposite sides of the track, bonding and become friends over a shared interest. It’s themes can be comparable in some ways to other Asian cinema gems like Kamikaze girls, or the British film Fast Girls. It is worth a watch and by the end of the movie, you’ll probably want to scream loudly and grab a kendo stick!
Top scene: When Sanae takes Kaori on a girlie day out; cake buffet, photo booth etc.
Top quote: There are some cute comedy lines between Sanae and her high school friends.
Thanks for the screening, I look forward to more events from The Japan Foundation, visit the website here for updates or follow them on Twitter @jpflondon
Read my review of the Barefoot Gen screening coming soon.