17 May 2015 | howard.schumann
Boys will be boys
In Takeshi Kitano's 1996 semi-autobiographical film Kids Return, his first since a motorcycle accident (suicide attempt) in 1995 left him close to death, the Japanese education system comes in for a thrashing. Masaru (Kenichi Kaneko) and his buddy, Shinji (Masanobu Ando) know how to have a good time. Not to be bothered with such fruitless endeavors like going to school and learning something useful, they would rather clown around, harass teachers, bully younger students and shake them down for money, sneak into porn theatres, perform stand-up comedy (manzai) routines, or set fire to a teacher's brand new car - just good, clean fun.
As they say in the vernacular "what goes around comes around" and the coming around this time is in the form of a friend of one of the bullied students who unfortunately for the boys is a skilled street fighter. Their encounter turns their attention to a boxing gym where they give up on school and train for revenge against the oppressor. Unfortunately, Shinji is the only one who shows any talent for boxing and he begins to climb in the estimation of "The President." Masura, on the other hand, gives up and joins a menacing yazuka gang. Shinji passively follows an older, cynical boxer who teaches him some illegal tricks to succeed in the ring as well as some strange ways to lose weight.
Things work well for a time until both of the lads crash and burn and realize how much better it is just to hang out and be happy than actually do something constructive. Meanwhile, a gentle boy named Reiko (Atsuki Ueda), marries his perennial sweetheart Sachiko (Yuko Daike) but decides to pass on college. He gets a job in a corporation which doesn't work out and he is soon eking out a living as a taxi driver, a depressing sequence which seems to be in the film for no reason other than to show us how the education system failed again.
Kids Return is a very well done film with some excellent boxing scenes and a few good laughs, but there does not seem to be any lessons learned here. While we have to cut Shinji and Masura some slack because, after all, they are just kids and they may be a tongue-in-cheek stand-in for Kitano's own adolescence, what Kids Return is trying to say with all of this is a head-scratcher – maybe it's just that boys will be boys.