12 July 2002 | regi0n2fan
A tutorial in the fine art of `being here'.
Nagasawa Masahiko's `Koko ni Iru Koto' (`Being Here') is a subtly comical drama depicting a career woman's struggle to gain acceptance and purpose amidst the `resutora' era of post-bubble Japan. Aiba Shino (Manaka Hitomi) is a talented young career woman working in the `creative' marketing division of a sales company in Tokyo. She's an interesting demographic, since she's in her late twenties to early thirties, making her a bit too old to be annoyingly trendy, and yet still young enough to be both impulsive and irreverent when it suits her. Nagasawa's heroine is involved in an illicit office romance with an elite manager, whose wife confronts Aiba and calmly hands her a `severance package' of five hundred thousand yen (approx. $6,400CDN) with the understanding that she is bow out of the relationship immediately. To make things worse, stylish young Aiba is not-so-coincidentally transferred to the decidedly unsophisticated Osaka office, whereupon she decides to blow her newfound pocket money on lavish hotel accommodations and quit once the money runs out. Almost immediately, she realises that she has not only been transferred, but demoted out of the Creative Department to work in straight Sales. This (along with an office environment where the derogatory address `Aho!' is used as often if not more often than the usual `Kachou' and `Sempai') simply will not do, Aiba decides, and she impulsively retreats to the local boat racing track to deliberately accelerate the evaporation of her hotel funds. Fate intervenes comically, however, and her flippant throwaway wager backfires, thus ensuring she has sufficient funds for a much longer tenure.
Ignoring the hand of Fate, she reneges on her private wager and decides to quit anyway, until fellow transferee Maeno Etsuro (Sakai Masato) goes out of his way to coerce her to give it a bit more time. Maeno, it turns out, is quite an eccentric, whimsical character (Mark Schilling aptly describes him as `Peter Pan-like'), and reminded me strongly of Uchimura Teruyoshi (of `Laughing Dog' and `Best Partner' fame). Maeno is comically acrophobic, and is the classic junk collector who shares his hobbies of astronomy, batting cages and browsing curio shops with a reluctant Aiba as part of their many `field assignment' jaunts through the byways of Osaka. Maeno's motives, it turns out, are entirely platonic, and his un-salaryman-like goal is not to make her a better employee or further the corporate milestones, but to make her a better person and allow her to stop feeling bitter and sorry for herself. This lesson comes with a steep price, and Nagasawa blends light comedy with both sorrow and jubilation to wrap up what I found to be quite an enjoyable film.