This movie is based on 4 out of 5 short stories featured in Japanese comedian Gekidan Hitori's omnibus novel, "Kagehinata ni Saku" (Blooming in the Shadow).
With so many characters in so many different settings, there was simply too much content packed in 2 hour play time. The end result was bunch of characters improperly introduced, and the pace is too fast that it was very difficult to keep up with the story and hard to connect with the characters. Despite that, the original plot written by Gekidan Hitori was so wonderful, and cast and producers did such a great job that it still made me come close to tears in some scenes.
This movie has a very talented cast, and Okada Junichi of V6 was a big surprise in delivering a great performance. Cinematography was incredible, with beautiful scenes of the city, and also fascinating, well-executed slow-motion sequence. Music was very moving and matched all the dramatic scenes with perfection. Direction and music were among the best I have encountered in Japanese films.
"Kagehinata wo Saku" had the potential to become one of the top Japanese films of 2008, but failed miserably due to an incompetent scriptwriter. There was simply too much content for a 2-hour movie. They should've only focused on 3 short stories, and maybe make another movie with the remaining two short stories. The Akiba Otaku (idol nerds) had absolutely zero contribution to the main plot and development of main characters. Although that particular episode was very touching, it ate away at screen time that could've been used to clarify the main story.
I still really enjoyed this movie because it was so well-produced, but it could've been so much more. I knew it was based on a novel by Gekidan Hitori before seeing this movie, but I was not aware it was a series of separate short stories. Reading the plot synopsis for the novel actually solved all the things that didn't make sense (or not very clearly explained) and I was able to fully understand the story. I'm certain the second viewing will be much more entertaining.
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