31 October 2009 | fathamburger
Not for everyone, but a worthy student effort
I saw this at the Vancouver FilM Festival, you could be forgiven for going in thinking it was going to be geeky/otaku-ish and a homage to boxing anime and manga like Hajime no Ippo but what you'd get instead is a very raw look at how emotionally repressed Japanese society is, amongst very dysfunctional characters that have very little hope for their futures. The manga connection is tenuous and symbolic at best, the movie starts off innocent but quickly becomes dark as the characters get more and more desperate as the story progresses taking viewers on an emotional roller-coaster. This is not a simple three act structure wrapped up in a feel good Hollywood ending.
At the same time Yellow Kid is brilliant in it's ambition as a student film and graduation project. Very few films attempt to be feature length at that stage, let alone tell such a complex story and emotionally grueling story. Being a Japanese film, there is very little in the way of stylized angles and the editing can be even more hands-off than a reality show which makes the movie drag at times, especially if you are used to Western cinema. Most of the audience i saw the movie with walked out shocked, and if this is your first Japanese film and you are more accustomed to anime which is more westernized fare by comparison then you will be too. If you know something about Japanese society then the movie will not come across quite as shocking but just depressing, for example in contrast to the fantasy of Japan (or often Neo-Tokyo type versions of Japan), the director puts in plain view the real tiny and cramped living conditions that the lower to middle classes of Japanese have to suffer in every day. It even makes living in a Vancouver room share seem like a mansion!
This review is light on story details, but in conclusion this is a movie still worth seeing but for entirely different reasons as it may not be what is billed after all. The boxing aspect of the movie is not touched on as much at all, and the manga connection is used as a kind of Kubrick-esquire symbolic narration rather than really being the main thrust. The core of the movie is the unabashed outpouring of emotions that comes from extreme and severe repression and powerlessness, and in that respect it is a fascinating descent to watch. Not a movie recommended for the faint of heart.