3 February 2014 | Kicino
Comical way to explain complicated Japanese history and personality
Kiyosu Conference is a pleasant surprise as I generally dread Japanese period drama which is usually heavy, serious and filled with difficult dialogue or lengthy action scenes; but Kiyosu Conference is so funny and easy to understand while helping us realize what went on during that time. It also sheds some insight on the collective Japanese personality – that the inner and outer self can be quite different, so much so that it reminds me of "The Age of Innocence." The script is tightly written with very interesting plot development. Never underestimate any detail!
As demonstrated by director Koki Mitani's previous work "The Ghost of a Chance," "The Magic Hour," "The University of Laughs," and "Welcome Back, Mr McDonald," Mitani is very good at using a tightly-organized script with witty lines and a strong cast to make his work classic and funny at the same time. The bonus is that it also has some positive social message.
The basic theme of Kiyosu Conference is leadership succession before the unification of Japan in the 1500s. The political power struggle, like many of those in present time, is backed by two schools of supporters which has complicated relationships. The web-like character relationships are concisely presented by narration and comical portrayal by an excellent cast who add lots of substance to the story, although some only have very brief appearance. The plot is laid out in such a logical and systematically way that it is very easy to follow.
The main characters, especially Hideyoshi Hashiba (Yo Oizumi) and Katsuie Shibata (Koji Yakusho) portray their personalities vividly with clashes against each other, hence causing lots of laughter, not to mention the beautiful princess Oichi (Kyoka Suzuki) and Matsuhima (Ayame Goriki). It is not until the end that we finally begin to understand each character's motivation and have more respect for this important character of Hashiba in Japanese history despite his humble beginning. By then all the hints and details previously and meticulously dropped in the first half of the movie all make sense. It also resonates the Japanese culture, and language for that matter, that you have to stay until the end to understand what is really going on.
The costumes are also beautifully crafted thus very pleasant to look at. Coupled with the interesting soundtrack, the whole movie viewing experience is quite entertaining. No previously knowledge of Japanese history required. Just go and enjoy the comical power struggle and calculated alliance.