Dec 1

“The Mohican Comes Home” – Film Review from the 20th JFF (Australia)


By David Reilling (Nagano ALT), writing from Sydney, Australia.

Even post-punks get the blues

Even post-punks get the blues

The Mohican Comes Home or “Mohican kokyô ni kaeru” tells the story of an estranged son returning to his hometown after being gone for a long time. This is a common theme in several other films such as the Godfather, literature and even the Bible, i.e. the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The humour and touching moments in individual scenes make this movie enjoyable to watch despite the predictable plot.

Eikichi Tamura left Hiroshima for Tokyo, hoping to become famous with his band. Like countless other would-be stars before him, Eikichi’s dream never takes off in the big city. The movie opens with Eikichi, the lead singer in a metal band, screaming “Get Sick and Die” to a bloodthirsty crowd of heavy metal fans smashed into a basement bar. The next scene cuts to Eikichi and his bandmates sitting backstage, looking tired and sombre. One of the members confesses: “I get more of a kick out of doing my part-time job.” This scene shows a glimpse into the outcast world of freeters, Japanese people who deliberately choose not to become salary-men and find work in non-traditional areas.

Eikichi goes home to his girlfriend and cramped apartment; he then decides to return home in order to tell his father, Osamu, that his girlfriend is pregnant.

The movie jumps to an unnamed island in Hiroshima and introduces Eikichi’s father. Osamu is a foil to Eikichi. Eikichi has a mohawk-haircut and screams obscenities at a crowd of mosh-pitters. Osamu is in all white suit, attempting to mimic 1980s pop rocker Eikichi Yazawa, and directing a school band of ten unenthusiastic junior high students playing at a temple for an audience of elderly townsfolk. Anyone who has ever taught English in a rural Japanese town will find this scene hilarious. Afterwards, Osamu berates the students for the awful performance as they stare at the ground.

He strikes a pose, again mimicking his idol Yazawa, and offers advice “Life… is a constant battle with yourself. OK?” Funny Scenes like this make the otherwise dull plot bearable.

From this point on the plot becomes predictable. Coincidentally immediately after Eikichi returns home, Osamu is diagnosed with cancer. The plot then follows a standard curve of a father and son trying to repair their relationship. Again, despite the lame plot, several scenes in the movie achieve a fantastic balance between touching and humorous.

In one scene, Osamu wants to eat a specific sausage pizza he had for his birthday some 20 years ago. In order to give his father satisfaction, Eikichi orders all of the sausage pizzas he can find from the mainland.

Eikichi strives to give his father closure. In my opinion, the peak of the movie is when Eikichi pretends to be his father’s idol, Eikichi Yazawa. Osamu states earlier in the movie that “Yazawa is his only pleasure in life” and that he named Eikichi after Yazawa. By this point in the movie, Osamu’s illness has degraded his memory. He cannot tell that the man in the white suit claiming to be Yazawa is really his son.

Osamu breaks down and confesses the high point in his life: meeting Yazawa’s eyes across the crowd at a concert in 1977. Could this really be the high point of someone’s life? Eikichi is remarkably patient with his father, considering his dad ranks a pop star ahead of his family.

The movie’s supporting cast, Eikichi’s mom, brother and girlfriend, played by the former all-girl band AKB48 lead singer, Maeda Atsuko, do an OK job. If the supporting cast are wheels, Eikichi and Osamu are the engine which drive the movie until the end. I seriously question why director Shuichi Oita chose to cast well-known, wealthy and successful actors to play the parts of freeters and country folk. The roles seemed fitting for lesser known actors or real live freeters to get their chance in the film industry.

Without revealing too much, I found the ending to be a disappointment. The conclusion felt hurried and lacked the impact of the rest of the movie. Does the poor story and mediocre ending make this a bad movie? Actually no. If viewed as separate short stories, the scenes are moving and hilarious vignettes. The ‘Mohican Comes Home’ will make anyone who has ever lived in the Japanese countryside long to return.

The Mohican Come Home (Mohican kokyô ni kaeru) by Shuichi Okita, released March 13 2016 in Japan, starring Ryuhei Matsuda, Akira Emoto, Atsuko Maeda, Masako Motai, Yudai Chiba, Katsumi Kiba, Jun Miho, Ryouta Koshiba, Miu Tomita.

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