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Recently in youth angst Category

Peep "TV" Show

Genre: Almost Interesting Youth Angst Documentary

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As the one year anniversary of the World Trade Center collapse approaches, a socially skeptical young man begins a web project entitled "Peep TV" which streams voyeuristic video, all in the name of showing "Reality". As the 9/11 anniversary draws closer, his projects turn darker and more serious, catching the eye of Moe, a Gothic Lolita who sees in his work an authentic expression of her own contemplations of isolation and identity.

Love & Pop
[Rabu & Poppu]

Genre: Unnervingly Realistic Social Commentary

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This film follows one day in the life of high school student Hiromi as she meets with her friends in Shibuya for a shopping spree. Their mundane adventure is brimming, however, with the seedy undertones of contemporary Tokyo's prolific tendency to sexualize and bait high school girls into enjo-kosai, dating for hire. What starts out as an ordinary day with friends will end in irrevocable, life-changing events for Hiromi.

Kill Devil
[Kiru Oni Gokko / Kill Tag]

Genre: B-Grade Youth Slasher De-Fanged

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The year is 2025, the entire human genome has been decoded, and the genetic fingerprints for human violence have been identified. In a highly classified attempt to study the effects of this genetic disposition to violence, a small group of youth exhibiting the gene are abducted and kept on a deserted island. With all past memories erased, they are left to fend for themselves using only their immediate reflexes.

Be-Bop High School: Elegy
[Koko Yotaro Aika - Erijii]

Genre: Outrageously Over-The-Top Brawl Comedy

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Based on the popular manga of the same name, Be-Bop High School drops you into the middle of brawling rival high school gangs who do little else than chase each other around with knives and baseball bats. Using local yakuza ruffians as their role models, these high school hooligans pound themselves senseless as fawning girls adore them from the sidelines. Not much plot here; Just a WHOLE LOTTA fighting!

All About Lily Chou-Chou
[Lili Chu Chu no Subete]

Genre: Youth Angst Amid Moral Chaos

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This rather profound film follows a class of Japanese students as they transition from Junior High to Senior High and from optimistic childhood into the murky and tragic ambiguities of adolescence. The clarity and depth with which All About Lily Chou Chou plumbs the moral vacuum into which these kids fall is wholly mesmerizing and memorable. Eerily paralleling the narrative is the fan-based internet bulletin board to which students and others post using pseudonyms, allowing them to anonymously express their core intuitions and angst. Both beautiful and disturbing, this film is highly recommendable.

Ring 0: Birthday
[Ringu 0: Baasudei]

Genre: Teen-Angst Supernatural Horror

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Ringu 0, directed by Tsuruta Norio (who also directed Kakashi a year later) is the last in a line of (Japanese) movies based on Nakata Hideo's Ringu. In Ringu, you may remember, the plot revolved around discovering and uncovering the mysterious Sadako who lived 30 years in the past from the characters' perspective. And although the story's characters do a pretty good job of locating the source of the malevolent evil they are experiencing, by movie's end Sadako seems more enigmatic than where we began. Enter Ringu 0, which takes place those 30 years ago and tells the (nearly) complete story of an adolescent Sadako during the weeks leading up to her fateful meeting with her father at the well.

[Riborubaa: Aoi Haru]

Genre: Youth Self-Discovery

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Revolver is directed by Watanabe Takashi, whose earlier work leans primarily toward themes of guns and yakuza. His latest films, which include this one, focus on an overlap of such social violence and fringe groups of high school youth. The Japanese term Aoi Haru which appears as the subtitle of this film, though literally translated "Blue/Green Spring", is a common idiom connoting the vigor and wide-eyed expectation of youth. (Due to a long running manga by that title.) Thus here Watanabe presents audiences with a rather entertaining and thoughtful tale wherein the naivete of three high school boys is challenged by a brush with harsher realities.

Angel Guts: Red Classroom
[Tenshi no Harawata: Akai Kyoushitsu]

Genre: Morality Tale Exploring Irrevocable Demise and Depravity

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The Angel Guts series consists of five films based on the 1970's Japanese "horror" manga by Ishii Takashi. After an initial failure to successfully break into cinema, Ishii poured his creative energy into a manga series entitled Tenshi no Harawata (Angel Guts). Ishii's horrific manga was much more popular than his initial cinematic endeavor, and yet came full circle when its popularity resulted in the production of five films, the fifth of which Ishii himself directed. Most of the five films in the Angel Guts series is directed by a different director and each thematically involves the rape of a young woman named Nami.

Kyouki no Sakura
[Madness In Bloom]

Genre: Japanese Fascism Meets Clockwork Orange

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The title Kyouki no Sakura, though translated rather simply as Madness in Bloom, is in fact a play on words. The pronounced term "kyouki" perhaps most commonly connotes "madness" (aka "dangerous spirit/mind"), but it can also mean "chivalrous spirit". In the title of this film, the term is spelled using one character from each of these meanings, specifically using the character for chivalrous rather than madness. The term "sakura" could likewise mean "bloom" in general but here most clearly refers to the more specific cherry blossom, long beloved by Japanese as their national flower. (The flower permeates the film, most dramatically in the yakuza boss' home.)

Kichiku Dai Enkai
[Banquet of the Beasts]

Genre: Extreme Youth Political Violence

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In 1972, a small group of students affiliated with the Allied Red Army (Reng�e Sekigun) held a hostage in the mountain village of Karuizawa in Nagano-ken (Japan). The stand-off and ensuing battle between the student revolutionaries and the police were broadcast live into Japanese living rooms via intense television coverage. When the police finally overcame the leftist radicals, they found that the small group had violently turned upon themselves, committing brutal murders in order to purge themselves of those not fully committed to the path they had taken. This infamous scenario became known as the Asama Sans�o Incident (Asama is the name of the mountain there) and is generally viewed as the collapse of the New Left student movement of the 1970's.

Guuzen ni mo Saiaku na Shonen
[Suddenly the Worst of Youth]

Genre: Urban Youth Existentialism

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Director Gu Suyeon, himself a Korean-born Japanese citizen, explores the difficulties and near-hopelessness of being raised ethnically different within Japan. Guuzen ni mo Saiaku na Shonen follows Kaneshiro Hidenori (Ichihara Hayato) who, though raised his entire life within Tokyo, nevertheless carries the distinction of being Korean. The stress upon Kaneshiro's parents to "fit into" Japanese culture was tremendous throughout Kaneshiro's childhood, eventually resulting in their divorce. This has left Kaneshiro, now a high school student, to live an unsupervised life, which soon leads to a rather chaotic and hapless lifestyle.

Go Go Second Time Virgin
[Yuke yuke nidome no shojo]

Genre: Dismal Tale of Primitive Morality

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Go Go Second Time Virgin is a rather dismal tale of primitive morality in the face of degradation, humiliation and abuse. The title is based on a defiant poem consistently recited by Poppo, one of the main characters. Similarly, the movies theme song is based on a forlorn song of loneliness and resignation sung by the other main character, Tsukio, at a crucial moment in the film. The story revolves around both characters' befriendment and subsequent attempts to deal with their traumatic past and present.

Ecstasy of the Angels
[Tenshi No Kokotsu]

Genre: Extreme Youth Coming of Age (Political)

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This film is the creation of Director Koji Wakamatsu who, after filming the Japanese Red Army in the Palestinian territories, became a target of both the Japanese government and Interpol, and was blacklisted by the American government. To this day he is unable to leave Japan.

Bounce Ko Gals

Genre: Extreme Youth Coming of Age

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Bounce Ko Gals is the grand-daddy of the "cute little girls gone bad" genre which currently seems so popular in Japan. Though lacking the violence and gore of later imitations (such as Akuma ga Sumu Ie 2001 (2001) and Shudan Satsujin Kurabu (2003)) this film creates the effectively dismal moral morass which cute high school girls seem cinematically destined to occupy for many years to come. Here girls band together in shockingly street-wise ways amidst a male dominated society offering them opportunities galore to trade their innocence for cold hard cash. Innocence, of course, is not required, as anything can be bartered, from used underwear or school uniforms to being audience to raunchy, fantasy-laden stories from creepy old men and middle-aged losers. Bounce Ko Gals depicts like no other the sleazy underbelly of Tokyo which lies in wait for young girls in search of money or attention.

Blue Spring
[Aoi Haru]

Genre: Extreme Youth Coming of Age

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If adolescence means to Americans separation and rebellion, sexual experimentation, the search for an adult identity, and the potential for antisocial or deviant behavior, then the lives of teenagers in Japan will confound the American observer.
(from Video Letter from Japan II: Suburban Tokyo High School Students

Try as we might, there are just some things that simply cannot be translated into Hollywood parlance, and Blue Spring is certainly one of those things. Though faced with their own unique and serious challenges, the pressures faced by Western youth differ vastly from their Japanese counterparts due to the unparalleled priority Japan places upon Education. Unlike the west, where educational priorities focus on issues of accessibility (and for this reason it is assumed that one can enter a college simply if one desires to), the focus in Japan is upon achievement.

Bright Future
[Akarui Mirai]

Genre: Contemporary Urban/Existential Drama

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A characteristic exploration within the films of director Kurosawa Kiyoshi has to do with the fluidity of "individuality" within the ever-changing environment of his characters' worlds. In Cure (1997) the main character, forced to confront and consider the absolute amoral attitude of the antagonist, undergoes a radical transformation regarding his own moral conscience and action. In Charisma (1999), the seemingly nihilistic main character flees the chaotic moral morass of urbanized civilization into a more "natural" environment, where, after observing the lessons of an even starker reality, returns to the city morally emboldened. In Kourei (2000), through misfortunate happenstance, the naive and humble lives of the two main characters are plunged, first into moral ambiguiuty, and finally into the collapse of character.

[Shonen / Shounen]


Genre: Social Commentary on the Tragic Failings of Traditional Authority

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A self-centered and uncaring father forces his wife and young son to fake being hit by passing cars in order to extort large sums of money from drivers. The increasingly violent authority of the father over the family, and their growing unwillingness to participate in his fraud leads them all on a downward spiral both physically and psychologically. This film is directed by renowned "new wave" director Oshima Nagisa and provides a stark vision of the tragic impact of child neglect and the failure of traditional authority structures.

Seishun zankoku monogatari

Cruel Story of Youth

Genre: Extreme Youth Coming of Age

review in one breath

Holy Cow!
Let's just start by saying that the word "Cruel" in the title should be in all caps! As in: CRUEL(!) Story of Youth ...

This movie is directed by Nagisa Oshima, who is perhaps better known for his much later In the Realm of the Senses (1976). Both movies revolve around a love relation in which the main characters find themselves; a relationship of such intensity that it breeches the confines of social expectation, thereby requiring the characters to redefine themselves solely in terms of their love. Both movies also view social expectation as ultimately unyielding, resulting in inevitable tragedy for the characters who have forsaken the protection of convention in the pursuit and realization of passion. The world, we find, is brimming with harsh, harsh reality. (Some might even call it Cruel!)

[Poruno Sutaa ]

U.S. release tile: Tokyo Rampage

Genre: Psychotically Anti-Social Neo Yakuza Youth
Director: Toyoda Toshiaki (1998)

review in one breath

Here is an absolutely excellent film for fans of the contemporary neo yakuza genre. Director Toyoda Toshiaki may be better known to Western audiences for Blue Spring (Aoi Haru), another excellent nihilistic urban youth tale, which he directed 3 years after this film. Set in the urban youth culture of Shibuya, Tokyo, Pornostar offers its own exploration of the impact of yakuza influence upon youth culture. By creating a truly unique protagonist, which is simultaneously beyond morality yet somehow set against the moral scourge of the yakuza, Toyoda leads his audience into the deepest corners of Tokyo's influential sub-culture of crime.

Kokkuri-san [Kokkuri]

Genre: Ouija-Fueled Teen Angst Ghost Tale
Director: Zeze Takahisa (1997)

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In the midst of dealing with boyfriends, secret lives and existential gloominess three high school girls decide to consult a Ouija board for insights into their futures. Little do they realize that Kokkuri-san, the guiding force behind their foray into spiritism, is ready to unleash a dismal, karmic, supernatural whirlwind which brings nothing but destruction to them all.

Kamikaze Girls
[Shimotsuma monogatari]

Genre: Very fun and cool female friendship adventure

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Momoko is dainty, enjoys needlepoint and never goes out without a flamboyantly frilly dress. Ichigo is a rough-mouthed girl biker whose two predominant behaviors are spitting and head-butting. This unlikely pair collide and strike up an awkward friendship in the forlorn rural environ of Shimotsuma, Ibaragi. Their unusual adventures easily results in one the best recent films you can see.

Inferno of First Love (aka Nanami First Love)
[Hatsukoi Jigokuhen]


Genre: Grim Clash Between Youthful Freedom and Societal Machinations

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Two adolescent youth come together in their first attempt at intimacy, only to find that their complex individual histories and situations have created an obstacle to their goal. This is a seminal and exemplar film in the New Wave genre of 1960s Japanese cinema, directed by Hani Susumu who is generally credited with revitalizing Japanese modern film.

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