The film “Kids Return” follows two delinquent teenage high school dropouts, who enjoy harassing schoolmates and teachers. Their nonchalant lifestyle leads them to two different paths, seemingly successful.
Masaru (Ken Kaneko) and the gentler associate Shinji (Masanobu Ando) are accompanied by a recurrent musical score every time they’re engaged in an activity, hinting that life can be beautiful and hopeful with possibilities. They’re absorbed in their fantastical world enjoying a series of adventures— fun for them, however damaging to their peers. They’re typical bullies who burn their professor’s car for the slightest reason and horrify their classmates in order to take their money, which they spend in their usual hangout. These repulsing actions predict a dark future as per the school staff but yet are somehow envied by other teenagers.
Some of their victims decide to revenge and hire a boxer to teach the pair a lesson; Masaru ironically gets knocked down aggressively. As failure is not an option, he decides to train and get even while dragging his shy friend along the way.
In the gym the trainers notice Shinji’s natural talent in boxing, contrary to what everybody expected due to his more stoic nature. But after a failure in an impulsive challenge, Masaru decides to quit for a more dangerous endeavor encouraging his friend to stay and pursue a chance that will change his life.
While Shinji focuses on his training to become a ring champ, his best friend joins a local Yakuza gang (Japanese gangsters) in the hope he’ll become a leader one day; their paths diverge to an uncertain course.
The kids are not totally responsible of their choices, but rather drawn into a series of decisions that are led by pure coincidence. Meeting the Yakuza boss in a restaurant left them with a shallow interpretation of the ‘cool’ rich man, strong and respected by his surroundings. Truth is, once Masaru gets involved with them, there’s no turning back.
While Shinji has been devoting all his time in the gym with the admiration of his boxing mates, jealousy of the older generation threatens his success. One of the old champs convinces him to enjoy life outside the training ring with an unhealthy lifestyle, and Shinji’s natural inclination to follow changes the course of a promising career.
Kitano shows a deep understanding of a troubled youth, introducing humorous angles in their portrayal. At the same time, he raises realistic questions on the consequences of roaming without a purpose, without guidance. Being nihilistic in his approach doesn’t deny his affection to these young men with great potential for success while bridging to the inevitable adulthood – leaving the audience thoughtful..
The film was showing in Doha as part of DFI’s year-round screening series, presenting a showcase of acclaimed works from the rich and diverse cinematic tradition of Japan. The showcase is part of the Qatar Japan 2012 initiative, marking the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Next month, the showcase continues with the film ‘Glasses’, an eccentric comedy by the female director Naoko Ogigami. Tickets are on sale now here.