The first feature film by music video director Takeshi Maruyama had its Japanese premiere at the 34th Tokyo International Film Festival. The term “spaghetti code” stems from IT jargon in where a concept of unstructured source code is written by computer programmers. In this sense, the 13 characters in the film are living so called unstructured lives and are connected by chance as they deal with the pressures of living in one of the biggest cities in the world. The Tokyo-centric setting, in ways make the city a 14th
Among these characters are a struggling photographer Himoru (Nino Furuhata) looking for his big break, a young Uber Eats delivery driver Tenyaku (Yuki Kura) with an idol obsession and determined to make 1000 deliveries, a musician Cocoro (Tôko Miura) who has given up her guitar and dreams, a high school couple (Xiangyu and Yuzu Aoki) with dark suicidal thoughts, a female part-time worker Kenmochi (Kaho Tsuchiura) involved with a married man and an escort Natsumi (Sawa Kagawa) who can’t seem to find true love, settling for a sort of imaginary relationship happiness. The film intertwines these characters and more as we see their emotional struggles and quest for a sense of self.
Director Maruyama whose music video credits include “Labyrinth” by MONDO GROSSO featuring Hikari Mitsushima (which has amassed 31 million views on YouTube) films the proceedings with a visual flair and as stated earlier, lenses the Tokyo Metropolis as a character itself. Those who have lived in the city for many years will recognize some of the locations, even the ones not found in travel guidebooks. I certainly noticed them as a constant walker of the city. Quick edits and a moving camera with cinematography by Chigi Kanbe are prevalent throughout.
Other stylistic choices include the storytelling, based on a script by Naomi Hiruta. The first half of the fllms’ narrative utilizes inner monologues and social media postings while the second half goes back to more traditional interactions between the characters. This may address the notion that modern online interaction is still no match for traditional forms of communicating where feelings can truly be expressed.
Additional plot points in the film include a tyrannical advertising creator Rin (Rikako Yagi) ridiculing Himoru’s photographic design choices, further shooting down his dreams of making it big. Shingo (Hiroya Shimizu) is the ex-boyfriend of Cocoro and carries on a relationship with Natsumi. He also has 5000 Facebook friends but are all these relationships real?
Yuki Uesako plays Hana Ogawa whose online profile seems to be made up of lies. She’s a high school student not going to school who comes to Tokyo looking to reach her so-called dreams after meeting Himoru online.
Comedic moments are provided by Shishido (Rintaro Mintani), a junior high school student with a life-plan assignment where he brainstorms hilarious, unrealistic, far-fetched goals. His scenes are set in convenience stores, another ubiquitous part of Japanese life. Neighbors Momoko (Mutsumi Sato) and Umeko (Yuriyan Retriever) are amusing as they share their relationship failures with Momoko spending money on fortune tellers as a way to cope.
In our current pandemic, the film taps into an isolation that many people feel, even those living in one the most populous cities in the world. As a character emphatically says “Tokyo is not a place were people go to find their dreams, it’s a place where people come to die”, we all wonder how truly accurate this statement is.
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