Well, summer is coming to an end here and this section of blog features is winding down again as well. This being the last installation for the year, but we’re ending on a high note. Because we have not only have Takeru from the disbanded but still beloved SuG, a guest appearance from again disbanded but still beloved SCREW, and… a lot of very early performances of some heavy hitters in the Japanese acting scene. This is none other then the very 2009 film BeatRock☆Love.
BeatRock☆Love is the story of LOVE DIVING, an up and coming Visual Kei band just barely getting by. They are composed of five members, Shin (Takeru), Aki (Hirofumi Araki), Rei (Kiriyama Ren), Kotaru (Okawa Genki), and Roku (Ono Kento). Shin, on behalf of LOVE DIVING has just let the band know he turned down another label offer, which irritates the fellow band members. The owner of the live house they rent insists that the group wins an upcoming battle of the bands, of which there’s a 2 million yen and major label contract on the line, or pay up their overdue rental fees. Winning the competition is only one piece of the puzzle, as both Aki and Shin have some personal problems to face before the band can even think of coming together.
I think a lot of you familiar with these kinds of stories know where this is going. There’s a lot of struggles for a young band, the ups and downs of their personal relationships with each other. Shin doesn’t articulate his problems to the band, mostly the fact he gets head hunted a LOT, and the situation gets misinterpreted by other members later on. There’s the usual will-they-won’t-they sort of final performance, and can you picture it. It’s very paint by the numbers but still very enjoyable. The thing is BeatRock☆Love is fun, because you can tell it’s a passion project. A very indie one at that.
Although, in terms of production it hasn’t aged very well. I can’t tell if it’s just the upload I watched, 11 parts, subtitled in English from Chinese subs, and uploaded to Youtube, or if the budget was that bad. It’s honestly a mix of both. There’s a lot of audio mixing issues, especially in the opening scene. Apparently no one anticipated needing transitional scenes so the move tends to jump cut whenever the situation calls for it, with very little to connect the pieces together. A bit understanding about VKei or indie bands helps string it together but not by much. The entire film was done on a handheld camera since there’s not a single still shot in the entire film. It doesn’t help the lighting for many scenes was all natural as that makes a lot of the film hard to read as a whole.
Despite these errors, some more excusable then other’s there’s a lot BeatRock☆Love does right. One of the best parts, at least for me, is that the dialogue isn’t complicated. I could have watched this movie without subtitles
(which aren’t that great in the first place) and still understood 95% of the dialogue at my current level.
Another point was how it portrayed the VKei scene at the time. VKei has a huge turnover rate with bands appearing and disappearing overnight, the only way to really solidify your standing is to sign a contract somewhere. Hand in hand with that being the fan culture shown. The fans outfits, the way they spoke about band members, and their live reactions during the performances are right on the money. Even now, I’d say it’s still accurate about how the fan culture is currently – some things don’t change.
Of course, the better parts of this film is in fact the music. The fact that they got SCREW, one of the biggest bands in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s to cameo as the senior band was on point. Their cameo song being “Wailing Wall”. Additionally, I always knew that LOVE DIVING used Takeru’s real vocals. What I didn’t know until a bit of research after this re-watch is the LOVE DIVING actually released a single and a full album (technically the soundtrack but work with me) before the movie began screening. The music was original to the film with both Takeru and Aki’s real vocals used. That really impressed me, because again, that shows there was a lot of heart in the film.
It’s also worth noting again, there’s some real actor fire power in here. A fairly young Araki Hirofumi, is here. Being honest, his performance as Aki was incredibly moving. Aki was the actual backbone of the band, having to bridge the gap between the over-talented Shin and the rest of the band more then once. It’s also clear that in comparison to the rest of the group, that Araki was the only one who could handle both the A and B plot. Admittedly the results were mixed on that one due to his partner. All in all, he did a lot of the heavy lifting that really made the film progress once you can look past the glitz and personality that Takeru brought to stage.
While I name dropped Kiriyama Ren, whose now a huge… Admittedly, this movie isn’t the one to really see him flex that early acting muscle. His character, Rei, was very much secondary cast. He got a few moments here and there, but not enough to be a big draw to see him.
About the only thing I was truly ‘eh’ on was Aki and Nanami’s whole sub-plot in the film. I honestly completely forgot about it until I started watching again, and was pretty ambivalent to it’s inclusion. It was so clearly a secondary plot, and Nanami’s actress Yamasaki Mami was not good in this particular performance. Yet, it was intergraded so securely with the main plot that to cut it would eliminate about half the film, which is only 79 minutes to start with, and take out critical plot progressing moments so…. ultimately it gets a pass.
Overall, BeatRock☆Love is actually a great film to help introduce yourself into Visual Kei. The circumstances, stories, and characters are all accurate although a tiny bit dated (flip phones ftw), to the scene as a whole. The story is wholesome with a clear underdog to root for, and a lot of great moments and music along the way. By no means is it high cinema, but it’s got a lot of that DIY heart that makes stories like this great. For fans and casual listeners alike, I highly recommend this film.
And that, for now, is this year’s conclusion to Visual Kei at the Movies. I technically have two more films I could feature, but one of them is proving a bit hard to come across. I’m hoping I’ll be able to track it down and share those with you at a later, but undecided date. There is one more surprise title, that’s not a film, to be featured sometime later this year I hope. Until then, you’ll just have to settle for some other features on my site (Visual Kei&Anime anyone?) for now. I’ll catch you next post!