Just wanna start – I couldn’t find a movie with ‘X’ in the title, so let’s keep it moving. We’re in the home stretch folks!! The end is in sight for my A-Z Movie Challenge!! Of course, we’re on the ‘Y’ title. This being a special title for me since it’s one of several films that star the entirety of the (on hiatus) supergroup Arashi. Seeing that the group is two years out from their hiatus this is a bittersweet moment as a fan and viewer.
The year is 1962, and the summer heats beats down on Tokyo. A tiny studio apartment tucked away in a quiet neighborhood, four artists and a friend live together. There’s Eisuke (Ninomiya Kazunari i.e. Nino) the manga artist, Shoichi (Masaki Aiba) the singer, Ryuzo (Sakurai Sho) the novelist, and Kei (Ohono Satoshi) the oil painter. Their friend Yuji (Matsumoto Jun) drifts in and out as his business allows. The four artists have all yet to make their big break in their professions, so they dedicate the entire summer to finally make it and earn true freedom. However, pursuing such a goal is not nearly as romantic as they thought.
Yellow Tears is the oddball genre of a historical slice-of-life story. While the men all have goals of pursuing their art as determinedly as possible, there’s no larger conflict at hand. Eisuke struggles to write a manga he wants to write, but will also be popular. Shoichi struggles to find a record deal, Ryuzo has great story ideas but rarely puts a pen to paper, and Kei paints but has no buyer. Their struggles tug and pull, but nothing really stands out.
It’s also pretty obvious that J-Storm was capitalizing on Nino’s success from 2006 (Letters from Iwa Jima), thus his character Eisuke was the linchpin holding the story together – both narratively and in acting skills. Eisuke is the only character with real external conflict, his mother being hospitalized with him needing to pay her bills on a manga artist’s budget, and the only character that really develops at all.
This isn’t to say that the other characters weren’t interesting, or that the other members didn’t pull their weight. Individually, each character had a unique struggle that’s relatable but it never really progressed beyond that. It didn’t help that a lot of the ‘romantic’ subplots were poorly integrated and relatively irrelevant to the larger story. I mean, fifteen years later it’s a bit more obvious the gap between the actors and the reasons this was made in the first place.
This film also is in no rush to tell the story of it’s characters, with it’s two hour and eight minute run time. It meanders about, focusing on one character then another, and circling back to the full story. It never gets boring, but it never really gets interesting either. A film that easily could have trimmed down a bit to have a bit more of brisk pace.
Personally, this film didn’t quite have any outstanding moments for me. No major highs, or lowest of lows. The acting never gets bad, always passable, but never impressive. The direction is solid, a few shots of intrigue slipped in here and there but again nothing memorable. There’s a lot of charm to the film the ‘crunch’ that really sold me on the era. The costuming, the sets and on screen locations, even how they spoke were very convincing. Clearly there was a lot of time and dedication to making it fairly historically accurate.
I’m having a hard time putting together my final thoughts. It’s weird to say, but I’d say that Yellow Tears is the closest thing to a live action Iyashikei project. It washes over you like an early summer breeze – a bit warm, but keeps the air moving. It’s clear the time, effort, casting, and budget were put into this production. It you need something light, or an Arashi fix, this movie is for you.