Saturday, March 27, 2010

Punks are people too! (ヤンキーも人間やで!)

Oh dear. Seems I've awoken with a headache, yet again. Sometimes, this chronic migraine business is a major pain. (And when I say sometimes...)

But will that stop me from being vigilant in maintaining my regular blog updates? Of course not! Perseverance is my middle name! ... or, at least, ornery-stubbornness is. But we know how we'd put it on a job application.

Today, I thought I'd venture into some new ground... I can't just do music all the time. Well, I mean, I could... but with my lack of true music knowledge, I think the attempt would be somewhat misguided. No, today, we will instead look at two things: the movie ドロップ (Drop) and the ヤンキー culture it portrays.

First of all. ドロップ.

Saw it in a crowded Nara theatre with my then-boyfriend, drawn in by my love of (a) Mizushima Hiro and (b) ヤンキー movies. The first of those is easily explained. Mizushima Hiro is, according to the latest polls, the sexiest man in Japan. I loved him when he was simply Nanba in 花盛りの君たちへ, the guy who was way hotter than Oguri Shun but was for some reason shunted to the background. Well, he certainly got his comeuppance now (ironically co-staring with Oguri Shun in Tokyo Dogs... but we'll talk about that later). Not only is he a rather good actor who speaks perfect English (and I mean perfect, oh my goodness, it gives me the chills), he's a super-nice guy. He's also good friends with Kimutaku after MR. BRAIN... again, something we'll get into later.

(Just a forewarning: I admit to having a deep, passionate, Kimutaku-loving streak in my body.)

In any event. Before I digress further. Mizushima Hiro stars (along with Narimiya Hiroki) in this movie (based on a manga which was itself based on a novel, as far as I can tell) about a kid (Narimiya) who leaves his nice, fancy-schmancy private school to transfer to a public school in order to join the local gang of roughnecks, led (somewhat) by Mizushima's character. They (sans Mizushima) find him bragging to the girls in his class on (what I presume to be) his first day, lead him out of the school to the river, where Mizushima himself is kicking the piss out of some poor rival gang member.

Oh, right. Did I mention? If you don't like violence, this is very much not the film for you. It is, after all, about ヤンキー, or punk kids. To give you a hint, one of Mizushima's first lines in the movie (which he repeats later) is 「人はそんなに簡単に死なねぇーよ。」

Don't let the violence turn you off, however. Ultimately, it's a story of bonding, in one form or another--strangely enough, that just usually seems to start with fighting.

Unfortunately, I can't give you any more in exposition--partly in order to refrain from spoiling anything, and partly because a large portion of the beginning of the movie is Kanto-dialect, dialogue-based exposition... and I have never seen this film with subtitles. I honestly don't know if it's even been popularized in the West to the point where it would get them yet.

However, I highly recommend this film. I have seen it any number of times, and have a great desire to continue doing so. While it may be criticized as being too long (it does drag on a bit) and there's no way in heck these actors are believably middle-school kids, it's very enjoyable. There are laugh-out-loud moments, and nicely choreographed fight scenes, if you're into that kind of thing. Also, if you're like me, it's sort of a rush to see the usually mild-mannered/play-boy type Mizushima being a total hard-ass punk.

... guess I'm not very technical with movies either.

Now. The ヤンキー issue in general.

Japan knows this is a problem. Apparently, there's a rash of delinquent kids (mostly middle-schoolers) getting into fights, damaging property, and generally causing havoc when they're supposed to be studying. It sounds like a pretty bad deal, and an issue which the people would be eager to solve.

But lately, it seems to have been... popularized. ごくせん has had three seasons of Yankumi teaching ヤンキー kids, and there's a new special every time I turn around. The movie Crows was so successful it just had a sequel, even though it is, at it's core, about the politics of gang wars. ドロップ, of course. GTO, to some extent, involves the same ideas. 下妻物語 (another of my favorite movies) deals with female ヤンキー in the form of a biker gang. Even I myself admit to having been drawn in; I said so right at the beginning of this post.

So, what is it about these delinquents that draws us in? Generally, they're not diluted to a great extent. They still fight, speak in a vulgar manner, and show a general disrespect for authority. None of these are technically "admirable."

Is it that we tend to implant other idealistic qualities onto them? ヤンキー in movies tend to have a rigorous code of honor. They protect the other members of their gang, are loyal to the end. Also, although less commonly, there's the "punk with a heart of gold," or a ヤンキー who deep down is a kind, caring individual, who just has that surface later of kick-the-snot-out-of-everyone issue to deal with.

And then again, are these implanted qualities after all? If you've ever seen punks on your evening train ride home, you'd whole-heartedly say yes, I have no doubt, but then, are these the same level of ヤンキー that we see in movies? Are we portraying the pinnacle of punk achievement for our own entertainment? Is there really some of the old 武士道 left in the "good" ヤンキー of today?

Or are we just fooling ourselves and trying to make a major social problem look attractive and interesting?

I see a paper in this somewhere.

Hopefully leaving you with something to think about, this is Edo, signing off.

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