Review: BANDAGE (Kobayashi, 2010)

Japanese title: バンデージ

Director: Kobayashi Takeshi

Info: IMDb, AsianMediaWiki, Trailer

Rating: ★★★★

Being an Iwai Shunji-produced and co-written film, I was quick to pick up BANDAGE, hoping for something original and enjoyable.  I’m not sure how involved Iwai was with the film (I’m guessing not too much, though there are undoubtedly Iwai inspirations scattered throughout the film), but it mostly delivered on my hopes.

Casting Akanishi Jin as one of the leads was a smart move by director Kobayashi Takeshi.  He brings massive fan support to the movie, not to mention experience in the Japanese music industry.  Playing the lead singer of a rock band, Akanishi undoubtedly draws from personal experience (he’s a very popular member of the Johnny’s boy band KAT-TUN–actually, former member now; he decided to go solo using this film as a base) as he plays the carefree yet troubled character of Natsu.  His band, LANDS, is quickly gaining mass popularity but encounters problems–the band members just don’t completely gel.  A genius musician, Yukiya (Kora Kengo), and a brilliant composer, Arumi (Shibamoto Yuki), form the heart of the band with Natsu supposedly still remaining just because of his indie fan base.  It also helps that he can sing.

Asako (Kitano Kii) is a high school girl who loves LANDS.  One day, her friend invites her to one of their concerts and they miraculously stumble upon backstage passes.  The girls soon find themselves at the band’s after-concert drinking party and Asako strikes up a relationship with Natsu.  He’s soon bringing her to rehearsals and calling her up to solve band problems.  The rest of the band obviously sees this as a hindrance, though they can’t convince Natsu of that.  He really likes her, in his own strange and laid-back way.

Akanishi Jin plays a damn good rocker.  Although his character is quite one-dimensional, Akanishi embodies the rocker spirit, entertaining and involving us in the film. Johnny’s Entertainment boys are typically unimpressive actors whose roles are often restrained or stiff.  It’s surprising that Akanishi plays such a dark and adult character (yes, he really kissed a girl–a real kiss!).  Akanishi’s rock star is seemingly drunk throughout the film (this is his personality) as he rambles and babbles along.  It’s all very entertaining, no doubt.  Kitano Kii, who also previously starred in the Iwai-produced Halfway (2009), is a pleasure to watch as well.  It’s nice to see a young actress so in-control of her characters, I’m always impressed with her.  The casting for each character is very good.  I especially liked the inclusion of Ito Ayumi (who emerged out of Iwai’s Swallowtail Butterfly (1996)), as the beautiful and smart manager of LANDS.

The cinematography is on-and-off, employing the Iwai-inspired hand-held style which is both effective and annoying.  This style of camerawork can either bring extreme originality or make the film appear amateurish.  For example, in a few scenes the camera is far too unstable, mostly noticeable towards the beginning, making for an uncomfortable viewing experience (thankfully, these scenes are low in quantity).  In other scenes, the camera works well, particularly when filming during performances or when the intimacy that the hand-held camera can bring is needed.  I found myself enjoying the cinematography more as the film progressed.  Cinematographer Onomichi Koji seems to be Iwai’s new go-to cameraman after the death of his friend Shinoda Noboru, as he is using him here and in his next directorial feature, the English-language Vampire (2011).

Since BANDAGE is a film about music, the songs must be good–and they are.  Akanishi’s voice is well-suited to the neo-rock/alternative sound and is pleasing overall.  The songs are all original compositions by Kobayashi, who usually produces soundtracks for Iwai’s films (unless he does it himself).  The tracks are great, which helps raise the enjoyment scale of the movie.  There is a particular scene in the film that gave me goosebumps: Yuichi is playing around with a recording of one of LANDS’s songs in darkness, hair in his face.  He alters the voice to be robotic-sounding and plays the guitar with a violin bow.  It’s a powerful and dark moment in the film in which we discover the extent of Yukiya’s talent and his deep loneliness.

BANDAGE is ultimately a film about self-discovery.  It is effective in portraying the life of an indie band in 1990’s Japan, when the rise and fall of these bands was commonplace due to TV talent shows.  With a strong cast, great music, and effective camerawork for the genre, BANDAGE manages to entertain while being an interesting commentary on the music industry at the time.  Recommended!

Translated comment Iwai Shunji made about Akanishi Jin:

“After we watched his video clips, I was very shocked. I didn’t expect such an actor in Japan.
However we do have some occasionally, such as Kimura Takuya and Tadanobu Asano.
All of a sudden they come to your face and surprise the world.
This kind of person doesn’t need to brew slowly, but are more a bomb you feel like it’s either going to explode or disappear.[…]
His personality already makes people think of him as an animal who cannot be caged, and everybody can totally feel this unique personality in the story as well. ”

(Credits to Iwai Shunji-fan at AsianMediaWiki)

    • Helicidae
    • August 21st, 2010

    Hi there,

    I found your blog recently and decided to subscribe to it. I like your unbiased pieces on J-dramas and J-movies. It’s hard to find reviews of lesser known productions that are not written from a fan’s point of view and thus focus on the actors’ looks rather than their performance.

    That’s why I enjoyed reading your review. It does not describe how handsome Jin Akanishi is but gives insight into the cast’s acting abilities and the overall quality of the movie. (This coming from an Akanishi fan.) Thanks for sharing your opinion!

    PS: Have you seen “Love Exposure” by any chance? If so, what do you think about it?

    • Thanks for the comment!

      I’ve seen Love Exposure, and have been meaning to watch it again, but the length often deters me. I liked it. Though not perfect, it’s daring and unique; well-paced and entertaining. It’s true Japanese cult filmmaking, but with an edge and a quality that is rarely seen. I really like Sion Sono as a director, he can go from making something like “Love Exposure” and then change direction completely with “Be Sure To Share,” which I consider to be his best film.

      Just an FYI, I’ve been working on a new site design on a self-hosted page. I already have a new article up (a double review of two outstanding Korean films, “Oldboy” and “The Host”), but have not yet migrated everything over. So, I’m not quite ready to make the full switch, but it’s almost there. Check it out at http://www.theforeignlens.com/

    • Izza
    • August 28th, 2010

    I recently watched Bandage and although your review is thorough and recommends this film, I can’t quite agree with you. Maybe I missed out on the message halfway through but I found the movie a bit dull and I didn’t feel much for any of the characters.

    The acting wasn’t as good as I was expecting. The band’s look was overdone for an Indie band (not Jin’s but Kengo Kora and the girl). I thought Jin’s acting was okay but it was reminiscent of a character from the Japanese drama Nobuta wo Produce. Plus, the relationship was awkward between Natsu and Asako. The music was also “eh” for me.

    I really appreciated reading your opinion and makes me wonder if my attention span was 100% when I watched this. I seem to have missed a lot of the positive things you mentioned.😛

    • I could have just as easily not recommended this movie, it’s just that kind of film. I feel as if people’s opinions will differ drastically based on their taste in music, acting styles, and willingness to handle material that may not be the way it usually is. Opinion is opinion, everyone has one and it’s always great to see the other side.

      I feel like I was really in the mood for the kind of movie BANDAGE is. It’s also quite refreshing to see a film (which stars Akanishi Jin, no less) which doesn’t quite conform to the usual aspects of band movies. It certainly is no fairytale story, it’s one about real life, where not everyone is a winner. They easily could have shown more of the relationship, but really, the film wasn’t all about it. They didn’t have much of a relationship to begin with.

      Thanks for the comment, it’s kind of nice to see someone criticize the film and Akanishi Jin, instead of the usual “OMG, JIN IS SO HOT, HE IS THE BEST ACTOR EVER.”

  1. I didn’t like the film that much. The story and the characters weren’t developed at all. Asako said towards the end of the movie that she hates herself, but I simply couldn’t see the reason why, because I didn’t get the chance to see what the hell happened in that girl’s mind. I only got to see that she’s crazy about LANDS and a really devoted fan, and that was pretty much everything. And then Yukiya – why the hell did he hated Asako anyway? I read somewhere that the director said Yukiya was feeling hatred towards Asako because he was in love with Natsu – but that didn’t occur to me while watching the film.

    I think the most interesting character is Natsu, even if he, too, lacks development. Akanishi’s acting was really good – especially that final kiss scene, which was simply wonderful (putting the camera instability aside). The movie has a few more interesting and touching scenes like the one when Natsu looks in the mirror and whispers to himself “Who are you?” or the Yukiya scene you already mentioned, but it’s just not enough. I’d only watch this again for Akanishi’s performance and for the soundtrack, which was really, really wonderful, but I wouldn’t recommend it otherwise.

    • unavis
    • May 11th, 2015

    Just finished it. So nice to read all the different opinions here, especially because it’s a polite conversation.

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