A pastel-color explosion of J-pop-rock has landed in a purple Lamborghini on Udine in the form of “JK Rock” a film by director Muguruma Shunji, based on an original script by Kaori Tanimoto, about a trio of school girls determined to rock their world and rescue an imploded boy band.
The popular rock band The JoKes has gone through tough times after the dark and fascinating front man Jyo Koduki (Ryosuke Yamamoto) has left the band, looking for fame in the States. Handsome Jyo Kaieda (Shodai Fukuyama) is left behind pondering about his talent and the reasons why the producer didn’t chose him. He is in fact back to “normal” life and university duty, but his posh girlfriend and purple Lamborghini cannot cure his troubled heart. The two other former Jokers (Ryota Kobayashi and Kaito Kumagai) are in a suspended limbo, hoping to have the chance one day to reunite the band.
In the meantime, they all gravitate around the Teru Rock Cafe, a pastel colored hangout-cum-practice-room, run by old-generation rock fan Teru (Masahiko Nishimura). With a couple of hilariously silly promises, Teru convinces sparkling teen girl Sakura (Chihiro Hayama) to join smiley, cute Mao (Yuina) and grumpy, introverted Rina (Yukino Miyake) and form a girl band. It is Teru’s way to give the former Jokers an occupation tutoring the girls and also an attempt to reignite the passion in Jyo and help him to find his lost self-confidence.
The girls are determined to become proper musicians and propel their band Drop Doll, to pop stardom, and when they overhear that Teru is threatened by creditors, they decide to enter a competition and win the money prize to be able to help their mentor. Sakura endures some pretty tough drum lessons under Jyo’s tutoring and – needless to say – love blossoms between the two.
Despite the title, director Muguruma Shunji re-elaborates in this film a classic archetypal plot of the sport movie; an old disaffected champion who has lost his confidence, harshly coaches a new talent who slowly understands the reason of such toughness, develops respect/affection and re-ignites the old champion’s passion.
Not surprisingly, the director’s starting point was the plot of one of his previous directorial works, based on a tennis girl manga. The addition of rock ‘n roll contributes to the energy of the whole ensemble and gives the girls attitude and the leverage to shift the power in the dynamic, and rescue the male character from idleness.
“JK Rock” (“JK” stands for to “Joshi Kōsei”, high school girls) is not the first film about a girl band and it will not be the last one, but its unique selling point is a very joyful over-the-top-ness mixed with great vitality and boosted by a bubbly protagonist. We are in teenage girl territory, a land of Instagram-friendly cafes and pastel-iced doughnuts. Not to talk about the purple Lamborghini and Hime, the cutest kitten you could ever imagine.
The young girls actresses that worked with Shunji Muguruma in his previous film “Little Performer: The Pulse of Winds” as primary school children, have now blossomed into energetic and effervescent teenagers. They had a 15-day training at the instruments before shooting and they pulled it out brilliantly; Chihiro Hayama especially looks like a promising talent to keep an eye on. The boys cover all the shadows of handsomeness, from cute to troubled to dark, with Shodai Fukuyama channeling Matsuda’s Ren of “Nana” and Shodai Fukuyama, just being himself! Masahiko Nishimura as Teru is a very pleasant moderator/father figure without being patronising.
The visual, from photography to props is really well designed and controlled, making the colors scheme one of the distinctive assets of the film.
Director Muguruma, who is also a film teacher, has definitely got his finger on the pulse of the young generation and there is no doubt that “JK Rock” is a “teenager-guidance-rated” movie, but it can be fully enjoyed with an open heart and a relaxed mind.