“We’ve been hanging out all these years.
But I know nothing about you.”
As we approach the transition from youth to adulthood, most of us experience the same kind of anxiety taking our first steps into “the world outside”. Even though the pressure of nostalgia makes us see the golden days of our teenage years, the decision at that point in our lives was anything but positive. In fact, many young people find the pressure of deciding which lives to lead, what career to choose and where to go to do all these things not only stressful but quite unbearable at times.
Countless stories have been told about these defining years of everyone’s lives. However, few of them have managed to capture the perspective of the young person in a believable way while idealizing their characters and their time as a consequence. Japanese director Satoru Hirohara knows about the pitfalls of telling such a story and attempts to evade them by constantly asking how his generation would understand the narrative and its characters. One of the most significant dangers, he says in an interview, is to give a “clear message”, which, considering the story deals with a time defined by uncertainty, is counter-productive and quite insincere.
In his new film “Dawn Wind in my Poncho” his three central characters must face these questions in their lives as they are about to graduate from high school. Jin (Aoi Nakamura), their former class president, has applied for the renowned Tosei University while his friends, Matahachi (Taiga) and Jambo (Yuma Yamoto) have made their peace with staying in their boring little village where they spent most of their lives. As the graduation ceremony of their high school approaches, the three of them have one final day before their ways possibly part forever.
However, as Jin experiences a difficult event in his life, shattering the expectations of his friends, the three of them start their last adventure asking themselves whether their path is indeed already laid out before them and how much they can influence it.
At its core, “Dawn Wind in My Poncho” is a re-evaluation of symbols emphasizing one’s progression in life while also posing the question if this is really what it is all about. In an early scene, we meet Hachibei (Jiro Sato) who sits at a bar and talks to one of his son’s friends from school. Even without his obvious disapproval about his “useless” son, as he claims in front of the barmaid, there is no doubt about the obvious distance between this man and his offspring. Besides the fact we never see them together, the coarse nature of this man, along with his pride in symbols of status demonstrates how little he thinks of his son and his circle of friends. As if to highlight that point even further, he shows everyone pictures of his new car claiming this is the reward for saving money and working hard, all of which define expectations he has in his son, but which he is seemingly unable to fulfill.
In order to understand the youths in this film you may refer to them as “formless characters”. Regarding his film “No Reply”, director Hirohara has used this phrase to describe his characters for “they do not know what they are doing”. Although their actions as well as their goals have been well-defined in the past, now that their life lies in front of them, they do not know what to do with it, hence their constant jokes, games and episodes of profound insight as ways to experiment and find the person they will be. Additionally, they experience their friends as new people too for this very moment exposes their fears for this future, for example to become a failure in a world defined by status and materialism.
Luckily, Saturo Hirohara’s film has the right cast to establish these themes. The three main actors have a believable chemistry in a story which demands quite a lot of slapstick humor, car chases and deep, personal drama dealing with other themes like bullying and identity. Hirohara’s script, which he co-wrote with Kaota Oura, gives each character his moment with often surprising revelations. Most importantly, it creates believable, relatable moments and dialogues which add much to the drama and entertainment of the film.
In the end, “Dawn Wind in My Poncho” is a film about choices in life and an important period of transition in our lives. With its great cast, its wonderful writing and direction, Saturo Hirohara’s film will likely entertain and touch its audience. Eventually, you wish these characters all the best in their lives which should display how much these silly boys have grown on you over the course of the film.