Japanese Reviews Reviews

Short Film Review: Made in Japan (2018) by Yusaku Matsumoto

Two young men and women sit at a window seat in a cafe, coffee and snacks on the table in front of them. They brandish their youth through their clothing, dyed hair, and bon vivant expressions as they mug for the camera.

At the Moosic Lab 2018, the short film “” by was awarded the Audience Award, the Special Jury Prize and a Best Actor Award. The ensemble of actors that Matsumoto has engaged for his fast-paced and extremely concise social satire is indeed extraordinarily impressive. The strength of the film is based on the dynamics between the characters, which in all its compactness makes a relevant and haunting impression.

It all starts when Kyoichi is made aware of an article in the newspaper by a work colleague. A man has been burned alive and the culprit hasn't been caught yet. In the picture Kyoichi recognizes a former colleague and swaggers about it in the social media. He does not have to wait long for the media to take an interest in him. Since the easy money seems to beckon, Kyoichi agrees to release more and more information about Ikea, the wanted murderer.

As in his long feature film debut “Noise” from 2017, the Japanese director explores people's fascination with violence. He shows how many people are shocked when they hear about a crime, but also how they feel an urge to take a closer look at it. The real circumstances soon do not play such an important role anymore, but give way to an idea of the perpetrator. This image of a criminal is often formed by a society as a collective. It essentially consists of clichés and other generalisations, which are underpinned and propagated by the media in particular.

This power of the media is exactly what “Made in Japan” is about. Matsumoto takes to the extreme what can happen when people are reported on, out of pure sensationalism. He shows how easy it is to influence public opinion and how many people draw legitimacy from media reports for their indignation and condemnation and sometimes their actions against the people. As dramatic as the developments in the story are, Matsumoto manages to avoid excessive pathos and thus gives the film all the more rigour.

“Made in Japan” is meant to hold a mirror up to the viewer. To make him aware of how easy it is to be manipulated by fast money, but also by the opinion of others. Matsumoto is also concerned with group dynamics and the compulsion that can result from them. The group of friends, who are at the centre of the film, are representatives of a young generation, who are guided by social media and the desire to gain respect for external things. For the acting ensemble around , who takes on the leading role of Kyoichi, it must have been an extraordinary experience to put themselves in the shoes of these wannabe punks. A task they mastered brilliantly. It meant breaking out of the otherwise expected social manners, being colourful, loud and irreverent for once.

While Yusaku Matsumoto wrote the screenplay and directed the film, cameraman Kentaro Kishi was responsible for finding the images. His pictures are precise and well lit, he stays close to the characters and captures the changing moods of the story. Both the handheld camera shots and the tracking shots over the city prove a sure skill and a consistent artistic concept. The fast editing, which Matsumoto did himself, has resulted in a film full of suspense.

“Made in Japan” is not only a relevant social critic, but also an artistically valuable work. For his parable about violence, loyalty and sensationalism, Matsumoto chooses a somewhat melancholic and pessimistic tone, which unfortunately only too often has its real counterpart.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter