Tag Archives: Yukisada Isao

Bleak portrayal of alienated Japanese high-school students, ca. 1994

The Japanese “River’s Edge” (Ribazu ejji, 2018; not the 1986 Keaunu Reeves) movie with the same English name) strikes me as brutalistic rather than naturalistic. It is set in the economic nadir of 1994. There are frequent scenes of rough sex and even one scene of full-frontal male nudity (usually even any pubic hair is forbidden to Japanese film-makers).


The main character, whose point of view is frequently presented, is Wakakusa Haruna (Nikaido Fumi {Himizo]), who is something of a faghag, rescuing a stripped, badly beaten, and tied-up gay victim of bullies, Yamada Ichiro (tv star Yoshizawa Ryô), twice. Yamada years for a younger athlete and their school, and has an eger, naïve girlfriend, Tajima Kanna (Morikawa Aoi), who provides him no social cover.

Yamada has another gal pal, bulimic model and tv regular Yoshikawa Kozue (Sumire), who seems to have romantic/sexual feelings for Wakakusa. Yohikawa knows of Yamada’s “treasure,” a corpse along the river, and Yamada shares this secret with Wakakusa.


Wakakusa has to be aware that the leader of the bullies is her supposed boyfriend, the not just oversexed but quite kinky (with another girl, Wakakus’s friend), Koyama Rumi (Doi Shiori). By the end of the movie, there is a second corpse (seeming killed twice or thrice in one night!), and no one is even close to being happy. That is, there is no catharsis for the alienated characters or the audience. The latter has to tie up unexplicated loose ends, while the camera prefers to linger on a polluting, brightly-lit-at-night factory across the river.

Until near the end of the movie parents are almost entirely invisible and offer no guidance (let alone supervision) to their anomic offspring.

Unilluminating interview segments with the characters interrupt the narrative(s), but the framing and editing of the narrative are far too “arty” for anyone to mistake the movie for a documentary. The movie directed by Yukisada Isao (Sunflower, Parade, Crying Out Love in the Center of the World) movie is based on Kyoko Okazaki’s 1993-94 manga series (i.e., was contemporary with the storyline’s time). It was shot in the old-fashioned television 4×3 ratio by Maki Kenji.


The Japanese trailer at http://movie-riversedge.jp/. The film is currently streaming in the US on Netflix.


©2019, Stephen O. Murray