Nov 082012


High school is very much like a delicate eco-system – everyone has their place in the system, and any disruption can have a “butterfly effect” throughout the whole system. When the most talked about boy in school removes himself from the eco-system, things quickly become unhinged. Review of The Kirishima Thing (桐島、部活やめるってよ) after the jump.

Kirishima is somewhat of an enigma – the boy that everyone talks about and wants to be friends with, but that few truly know. The popular student is the star member of the school’s in-form volleyball team; that is until the day he inexplicably quits the team. Why might the key player quit the team you ask? Well we never learn why from Kirishima himself; instead we see the events which unfold [after his quitting the team] from the perspective of his friends and fellow schoolmates – each of whom have their own perspective and take on what happened and why.

Initially Kirishima’s sudden departure from the team shocks and upsets his schoolmates, particularly those in the volleyball team who feel hurt and betrayed by his exit. They wonder how they can get by without him, and if they should even try. His girlfriend feels personally shunned by not knowing his motivations; and the school’s band-leader wonders how school will be the same without her crush. As the students come to terms with the absence of their classmate, it becomes obvious that it’s their relationships with each other that are really important, and not the presence of a single person.

Based on the novel by Ryo Asahi (which he wrote while a university student), the film has a fascinating commentary on both the complicated nature of school life and relationships, and the way which one’s perspective can completely alter how an event or even a person is viewed. The film employs a multi-character structure which is both what makes it so interesting, and also a tad confusing, as it sometimes becomes slightly difficult to figure out which student’s perspective we are seeing the story from.

Despite the occasional confusion, I enjoyed the variety of insight that the multi-character approach provided – from the best friend who is upset at being left out in the dark, to shy band-leader who has a hopeless crush. However, personal favourite was the shy director who was trying desperately to film a zombie film on the school’s property, but was constantly frustrated and battling obstacles (mostly his schoolmates). The scenes involving the film club and the zombie movie provide the greatest laughs in the film and pay a nice homage to early zombie flicks.

An interesting look at the complicated nature of the high school eco-system, there is plenty to like about this multi-layered film.

By Sam McCosh

The Facts

Director: Daihachi Yoshida
Writer(s): Kohei Kiyasu & Daihachi Yoshida (screenplay), Ryô Asai (novel)
Starring: Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Masahiro Higashide, Kôdai Asaka 
Runtime: 103 minutes


The Kirishima Thing is screening as part of the 16th Japanese Film Festival. For information about this film and other films screening, please visit: