I’ve watched Blue Spring three times already, and I still think it is one of the best Japanese movies I have ever seen. Maybe because it’s not your average high school movie, a genre already famous in Japan.
This is not even a mainstream high-school-delinquent movie. One will find neither sugary kids’ romance, nor the fights in the name of friendship under the leadership of an overly enthusiastic teacher. Instead, one plunges directly into a very dark world, from the other side of the coin.
The opening of the movie itself brings the viewer, with no further introduction, into this cold and sinister environment. On the roof, several kids are gathered to choose their new gang leader, using a very hardcore, deadly method: hand-clapping from the outside of the roof fence. He who claps the most times without touching the fence becomes the gang leader. The challenge is won by Kujo (Ryuhei Matsuda), who is also the main character of the movie.
I personally loved the way Kujo unveils himself as a character from the beginning up to the end. He is a hybrid between a normal high school student and the gang of outcasts whose leader he is. Just like all the others, he struggles to understand himself and to understand the world he lives in. From this point of view, in the movie there’s one brilliant metaphor, that of the flowers planted by Kujo and other two boys of his gang, expected to bloom under their care. And the answer to that metaphor is brought forth only at the end of the movie.
The school itself represents a turf with no laws, driven solely by brute force and power. Studying becomes only a cheap escape of those too weak or too scared to fight, and teachers are no more than puppets who recite their lessons to an indifferent audience.
Nevertheless, while fighting and challenging one another, the kids are inquisitive about their future and what it means to them; even scared, for each of them is deeply aware of their status and of the little possibilities that they are left with. In Blue Spring there won’t be the good old happy ending of delinquents brought back on the right path because they can see the light of repentance and are willing to become good persons. Blue Spring is not the didactic movie whose purpose is to preach the power of goodness. From this point of view, hats off for the expressionist approach.
Such a school could be placed only in a no man’s land. Yakuza is lurking around trying to get the toughest boys, and throughout the movie there’s no sign of an exterior presence besides a few recruiters, one police car and the momentary visit of a girl. Everything is happening within an environment self-sufficient and closed to the outside, which somehow can be regarded as a metaphor for the boys themselves.
Another thing to be remarked in Toshiaki Toyoda’s movie is that the violence, although existent, is most of the times rather suggested, and the approach is oriented towards the psychological aspect induced by physical violence. Yukio, one of the boys, commits a crime purely out of impulse, somehow as a form of revolt against the lack of coordinates in his life; he sees that not knowing who you are or what you want to do can be scary, and his crime can thus be regarded, to some extent, as an attempt to prove himself. The same goes for Kujo’s best friend, Aoki, who actually encompasses the essence of the movie. Growing up and surpassing your fears require not necessarily the elders’ preaching, but your own courage. His last action is actually his way to gain his own individuality, beyond Kujo’s protection and friendship; to discover himself as a person.
In short, this is exactly what Blue Spring is all about. Growing up, trying to figure out who you are, although the means aren’t necessarily the most orthodox. It’s about the fear to act, or about attempt and fail (see Kujo’s talent in football, or the baseball team), and about coping with fail, whether you let it drag you down or encourage you to try again.
The soundtrack, a brilliant selection of songs by Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, completes the overall atmosphere of the movie. Akage no Kelly, the opening theme, seems to anticipate all the angst that is to be unfolded. With a mind-blowing story and an excellent choice of actors and soundtrack, Blue Spring is definitely a must see.