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A Story of Yonosuke – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Set in the 1980’s, Yonosuke Yokomichi is a college student, with a warm heart, from the port city of Nagasaki. His girlfriend Shoko Yosano is the daughter of a company president.

Based on the novel Yokomichi Yonosuke by author Shuichi Yoshida, A Story of Yonosuke delivers a lighthearted and comical tale regarding social class and one’s somewhat tumultuous journey towards finding independence. Starting out rather innocently about a young man named Yonosuke who hails from the countryside, played well here by the talented Kengo Kora, as he ventures into the big city to attend college, the film makes its way through a plethora of 80’s Japanese pop culture, social barriers, and romantic entanglements along the way. But while A Story of Yonosuke may appear as a simple tale of fitting into your new surroundings, it is in fact quite the opposite.

Inverting much of the stereotypical viewpoints on the “coming-of-age” genre of filmmaking, A Story of Yonosuke plays much into the idea of how individuals around Yonosuke are affected more so by his mere presence rather than their influence on him. This approach presents the film as an outwardly exploration of Yonosuke himself, learning much more about the individuals he interacts with more than him as a character. He is seemingly an illusive individual throughout the film, never truly letting the audience into how he feels about situations or characters, but the film never conveys Yonosuke as a superficial in the slightest, instead having him viewed more so as an element of the film utilized to explore the lives other characters.

And while the harmless scrutiny by his friends and family never seem to actually effect Yonosuke in any way, he does become seemingly a metaphor on the considerable optimism that Japan was experiencing at the time through its economical and worldly gains. Those around him slowly begin to be attracted to his clever behavior and modesty, seeing in Yonosuke a way to view their own lives in a much more positive light. Yonosuke is for the most part clueless as to the social functions that define classism, but he unknowingly but expertly, maneuvers between a variety of social groups with ease as he is simply unaware of any sort of communal barrier. This approach makes for a charming lead character who is presented more as a figurehead than anything else, which is certainly not a negative aspect of the film.

Unfortunately, A Story of Yonosuke does have a rather unfortunate narrative drawback. For one, the latter half of the film brings about a rather significant change in narrative structure that may somewhat confuse some viewers. This change, although crucial to defining Yonosuke as a character, seems to lean a little bit too far on the sentimental side in order to garner sympathy from the audience. This would have worked out if the previous half of the film did not already establish his momentous influence on the other characters in the film. Coinciding with this element is the film’s length, which is roughly over two hours. While based on a novel, this is somewhat understandable, but director Shuichi Okita seemingly wanted to fit all of Maeda’s story into the framework of a film, which ultimately leaves a sense of lingering as it nears its conclusion.

Initially starting out as a tale of simply growing up, A Story of Yonosuke blossoms into a tale on how one individual can have a remarkable influence on those around them without that individual even knowing it. While the film is somewhat too long for its own good, it still does a fine job in delivering its story in a comical and poignant fashion. Also working as a testament to the joys of 80’s Japanese society and the impending bubble economy of the 90’s, A Story of Yonosuke is a surprisingly hopeful tale centered around how we affect those around us, not just in the moment, but perhaps for years to come as well.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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