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Kakera: A Piece of Our Life – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Haru is a college student ignored by her boyfriend yet believes she is still in love with him. One day at a café, Haru meets Riko, a medical artist (prosthetist) who creates body parts in order to disguise clients’ missing pieces, lost due to accident or disease. Both were alone, but struck up an immediate friendship and closeness. Riko doesn’t care about gender when it comes to relationships, and believes that love itself is the most important thing a human can achieve. Haru struggles in her life between friendship and a deeper relationship with Riko.

Loosely based off the best-selling manga Love Vibes by author Erika Sakurazawa, Kakera: A Piece of Our Life is a delicate examination of the role of relationships and sexuality. With the film being the directorial debut of female director Momoko Ando, it curiously explores the societal impressions regarding female identity and questions how we should perceive the term love and its implications within the context of our modern era. Given the modern social adherence towards exterior beauty taking precedence over inner beauty, the film courageously traverses many of our perceptions regarding such assumptions, in turn presenting more of a focus on how the two can—and should—effectively complement each other. This is expertly laid out between the two protagonists of the film—Haru and Riko—both who grow quite fond of one another through the most unusual of ways—with the added complication of both of them being female. In a sense, the film is seemingly portraying a conscious shift towards acceptance and recognize on part of the ever-evolving notion of sexuality found within a modern context. Take the character of Haru for example, with her subservient attitude towards her distasteful boyfriend, she is initially shown in the early half of the film as walking behind her him, not speaking up and giving into his sexual whims—which are all facets that contribute towards the traditional roles taken by women within Japan ages ago. While certainly some of these practices still exist to this day, Ando diligently showcases the transformative process undertaken by Haru—and in a larger effect, women—to adjust and reassert her role as a Japanese woman on her own terms free of societal influences concerning relationships.

It’s this exploration of the role of women that provides the film’s greatest strength. Ando delves into how modern women function within the realm of confronting relationships and gender attitudes. While at times the film seems painfully stereotypical in its approach towards men—with Haru’s boyfriend being a prime example—it’s careful not to delegate its handling of men as something so superficial. Essentially, Kakera: A Piece of Our Life is a film made primarily for women, with special preference on the how the relationships between them can be just as devastatingly involving as any other relationships regardless of gender. The relationship between Haru and Riko starts out simple and innocently enough, but soon begins to develop into a tangled web of emotion as they attempt to figure out why their relationship exists at all and if they truly love each other. Based purely on external beauty at first, they soon begin to suffer from many of the same problems that can be envisioned within any relationship—fear of change, trust and devotion are all prominently showcased and advocated as divisions within their relationship.

The second half of the film also brings forth some very interesting visual symbology as well. The interpretative nature of some of the symbols redirects the focus of the story concerning a flawed relationship towards one of a more personal variety—essentially looking at both Haru and Riko as individuals looking for some of sort of outlet for expressing their identity as women within society. Whether it’s the tangible usage of Haru’s gradual change of attire, to the focus of doves symbolizing personal change, Ando provides the essential visual representations needed the compound the original storyline. This is a rather strong juxtaposition from the first half of the film, which relied primarily on the quirky relationship involving two entirely different individuals falling in love.

Perhaps it’s best to say that the film promotes the concept of individuality within the sphere of social constructs, and how one can formulate themselves given the right situation or experience. Within the unpredictable nature of love and all its potential follies, how does one carve out their own path in terms of finding their own identity? With Japan—a place of where individuality is often disapproved of—director Ando makes a statement regarding how one can overcome the obstacle of being an outsider for the wrong reasons, and encourage being an outsider for the right ones. Whether this message is conveyed in the best possible way is certainly questionable, but the film nicely addresses the significant nature of finding and subsequently being your true self within a relationship, and even if you end up getting hurt, you will always learn something from the experience.

Overall, Kakera: A Piece of Our Life remains a strong film for what it delivers, specifically its latter half. While somewhat approached generically, the film showcases the tremendous talent of Momoko Ando as a director that can deliver complicated and engaging characters coupled with a story that not only explores homosexuality within Japan, but does it in a very meditative fashion. For a debut, this is of significance for sure, mainly because the film’s highly diverse nature of exploring its material, which showcases the versatility of such a young director. While there are various female directors within Japan at the current moment, not many have made the substantial impact needed to break through, with Momoko Ando being one of the fortunate ones to do so. If Kakera: A Piece of Our Life is any indication of what she has to offer as a director—and more importantly, a female director—then one could easily see the importance of such a film within the realm of Japanese cinema. Regardless, this film remains an exceptional foray into the emotionally dominated world of love and its many complicated albeit sincere experiences.

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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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