Parade – Review

by Miguel Douglas


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Based on the novel by Shuichi Yoashida, Parade follows four roommates: Naoki, who works in a movie distribution company, Mirai, a illustrator, Ryosuke, a college student and Kotomi, who is unemployed. With four of them sharing an apartment together, they see one another everyday but know little of each other’s personal life. Never something to consider important, the four seemingly believe they know each other on a personal level. This is called into question though when a stranger by the name of Satoru mysteriously begins sleeping and using the apartment all of a sudden, which prompts the four roommates to question why he’s there. When the truth is discovered, they decide let him stay with them, but disturbing reports of local murders around the vicinity of their apartment brings into the question who Satoru truly is—as well as their own relationships with one another.

Intimacy has always been a difficult subject to address amongst people. Whether one has known an individual for a number of years, or just for a short time, our capacity to establish a relationship in which we can say we fully know the individual is rather limited. Superficial interpretations of other people can be completely unreliable, but we at times rely on them in order to better rationalize our own understanding and judgment of said individuals. Rather ironically, we create an identity for the individual in whom we can personally identify with in some negative or positive fashion, effectively diminishing our ability to discover who they’re truly are. Whether this stems from being afraid to find out the truth about someone or simply not wanting to be disproven, intimacy remains at the forefront concerning the roles we play within society, and more importantly, our relationships between one another.

Isao Yukisada’s Parade questions this notion of intimacy and what it truly entails within the confinement of perhaps the most intimate setting available—the home. Establishing relationships between the characters that are viewed firstly as innocent, comedic, and nonjudgmental, the film’s first half plays out significantly well as an ode to the joyous lifestyle of having friendly roommates. Individually, these characters are varied in profession, romance, and philosophy, and we slowly learn through rather episodic means how these characters interact with one another and the world around them. From a narrative approach, this form of character development works exceptionally well here for roughly two reasons. Firstly, it establishes the normality of the characters and the situations they are in. Secondly, it reinforces a rather stereotypical view on how roommates interact with one another, therefore creating a sense of familiarity in terms of our understanding of intimacy.

Both of these notions slowly dissipate during the second half of the film, and for ample reason. What we find is that these seemingly intimate bonds shared between the roommates slowly begin to crumble as to reveal the darker truths behind them. This rearrangement of truth garners the film considerable weight as it implores itself towards questioning how we truly can judge an individual. As such, the notion of personal secrets that we’ve never shared with anyone but ourselves—secrets that might restrict our capacity to be deemed friendly or normal—are highlighted as the truthful telling of an individual’s identity. It’s this deconstruction phase where we learn that the superficialities of these characters are strictly that and nothing more—their true essence confides within the deep recesses of their inner turmoil. Far from being too conventional in its conclusion, Yukisada never lets the film become entirely too formulaic, instead deciding to infuse it with a sense of false intimacy on part of its characters and secluded settings that further expounds upon that falsity. Perhaps it’s the film’s deceptiveness in portraying such intimate moments within the home setting that work increasingly well here. The film’s portrayal of the home is that it’s the centerpiece for lively communication by its inhabitants, but it’s also stipulated as a place where truth and reality become frighteningly intermingled—and where the idea of normalcy is offered up as a subjective notion pushed to the brink.

The film solidifies itself during this half as a psychological examination of the self and its relationship towards others. It’s this detachment from oneself and suppression of inner emotions that creates a falsehood regarding knowing the true identity of themselves, and most importantly that of their peers. Yukisada seems to be steadily analyzing what constitutes relationships and how one goes about continuingly supporting false ones. It’s because of the exposure of these most intimate of moments—an idea that goes against our optimistic idea of intimacy—that the film becomes a terrifying foray of self-examination, destructiveness, and eventual acceptability. This is where the film succeeds in providing an earnest juxtaposition between what we perceive as ourselves and what others perceive of us. The dichotomy between the characters is certainly startling at times, but like the narrative structure of the film itself, both distinctions are offered as way towards truthfully knowing an individual.

It helps when the film looks as exceptional as the narrative at hand. Initially working as an assistant to director Shunji Iwai, Yukisada resonances with the same prompt visual style as his mentor, creating visually dreamy sequences and settings that provide the backdrop to rather serious material. Burgeoning with the intimacy of the home setting, Yukisada pays considerable attention towards subdued coloring and saturation that provide the film with a rather barren look, further encapsulating a style of everyday placement and setting. This look reinforces the intensity the film brings about, specifically in its latter reveling half, and addresses the idea of normality within our everyday lives and how easily they can be drastically transfigured once the truth is exposed.

Overall, Parade is an exceptionally well-made film that questions our notion of intimacy and the relationships we share within the realm of that notion. It brings forth how we place ourselves in relation to others and the strangely unconventional practices that can strengthen those bonds no matter how disturbing they may become. While the film drastically differs from its rather comedic first half, it ultimately transforms itself into something entire different by its end, becoming a poignant statement on how we may accept others no matter their actions, especially if we have significant faults of our own to contend with. Perhaps to say we fully know someone is to know their deepest secrets and desires no matter how awful they may be, but only then we can say we ultimately know the entirety of someone. Fantastically acted and directed, the film remains a frightening example of not fully knowing people we think we know—and the bizarre circumstances that may ultimately arise from it.

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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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  • Samira

    Fabulous review. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. ^_^