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Strawberry Shortcakes – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Based off the manga of the same name, Strawberry Shortcakes follows four women and their lives within Tokyo. One woman is Satoko, who just got dumped by her boyfriend and works at a local call girl service as a receptionist. One of Satoko’s friends—and a call girl herself—is Akiyo, who sleeps in a coffin and is saving up money in order to commit suicide. We then have an artist named Toko, who is angry to find out her ex-boyfriend is going to be married to another woman soon, and suppresses displaying her emotions by creating artwork. Her roommate Chihiro, is an office worker who has a boyfriend, but is still finding herself lonelier than Toko is. These four women strive to find happiness within their lives all the while attempting to deal with their insecurities amidst the bustling city life.

Looking back on a career that has spawned various films covering controversial and taboo subject material, director Hitoshi Yazaki has once again returned to the helm with his fourth film, Strawberry Shortcakes. While not tackling such abstract material as viewed in his previous films, Strawberry Shortcakes finds Yazaki dealing with material that is broader and more socially conscious this time around, focusing on four individual women confined within the modern metropolis known as Tokyo. While outwardly expressed as a cheerful cinematic excursion into the lives of the modern day Japanese women, Strawberry Shortcakes soon inverts this to deliver a realistic portrayal into a segment of the contemporary Japanese lifestyle—particularly that of one that subscribes to both social displacement and a lack of contentment. Issues such as social isolation, destructive relationships, and emotional deviancy are all very important elements within the film, and showcased to such a degree as to not shy away from the harsh reality of their situations. Very observant towards these issues, Strawberry Shortcakes presents us with characters that exist within rather abnormal circumstances, but ultimately are just normal individuals attempting to make it through life’s various hardships.

This leads to a very central theme explored within the context of the film—that of searching for happiness within one’s life. There is a search for rejuvenation within these characters we view on screen—a searching for a purpose to continue living on. Likewise, this is subtly expressed throughout by having the characters follow their own personal conscripts of what they prescribe to be God—ultimately arriving at a description that defines God as a substance collectively signified as hope. It’s interesting to see how this concept is explored within Strawberry Shortcakes, mainly because of how it is applied towards each individual situation showcased in the film. These women are tentatively searching to find that ultimate truth—a truth that will provide them that warranted peace of mind most needed concerning their livelihoods, careers, and love interests. Courageously these women are striving to find a way to discover some form of happiness within their own downtrodden lives, and we witness through their experiences that it is not always a clearly defined path towards achieving it. This makes the film all the more realistic in its approach towards confronting such serious contemporary issues, all the while retaining a very optimistic outlook that these characters will find a way to improve their lives for the better.

This is all heavily encompassed within the cast themselves, who are excellent in portraying their roles in the film. The talented cast exuberates acting ability, which is impressive considering that the manga creator in whose work the film is based on—Kiriko Nananan—plays one of the lead roles. While exceptionally well acted on her part, the rest of the cast is just as vivid in their portrayal of women facing conflict in a contemporary Japanese landscape. There are some truly powerful performances showcased throughout the film, each advocating from the audience an equal amount of emotional anguish but also of happiness. It’s this awkward balance that alleviates the film from being too overly serious for its own good, and instead eases its way towards becoming a narrative that we can all relate too in some fashion.

It’s best to consider Strawberry Shortcakes as a film that is attempting to showcase Japanese women and the diversity concerning their trials and tribulations. Director Yazaki has giving us a gruelling look into the lives of four women, but it’s not presented for sensationalist purposes like many other films do. Rather, it’s presented to give us as the audience a view into a reality we rather deny mainly because it is that much more real. It’s truthfulness is what makes Strawberry Shortcakes a tale that isn’t afraid to show us that reality is indeed harsh, but we can ultimately support one another through the despair in order in make it a better place—and this is where the film truly succeeds at being a strangely uplifting contemporary human drama.

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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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