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  • TBC
  • Documentary
  • 2009




Ando Momoko's writing/directing debut is an indie drama whose understated quirks revolve around life, love and lesbianism.


If most manga adaptations that make it to British cinemas are ultraviolent myths of empowerment firmly targeted at male adolescents, there are occasional exceptions. Ninagawa Mika's Sakuran (2006), based on the manga by Moyoco Anno, used the theatricalised community of seventeenth century courtesans to suggest the growing pains of women in a world that seeks constantly to objectify, commodify and exploit them - and now Ando Momoko's Kakera: A Piece Of Our Life, drawn very loosely from Sakurazawa Erica's 1996 manga 'Love Vibes', deploys all the rites-of-passage tropes of indie cinema to chart a young woman's faltering quest for completeness.

With its quiet, neat-and-tidy aesthetics, its mild didacticism, and just the odd touch of magical realism, Ando's slice of lesbian-lite slackerdom is a million miles away from, say, The Story Of Ricky (1991), Ichi The Killer (2001) or Death Note (2006).

Too unassertive to extract herself from a relationship with her two-timing boyfriend, saturnine student Haru (Mitsushima Hikari) chances upon the altogether more forward Riko (Nakamura Eriko), a prosthetics sculptor with a yen for her own sex and a professional desire to "help people with something missing". For a while they find friendship, happiness and love together, before drifting apart again - but as Riko puts it, "The moon is full only once a month. Every other day, it's fragmented. But the crescent moon's also beautiful."

Sure enough, the waxing and waning relationship between these two women is shown in all its phases - indeed their first date coincides with the beginning of Haru's menstrual cycle - and there is beauty aplenty in the composed medium shots used by cinematographer Ishii Hirokazu to frame these characters, while the jangly score of James Iha (from Smashing Pumpkins) establishes just the right mood of youthful melancholy.

The problem, however, is that the film is somewhat undone by its own philosophy. By making every moment in the relationship equally beautiful and equally important, Ando forgets to give her film any sense of climax, and the results, though subtly observed, lack sufficient pulse or momentum to hold the viewer's interest for the duration. The price of Kakera's focus on complex, rounded female characters is a far sketchier portrayal of the opposite sex.

Haru's boyfriend Ryota, in particular - who eats noisily and smells bad, who consumes porn and whittles wooden guns in his free time, who obsessively watches footage of war and destruction on TV, and whose idea of a 'romantic' overture comes close to rape - seems little more than a composite of hypermasculine stereotypes. Still, perhaps that is just payback for all the shallow misogynies to be found in more male-oriented manga adaptations.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Hikari Mitsushima

In a nutshell

Sedate composition, a dreamy soundtrack and two delicately realised female characters make Ando's debut a watchable piece of indie - but plodding along like its protagonist Haru, this romantic drama fails to grip the attention.

by Anton Bitel

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