Sakura Ando will become one of your new favorite leads after seeing 100 Yen Love.
Sakura Ando (Love Exposure) perfectly plays the apathetic Ichiko, who is comically oafish in the way she conducts herself. She is uninspired and lacks motivation for anything more than meeting her basic survival needs. Her face lacks expression and it takes her a while to understand simple tasks. Ichiko is simply surviving as she sluggishly moves through her life.
This all begins to change when she meets Yuji (Hirofumi Arai), the “banana man.” Yuji is a boxer from the nearby gym and often buys bundles of bananas at the 100 yen convenience store Ichiko works at. He is practically the male version of Ichiko, exhibiting similar qualities. Their combined personalities make the way they interact quite hilarious due to the awkwardness of it all.
Ichiko and Yuji are by no means admirable characters. They are both quite flawed and possibly in need of some lengthy therapy sessions. But, they are interesting enough in the way their relationship progresses. 100 Yen Love has a great way of showing this very awkward couple make an attempt at a relationship despite their personality or psychological issues.
100 Yen Love becomes very much a sports film when Ichiko finds herself nearing rock bottom. Her relationship goes sour and she even finds herself the victim of a pretty violent sexual assault. She finally makes her way into the boxing gym, where Ichiko will undergo a metamorphosis so powerful that it may set a new cinematic precedent for the female sports genre of the future.
Sakura Ando’s commitment to the role is truly mesmerizing. The audience was completely wowed by her performance. Not only does she undergo a drastic physical change, her spirit and new found drive to succeed in something is so inspirational one can’t help but feel the emotional weight in every punch she throws. Even her rocky-esque shadow boxing and training montage will have you ducking and weaving along with her.
100 Yen Love turned out to be the biggest surprise for me at BiFan this year. It expertly combines some unfamiliar territory with typical sports genre elements to create something very special. Sakura Ando’s performance alone is worth the price of admission. She is quickly becoming a favorite actress of mine and I’m very much looking forward to her future projects. Not only is 100 Yen Love a great movie, but next to A League of Their Own (1992) and Million Dollar Baby (2004), it’s one of the best female sports films ever, and gets my highest recommendation.
Netpac members and cultural experts select the best Asian film from Vision Express section which presents various genre films with different aspects.
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