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Kino on Video presents
Tokyo Trash Baby (2000)

"A week later, all signs of women were gone from Yoshinori's trash. I didn't even have to interfere. It's always like that with Yoshinori. I wonder how many girls he's been through."
- Miyuki (Mami Nakamura)

Review By: Jeff Wilson  
Published: February 07, 2007

Stars: Mami Nakamura, Kazuma Suzuki, Kou Shibasaki, Masahiro Toda
Director: Ryuichi Hiroki

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for adult themes, language
Run Time: 01h:28m:39s
Release Date: February 06, 2007
UPC: 698452204437
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BCB- D-

DVD Review

Kino and KimStim have teamed up to present three of director Ryuichi Hiroki's films to U.S. audiences. Tokyo Trash Baby is his go at modern romance from 2000. A witty if somewhat depressing look at Japanese culture, the film tells the story of a handful of young Japanese in various stages of societal dropout. Such problems have become widespread in Japan, where a growing number of young people have forsaken traditional values in favor of living at home and shunning the salaryman route of their fathers. It's easy to see the sort of dysfunctional upbringing these characters had, though it's harder to see where they might be heading.

Miyuki (Mami Nakahara) is a step above the usual furita (the name given said freeloaders, derived from "free time") in that she lives in her own squalid flat. Her days comprise two main activities: working a nowhere job at a small café, and sorting through the trash of Yoshinori (Kazama Suzuki), a would-be rocker who lives in her building. Miyuki carefully sorts through each bag of trash, saving the best bits as a sort of catalog of Yoshinori's life. Hence, there's an area dedicated to his empty cigarette packs, used plastic bottles, and so on. It's exceedingly gross (especially when she nonchalantly handles such things as used condoms), but it makes her happy. While she is too shy to approach Yoshinori, she is likewise pursued by Kawashima (Masahiro Toda), a clueless young salaryman with no idea of how to woo the truculent Miyuki, and too dumb/stubborn to give up after repeated blow-offs. When she finally musters up the courage to approach Yoshinori, it's not much of a surprise when he turns out to be something different than what she expected.

Hiroki shot the film in a style that sets up the viewer as a voyeur in much the way Miyuki is one. We only see events from her perspective or that concern her, often pulled in closely on her face. This extends to the use of underscoring as well, as Hiroki uses very little music in the film, only resorting to it during the final twenty minutes or so. Miyuki is never sugarcoated either; she often rather abrasive and creepy, best illustrated when she goes to see one of Yoshinori's ex-girlfriends who wants him back in order to derail some would-be competition. Miyuki comes off badly, given her own pathetic existence, but her subsequent encounter with Yoshinori gets some sympathy back on her side. Her eventual place at film's end sees some of that erode though we do feel we have some kind of understanding of her by then. It's a curious film, amusing and depressing by turns, with an ending that is ultimately a letdown, even if the one that makes the most sense.

Nakahara fills the role of Miyuki flawlessly, veering between detachment and joy on her regular trawls through Yoshinori's trash. We only occasionally get to see the person underneath the layers of disllusionment and boredom and wonder what she might be like if she were unleashed. Kou Shibasaki, so memorable in Battle Royale, gets a nice supporting role as Miyuki's slutty co-worker who constantly drones on about her revolving boytoys, all the while bumming cigarettes from Miyuki.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The feature was shot on video, and has that dumpy look, though it suits the grimy nature of much of the proceedings. The picture isn't especially stable, with lots of wavy lines and softness.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 2.0 track is perfectly sufficient, given the lack of involvement in the soundtrack, beyond a couple brief sequences with music. The film is often almost silent or features minimal dialogue.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There's a director bio and filmography.

The optional white subtitles are rife with typos.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A fascinating film that, while somewhat predictable in its ending, is well made and acted. If you want something off the usual beaten path of Japanese film, give it look. Kino's DVD is a bit substandard, but still watchable.


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