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Oddly Affecting Nonsense: Battle League Horumo

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    The University of Michigan Center for Japanese Film Studies has just concluded the summer series The Real and Surreal in Contemporary Japanese Film with Battle League Horumo.

    Based on the novel by Manabu Makime, director Katsuhide Motoki plays the content for humor. Although he mostly misses (in my estimation the script is too flimsy for adults) the film is oddly memorable.

    The story revolves around the typical semester Freshman recruitment to join a school club. The humor that hit home was the insitence of the recruiters that it was “Just a normal club. Nothing special. Absolutely ordinary!” This of course led the protagonist, Takayuko (played with occasionally excessive mugging by Akira Abe) to comment when out of earshot of the recruiters, “Too weird”. However, when a beautiful young woman with a “perfect nose” thinks about joining, the protagonist decides to join as well, and drags his friend into the club with him.

    And, of course, the club turns out to be a somewhat secret society of Oni (demon) fighters-four compass points representing four universities of Kyoto have held battles for 1,000 years. Of course, Kyoto University was founded in 1897, but these are fine points-and should not be worried over, if you are to have any enjoyment of the film (I think that young people assume the university system has been in place FOREVER-and take it for granted as a monolith of society).

    I didn’t care much for the Oni, mainly because it seems so silly-the spirits fight one another-but what is the objective? It is not a good v.s. evil fight-it is merely a fight to find the winning team. And the spirits appear to die in batle. So, what is that?

    Then, I thought, “Holy Cow!”-it’s samurai time again! And that’s when I couldn’t shake the film-

    There were moments in the battle when Abe reminded me of Mifune, and I became more kindly disposed toward the mugging.

    Although the audience at my viewing (a mix of Asians, deadhead Ann Arborites, young friends, university students) seemed less than impressed with the film, reviews have been positive:




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