of Japanese students have suspected cram schools are evil, but it took a
maverick like Nobuhiko Obayashi to conclusively prove it. In this case, the
elite Eiko tutorial school is secretly coopting brainy but pliable students to
become the brown-shorted advance team for the impending alien invasion.
Fortunately, a teen idol with telekinetic powers will defend her high school
and planet Earth in Obayashi’s School in
the Crosshairs (trailer
which screens during the Japan Society’s new film series, Beyond Godzilla: Alternative Futures & Fantasies in Japanese Cinema.
Mitamura is at the top of her class (no cram school for her), but she is still
popular with the rest of the slackers. This definitely includes her ambiguously
platonic guy pal, Koji Seki. Studying really isn’t his thing. He is the star of
the school’s kendo team, but he still isn’t very good. However, a little help
from Mitamura will make him a hero at an important meet.
if the tightly wound new transfer student Michiru Takamizawa wants to win the
hall monitor election as the first step towards global domination, she will
have to go through Mitamura. In terms of psychic power, they are rather evenly
matched, but Takamizawa has more back-up, including Kyogoku, the evil overlord
from Venus, who has been trying to lure Mitamura to the dark side of the Force
for several weeks.
probably goes without saying when it comes to Obayashi making high school
movies, but School in the Crosshairs is
really and truly nuts. Like his mind-melting House, Crosshairs features
Obayashi’s hand-crafted analog special effects, but this time around they are
even more defiantly cheesy looking. On the other hand, the student morality
patrols Takamizawa organizes and decks out fascist uniforms are maybe even
creepier today than when Crosshairs was
originally released in 1981, thanks to rise in campus speech codes and thought
Crosshairs is really just amazingly
sweet, thanks to the appealing almost but not quite ready to be
boyfriend-girlfriend chemistry shared by Mitamura and Seki. Teen idol Hiroko
Yakushimaru (a Japan Society favorite from Sailor Suit and Machine Gun) is unflaggingly plucky and charming, but also
disarmingly self-effacing, while Ryôichi Takayanagi plays Seki as a big old
likable lug of a guy. However, it is strange Masami Hasegawa did not go on to
greater teen stardom, because she is terrific as the uptight, glowing-eyed
There is so much random weirdness in Crosshairs Obayashi practically creates
a trippy new standard for normalcy. Regardless, it is all good, virtuous fun.
There is a real story in there too. In fact, it is based on a YA novel by Taku
Mayumura that has also been adapted for television and anime. It is easy to see
why viewers would enjoy weekly visits with characters like Mitamura and Seki,
as well as even their boneheaded but free-thinking gym teacher. Honestly, this
film is the reason Edison and the Lumières invented moving pictures (they just
didn’t realize it at the time). Very highly recommended, School in the Crosshairs screens this Friday (3/31) at the Japan
Society, as part of Beyond Godzilla.
Labels: Beyond Godzilla, Hiroko Yakushimaru, Japanese Cinema, Nobuhiko Obayashi