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You are Yoshika; this is for you.
Since Ariel flew to Montreal for another edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival (where, spoiler alert, K007 will be screening), I have been living alone.
Living alone is something that requires a period of adjustment for me. I’ve had so few experiences. I went to boarding school where I lived with eighty other girls; my college house had six rooms and a never-ending carousel of good friends and summer subleters. I’ve only really done it once before — a summer in Montreal that I remember as hot, long, and lonely. I would split a pack of shin-ramen into two to three meals and watch episode after episode after episode of Bewitched everyday after summer school (topics included: French and Women in Early Christian Traditions if anyone was wondering). I was so lonely. Summer is not a good season for me. (Hopefully making discs for you folks will keep me pre-occupied.)
Yoshika, the protagonist of our latest release, Akiko Ohku’s Tremble All You Want, lives alone and, unlike me, she is very well adjusted to her solitude. She returns from her Ginza office job to her cookie-cutter adult-woman-in-the-city studio apartment complete with a lone set of tableware, fuzzy socks, a printer, and her collection of fossils. Yoshika bops along to music while doing dishes. She seems perfectly content, and I think she really is. We have here the heroine of a romantic comedy who could probably keep on bopping without romance and be no worse for wear.
Her love for fossils may seem at first to be a quirk the writer put in there to give her some more dimension, but to me, it’s a marker of a woman’s ability to make her own money and spend it too. Fossils are very useless things, unlike the slightly less useless band merch, travel trinkets, or Blu-rays one amasses — which have some functional use one can rationalise. Collecting fossils is the kind of hobby you can only do early in adult-hood, before you have anything, or anyone else that requires your attention.
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The premise here is that there are two people who require Yoshika’s attention: her highschool crush Ichi (“the One”) and a coming-on-strong colleague Ni (“Two”, whom she nicknames so because of the funny way he writes the number). Both seem like stock characters from “light” novels, and perhaps indeed what Yoshika bases her understanding of them on since she does not really know either one. She sees Ichi as the prince she once drew in class: unattainable and perfect (and therefore not to be engaged with directly). Ni is a surprise: a sudden, and first, declaration of love.
Perhaps due to her resistance to commit to Ni, a reasonable caution all women should have for The First Man Who Comes Along, her relationship with him stands in contrast to her deskmate Kurumi’s own inter-office romance with her beau “Tacky Sushi”. Whereas Kurumi presents a polite, interested and amiable front with her beau, Yoshika openly mocks and challenges Ni who is desperate to please.
Yoshika is a late bloomer. She’s never been kissed and holds onto these idealised notions of romance and relationships. But instead of just waiting in her tower like Rapunzel, Yoshika has developed confidently into a person that, if fumbling in public, is secure in her private life and unabashedly curious. On her first date with Ni, she suggests a club where both of them look out of place — Ni ever more so with his salaryman suit and commuter backpack. While men are often second fiddle in romantic comedies, posing as both an obstacle and foil to the protagonist’s journey to find love, director Akiko Ohku squarely centres Tremble on Yoshika and her relationship with herself. The men come third. The film doesn’t preach true love; if anything, it presses upon you the importance of direct communication.
Ohku talked in our interview with her about how, when she was travelling with the film, audience members would go up to her and say, “I am Yoshika!!” In a way, Tremble is a bit of a hard-sell to the genre audience we’ve cultivated with our releases so far, but it shouldn’t be so hard to convince you all you’'ll enjoy, and relate to this film. Especially if you:
Live alone in a big city;
Treat Wikipedia as entertainment;
Sometimes talk to yourself;
Are an accountant (optional);
Sabotage yourself in elaborate ways, convinced it’ll teach someone else a lesson;
Have ever made a fake Facebook profile or impersonated a former high school classmate who escaped to study abroad to try to suss out if your crush will go to your class reunion over the new year break… and other such shenanigans.
My hope of hopes is that this film finds all the Yoshikas out there.
Tremble All You Want is now up for preorder and includes two sticker sheets
About Kani Releasing
Named after Yasujiro Ozu’s custom-made, tatami-level, crab-like tripod, Kani Releasing is a new home video label dedicated to leveling the gaze and furthering the understanding of Asian cinema in North America. Focused on genre-defying films, Kani aims to expand the canon, bolster up-and-coming filmmakers and reintroduce repertory classics in context.