In Review – Kids Return

I’ve now watched Kids Return twice, and I thought I’d better write something about it. I watched it the first time a few days after Christmas, having received the Takeshi Kitano box set of 6 films. I love Kitano. And I watched it a second time a few days ago after being slightly underwhelmed the first time.

Kids Return has a lot going for it. Directed by one of my favourites, no, my favourite director, it had one of the greatest trailers I’ve seen. It wasn’t flashy, it wasn’t too assuming or ostentatious. It was just.. right. Here it is :


Maybe it doesn’t have the same feeling to you. Every time I see it I get hairs standing up on the back of my neck. The music, the naturalistic lighting, the people running to that music, the boxing, the grey appeal of Japan in the 1990s. From it you can see the nostalgia, the relationship between the two young boys, you know there’s going to be humour, tears, everything. Right?

Well, it doesn’t. And for those reasons, it is both essential Kitano viewing in the sense that it does without the sentimentality or the nostalgia, it foregoes the genre cliches and is a far more intelligent and wiser view of young people growing up in Japan. Yet simultaneously it has less of the enjoyment of some of Kitano’s other works like Sonatine or Kikujiro, both which actually have an air of sentimentality but still cramming in all of Kitano’s visual and theatrical delights.

It is beautifully shot in a very natural style which is effortlessly watchable and the characters are always compelling, there are some very good performances throughout, including that of Moro Morooka who plays Hayashi, the lazy and selfish boxer who offers Shinji an alternative way of life.

The truth is, I feel like I have been let down by what is still a very good film, in the sense that I expected it to be outstanding. The music is still fantastic, as you would expect from Joe Hisaishi, and it’s very enjoyable, but the truth is I still feel like I’m not quite getting the full enjoyment that so many other seem to. It’s not my favourite Kitano film by any means, but if you’re in any way a fan of his, or indeed 1990s cinema, it’s still a must-watch.


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