Fantastic Fest – Battle League In Kyoto (Kamogawa Horumo)

Kamogawa Horumo was only vaguely described in the program as a “tasty Japanese confection drizzled in bat-shit crazy syrup.”  I’m down with that, so I went.  What I got was a little unexpected, actually – given the kind of Japanese insanity that exists in movies like “Tokyo Gore Police,” this is an EXTREMELY tame movie; don’t expect it to be super hyperkinetic bizarreness.  It’s a college romantic comedy with a layer of the (light and fun) supernatural on it.

However, don’t take that to mean that Kamogawa Horumo isn’t a good movie.  It is hard to review because it has a “secret” that not knowing makes the movie a lot more fun, but unlike the Sixth Sense the secret is about halfway through the movie, not at the end.  It’s definitely a movie to NOT read up on ahead of time.

Suffice it to say that it starts out with two friends as freshmen at Kyoto University who join a student club called the Azure Dragons.  “What is this club for?”  Well, no one will say for sure.  It’s a “perfectly normal” club, they repeatedly stress.  But they soon go from beer-and-food get togethers to learning the “Oni language” and doing weird dance moves.  Then the weirdness busts out.

It’s a charming movie, entertaining and kid-friendly.  The male lead, Yoshioshi Arakawa, plays a sad sack love-crossed guy – that part of the plot tends to drag at times, as sad sack college romantic comedies are prone to do.  I occasionally wanted to hit him and yell, “Man up!”.   His sidekick is really funny; the spirits force him to wear a samurai topknot in penance for his cowardice in the “battle league” and the reactions of other people seeing it never get old (I especially like the waitress who is so flustered she drops her serving tray).  The female leads are serviceable but forgettable.  In the end, it’s not an awesome movie, but it’s entertaining and enjoyable by the whole family.

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