FANTASTIC FEST 2011
By Don Simpson | September 27, 2011
Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura
Writers: Yoshihiro Nakamura, Gen Araki (novel)
Starring: Shiori Kutsuna, Ryô Nishikido, Hitomi Satô, Keisuke Horibe, Jun Inoue, Rie Tomosaka, Yûji Nakamura, Hiroki Konno
Yasubei (Ryo Nishikikido) is a 25-year old samurai who finds himself transported from 19th century Edo to modern day Tokyo. The first people Yasubei meets are a single mom, Hiroko (Rie Tomosaka), and her 6-year old son, Tomoya (Fuku Suzuki). Needless to say, everyone is confused, but no one is more so than Yasubei.
Hiroko and Tomoya are also a little freaked out by Yasubei’s sword and aggression, but they still decide to allow him to move into their household. Yasubei opts to become a single mother’s fantasy — a homemaker who allows Hiroko to excel at her corporate job — while simultaneously becoming a young boy’s ideal father. (What 6-year old Japanese boy does not dream of having a samurai as a father?)
Instead of trying to return to the 1820s, Yasubei becomes obsessed with preparing Western-style desserts, all thanks to a heavenly plastic cup of custard given to him by Tomoya. Yasubei quickly becomes a highly skilled pastry chef (one of many examples of how Yasubei is able to absorb modern life like a sponge) and enters a father-son cake-making contest with Tomoya.
At the risk of sounding overly patronizing, I can only think of one word that adequately describes A Boy and His Samurai, and that would be cute. That is mainly thanks to Fuku Suzuki who proves himself to be one of the cutest child actors working today.
A somewhat typical Yoshihiro Nakamura (Golden Slumber, Fish Story) film in terms of its juxtaposition of the fantastic and the mundane, A Boy and His Samurai‘s formulaic predictability is not so typical for the director. A Boy and His Samurai also teeters right on the edge of being too sweet and too cheesy; there are moments when the fist out of water story becomes almost a little too saccharine to stomach, but Nakamura always seems to know when to back off a bit.
Obviously, Yasubei is a very difficult character to take seriously and Nishikikido does sometimes play the ancient samurai a bit too wide-eyed and innocent. But A Boy and His Samurai is a children’s film and — especially in comparison to American standards — a very smart one at that. It is a shame that most American kids will not see A Boy and His Samurai due to the subtitles — and I shudder to think of any possibility of this story being adapted by Hollywood producers as an English-language film.