Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jmovie review: Hana no Ato/After the Flowers

Hana no Ato is a film in the same vein as the three movies in the Yamada Yoji trilogy; a study of the lives and customs in feudal Japan with a slow build up to a fight in the end. The only difference is that the main protagonist this time is a female, Ito played by Kitagawa Keiko. Ito is the daughter of someone of high rank and has been trained in swordplay by her father. Ito is so good that she managed to beat the best fighters from Hagai dojo.

While sakura-watching, Ito meets a samurai from Hagai dojo, Eguchi who recognises her as a swordfighter and proposes a practice match. After the match, the movie is basically about the situations that Ito and Eguchi  finds themselves in and the clan politics that influence their lives. Its an examination of feudal life and how everyday behaviour is regulated from closing and opening shoji doors to how people speak and never say anything directly.

The story is enlivened by Ito's fiancee, Katagiri a glutton who is not as carefree and ignorant as he seems. Komoto Masahiro always plays sad characters who experience tragedies in doramas so this smiling fiancee who is a lot smarter than he looks fits him perfectly. Eguchi has a fiancee as well, played by Ito Ayumi and the two loverbirds can only look at each other from afar knowing that life decisions had already been made for them.

Being the female version of Twilight Samurai and The Hidden Blade, Hana no Ato is not as gritty. The two fight scenes are more fanciful and not as desperate. There's a more sanitised feel with less blood. Enjoyment of the movie will depend on how much the viewer buys into Ito's motivation for the final fight.

Hana no Ato has all the elements that made me love Twilight Samurai and The Hidden Blade but I just didn't enjoy as much. I think it has much to do with the lack of chemistry between Ito and Eguchi, especially with their relationship being based on one fight. Still, the script has gives the viewers more reason why he is important to her. I wouldn't call Hana no Ato must watch but its definitely a pretty decent movie and is definitely better than Love and Honour.


Jesus Christ Supercop said...

This didn't sustain my interest very well. All the intrigue about customs and politics bored me. It's not that the subject is inherently boring, but the movie just didn't make it interesting. I did like how my expectations about Katagiri and Ito's arranged marriage were subverted.

Hana no Ato is really similiar to Yamazakura (same author), which I think is a much better movie.

(The similiarities between the two are actually so pronounced that I wonder if the former outright imitated the latter.)

Anonymous said...

I haven't watched this or any JMovies since 'Princess Toyotomi', which WAS my most anticipated JMovie of the year. Never before had I been so dejected and disappointed. It put such a bad taste in my mouth that I'll be staying away from JMovies for a while. My advice - stick to the book and avoid the movie (like a plague).

Antspace said...

Rather liked this movie. Wasn't perfect, but Kitagawa Keiko has proven once again that she can act. It takes a little patience to get through the middle part, but the end was quite satisfying : )

Akiramike said...

Ah yes, Yamazakura, the movie without an ending.

Anon, I'm waiting for Toyotomi subs. :(

Antspace, Kitagawa Keiko definitely can act, she's just not an 'able to elevate ok show to good level' actress.