Kids return
(Kidzu ritan)
Production company: Bandai Visuals, Office Kitano, Ota Productions (1996)
Director: Kitano Takeshi
Assistent director: Aihara Satoshi, Ono Shinsuke, Shimizu Hiroshi, Takahashi Masaya
Producer: Mori Masayuki, Yoshida Takio, Tsuge Yasushi
Script: Kitano Takeshi
Cinematography: Yanagishima Katsumi
Editor: Kitano Takeshi
Score: J? Hisaishi
Sound: Hokari Yukio, Okase Masahiko
Production Design: Isoda Norihiro (art direction), Ozeki Tatsue (set decoration)
Actors: Kaneko Ken, Ando Masanobu, Daike Yuuko, Terajima Susumu
Duration: 107 minutes
Premiere: 1996-07-27

When Kitano spoke out about his suicidal self-destructive nature in reflection of making "Getting Any?", he would never had dared to imagine how it eventually would come back to him.

The night of 2nd August 1994 Kitano was leaving a party. He was extremely drunk. He got on his brand new scooter, that he had bought the same day, and took on his helmet, but left the chinstrap unfastened. Driving home, he fell asleep and crashed into guardrail in Tokyo's Shinjuku nightlife district. He was rushed to the Tokyo Medical College Hospital with a scull fracture and a broken jaw, where he spend the next ten days in a coma, while the doctors feared he would suffer brain damage. Awake again, his mother told him, "If you want to kill yourself, do it in a Porsche, so you get famous like James Dean. Only an idiot gets killed on a scooter!"

Kitano spend the next four months at the isolation unit at the Tokyo Medical College Hospital recovering from the massive nerve damages that caused paralysis in his right side of the body and face. Even a year later, when Tony Rayns interviewed him in the summer of 1995, Kitano was still waiting for feeling and full muscular co-ordination to return to the right side of his face and wore a patch over his right eye because he couldn't yet close the eyelid.

This was a period of change for Kitano. Disappointed about "Getting Any?" he wanted to give up most of his television and comedy work and dedicated himself to film making and writing. Traumatised by the accident he was determined to change the way he lived. Then again, the daredevil within him told him to show everyone that he was ok, that nothing had changed: "Right after the accident, even in the hospital, I drank probably twice as much as I used to. I wanted to show that Takeshi hadn't slowed down."

But one thing is the public "I can do everything" Kitano, another thing is the private Kitano, and he did change. He cut down on drinking and smoking. He began to value time and began stop wasting it. He matured. While he downplays his accident and how it affected him, and looking at the pace by which he lives and works today, it doesn't look like it did. But looking at his film after the accident, there are distinctive differences in his motifs - a more mature approach.

Masaru (Kaneko) and Shinji (Ando) are friends. Never attending class, the spend their time at school either playing insulting pranks on weak teachers or demanding protection money from weaker students, when not riding aimlessly around on a bike or hanging out at their favorite teahouse. One day, two of the kids they normally bully, pooled their money together and paid a stronger bully to beat Masaru up. They now turn their back to school.

Masaru decides to take up boxing, so he won't be beaten up again. Shinji initially only tag along, but eventually begins to box as well, and soon he is more dedicated than Masaru, who is very impatient to box, but makes an ass of himself. As no one wants to spar with Masaru, he suggests that he and Shinji spar. Being more talented and dedicated, Shinji knocks down Masaru over and over again.

Defeated Masaru quits boxing, but as Shinji wants to quit as well, the coach talks him out of it. Instead Shinji is encouraged to develop his talent. Now alone and on his own, he is suddenly surrounded by a lot who wants to help him along. When Masaru chooses not to answer his calls, Shinji even goes back to class, and eventually finishes school.

Things are progressing for both of them now. Masaru has joined the local yakuza and moves up from prospect to lieutenant. Shinji, winning match on match, becomes a contender, even winning a small championship. Suddenly one day Masaru shows up at the gym and asks Shinji out, celebrating his appointment to lieutenant, but as they are about to leave, Masaru has to leave.

Being on his own, Shinji has gotten friends with the older boxer Hayashi, who is a bad influence, as he not only drinks and smokes, but makes Shinji do it as well.

"Kids Return" is the most atypical film by Kitano. It's almost completely stripped from Kitanoian motifs. There is no fatalism, the protagonists don't die, there is no waterfront, and instead of examinating "oyabun-kobun" (mentor-apprentice), Kitano depicts so many variations, that it almost is as if any human relation either is supporting and cooperative (banzai) or mentor and apprentice (oyabun-kobun). Equally both story and locations are extraordinary simple, almost bordering social realism. Where Kitano's other film to some degree seems isolated from the real world, "Kids Return" seems to embrace reality. Then its packed with dialogue, which is very unlike Kitano, who dislikes dialogue; but the flow of casual smalltalk blends in perfectly with the driven dialogue. Again very natural.

There are several reasons for this atypicality. Kitano was very depressed about the failure of "Getting Any?" and felt that he had to reassure his audience. He was bedridden from the accident and had "time" to write alot. He was traumatised by the accident and felt that he had to deal with life instead than death. Hence, instead of Kitanoian fatalism, the central motif in "Kids Return" is: What it takes to keep on living.

by Henrik Sylow 2004. All rights are reserved by Henrik Sylow and