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Young Thugs: Nostalgia
cast: Naoto Takenaka, Saki Takaoka, Yuki Nagata, and Shonusuke Shofukutei

director: Takashi Miike

93 minutes (unrated) 1998
widescreen ratio 16:9
Artsmagic NTSC DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by John Percival
This film has for a long time been shrouded in obscurity outside of Japan due to its unavailability with English subtitles. Rated by many as Takashi Miike's finest film, and the director's personal favourite Young Thugs - Nostalgia (aka: Kishiwada shonen gurentai: Bokyo) is now available to a wider audience with this release.

Nostalgia follows the home and school life of young boy, Riichi, who has to deal with his bizarre dysfunctional family, neighbourhood thugs and growing up. This follow-up to Innocent Blood is more of a prequel involving the same characters but at a younger stage in their life. Drawing on certain elements of his own childhood, director Takashi Miike follows Riichi through points in his development set against the background of the Apollo 11 moon landing. In the poor Osaka district life looks as rough as it did in Innocent Blood and the conflicts are just as violent. Riichi and his friends look at 'censored' porn magazines and have plenty of fights with other gangs. One kid in particular carries a bicycle chain as a weapon. When Riichi arrives home battered and bleeding his father is only interested if Riichi hurt the other person more. His father is a gambling womaniser who beats his wife and even attacks Riichi's attractive teacher when she calls round to discuss Riichi's injuries. Riichi loves his father but is also disgusted by him and in many instances he has to be the mature one of the family when everyone else is unable to deal with their own problems.

In many ways, even through the bleakness of the surroundings there is a charming story of a boy becoming more aware of his surroundings and making his own mark upon them. Deciding life is probably better elsewhere, Riichi and two friends decide to leave and meet up with some relations on a 'nearby' island. On a trip resembling the one in Stand By Me, the friends go off on their adventure, fend for themselves, and have a great time before realising that the world they are becoming aware of is maybe too big for them at the moment. So they return home and make a stand.

There are some very odd pieces of 'comedy' that I did not particularly understand. During a nasty scene of domestic violence in which we see Riichi's father attack both Riichi's mother and his teacher, his grandfather punishes the ill tempered father by jamming a broom handle up his rear end. It just seems to be a really strange conclusion to what is a tense and disturbing scene all witnessed by the 10-year-old boy. Young Thugs - Nostalgia is at heart a collection of childhood memories blurred and exaggerated by the passage of time. This is evident by the over the top nature of certain scenes such as the art project model of the Lunar module (constructed by stolen materials), it is destroyed by a rival gang, but Riichi beats up the entire gang and they are put to work building an even bigger model which wins first prize. However the memories also represent points in our lives where the safe world of childhood is replaced by aspects of the adult world, such as dealing with death for the first time as a child. Takashi Miike has created an intelligent touching story of a young boy leaving childhood behind that will appeal to many, even though it is punctuated with some really odd moments.

DVD extras include an interesting interview with Takashi Miike, a short piece on the people of Osaka, a trailer and some cast and crew information.

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