A Crimson Star (2018) review


Every year new Japanese directors appear on the scene to present their narratives to audiences. And every year, we are able to sample these narratives and feel which directors could have a beautiful feature. One such debut narrative is A Crimson Star directed by Aya Igashi who is only 22 years old.


One the day that Yo-chan (Miku Komatsu) can leave the hospital she hears that her favourite nurse Yayoi (Yuki Sakurai) has quit work as a nurse as well. Left puzzled by this sudden disappearance, Yo-chan, neglected by her caretakers, cannot but yearn for her favourite nurse.

One night, on her way back from the supermarket, Yo-chan recognizes Yayoi at a nearby car-park and realizes that Yayoi is earning money by providing another kind of service. After being sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend (Katsuya Maiguma), Yo-chan sees no other option than to flee to Yayoi, who takes her in for the night. And while Yayoi is not eager to care for Yo-chan, Yo-chan forces herself in the safe harbor that Yayoi symbolizes for her.


A Crimson Star is a narrative that, first and foremost, concerns Yo-chan’s subjectivity. And this is already sensible in the lack of a clear narrative purpose that marks the beginning of the narrative. This lack is none other that the subjective lack of having a purpose that marks Yo-chan.

This lack of narrative purpose, as having to be read as a framing of subjectivity, is one of the main reasons why this narrative is so compelling. The spectator, kept in a state of not knowing where the narrative/Yo-chan is going, is forced to focus on Yo-chan’s trajectory in the process of its unfolding. And even when Yo-chan finds her gravitational center in Yayoi and a social bond blossoms, the compelling nature of the narrative remains, as the not-knowing concerning the unfolding of Yo-chan’s subjectivity gets framed within the evolution of their social bond as such (Cine-note 1).


Of course, in the process of unfolding, the coordinates of Yo-chan’s subjectivity are able to be vocalized. The insistence of the riddle of Yayoi’s sudden leave, reveals nothing other than Yo-chan’s need for someone like Yayio – this should be read as a need for a non-neglecting loving mother-figure. The insistence of Yayoi’s desire to become closer to Yayoi, can, in essence, be reduced to the child’s insistence to have the mother for oneself and to be the sole object that the mother desires.

Yayoi, for that matter, indulges into prostitution and – we do not presume a causal relationship – leads a sort of empty existence. But prostitution serves a purpose. And Yo-chan’s forcing of herself into Yayoi’s life, ultimately provides Yayoi with another possibility. In other words, both prostitution and Yo-chan come to act as a possible answer to the riddle of Yayoi’s own womanhood, as made present by the traumatic presence of a real lack (Narra-note 1).


Sexuality is, unsurprisingly, fundamental to the narrative. But the sexuality in A Crimson Star is ever related to the question of womanhood (see above) the female body and motherhood. While sexuality is explicitly present in the narrative – the intimate moments Yayoi and Yo-chan share as their relationship blossoms – sexuality also lingers more implicitly throughout the narrative, for example by the subtle presence of Yayoi’s underwear. Furthermore, it should be evident that Yayoi and Yo-chan meet at the crossroad where sexuality and trauma meet – a crossroad beyond signifiers, a real that affect both Yo-chan’s as Yayio’s subjectivity. And their love, as beyond the presence of men, could be seen as a remedy, a different answer to the trauma’s that affected and shaped their subjectivity.

While the cinematography of A Crimson Star offers, at first glance, a normal mix of fixed shots, subtle moving shots, and shaky following shots – shots that generally follow Yo-chan, Igashi’s cinematographical style reveals itself to be truly thoughtful (Cine-note 2). Furthermore, the cinematography, as gravitating around Yo-chan, is more focused on framing fragmentary impressions and associating them – by way of signifiers or imagery to be taken as signifiers – into a narrative that unfolds its signified (Cine-note 1). This unfolding of meaning, through the insistence of certain signifiers, is nothing other than what can be called the delineation of Yo-chan’s subjectivity. While Yo-chan is the main cinematographical focus throughout the narrative, cinematographical shifts towards Yayoi highlight her subjectivity. Nevertheless, these shifts are ever in relation with the subjectivity of Yo-chan and the signifiers that guide her trajectory (Cine-note 3, sound-note 1).


A Crimson Star is without a doubt one of the most finest examples, if not the best, of subject-driven narratives to come out this year. As one can only enjoy this narrative by reading the signifiers that outline Yo-chan’s trajectory and unearth her desire, one cannot but conclude that this narrative is nothing but Yo-chan’s desire as such. Talented as she is – a great future might await her, Aya Igashi shows structurally – read cinematographically – that the process of becoming a subject is function of the metonymy of signifiers delineating one’s desire as such.



Narra-note 1: In this narrative, men are presented as problematic presences.

Cine-note 1: While other movies have more or less the same feature – unknowing of how the narrative will unfold, there is a fundamental difference between those narratives and A Crimson Star. This narrative, at least in the very beginning, lacks a sense of direction.

Cine-Note 2: Igashi’s talent is especially evident in the opening moments of the narrative where she reveals her talent to concatenate various shot-types into a fluid and, above all, meaningful whole.

Cine-note 3: By way of an example, the insistence of image of Yo-chan’s right foot and the related insistence of the signifier Yayoi reveal the Yayoi’s importance for Yo-chan.

Sound-note 1: The classical music that supports the narrative gives Yo-chan’s subjective trajectory a rather tranquil atmosphere.


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