Jojo Hideo might not be a well-known director, but those who follow the pink film scene might know him from his award-winning debut feature Married Women Who Want a Taste (2003) and many other erotic movies. Known for exploring sexual spheres with his film, it might come as a surprise that he decided to take the helm of this youth-drama.
Asuha Yasuda (Rina Ono) and Hikaru Tamiya (Nishimoto Marin), both members of the drama club, have come to support their school, East Iruma high, in the first round of the national high school baseball tournament. Even so, Yasuda and Tamiya are not that knowledgeable about baseball, so they spend most of their time trying to figure out what has happened on the field.
After a while, the girls are joined by Fujino (Hirai Amon), who gave up baseball quite recently, and start happily chattering away about a myriad of topics. At the back of the stands, all alone, stands Miyashita (Shuri Nakamura), one of the smartest persons of the grade. After both Yasuda and Tamiya leave for the bathroom, she suddenly approaches Fujino to ask him about Sonoda.
On The Edge of Their Seats, a youth-drama, may start off with lots of small-talk, conversations dealing with the arrogance of baseball players, the differences between drama tournaments and baseball tournaments, remedial classes, university choices, ．．．etc., but it does not take long for the conversations to touch upon more personal matters, like the Fujino’s reason for giving up baseball or Asuha Yasuda’s painful experience of not being able the participate in the Kanto drama tournament.
Concerning the latter, the spectator quickly comes to realize that this experience has, despite her own conscious discourse about it, emotionally marked Yasuda. This tournament was, in fact, her moment to shine, not only as an actress but also as the scriptwriter, as it was her script that was going to be performed. Yasuda attempts to hide her emotional scar via her speech, her rather fatalistic or bitter outlook on things betrays her unprocessed disappointment (Narra-note 1).
Of course, matters of romance and youthful jealousy are also touched upon. All at the center of this is Sonoda who, by being the star-player of the baseball team, has become the center of adolescent female attention. Not only the popular Tomoka Kusumi (-), the captain of the brass band, is into him, but introvert Miyashita also appears to harbour romantic feelings for him.
As the narrative unfolds, conversations concatenate, the central theme – the theme binding all conversations together – slowly comes into focus. The central theme of The Edge of Their Seats concerns that aspect that is always out of our control. More concretely, that aspect of mischance that can disturb our desires, hopes, and goals as well as the other’s desires, goals, and hopes. Jojo’s narrative asks how to deal with that disturbing element, how to give that aspect of unluck a positive place within one’s subjective structure, and how not to let this aspect negatively influence our way at looking at the world and ourselves.
How should we deal with not getting what we want? How to accept, even after being met with disappointment or failure, the fact that one can with one’s efforts not only force good luck but also attain what one has wanted for so long? In other words, the narrative’s theme concerns desire and its powerful message is that one should never let experiences of disappointment negatively influence one’s desire.
While there are different sequences in the narrative that provide lightheartedness, the most evident source of lightheartedness is Mr. Atsugi (Rikki Metsugi), the English teacher. He tries, but generally fails, to encourage the students to express their support for their team. The problem is not only that he is too enthusiastic – to the point of embarrassing himself, but also that he has, for the students, no true position of authority. The position of a teacher may be a position of authority, only the students can enable him to realize such position. What further problematizes his position – and emphasizes his subtle clownish nature – is that he speaks with authority about things, e.g. voice projection, he does not know anything about.
Due to the narrative originally being a stage play, it is not surprising that fixity (static shots as well as static moments within shots) is favoured within the overall cinematographical composition of On The edge of their seats. This, of course, does not mean that the spectator will feel as if they are watching a stage-play – a feeling that was much more palpable in Kenji Yamauchi’s At The Terrace (2016) for instance. The stage-play-feel is evaded by contextualizing the true focus of the narrative, the interactions between Yasuda, Tamiya, Fujino, Miyashita, by visualizing the atmosphere of a high-school baseball game. It is especially when visualizing the context of the baseball game that cinematographical movement is applied.
While the baseball field or the baseball game as such is never shown, but, even so, we do feel as if we are at such a baseball game. This is all thanks due to the great sound-design – the way that atmosphere of the game is evoked – and the splendid acting-performances. While the atmosphere plays an important role, the fact that we, as spectator, watch the game through the eyes and the signifiers of our youthful spectators, makes their performances equally important if not more important. The impact of the acting performances only becomes truly apparent when the baseball-game reaches its powerful emotional conclusion, as the unfolding of the baseball game, unsuspectingly, mirrors the theme of following one’s desire our youths are struggling with (Narra-note 2).
On The edge of their seats is one of the most powerful narratives concerning desire to date. The smartly designed story, which eventually turns the baseball game into a mirror of what happens within our adolescent protagonist, powerfully – and touchingly – communicates that, even when faced with failure and disappointment, one should never just surrender one’s desire and that, irrespective of the obstacles or impossibilities, there is always a way to find a proper place for one’s desire.
Narra-note 1: Hikaru is eventually revealed as the one who had the flu and thus caused to mis her moment of youthful glory. This revelation enables us to better understand her behaviour towards Asuha Yasuda. Everything she does to please Asuha Yasuda is driven by a sense of guilt.
Narra-note 2: When, at the end of the narrative. Asuha yells ‘go for it’ she does not only cheer on the baseball-team below, but also underlines her own desire to go for her desire. The fact that the latter resonates in her enunciation turns this enunciation into one of the most powerful moments of the narrative.