A Rainbow-colored trip (2021) review [OAFF 2021]


Shinji Imaoka, known especially for his inventive work in the erotic genre (e.g. The Tender Throbbing Twilight(2008), Underwater Love: a pink musical (2011), … etc.), presents his latest work at this year’s Osaka Asian Film Festival. Those spectators looking for another quirky erotic adventure might be disappointed as Imaoka decided, in his latest narrative, to approach the concept of love from the perspective of an 11-year-old.     


11-year-old Haruka (Yuune Sakurai), who is smitten with her Ishida-kun, wants nothing other than to avoid the divorce of her parents, Nobutaka (Ryujyu Kobayashi) and Kumiko (Yuri Ogino). On a family trip, a trip that lacks any kind of fun due to growing distance between her parents, she suddenly decides to escape them by going deep into the forest and make a wish at a nearby special waterfall. On her way, she meets a boy of her age, Daichi (Outa Saiuchi).

A Rainbow-Colored Trip (2021) by Shinji Imaoka

A Rainbow-Colored Trip is a charming little narrative about the blossoming of a subject’s first love, a youthful love driven by the fantasy of the possibility to write sexual relationship, as well as about the failure of ‘love’ to make the unwritable sexual relationship work. One could even argue that Haruka’s quest to reunite her parents is driven by the conflict between her experience of being in love, a rainbow-colored experience, and the reality of her parents that are unable to use love to overcome the Otherness of the other.   

But Imaoka’s narrative is also about the selfishness of human subjects. In a subtle manner, Imaoka puts Haruka’s quest to reunite her parents into question. Who does she desire the reunion of her parents for? Will bringing her parents back together bring happiness to them or to her? 

A Rainbow-Colored Trip (2021) by Shinji Imaoka


What stands out in the composition of A Rainbow-Colored Trip are the musical sequences and the short sudden musical bursts (Cine-note 1). The former is instrumental in providing context and establishing, in the case of Haruka, her anxiety and desire to mend the relationship between her parents as the main propelling force of the narrative. Other characters – and this is important – can hear these musical sequences – a fact that Imaoka uses to great comedic effect (Cine-note 2).     

The latter, the short sudden bursts of singing by Haruka, Nobutaka, and Daichi, are generally only focused on exposing and (further) developing the subjective and emotional position of the singing character. These musical bursts are, in fact, a fresh and lighthearted way to evoke internal speech. Instead of utilizing a narrative voice, Imaoka uses singing – singing subtly addressed to the Other, be it the spectator or any other character – to give the audience an insight in a certain character’s subjective thinking (Cine-note 3).      

A Rainbow-Colored Trip (2021) by Shinji Imaoka

The composition does not undergo any chances when framing the musical sequences or the musical bursts, but by breaking the fourth wall and/or rippling the objectivity of the narrative space these sequences succeed in adding a charming touch to the narrative and breathe a pleasing lightheartedness in unfolding of A Rainbow-Colored Trip (Cine-note 4). Yet, while A Rainbow-Colored Trip overflows from charm, it cannot escape the subtle awkwardness that often marks the musical transitions within musical films. Luckily, this awkwardness, while sensible, is a minor discomfort and will not truly problematize the joy one can extract from Imaoka’s exploration of love and selfishness. 

It is, as a matter of fact, not the singing as such that makes A Rainbow-Colored Trip so charming. The true source of the charm of the narrative is function of Yuune Sakurai’s performance. There is something about her presence that charms the spectator and keeps him engaged with the narrative.  

A Rainbow-Colored Trip (2021) by Shinji Imaoka

A Rainbow-Colored Trip is a great narrative that does not only touches upon the beauty of one’s first love, a beauty driven by the fantasmatic possibility to establish the sexual relationship, and the confronting nature of the failure of ‘love’ to make the unwritable sexual relationship functional, but also on the selfishness that drives the wishes of human subjects. While the narrative is not able to escape the subtle awkwardness that marks many musical films, Yuune Sakurai’s charming and captivating performance more than makes up for it.

[No Trailer available]


Cine-note 1: A Rainbow-Colored Trip is mainly composed with static shots with some subtle dynamism thrown into the mix.

Cine-note 2: For example, when Haruka meets Daichi in the forest, he starts singing with her and a certain musical conversation unfolds. This exception proves that the function of the musical sequences is different from the function of the short musical bursts.

Cine-note 3: Another element that underlines that what is sang are thoughts is the fact that only the singing character and the spectator can hear the singing.

One notable exception is when the boy, in a short musical burst, playfully introduces to Haruka that his family goes camping in summer and spend their winter holiday in Niseko.

Cine-note 4: What we mean by our statement that the musical sequences ripple the ‘objectivity’ of the narrative space is nothing other than that when the singing burst forth the only thing that counts (for the spectator) is the subjectivity of the singer.    


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