My Blood and Bones in a Flowing Galaxy (2021) review [Nippon Connection 2021]

Introduction

SABU is a director that everyone who loves Japanese cinema knows, be it from his extraordinary debut D.A.N.G.A.N. Runner (1996), the satirical thriller Monday (2000), his fresh take on zombies in Miss Zombie (2013), or his pleasant genre-mix Jam (2018). Now, Sabu delivers an adaptation of Yuyuko Takemiya’s novel Kudakechiru Tokoro o Misete Ageru.

Review

Kiyosumi (Taishi Nakagawa), ever since he was young, felt a desire to be a hero (for someone). Then one day, he witnesses a first-grade student, Hari Kuramoto (Anna Ishii), being bullied by some of her classmates at the assembly meeting. Realizing that this is an opportunity to chase his dream of becoming a hero, he does not hesitate to intervene and to approach her. Sadly, upon approaching her, Hari starts yelling uncontrollably. Even though he is flustered by her yelling, he refuses to turn a blind eye to the extreme bullying she is subjected to.

Not that much later, he rescues her from the toilet where she got locked up in. This encounter succeeds in creating a minimal bond between them. One morning, he discovers signs of violence on her wrists, signaling that bullying at school is not the only problem she deals with.  

My Blood and Bones in a Flowing Galaxy (2021) by Sabu

My Blood & Bones in a Flowing Galaxy is a narrative that turns around the fantasy to become a hero. The source of such fantasy is, in fact, nothing other than a neurotic desire to be loved, a desire to capture the love of the other love via his ‘selflessness’ acts (Narra-note 1). In other words, this heroic fantasy, this fantasy of being a hero for someone is an indirect expression of an ‘unconscious’ desire to be loved by another subject (Narra-note 2). The fantasy is thus by nature relationally oriented.

One could call Hari Kuramoto crazy. Yet, if she can be called ‘crazy’, it is not because of any genetic predisposition but solely because of the relational fabric of bullying that, like a spider-web, imprisons and radically dehumanizes her. For her fellow students, she is nothing more than a smelly horrifying foreign thing that should not be touched but enjoyed socially, be it via acts of bullying (e.g. kicking her desk) or via the signifier (i.e. by talking badly about her). It is this not surprising that she, who is made captive of the other students’ acts and signifiers, has identified herself with the position of garbage – a thing without value whose sole purpose is to be thrown away.

My Blood and Bones in a Flowing Galaxy (2021) by Sabu

So, what makes Kiyosumi’s heroic acts heroic? His heroism does not really lie in the fact that his ‘protective’ acts try to put a stop to the bullying, but in the very fact that his acts radically re-humanize her. What’s heroic is that he, despite her strange presence, does not forget that she is a subject. He radically refuses to accept her identification with the position of garbage and approaches her as speaking subject.   

The latter is made evident when, after seeing her name scratched out on her locker, he puts a sticker with her name back on it. This highly symbolic act has three implications: it reaffirms his acceptance of her subjectivity, it reveals to Hari that he, in contrast to the others, considers her a subject, and it also acts as an indirect (but ineffective) warning to the bullying others that she remains, after all they put her through, a subject. 

Due to Kiyosumi’s persistence – a persistence driven by his fantasy to be a hero, he ultimately succeeds in establishing a certain bond with her, a bond based on exchanging supportive signifiers rather than destructive insults. Not unsurprisingly, due to Kiyosumi’s inviting speech acts, Hari turns out, despite having, at first glance, some ‘autistic’ idiosyncrasies, to be a normal girl (Narra-note 2).

My Blood and Bones in a Flowing Galaxy (2021) by Sabu

The bond between Kiyosumi and Hari is, in its initial stages, focused on making Hari stronger – desire, believe, transform. One could even contend that, within this bond, Hari assumes a certain position of apprenticeship. Yet, it does not take long for Kiyosumi to develop certain romantic feelings for Hari.

Of course, their path together is not smooth, and certain violent obstacles lie on their way. Can Kiyosumi really become her hero and fulfill his fantasy of heroically rescuing a mentally and physically wounded girl? And can Hari, due to Kiyosumi’s humanizing interventions, truly be rescued from her mental prison and assume, within a relationship, a position of someone who loves and who is loved and respected as a subject? An emotionally powerful and satisfying ending will reveal all.

My Blood and Bones in a Flowing Galaxy (2021) by Sabu

The composition of My Blood & Bones in a Flowing Galaxy is, a first glance, a rather straightforward affair – a balanced mixture of static shots and fluidly floating but often subtle dynamism. Yet, Sabu did not forget to add some elements that elevate the straightforward composition and heighten its visual pleasure.   

Sabu subtle decorated his composition with cinemographical decorations, like slow-motion, and decorative fantastical visualizations. These fantastical elements do not have any ‘real’ existence in the narrative space but are utilized to visualize, for the spectator, fragments of the desire-driven imagination by our protagonists. The lightning-design heightens the visual pleasure of the overall composition, and the musical accompaniment is effective in enhancing its flow (Cine-note 1).

Sabu’s My Blood & Bones in a Flowing Galaxy is a great narrative, due to its emotionally gripping finale and the crystal-clear manner by which Sabu explores and uncovers the impact of a vicious environment on the way the subject inscribes itself into the social fabric. With his beautiful romance drama, Sabu shows the spectator that he, within an Other full of threats, he too can be a hero if he radically approaches the imaginary figures that populate his field of vision his imaginary field as subjects.

Notes

Narra-note 1: While the desire of Kiyosumi’s son, Arashi (Takumi Kitamura), is inspired by the heroism of his deceased father – a father still adorned with his son’s imaginary admiration of mythical proportions, one cannot deny that this desire is, when all is said and done, a transformed desire to be loved.  

Narra-note 2: His thought “I’ll transform for her. Then I’ll be the one she believes one” is the first indication that his heroic fantasy is driven by a desire to be loved.

Narra-note 3: Attentive spectators will notice that he, during the first time they speak with each other, laments the fact that she is too normal, that she can, in fact, socialize properly. This complaint echoes his preoccupation with fulfilling his fantasy of being a hero in the most satisfying way possible – a certain egoism marks his desire. His disappointment lies in the fact that the girl-to-be-rescued needs less radical rescuing or less heroic caring that he secretly fantasized she would need.

Cine-note 1: Sabu also utilize the narrating voice in balanced way, to introduce the spectator to the fleeting thoughts of the main character. 

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