The Covid-19 pandemic has hit cinema hard, leading many films who were supposed to run in the cinema in 20202, to be postponed to a later date. In the case of The Sun Does Not Move, this postponement meant that the sequel, the drama The Sun Does Not Move: The Eclipse (2020), released earlier than the film. At the helm of both projects is Eiichiro Hasumi, known from Oppai Volleyball (2009) Mozu The Movie (2015) and Assassination Classroom (2015) and its sequel Assassination Classroom: Graduation (2016). Can he bring Shuichi Yoshida’s Kazuhiko Takano Series in a satisfying way to life on the silver screen?
Sofia, Bulgaria. Kazuhiko Takano (Tatsuya Fujiwara) and Ryoichi Taoka (Ryoma Takeuchi) , both agents from AN Press, are sent to rescue Ryuji Yamashita (Hayato Ichihara), an agent that has fallen in the hands of the Chinese. Yet, while the extraction goes well, the subsequent turmoil renders Yamashita unable to contact HQ in time, hereby activating the self-destructive chip implanted in his chest.
They learn from Takeshi Kazama (Koichi Sato) that Yamashita was investigating Andy Wong (Kaei Okina), the chairman of the Chinese Energy Company CNOX, who by using his underworlds connections rapidly made his company into a global powerhouse. Kazuhiko and Ryoichi are ordered to find out what went wrong during Yamashita’s infiltration and continue his investigation. Yet, with David Kim (Byun Yo-Han), a Korean agent, investigating the same matter, they face some stiff competition.
The Sun Does Not Move takes a pressing world-problem – the need for clean energy to ensure the health of our planet – and turns the race to gain a major solution satisfactorily into a violent and complicated conflict between parties that would not only economically and financially benefit from holding such game-changing solution but would also gain a certain renown in the world.
What makes Hasumi’s spy-thriller so enjoying is, first, its pleasing narrative structure. While the dense narrative is told in a straightforward manner, the spectator is, just like Kazuhiko, left in the dark about precise intentions of all involved parties – Kazuhiko does not even know what An Press is truly after. Our path of having the truth, albeit with lots of twists and turns, unfold in front of our eyes, in fact, mirrors Kazuhiko’s path of discovering the complex conflict of interests (Narra-note 1, Narra-note 2). This mirroring, which invites the spectator to identify with the character of Kazuhiko, heightens the spectator’s engagement with the narrative.
The opaque nature of each party’s intentions is not only created by this puzzle-like narrative structure, but also due to the nature of what is at stake. As many would champion an energy revolution, it is not immediately clear why the cooperation of CNOX with MET, a Japanese electronics company led by Kawakami (Shingo Tsurumi), to develop a solar panel system is a problem. Why would the erection of a 3 trillion energy plant nearby Lake Kasumigaura to fill the ‘energy’ void created by disabling many nuclear plants after the Tohoku earthquake of 2011, be a danger to Japan’s future?
The excursions into Kazuhiko Takano’s past and his relationship with Yuji Yanagi (Seishiro Kato) and Shiori Kikuchi (Sara Minami) have, in this respect, a similar vagueness. While these excursions ultimately give Kazuhiko, as character, depth and some of his signifiers and actions a subjective weight, the spectator is, at least in the first half of the narrative, left wondering what the relation between these revelations and the present conflict concerning solar energy are. The fragments of the past add an additional riddle to the wider narrative, a riddle the spectator is eager to see solved.
The Sun Does Not Move might not offer a bombastic finale, but the more intimate and emotional finale does not fail satisfy the spectator. It is, in fact, this finale, built around the character of Kazuhiko that allows the excursions of the past to attain their full meaning and reveal the logic of Kazuhiko’s signifiers and acts.
Hasumi ensures, by thoughtfully combining fixed, fluidly dynamic, and shaky dynamic moments, that his narrative has a pleasing fluidity as well as an inviting compositional pace. Yet, what truly makes The Sun Does Not Move visually pleasing and enjoyable is how Hasumi framed the many action-sequences. By finding a fitting balance between slower paced shaky movement to heighten the tension, more frantic shaky movement to support the visceral swiftness of certain violent acts (e.g. kicks, punches, bullets, …), and fleeting shaky semi-static moments to emphasize the impact of the violence, Hasumi does not only gives his fighting sequences their cool stylish roughness, but also enables these moments to thrill and put the spectator on the edge of his seat (Sound-note 1, Cine-note 1, Cine-note 2).
Of course, the excitement of the action-sequences does not only depend on the compositional style and the choreography, but also on the music that accompanies these moments. The rhythm of the deliciously dramatic music blends well with the compositional flow of the action and ensures that these violent encounters are, at all times, full of tension.
The Sun Does Not Move is a highly pleasant action spy thriller that will satisfy both those hungry for exciting action and those who love a dense narrative with twist and turns. And even though the lack of bombastic finale might disappoint some spectators, the well-structured narrative allows Hasumi to deliver a finale that is not only rich on action but also fueled with emotion, giving Kazuhiko Takano not only the necessary depth but give his action and signifiers a pleasing logic.
Narra-note 1: The mysterious character Ayako (Han Hyojou) underlines, once again, that a woman can exploit her own body to seduce the male other to follow his phallic stupidity.
Narra-note 2: The reliance on twists and turns, of course, means that certain events lack a certain explanation. If one cannot accept such lacunae, one’s enjoyment will diminish drastically.
Cine-note 1: Of course, the impact of punches, kicks, and bullet is also heightened by the effective sound-design and highlighted by visual decorations like blood-spatter.
Cine-note 2: Attentive spectators will notice that Hasumi sometimes inserts fluid dynamic shots into his action-compositions. While such shots are not truly essential, these wide shots do give his action-moments a flair of spectacle and grandeur.
Cine-note 3: The framing of infiltration-sequences receive their stylish element by Hasumi’s extensive use split-screen and his choice to keep the seams between multiple screens the various visible. To further heighten the stylish visualization of such scenes, Hasumi sprinkles his composition with a decorative transition here and there.
This split-screen technique is, in some rare cases, also utilized to give some moments within action-sequences a stylish flair.