With Rin, Katsuhiko Ikeda presents his first feature-film, an adaptation of a play by Naoki Matayoshi. Before directing this feature, Ikeda directed a variety of dramas episodes for Ouroboros (2015), Love Catharsis (2016) and so on. Let’s find out what we thought about Ikeda’s first try at a feature film.
One day, Ryuji (Yuki Kameda), an anxious boy who loves rumours, reveals to his high school friends Kouta (Hayato Sano), Majima (Keisuke Samurai), and Daibutsu (Kenta Suga), a boy with a peaceful face who is always smiling, that the child that went missing in the famous local missing person’s case was none other than the daughter of Mizukami, the school nurse. Ryuji furthermore contends that the disappearance of Yume (-) is related to the well-known local legend.
Upon hearing the signifier legend, Tendo (Kanata Hongo), a rather solitary transfer student who is reading a book a few yards away, raises his head and asks about the local legend. Ryuji and Majima explain that the legend tells that once in 100 years a monster appears to take some children from the village. Majima suddenly proposes to his friends to investigate the case and find the child. Not that much later, Daibutsu disappears.
Rin is a narrative that, in short, explores the importance of honesty and trust in the establishment of friendships. Ikeda explores these themes by sketching out the development of the blossoming friendship between Tendo and Ryuji, Kouta, Majima, and Daibutsu and the difficulties that endangered this newly established friendship.
Ikeda’s narrative is marked by a certain lightheartedness. This lightheartedness is, first and foremost, function of the acting performances. Many of the performances, especially those of the actors that bring Kouta, Majima, and Ryuji to life, are marked by a healthy dose of over-acting. One might even argue that, due to this over-acting, the narrative world of Rin is essentially populated with subtle caricatures.
This lightheartedness is somewhat counterbalanced by the introduction of a darker narrative element, an element of familial or subjective struggle, and the darker finale. Yet, this human darkness, by being decanted with an ever-lingering lightheartedness, is presented in an easy digestible way. And rather than these elements being the focus of the narrative, these darker elements are mainly utilized to propel the relational changes forward.
Kouta, for instance, is marked by the loss of his father. Nozomi Satonaka (-), the new school nurse, also struggles with loss – she has not met her daughter since her divorce. Majima, for that matter, must deal with his violent and exploitative father. Tendo remains haunted by the shadow of a dead girl he still loves. Ryuji struggles with his own position as subject, a struggle marked by envy of his other friends. And Daibutsu must deal with the insisting violent remarks on his ever-smiling presence by his new mother – he is, as the remarks underline, not loved by his stepmother.
Rin is, like already mentioned above, a story about friendship. It is therefore not unsurprising that is shows how the inclusion of a new element, i.e. the old-school Tendo, causes the relation structure between our other friends to transform and sort effects at the subjective level, e.g. for Daibutsu. Ikeda’s narrative furthermore illustrates the well-known fact that the vehicle of relational change are acts and words (e.g. Do your best and live more honestly), in their function as signifiers.
Eventually the mystery of the disappearances puts any kind of bonding between the other friends on hold. The disappearance, rather than urging the friends to ‘work together’, threatens to disintegrate the friendship between our friends and destroy the newly established friendship with Tendo. It is in relation to this that Rin explores and underlines the importance of trust and honesty.
Sadly, there is something that does not work in Ikeda’s narrative. In our view, in its attempt to please as broad audience as possible, Ikeda ends up delivering an experience that is simply too forgettable. It wants to deliver lighthearted comedy, sensible drama, and engaging mystery all at once but ends up with a cinematic experience that is unable to give all three genre-sides the necessary power to engage the spectator. Rin simply falls short.
The composition of Rin – a mix between fixed shots and dynamic shots (e.g. drone shots, fluid spatially moving shots, beautiful tracking shots) – has a pleasant rhythm and is effective in generating, whenever it is needed, a sense of mystery. Yet, some cinematographical decorations (e.g. slow-motion and some flash-backs), while utilized in an effective way, are too tv-like – fit for a tv-movie or drama but less so for a cinematic production. The same can be said for some choices made at the musical and sound level (e.g. The use of thunder). Some of these choices are, in truth, unnecessary and can even be said to reveal a certain immaturity of the director.
Ikeda also makes use of a narrating voice. This voice, the voice of Kouta, guides us mainly through the initial stages of the narrative, be it by introducing the characters or by punctuating some beats of the narrative. The narrating voice is, in other words, utilized to contextualize what is introduced of the narrative in the visual composition.
The relational lightheartedness, while is mainly function of the performances, is further underlined via the musical accompaniment. Emotional moments are, in contrast, more dictated by the musical accompaniment than the emotional power of the performances. And the sense of mystery that, at times, marks the narrative is also called forth by using musical decoration – i.e. accentuating certain statements with mysterious sounds and eerie but simple musical pieces. The two latter elements, in fact, shows that Ikeda relies too much on music in his narrative. Such over-reliance reveals that neither the performances nor the narrative structure is unable to support and breathe life into the genre-shifts.
Rin is an enjoyable but deeply flawed narrative. Ikeda, who still struggles to purge the small screen aesthetics from his composition, is, in short, unable to make this genre-bending narrative about friendship into a powerful experience. He delivers a rather forgettable narrative.