In your teens: life is hard dakedo [but] happy.
In your 20s: life is hard dakara [therefore] happy.
In your 30s: life is hard totemo [very] unhappy? No, it is tabun [perhaps] happy.
This stance may or may not resonate with us, but that’s Haru, Shun, Chuu, Bon, and Takuma’s take on life thus far. I say ‘thus far’ because (their) life doesn’t end at 30-dai right? Who else wonders how they’d phrase their 40-dai? Although, as V6’s Inohara Yoshihiko hinted at post-credits scene, they’ll be over forty if they don’t make Part 3 soon. Gasp — don’t jinx it!
Pikanchi Half picks up eight years after Dakara (2004), which was set three years after Dakedo (2002). The franchise started off as a coming-of-age story of five friends during school days, then their early twenties, and now fast forward to their thirty-plus-year-old selves. No matter what era and age-group they are in, it is always about their life struggles and camaraderie. Those are the parts that i find most interesting. When the story moves away from them, or when the limelight is not on them, my interest fizzles out rapidly. That’s why there was this irrefutable letup with Dakara. Content-wise, Dakedo is more solid although as a whole, Half is the most engaging…
…even when there isn’t much going on in the latest gig. It is about reunion of the five buddies after eight years walking on different paths of life. The staple of any reunion is catching up on what the others are up to, and they do just that. So much so that half of the running time is spent recounting each of their journeys, chronicled in that fashion. Yunno, narrated over a series of still frames. It is Pikanchi’s distinctive style of showing flashbacks, and while consistency is good, it isn’t the most flattering approach. I didn’t mind it in the first two movies because there were only bits and pieces shown; the different style was actually a welcomed change. But when flashbacks take up that much time, as in the case of Half, the jerky scenes not only lose its charm but also become exhausting to follow. I wanted to see each and every farcical expression they made!
So: Haru, Shun, Chuu, Bon, Takuma. We saw them from their rebellious adolescent phase not knowing what to do with their life post high school to young adults navigating real world, learning the need to conform and compromise whilst trying to pursue and realize their dreams. Have they figured life out, now they’ve become “great adults”?
That’s a big question and a deep one. But don’t expect Pikanchi to give some kind of revelation or thought-provoking materials. The characters are as wacky as it can get and their situations too farce to be taken seriously; however, in every installment they’d throw one or two meaty remarks that caught you off guard by its thoughtfulness. The franchise sets its foot firmly in comedy genre (that even Takuma’s father’s death was treated rather lightly — he even came back as comedic relief in the sequels!) even though the humor is mostly too absurd i ended up snerking instead of loling.
What’s great about this fivesome is nothing ever seems to change between them. Yes, they’ve hit 30. Haru, Bon, and Takuma have moved onto the next stage of life aka married (with kids) while the one who tied the knot the earliest has split. Each has a career with varying degrees of success. They haven’t been in touch with one another in nearly a decade, yet when they do meet, it feels as if they’ve never been apart. It’s still the five of them, each of whom is still using that very polyphonic ringtone on their smartphones.
If anything, the portrayal doesn’t seem like acting at all. It’s just like seeing Arashi acting out a part of their personas as interpretation of the roles. Maybe i’ve watched too many of their appearances that i can no longer see them as the role they’re embodying, unless the characterization is nothing like their idol personas. Case in point: Sho (as Chuu) all suave in suit, Jun (as Bon) in snazzy outfit replete with bold hat and statement accessories AND refined cooking skills, Nino (as Takuma) turning heads in his killer costumes-of-choice and winning hearts with his singing and guitar strumming, Aiba (as Shun) and his food experiments, Ohno (as Haru) and his randomness… what’s new?
The above descriptions are based on Half only, wherein (as you may notice) they appear somewhat different from their Dakedo and Dakara years. I blame it to growing up which sheds their quickness level — Chuu’s gruff and gangsta swagger have been tempered by a lot, the trace of Bon’s boyish naiveté and slight gauche is barely noticeable, neither is Takuma’s air of pomposity and aloofness. The latter is still full of surprises though, enough to cause the other four to goggle. Shun has been the most ‘normal’ among them, not much changes there. It is Haru that gets queerer — that sideway run though… i just can’t XD He was a pushover before, and that trait seems to only get worse (marriage is even pushed onto him! That sequence was frankly as hysterical as it is cringe-worthy).
Nostalgia aside, there’s a spur behind this impromptu get-together. It isn’t on a whim, and not all reunions occur over a happy event. Somewhere along the line, it reminds me of this Korean movie titled Sunny (2011) whose story also centers around reunion of a high school clique after 25 years due to an unforeseen circumstance. It is as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking. One would think that good friends will stay close to or won’t ever lose contact with one another, but turns out that’s not always the case. One particular scene from the film that i believe will resonate with many people is (*spoilerish*) when adult Im Nami watches a recording of the group’s high school versions ‘talking’ to their future selves, of what they envisioned they’d do and become, utterly enthusiastic and full of optimism that their dreams would surely happen. Knowing where they are now and the realization that real world is far different from the imagined life they had when they were young and still naive… gawdd.
Arashi did it too, didn’t they? Writing letter(s) to their future selves?*
It is something i told myself to make but never got around to.
But i digress. Anyway, if you enjoy the theme of Pikanchi Half, be sure to check Sunny out. Like Sunny girls, these Pikanchi guys are a blast to watch. They become friends simply because they click, and good friends as they are, they don’t judge and accept others the way they are, good and bad sides alike. Their diverse personalities complement one another. They have favorite spots to hang-out at and a signature song, Michi. Gang name is probably the only missing piece. (Do they have one?) Are they too old to come up with one now?
There is no end to being young, just people who end it willfully.
With that said, somehow, we’ll hang on.
Director: Hisashi Kimura, Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Production: J Storm, 2014
Cast: Ohno Satoshi, Sakurai Sho, Aiba Masaki, Ninomiya Kazunari, Matsumoto Jun, Inohara Yoshihiko, Mizukawa Asami, Akiyama Natsuko
Genre: Comedy, Life, Friendship