“You can’t fire up my rock spirit and then run away!” – Sakura
A Japanese coming of age tale infused with soft rock music. JK☆ROCK is just that. Nothing more, nothing less.
We first meet our lead male Jyo Kaieda (Shôdai Fukuyama) as a miserable, entitled, handsome university student with only a purple metallic Lamborghini to show off his former fame and glory. We later find out, through the use of flashbacks that his rock band the JoKers mysteriously split up on the cusp of fame. One year later, vocalist Jyo Kodukai (Ryôsuke Yamamoto) has debuted in the U.S., while the rest of the band stayed back in Japan.
To reignite Jyo’s musical passion, former JoKers members and their eccentric café owner friend hatch a plan to get Jyo to mentor the new, all-girl high-schooler rock band, Drop Doll! These rookies come from different backgrounds and have different goals in life, but one thing they can all agree on – they want to make this band the best rock band that will ever exist! Their passion is something Jyo only remembers from when he was on stage with his band. Daydreaming while seeing the girls rock out in the cafe after closing hour, makes him want to train this new band even harder. Drummer Sakura (Chihiro Hayama) is the one who leads the new band and is determined to make it on stage. Together with her fellow bandmates, Mao (Yuina) and Rina (Yukino Miyake), they’re ready to take on the world, while tackling high school and the troubles that come with it.
JK☆ROCK is charming. Halfway through, I started to realise I’m not the demographic for this film. It’s a bit too cliche and sappy for my taste. While there’s nothing really new or refreshing to the story, for younger viewers who haven’t seen similarly told high school tales a dozen times, this might fancy their taste and will enjoy every minute of it.
While the soft rock segments did rock, and their energy was quite infectious, it did seem to lack some music overall. I wanted to have more of these band rehearsals and flashbacks to the glory days of the JoKers. Some of the early drum lessons, given to Sakura by Jyo, reminded me of a light version of J.K. Simmons‘ performance in Whiplash. Very strict and persistent. Shunji Muguruma‘s directing isn’t anything groundbreaking, his overuse of pastel colours and bright light around the girls, and darker tones with a more grungy look covering the flashbacks of the JoKers’ underground scene, were definitely easy choices. What helps was the 92 minute runtime, that didn’t make the film longer than necessary.
While I do think the actors did their best, the two main characters played by Chihiro Hayama and Shôdai Fukuyama did most of the work in regards of character building. Their characters are paper thin, but the actors try their best to show somewhat of an arc that builds up to a sweet and expected finale. The rest of the supporting cast is there literally to ‘support’. There is a little side plot with the former band members of JoKers and a minor twist near the end that lacks emotion, and an unnecessary mother/daughter storyline that is only there to raise stakes that were never there in the first place.
JK☆ROCK is not a bad film. But it’s also not a good film. It’s simple and innocent. When you have a few tweens running around the house or some younger cousins who want to see something relaxing on a Sunday afternoon, they’ll definitely be entertained and some of them might even want to give drumming a try. Rock on ‘Drop Doll’!
JK☆ROCK screens at Japanese Film Festival all over Australia:
- Saturday 19th October – 12pm – Dendy Canberra Centre, Canberra
- Saturday 26th October – 1:45pm – Event Cinemas Brisbane Myer Centre, Brisbane
- Saturday 2nd November – 2:15pm – Event Cinemas Innaloo, Perth
- Saturday 16th November – 1pm – Event Cinemas George Street, Sydney
- Sunday 24th November – 3:45pm – Event Cinemas George Street, Sydney
- Saturday 23rd November – 3pm – The Capitol, Melbourne
Get your tickets for JK☆ROCK now: https://japanesefilmfestival.net/film/jk-rock/
Japanese Film Festival Review – ‘JK☆ROCK’
Reviewed from online screener provided by Japanese Film Festival’s publicity department, Oct. 1, 2019. (Also in Japanese Film Festival Australia) Running time: 92 min.
PRODUCTION: (Japan) A Phantom Film release of a EIGA production. Producer: Reiko Iwaki.
CREW: Director: Shunji Muguruma. Screenplay: Kaori Tanimoto. Music: Koji Endo. Music Instructor: Yuichi Yokokawa.
WITH: Shôdai Fukuyama, Chihiro Hayama, Yukino Miyake, Ryôsuke Yamamoto, Yuina. (Japanese dialogue)