If you’re visiting this site, chances are you know Takashi Miike. Perhaps the hardest working modern-day director in Japan, blessing us with an endless stream of films. He gained fame making extremely violent and crazy films such as ‘Ichi The Killer’ and ‘Gozu’ but in the past decade has been trying his hand at everything from classic samurai films to children’s movies. One thing he had not tried yet, however, was a full-on musical (not counting ‘Happiness of the Katakuris’). Hearing about Miike making a musical one might start expecting he would do something drastic in the sense of a crazy setting or somehow implementing the grotesque. But none of that, although you could say it is drastic in its own sense because if Takashi Miike sets out to make a corny musical, he will make damn sure it’s gonna be one of the corniest musicals of all time. In a good way.
Meet main character Makoto (Japanese for “sincerity”), an aggressive and troubled young man who likes to fight and could have easily walked off the set of Miike’s own ‘Crows Zero’ films. Enter Ai (Japanese for “love”), a rich girl who is the pinnacle of innocence, who seems to recognize Makoto from long ago when she lays eyes on him at the start of the film. She immediately becomes determined to right Makoto in his ways and save him from his life as a good-for-nothing thug. Makoto, however, wants none of it and ignores her. As he enters a new school he of course gets involved with the wide array of shady characters who run the show, leading to confrontations with the main gangsters. As can be expected, Ai gets involved occasionally and Makoto reluctantly has to step up and protect her.
The plot is consciously cliché, as are the lyrics of the songs that are sung. The film is a parody, but although it often does get a bit silly, it is not a full-on comedic parody. What Miike has done is simply turned everyone into a caricature, and drawn out everything into the extreme. It seems that the focus has, however, been put more on style than comedy. For Love’s Sake is the pinnacle of style over substance, it might be one of the most colorful film’s you will ever see. In a number of scenes the contrast levels have been turned up to the max, turning the already vibrant set designs into a bouquet of bright colors.
The genre of musical has sometimes been described as storylines that are nothing but excuses to string a bunch of songs together. But I was actually surprised by the relatively low number of songs in this 130+ minute film; there were nine of them according to the OST. Like I said, the film is consciously campy and so are the songs, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that a bunch of the tracks are enjoyable. What’s more important, some of them are supremely catchy, as they are intended. Being sung by a memorable set of characters fleshed out by a varied cast, the songs will stay stuck in your head while remembering the particular scenes of the film for weeks. Masachika Ichimura’s short but sweet performance of Ai’s flamboyant father is definitely my favorite, right next to the ‘Ookami Shounen Ken’ song. So in this sense, Miike’s film is a clear-cut success. The balance between music, comedy, and visual flair might not completely have been what it should have been, but they are all present. If you know what you’re in for, this film can be a very enjoyable experience, as is anything Miike makes nowadays.