We have manly love!
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 08/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Three years ago I read Ikku Jippensha's novel Hizakurige, or Shank's Mare, for one of my Japanese history classes. I comparison to some of the other books in the class the long tale of Yaji and Kita was quite entertaining if a bit long. During the Edo period townsmen and rich farmers were able to travel more freely so there was a demand for travel guides. Therefore a number of guides for inns, sites of interest, teahouses, etc. began to appear. Unlike many of the writers, Ikku Jippensha took it upon himself to create a "guide" that was also a quite comedic story. It was in this miasma of budding plebian literature and tourism that Yajirobei and Kitahachi, Yaji and Kita for short, were born. Consisting of passages in which the protagonists mock samurai, hit on girls, and tour the sites along to Tokaido Road Shank's Mare is an entertaining read not only for Japanese literature, but for those who just enjoy humorous literature as well.
Now warp to the year 2005 and put the rapscallion duo of Yaji and Kita into the hands of director Kankuro Kudo. Still dressed in townsmen attire, Kita sports a bleached topknot and has a heroin addiction. Concerned about the health of his friend and lover, there are hints that Yaji and Kita were lovers in some of Jippensha's later stories, Yaji forces his drugged up friend that he needs to go to Ise in order to clean up, so they hop upon Yaji's motorcycle and make their way to Ise. They almost reach their destination when a police officer makes them return to Edo and hike along the Tokaido road to reach their destination.
Like the novel, Yaji and Kita stop at a number of inns, but instead of detailed information concerning the food of each inn, the viewer is treated to middle-aged women being accosted by the God of Laughs, a girl whose singing is so bad Mt. Fuji hazes over, a gaggle of school girls, including one ganguro, who are the fan club of a mafia boss, King Arthur, a bartender and his wife who has become half mushroom, etc. Obviously the film ranges from the comedic to the outright bizarre. At some points it is so bizarre that suspension of disbelief is destroyed. However, the comedic effects of the film are able to draw one back in and make it worthwhile to sit through the two hour plus film.
Definitely not for the prude, there is one scene in which Yaji stretches Kita's nut sack a few feet and then bites it and the ending theme is a song titled "I Want to be Your F*ck" by the Zazen Boys, Yaji and Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims is definitely good for a few laughs and even more "Oh my God" moments."
Very Special Work
Michael Kerjman | 04/05/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Leaving own place for reaching the seashore where personal problems to dissolute by themselves, male lovers-a heroin junkie and a wife murderer- have been dragged through the unbelievable encounters in real and near-death-experience worlds of their native past and our contemporary present.
A deeply philosophical movie veiled with a comedic blanket of stupidity and simple idiocy (as the Westerner, not much in the modern adult animating by Southern-Asian producers of Japan particularly, could suggest for pleasing the broader auditorium worldwide with conviction that same-gender attraction is simply a mental case only) is worth any cent of $US18.35 Amazon asks for, but hardly satisfies expectations of a viewer having at least de facto spent on it triple more overseas if even a set concluded a separate disk "Extras".
Hen da yo!
David Bonesteel | Fresno, CA United States | 09/20/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Two samurai lovers (Tomoya Nagase and Shichinosuke Nakamura) head for the Ise Shrine so that one of them may be cured of his heroin addiction. This bizarre film is so surreal that it nearly defies description, leaping through various time periods at will and presenting a phantasmagoric gallery of imaginative oddities. The only constants running throughout the film are the devotion of the two lovers and the harrowing depiction of the hell of addiction. This is definitely not a film for everyone, but I was consistently entertained by the confident brazenness of writer/director Kankuro Kudo and his talented cast. There are episodes of head-scratching weirdness, laugh out loud moments, and even some sequences that are oddly moving. I was particularly impressed by Itsuji Itao as the sad comedian Naniwa Hotto (whose entire schtick appears to consist of proclaiming things to be "hot") and Yumi Shimizu as the worst singer in the world."
And Now for Something Completely Different from Japan
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 03/09/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"At first sight Japanese comedy "Yaji and Kita - The Midnight Pilgrims" looks like a curious mixture of "Easy Rider"-like buddy movie and costume drama of the Edo Period, but the fact is the film is based on Japan's cult comic books by Shiriagari Kotobuki. This boldly-conceived film is full of crazy ideas reflecting its source materials, but the comic books is also inspired by Japanese classic novel "Tokai Dochuu Hiza Kurige" written by Juppensha Ikku from 1802.
The film centers on two main characters of the original best selling novel of Edo Period - two ordinary males Yaji (Tomoya Nagase) and Kita (Shichinosuke Nakamura). Kita is a drug-addict living in Edo (today's Tokyo), who is in love with married man Yaji. To these men arrives a DM advertising resorts in Ise, holy place 300 miles from Edo. Yes, of course, the film's basic premise is spoof.
Like the original comics and book, the entire film is very episodic. On the way to Ise the two guys meet people at several post stations and they are mostly very strange people. Sometimes the film intentionally disregards the chronology as Yaji and Kita have their original songs released, which becomes a local smash hit. At one place the film is so self-conscious that its story becomes sort of meta-fiction with Kita watching his own movie in theater! Call it silly, clever or whatever you like it, but the film has surely originality.
Writer and first-time director Kankurou Kudo, however, seems often carried away by his own wild imagination. As you expect, the film's humor heavily relies too much on the puns and Japanese pop culture references with numerous cameos of Japanese actors, but what is most regrettable is that Kudo didn't take enough time for character development. Both actors are good as hopped-up Kita and spirited Yaji, but the story of their love and friendship is not allowed to develop sufficiently in the wildly imaginative but too muddled second half.
Interestingly the film received mixed reviews in Japan from general viewers. Some praised director Kudo's rich ideas while others disliked his unrestrained use of it. Some find his imagination amazing while others thought it rather detracts from the characters' appeal. Kankurou Kudo has been already famous and praised for his works as screenwriter and the brilliance of his writing (if not totally) is undeniable even here, but perhaps the film would have been different with another director who is not afraid of cutting some of the scenes.
Not for everyone's taste like any comedy with motorcycle riders in kimono, the film is really something unique and unusual. Even I, a Japanese, found this one so.
(DVD jacket is a bit misleading: they travel to Ise on foot, just like any other ordinary men living in the 19th century Japan. The film is bold, but not that bold as to let them ride ALL through the film's story.)"