Issue #221           HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES                 July 19th, 2004

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Blue Spring
(2001; Shogakukan/Blue Spring Production Partnership)

Japanese: Aoi haru


RATING: 4/10


A group of disillusioned Japanese high school students all but rule the dilapidated, graffiti strewn building and pay their teachers little heed. The boys’ acknowledged leader is Kujo (GOHATTO’s Ryuhei Matsuda), who made claim to the position by performing eight "claps" (participants hang from a rail on the school roof and see how many times they can clap their hands without falling to a near certain death). Kujo is ambivalent about his new position, however, and respect for his authority gradually lapses. He also alienates weak-willed subordinate Aoki (Hirofumi Arai), who undergoes a radical transformation into a brutal thug and schemes to usurp Kujo’s command. While he is every bit as vicious, Aoki has no understanding of leadership or of the increasingly philosophical Kujo.

Ryuhei Matsuda Hirofumi Arai Ryuhei Matsuda

Loosely adapted from a manga by Taiyo Matsumoto, BLUE SPRING aims for profundity and never lets one forget that for a second. Director Toshiaki Toyoda (PORNO STAR) has crafted a bleak allegory about disaffected youth whose future has seemingly been pre-determined by Japan’s economic downturn. Unfortunately, apart from the fact that most of these kids are obviously never going to amount to anything, there is no particular reason to care about them or their fate. Posturing is substituted for character development and heavy-handed symbolism is offered in place of a compelling storyline. While it is admirable for a film to attempt something akin to the cultural commentary of BATTLE ROYALE on a much more intimate scale, BLUE SPRING just ends up being obvious and downright wearisome, and an abundance of pointlessly outlandish moments do little to distract one from the emptiness at its core. Sousuke Takaoka, Yusuke Oshiba, Yuta Yamazaki, Mame Yamada (who contributes the most interesting performance as a teacher whose diminutive size leads the students to treat him with more respect than his fellow adults), and Kyoko Koizumi co-star, and there is some impressive heavy metal accompaniment courtesy of the popular band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant.

Ryuhei Matsuda (left), Hirofumi Arai Hirofumi Arai Mame Yamada


The anamorphic transfer is a tad dark and some instances of instability are present. The audio is forceful when appropriate but is only very dimensional when the hard rock kicks in; the subtitles are well-phrased but appear outside the TV safe area on a couple of occasions. Tom Mes contributes another audio commentary, covering topics like the workings of the Japanese school system and the local history of "disaffected youth" pictures, plus some background on the lead players. He occasionally describes what is unfolding onscreen but it is an admirable talk overall with a lot of practical information. Also included are two short subtitled interviews with Toyoda (which have not been flagged as anamorphic and play back squeezed), and biographies/filmographies.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • U.S. Release
  • NTSC Region 1 Only
  • Artsmagic #ATU 004
  • Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Sync Sound Japanese Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (1.90:1)
  • 82 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Quebec: 13+
  • Contains moderate violence, coarse language, nudity, and crude content


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful