Wednesday, 22 December 2010

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Box! [Review]


Opinion: B+

Filled with soul that touches your heart in unique manners. A teenage boxing movie that does not revolve solely around the sport like most similar genre do, it instead infuses valuable elements of friendship within the vigorous sport and subjects it to numerous tests (punches) of strain. This is truly an inspirational film about friendship at its core and debates what renders one strength in life and is worth fighting for.


Timid honor student Yuki (Kengo Kora) joins Ebisu High School's boxing club, aspiring to the raw power of his childhood friend Kabu (Hayato Ichihara), who's a bad boy boxing prodigy. Despite Kabu's laziness, he racks up a string of winning bouts through his natural talent for the sport. He may not listen to what anyone says, but he's willing to give it his all for the people close to him, including his coach. Bullied as a child, Yuki applies his no-nonsense character to training day in and day out through a sheer desire to become stronger, also gaining support from best friend Kabu.

Watching over the two boys as they develop are school English teacher Yoko (Yu Kashii), who reluctantly becomes the boxing club's new advisor; Maruno (Mitsuki Tanimura), who has a crush on Kabu and thrusts her way into the role of his manager; and boxing club coach Sawaki (Toshio Kakei), who harbors a secret past. Under Sawaki's guidance, Yuki gradually builds strength, moving one step closer to undefeated high school rookie Kabu.  In finding true friendship through glory and defeat, the pair are brought to a new challenge. Kabu and Yuki will face high school senior Inamura, the unbeaten "monster" of the school's boxing ring.


Toshio Lee last directed the whacky "Detroit Metal City" (starring the eclectic Matsuyama Kenichi) and is seen to be adopting a slightly different style here in Box!

One is a natural talent while the other is inspired by this very talent of his friend. Both ended up in the ring for varying reasons, so essentially they are practicing the exact same sport but fueled differently. By this time, you should probably be prepared to be disappointed if you are an avid boxing fan, because it's not a devoted film to the sport but rather the friendship between Kabu and Yuki.

Nevertheless, each character's disciplined devotion to the daily routine of boxing practice sessions makes the sport one of the enjoyable fascinations as we get to see Kabu thrusts his crosses and hooks in rapid succession, bringing life to the silver screen in reminiscence of youthful vigour.

Kabu wants his best childhood friend to pick up boxing simply because he's good at it while partly using the excuse of making him stronger to further convince him. With such, Kabu's egoistic mentality is as follows: He's number one while Yuki will always be number two. Yuki, being a smart academic student, is inspired in awe by his friend's talents in boxing and practices hard in hope of achieving greatness someday as well.

Let's just say that talent is only but half the route to success, the rest has to rely upon faithful diligence of dedication in order to maintain the route to get you to the destination. Kabu's got the natural gift in boxing but has also got a half-hearted attitude towards it. He assumes that his talents will get him over everyone and everywhere.

Yuki, with lots of perseverance, turns into his reality check.

I like how Toshio Lee has infused the issue of friendship into almost every aspect of boxing, especially the most critical scene of the show where Kabu and Yuki are pitted against each other in a tournament. It withholds a lot of meanings to a single match as it represents more than just sport competency, but also a test of their friendship against several odds.

Yuki has to weigh the importance of his friendship with Kabu against achieving greater boxing heights with victory, while Kabu not only has to face the brutal truth that Yuki has grown much stronger but also has to nurse his damaged ego from a potential defeat.

Besides putting their friendship to various tests, it also shows how they mature with a strengthened bond between them. The film may be deemed a little draggy during the mid riff, but it is neccessary in my opinion as a mean to illustrate the life ordeals of ups and downs constantly hindering them. In a way, this can also be a coming-of-age film of sorts that brings forth to the audience positively beneficial messages of virtue and value.

Featuring some interesting camera works and editing (split screens for emphasis), the best camera work has to be the long take during round 2 of the final showdown between one of the protagonists and the antagonist Inamura. Fluently flowing in accordance to the sparring development, the single take without any cuts brings a lot of exciting tension as it is delivered raw to us. It's as good as watching a live spectacle sport as the action unfolds itself gradually before our eyes, providing great entertainment.

Together with some impressive acting by Ichihara, this makes a worthy film of inspiration that might have gone under the radar of most.


2 comments:

  1. At first I think this is a review for Ashita No Joe :) Never heard about this one but it sounds good enough based on your review, gonna give it a try then.

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  2. Ahh, I've not heard of "Ashita no Joe". Is it good? Yes you might like to give this a try, while it doesn't feature spectacular footage of boxing, it has this great value of friendship at its core. =)

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