I tend to enjoy movies featuring characters who are writers. “Always” (“San Chome no Yu Hi” in Japanese), which Yoshi and I watched last night, featured two scribes. The first one, Chagawa, lives behind a candy store in a 1958 Tokyo neighborhood. He is, as he drunkenly reminds his neighbors at the corner bar, a one-time finalist for the prestigious Akutagawa Prize. He’s also a graduate of Tokyo University, but his neighbors, including the guy who owns the auto repair shop across the way, call him a “literary has been” and tease him about the rejections of his stories that come in the mail.
Chagawa actually does make a living at writing boy’s adventure stories. In his own eyes, he’s a hack, but then one night, while drunk at the corner bar, he becomes guardian of an abandoned child. As it turns out, this boy, Junnosuke, is an avid reader of Boy’s Adventure Stories, and a big fan of Chagawa himself. Suddenly, the writer finds himself idolized.
The second writer in the film is ten-year-old Junnosuke, who is taunted by the neighborhood kids at first, but then wins their admiration and friendship through the adventure stories that he writes.
The stories of these two are woven with those of others in the neighborhood. It’s a feel-good flick, offering a slice of life in post-WWII Japan, when the country was just starting to pull itself up by its bootstraps, and the Tokyo Tower, then under contruction, was a symbol of hope. This film was very popular in Japan. It made me laugh, it made me cry. Trust me: you’ll like it.