Almost a year after I first started searching online for the movie “Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac”, a film produced and made by Japanese-American collaboration and starring one of the best young actors in Japan today, Kenichi Matsuyama and the lovely Horikita Maki — I finally found an uploaded version via YouTube.
You don’t know the sh*t I had to go through searching for this movie. It’s like–the more I yearn to see it, the more it becomes hard for me to see a full, English-subtitled version. It’s crazy!
Here’s a short summary of the story: Due to a series of unfortunate events, Naomi falls off the stairs of her school, Tokyo American School, effectively wiping out four years of her memory. She forgot that she is dating the school jock, Ace Zuckerman and even finds little meaning in her previous preoccupation as co-editor of the school yearbook along with her bestfriend Hasegawa Mirai. She then falls in love with the school loner, Yuji Miwa who hides a dark past. With her amnesia comes change on who she is: she quits the yearbook, broke up with Ace, started dating Yuji, quit the tennis team and even started acting in a play. She started questioning why she even liked yearbook and photography in the first place. By losing her memory, she had to start building herself (her likes and dislikes) in just a few short weeks after the accident. When she started gaining her memory back, it is only then that she became to appreciate herself as a person. As the story came to a close and as her father informs her of an impending engagement to another person, he tells Naomi:“‘You forget all of it anyway… You forget your junior year class schedule and where you used to sit and your best friend’s home phone number and the lyrics to that song you must have played a million times…. You forget who was cool and who was not, who was pretty, smart, athletic, and not…. You forget all of them. Even the ones you said you loved, and even the ones you actually did. They’re the last to go. And then once you’ve forgotten enough, you love someone else.'”
Horikita Maki as always is the gem of Japanese cinema. She can be so naive yet so casually cold at the same time. Being a Japanese-American collab, Maki (along with her other Japanese co-stars) were required to speak in English (almost 1/3 of the movie is in english). She delivers well and without the usual accent present with non-native speakers. Maki succeeds in playing the quintessential Japanese young female on the verge of growing up. Though sometimes, it’s hard to differentiate her acting from other teen dramas and show where she is required to be charming and precocious.
And Kenichi Matsuyama? As mentioned before, he has the “angry-young-man/weird-character-with-a-heart-of-gold/loner-who-you-want-to-kiss” roles down pat. The great thing about Kenichi is that he is so good he could be the resident schizophrenic of Japanese young cinema. He has a way of building characters and making them separate from one another, even if there’s only ONE ACTOR behind all the masks. Imagine, who would think that L, Shin, Johannes Krauser II, Yuji Miwa and Toru Watanabe were all the same person. He is so good. In this movie, be prepared to fall in love with him–especially if you’re the type who likes her men angry, emotionally tortured and mysterious like hell. Though there are times when he reminded me of Wes Bentley in American Beauty.
Tegoshi Yuya as Mirai as lovable as always, but I have a feeling that Tegoshi is very capable of giving something more than the requisite tortured friend-in-love-with-his-best friend. I suspect given a more challenging role, he can definitely bring it on and maybe (who knows) slum it up with Mr. Best Actor himself, Kenichi Matsuyama.
If Anton Yelchin’s role description as Ace Zuckermann is to make his annoying to viewers, then congratulations Gabrielle Zevin and Hans Canosa, you succeeded in making his annoying. He is a self-centered, arrogant prick!
Seeing this movie made me look back on what I remember during high school. In high school, I was far from the drama queen that I am today–lemme put it this way, I was more of a Yuji Miwa back then. I cut my hair really short, dressed like a boy yet behaved like a tortured writer even at fifteen. Looking back, I was such a drama queen as early as 1994, yet being boyish–I mistook it for the equivalent of emo crap that pervades the youth of today. I never had to develop an amnesia in secondary school, but looking back on the shitty things I did back then–I think I could use one right now. More preferably an amnesia that would remove all four years of high school: the prefect visits, the drama, the annoying hair cut as well as my (funny) belief that I look good in an XL shirt tucked in a jumper.
The movie (yes, let’s go back to that) also sports a killer OST that begs to be played during long drives and during times when you feel like your heart been’s skewered.