JK☆Rock – Film Review

Young, fun, and ready to rock – Muguruma Shunji’s coming of age rock’n’rollercoaster JK☆Rock follows three high school girls, Sakura, Mao and Rina, and their college-age mentor Jyo as they take their ordinary lives and turn it up to 11. From a fun and vibrant script penned by Tanimoto Kaori, JK☆Rock is the foreign companion to School of Rock that you never knew you needed.

Once a budding rockstar with his band JoKers, Kaieda Jyo (Fukuyama Shōdai) is now a law student with a quick temper and a Lamborghini. Attractive and soft spoken, Fukuyama effortlessly embodies the popular tsundere archetype of the Japanese teen drama – a character with a cold and harsh exterior who hides a warm and kind heart, which often puts him at odds with those around him.

Desperate to help Jyo get his love for life and music back, former bandmates Syoji and Jinbo team up with their friend and café owner Teru to convince Jyo to mentor their newly formed joshi kōsei (high school girl) rock band Drop Doll.

Hardly more than acquaintances, Teru’s band consists of classmates Sakura (Hayama Chihiro) on drums, Mao (Yuina) on guitar, and Rina (Miyake Yukino) on bass. Loud and eager, Drop Doll possess raw talent and zero discipline, often resulting in arguments between hot-headed Sakura and no-nonsense Jyo, showcasing the fiery dynamic between teacher and student that energises much of the film. From their first meeting until their final scene, the pair are often sharing moments of intense frustration and mutual appreciation in a verbal back-and-forth that is aggressive yet full of tenderness. Full of resentment for the future that escaped him, Jyo clearly sees his teenage self in Sakura and it’s because of this that he must work to reconcile his past self with the man he is now; hard to do for most of us, and even more so for someone who was once on the edge of greatness.

Strict and unrelenting towards his students, Jyo acts as more of a drill sergeant than a teacher and often pushes the band to their mental and physical limits in order to turn them into stars. Bandmates in real life, the girls of Drop Doll have a natural chemistry that allows them to shine not just as vibrant characters but as musicians. Where many actors often fake their way through the same four notes or chords, Drop Doll can actually play their instruments. While mildly unbelievable that all three girls happen to possess innate musical talents in the context of the film’s plot, their legitimate skills allow viewers to bypass any drawn-out training scenes, resulting in a more immersive and impressive viewer experience.

As time goes on and their skills progress, the girls find themselves becoming genuine friends; a predictable plot progression but pleasing nonetheless. Together, through music, the Drop Doll girls are able to navigate the emotional perils of teenagehood and gain a better understanding of themselves and their future. Between Sakura’s rash nature, Mao’s happy-go-lucky energy, and Rina’s quiet but caring personality, the girls are well balanced to bring out each other’s best qualities while curbing each other’s worst sides. As they eat, study, and practice together, the bond that develops between these girls is the most integral part of Muguruma’s work – at the core of JK☆Rock. Underneath the head bopping music and ahead of Jyo’s emotional redemption arc, is this beautiful and heartwarming friendship between three young women and without it, the film just wouldn’t be as interesting.

Larger than life in a way that could only be at home in Asian cinema, JK☆Rock is a fun, easy-to-digest cinematic adventure into the world of Japanese rock music that aims to hold out a supportive hand to the young women of the world and inspire them to chase after their dreams. ESPECIALLY if that dream is to form a super cool rock band.

JK☆Rock is part of the 2019 Japanese Film Festival.
For more information visit: https://japanesefilmfestival.net

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