Ichiko: A Japanese More-or-less Moorless Rashoman That Doesn’t Quite Hold

Ichiko is a 2023 Japanese thriller drama film directed by Akihiro Toda. The film stars Hana Sugisaki, Ruka Ishikawa, Ryuya Wakaba and more. Read our in house review to know more about Ichiko.
?Ichiko: A Japanese More-or-less Moorless Rashoman That Doesn’t Quite Hold

Ichiko is a 2023 Japanese thriller drama film directed by Akihiro Toda. The film stars Hana Sugisaki, Ruka Ishikawa, Ryuya Wakaba and more. Read our in house review to know more about Ichiko.

Japanese auteur Akihiro Toda’s Ichiko is a bit of a puzzle, and not necessarily in an inviting way. It tries to create a heroine who is an enigma, even to herself, not in the way, say, Madame Bovary or Lolita were, but in a messy teen-angst way that doesn’t quite add up to the sense of mysterious muliebrity that the film aims for.
Rather, the after-shocks of the revelations regarding the protagonist are so pedestrian it feels like we have been cheated more by the film than the heroine Ichiko has been by life.
The fey film pans out like a Kurosawa’s Rashomon on speed. It is in a hurry to tell the heroine’s story and it is also equally adamant to create a fog of mystery around her wretched life.
Sorry, it can’t work both ways. If Ichiko is a film in a hurry then intrigue, mystery, curiosity are not speed-friendly emotions. It is like looking at an opera from the window of a speeding vehicle. Hardly anything registers as a cop named Goto (Shohei Uno) attempts to do a Citizen Kane on Ichiko’s life.
This brings me to the other major problem: Hana Sugisaki’s wide-ranging performance , from squeal to scream, feels like a string of screen-grabs from disconnected news videos on a woman who is missing, and anybody with information on her can pitch in; the reward is a more-or-less moor less movie, more impatient to bring the protagonist’s life to a closure than we are.
There are seeds of a truly memorable thriller in the baggy folds of this raging-bull of a movie. But to get there we need direction. Every character seems a blur glimpsed from a moving train. There are no pauses for reflection on why Ichiko(that is what she likes to call herself, we’ve no way of knowing if she is telling the truth) has turned out the way she has.
The people who knew her, mainly boyfriends and other admirers, barely seem to have touched Ichiko’s life, not because she is oh-so-mysterious, but more on account of the fidgety narrative.
Which is more restless: the character of the heroine, or the storytelling? Hard to say. What we do know for sure is that Ichiko’s father, surprise surprise, was abusive and her mother, ahem ahem, was promiscuous. There are behind-the-curtain shots of her parents arguing as Ichiko looks on helplessly.
We also know that Ichiko loves cakes, and that she dreams of a opening a bakery someday but eventually ends up as a sales girl in a cake shop , albeit briefly.
Every stint, every relationship in Ichiko’s life is brief, and filled grief. There no happy moments in Ichiko’s life except perhaps when she is with a girl friend at some point in her life(the screen breaks the narrative into furtive datelines which add up to more chaos than clarity).The class difference between Ichiko and her friend is pushed through shots of showing privilege and deprivation like ticks in a box on how to humiliate the heroine without seeming to do so.
Ichiko was most likely made as a mysterious mind-bending drama of the doomed and the damned. It misses the tram by a grand slam.
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