Ikinai (Suicide Tour Bus)
((summary taken from AsianMediaWiki))
The sign says "The Sunshine Club Okinawa New Years Tour." Yet everybody sitting on the bus seems strangely somber. Everybody is accounted for and the bus is about to leave when a young woman joins the group. Her uncle has been committed to an asylum and she will use his ticket. Reluctantly the tour manager lets her join the tour. Eventually we find out that the passengers and tour manager all have a suicide pact to send the bus over a cliff so the families can collect on insurance.
When I first sat down to watch this, I thought the subject of suicide was going to be treated lightly--that the humor and the situations would be more slap-stick than anything else (having seen it described as a comedy). Instead, I found this to be a very serious, thought provoking, dark-comedy on the subject of suicide; a far-cry from what I'd originally expected.
But surprisingly enough, it's an easy adjustment to make. The somber tone of the movie is quickly established within the first few minutes: right from the start, it's clear where this movie is headed and how it plans to deal with such an important subject.
To be honest, though, I really felt this was more of a drama than a comedy. Despite the humorous moments scattered throughout the film, the humor overall is very morose. Even when the passengers are smiling and joking, you can feel the underlying sadness lying just beneath the surface; the helplessness they feel, the regret, and the fear. Yet eventually you can see them slowly leaving those feelings behind as hope slowly begins to reawaken in each of them.
Well... in almost all of them.
These characters are just so real, it's easy to understand where they're coming from--even if you don't necessarily agree with their choices. And the actors were just terrific at bringing them to life. I especially loved Mitsuki's character. She was a great contrast to the rest of the cast, and did a great job in showing them that death isn't always the answer... that it's never too late to start living.
I don't want to give the wrong impression though. Like I said, this really is a drama, just as much as it is a dark comedy.
Overall, it was a very touching story. There were a few parts where it dragged, but that's to be expected in this kind of movie... and the ending was a little predictable, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I really felt it fit the rest of the film and I can't imagine it ending any other way.
I also loved the kick-the-can metaphor and the way it progressed throughout the movie: in the end it was very bitter-sweet. In a way, it reminded me of a popular Twilight Zone episode, where all of these elderly people are made young again when they play kick the can--yet, there's still one who stubbornly refuses to play, and is forced to remain old. There are definite parallels between this and that, so I can't help but wonder if the Japanese knew anything about that particular show, or if it was mere coincidence or wishful thinking on my part.
But despite so many positive points... it still felt like something was missing. On the other hand, it's still a good film, and I think it's worth watching at least once. So don't be afraid to give if it a try you if you have a couple hours to spare. ^_^