According to the Furusato Japan’s website, the WAO Corporation, which has funded the production film, describes itself as providing general education services across Japan. This film, then, represents one of their areas of interest – making films with strong messages for audiences, particularly youth, across the country. Furusato Japan is a film which tries to communicate the importance of maintaining traditions and culture, in this case, traditional children’s songs, by using a story of a school in post-war Japan. The town around them is still attempting to recover from the effects of Japan’s defeat, while at the same time looking forward as Japan once again rebuilds and re-emerges onto the world stage. It is in this setting that we are introduced to a group of children, a transfer student, and a teacher, who for a variety of reasons develop a passion for these traditional songs and work together to prepare a piece for a competition at the end of the year.
Although this isn’t really a film that relies on character development in itself, the film does take its main character, Akira, to some interesting corners, ranging from peer pressure to a tragedy at the loss of a classmate. Sometimes the film is respectably low-key, while at others it approaches a tone of melodrama. Overall, however, there is a humbleness to the film – it does not present itself as being a story of grand scope. It seems conscious of itself as a vehicle in which the primary purpose is to communicate, sometimes through the words of the characters themselves, the admirable beauty behind these traditional songs and the responsibility of future generations to hold onto cultural ties with their ancestors.
The motive is respectable, though Furusato Japan does occasionally start to feel more like an appreciation piece rather than a film at all, a feeling that is reinforced by the somewhat low quality of its artwork and sound. It makes a lot of awkward steps, including casting professionals as the singing voices for what are supposed to be inexperienced children. This is a trade off, as the gain in pleasantness of voice is balanced out by the loss of authenticity (which usually provokes greater emotional response). Yet when you accept that it prefers to be an appreciation piece, such decisions begin to make sense – the directors wanted to present these songs in their best light, at the sacrifice of the believability within the plot. These traditional songs certainly are a pleasure to listen to, and combined with a tame but generally agreeable story which is driven by an undercurrent of tension, is enough to earn a tepid recommendation, as long as your expectations are kept steady.
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