Ima, Boku wa is a debut film by Yasutomo Chikuma, who also stars in the title role. It revolves around a short period of time in the life of 20-year-old Satoru, a “NEET”. NEET is a term originally used in the UK that refers to young men who are Not engaged in Education, Employment or Training. Fans of anime might be more familiar with the term “hikkikomori”. To put it bluntly, these are people who are not really engaged in anything productive and leech off their parents who provide them with the money and food to survive.
Satoru lives with his mother in a small apartment, but his life takes place mostly in his room, where he reads manga, plays video games, sleeps, and nothing else. Occasionally he will go out to the corner store to buy a magazine. In one early encounter, a former classmate recognizes him and strikes up a conversation, but after being a NEET for so long, Satoru has almost forgotten how to talk with anyone other than his mother. His life takes a sudden change when his mother finally decides enough is enough and asks a friend of hers to help her son. So, one day, a man knocks on the door and tells Satoru that his mother asked him to bring Satoru to his wine factory – to work. Of course, Satoru would prefer to slam the door and return to his reclusive life, but his lack of social ability prevents him from being able to deny the man’s request. So he awkwardly follows him, awkwardly tries to introduce himself at his new workplace, and awkwardly tries to complete his job. Eventually, he runs away, unable to adapt to being an environment that isn’t total isolation.
The key word, if you hadn’t noticed, is “awkward”. It is sad in itself to simply watch Satoru navigate everyday life while being inept at the fundamentals of living. He lives in a meaningless void – his existence literally has no meaning. He channels his frustration with his own life at his mother, yelling at her for bothering him and even physically harming her. When he does this, you feel like reaching into the screen and punching him. After all, how can a grown man harm his mother this way for trying to help him? But the next day, he gives his clumsy non-verbal apology – attempting to eat in the hall with his mother for once instead of stuffing himself in his room again. And then, even though you still find his actions repulsive, you sympathize with him.
I don’t want to spoil the film, so I won’t discuss what happens further on, but don’t expect any great plot twists or details. The final climax (and ending of the film) is almost astoundingly simple, but it resonates. Throughout the film you aren’t sure of whether to sympathize or be repulsed by Satoru. The NEET trend is a fairly significant problem in Japan, but the next bit of information to learn is the causes of Satoru’s behaviour. With Japan being a notoriously conformist society, which stretches into schools and bullying, it probably begins with another well known problem – students skipping school to escape bullying. These kids are most likely the same ones who grow up to become the Satorus of the world.
This is a film I recommend greatly. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece or life-changing, but it is a very well made, poignant film. Watch this director, because if this film is any indication, there is a lot of talent waiting to come out.
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