Japanese boxing film is rather unusual genre for its own film making in the past history and when <100 Yen Love> hits the box office that made a success as well as its reputation being nominated as one of the best foreign films in the 2016 Oscar, it is time and worth paying little more attention. Film director Masaharu Take takes an unusual approach in this sports drama genre but unlike the many other boxing films that are testosterone-driven dramas including Scorsese's "Raging Bull" that take centres on a woman and begins it as a black comedy. As the lead character is a female that has never boxed before, but throws herself into this challenging environment with tenacity.
The main plot centers around the 32-year-old Ichiko (Sakura Ando) who lives at home with her parents, passing the days in self-indulgent grunginess. Ichiko's recently divorced younger sister Fumiko has moved back home with her young son. One day, after a particularly heated argument, Ichiko charges out of the house for good. With few employment options to support herself, Ichiko works the night shift at a 100 yen shop (dollar store). On her way home each day she passes a boxing gym where she watches Yuji Kano (Hirofumi Arai) silently practice, developing a crush on him. The pair starts seeing each other and things change for Ichiko, but for a change this film isn’t about winning the bout, but rather longtime loser Ichiko's rematch with life!
This film swept Japanese box office and won the Best Picture Awards in the Japanese Cinema Splash section at the 2014 Tokyo International Film festival and it is a real slow burner (classic Japanese tempo) as we watch the transformation of Ichiko into a dedicated and focused boxer in training. Plus, she found a firm footing in her pat to a new life of personal change. The whole trajectory of her transformation into a solid semi-amateur boxer is very real in depiction, although the story is a bot on the slow side for the first half of the film, but eventually picks up the pace as when Ichiko moves into a new phase of life. This Japanese indie film well suited to international appeal and exposure is the stunning character arc at the film's center and can only hope Western Film Fests and audiences will give this ferociously well-acted winner a shot.