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July 15, 2010

The Aimed School

aim school 1.jpg

Nerawareta gakuen
Nobuhiko Obayashi - 1981
IVL Region 3 DVD

After seeing Nobuhiko Obayashi's Hausu theatrically last April, I was sufficiently intrigued about his other films. Obayashi has been making feature films had a fairly regular pace since his debut. A handful of his other films are available for the more adventurous viewer on imported DVDs. This 1981 film, with a title translated as "School in the Crosshairs", has some of the visual and thematic elements of Hausu, but on a more limited scale.

Short, round faced, high school girl, Yuka, discovers by accident that she has psychic powers. She's not entirely certain what to do with her abilities other than help her boyfriend, Koji, win in his kendo match. Koji is under pressure from his parents to pay more attention to his school work than kendo. Yuka's biggest problem otherwise seems to be academic competition from the sniveling Arikawa. Yuka encounters a mysterious stranger who declares himself to be from outer space, expressing desire to assist Yuka in expanding her psychic powers. There is also the new girl in school, Michiru, who inflames the desire of her male classmates, and appears to have a mysterious agenda. In the name of discipline, Michiru drafts several students into patrol units, the similarity to Nazi storm troopers all too obvious with their synchronized marching and salutes.

aim school 2.jpg

The film was based on a novel by Taku Mayumura. I have to assume that the film was made primarily for the same young audience that would have read the novel, as the fantasy can be described as more child friendly. The special effects are no more sophisticated than they were in Hausu, with low tech animation, superimpositions, and some playing with color part of the visual scheme. The overall results lend a goofy charm to a film in which the fate of the world rests on a young woman clad in a white nightie.

The Aimed School has been described as being an early of the Japanese genre called seishun eiga, movies about high school students, a genre that has had both realistic and more fantastic explorations. Did the filmmaker's daughter, Chigumi Obayashi, have any influence on the choice of this film? Considering that as a grade school girl, she provided the basic story for Hausu, I have to wonder if there is more to Nobuhiko Obayashi's interest in making several films with young girls as the main characters. It may be worth mentioning that Chigumi Obayashi is credited as the editor on a film that her father made ten years later, about an adolescent girl befriending a ghost. What is evident is that Nobuhiko Obayashi has made thirty-nine films since Hausu, yet almost everything available in English is centered on his debut film. Even if that first feature is to Obayashi's career what Citizen Kane is to Orson Welles, that is, the high water mark in the filmmaker's career, any serious discussion should not begin and end with just one film.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 15, 2010 12:43 AM