Film Review: 100 Yen Love (Masaharu Take, 2014)

百円の恋 (武 正晴)

by Jason Suzuki

Judging from how itchy our protagonist’s backside is, she is an ultimate slacker. In her early thirties, Ichiko (the always amazing Sakura Ando (o.5mm review in Vol. 3)) lives with her parents, has no job, doesn’t help the family business, and in the opening scene beats her nephew mercilessly at video games. “Adults are supposed to go easy,” he says after her winning streak has passed 100. “Life isn’t fair” she replies. This is the viewpoint of Ichiko and of the film itself until it becomes a boxing movie, and we watch Ichiko undergo not only a physical but a mental change brought to life vividly by Ando’s performance. Really, it’s unneeded to write about Ando’s acting abilities as she has proven to steal scenes as a minor character and to shine when given leading roles.

After a fight with her sister Ichiko sets off on her own. Getting an apartment and the requisite job to keep that apartment, at a dollar convenience store, hence the 100 yen part of the title. At her job is an uptight, overworked manager, a lecherous coworker, and an ex-employee who comes in to steal food. One of their regular customers is the “banana man,” a small time moody boxer who only buys said fruit. She takes a liking to him, passing by the gym he works at night on her way back from work. This sets up the romance of the film but soon that passes, yet another of those unfair aspects to life mentioned earlier, but really the romance is what the script needs to introduce Ichiko to boxing.

Ichiko’s reasons for getting into boxing aren’t so clear. One scene at the mid-point of the film is what most filmmakers would use as her motivation for bettering herself, but Take doesn’t go the easy route. This mid-point scene I have found to be controversial when reading other reviews of the film; it’s when the film gets temporarily too dark, made all the more harsh from the tone of the rest of the film. When you see it, you’ll know which scene I’m talking about because you’ll become incredibly upset during it. So Take doesn’t try to pinpoint a specific incident that gets Ichiko into that gym and he also doesn’t fully go into the other easy route that it’s the culmination of life that Ichiko needs to release, boxing being the serendipitous method. Sure, there’s a little bit of that here but Ando doesn’t play the role like that. What Ichiko sees in boxing, how the relationship between you and your opponent changes from the start, the fight itself, and then after the fight, is what she seems to want from life. It’s these extrapolations that give the character a much more unique relationship to the sport than other films of a similar nature do. And for the boxing film fan, yes, there is a great training montage. Ando was apparently a boxer when she was younger and her experience shows. For these reasons 100 Yen Loveis one of the best boxing movies, made all the better that the boxer is Sakura Ando. If you’ve had her on your radar definitely see the film, and if you haven’t heard of her yet then watch this movie and see why she is one of the most exciting actresses working today.

Jason Suzuki is co-editor to Cinema Adrift.