Growing up is hard. You may feel like you don’t have any talents to speak of and come off the rails, or find your calling and drift away from your friends as you pursue it. Or, most likely, you’ll experience a heady mix of all four.
Takeshi Kitano’s Kids Return (1996) is a story about childhood friends, Masaru and Shinji, who end up pursuing their separate paths in life. The two delinquents spend their days skipping school, pranking teachers, shaking down other boys for petty cash and, at one point, setting fire to cars. After getting badly beaten up in a fight, Masaru drags them to a boxing studio to hone their street skills but Shinji’s natural skills soon outshine his friend’s. As Shinji rises through the ranks, Masaru becomes more involved in the local yakuza gang.
There’s plenty of humour in Kids Return, especially earlier on when Masaru and Shinji are still getting in trouble at school and bullying their other classmates, but it is tinged with sadness and strife. Despite their closeness, the two friends start drifting down separate paths and you get the sense they were happiest at the beginning of the film when they were still together. Their struggles are contrasted with their schoolmates – two friends who are trying to carve out careers as stand-up comedians and a shy, unremarkable boy who returns to the same cafe where his crush works every day.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Kids Return, I think male viewers would be able to identify with it even more. The testosterone-fuelled boxing scenes are very well coordinated and should please any Rocky fan. The vast majority of characters are male and they’re unpolished, imperfect and thoroughly believable. There’s also a suitable amount of yakuza gang violence, which of course us female fans can enjoy as well!
With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, Kids Return would be a very good purchase for film fans, whether their speciality is Japan, boyhood or boxing. The DVD is available to buy on Blu-Ray from Third Window Films now!