I'm slowly catching up with Hiroki's body of work. Not too long ago I watched Girlfriend, Someone Please Stop The World which turned out to be a perfect entry film to get acquainted with this director. New Type: Just For Your Love [New Type: Tada Ai no Tame Ni] is a different beast altogether though. A film that is probably best appreciated by hardened Hiroki fans who know what to expect. Only then can you appreciate the unique feel this film bears.
Hiroki stems from the world of pinku cinema, but once he transformed himself into a regular drama director he developed his own particular style of drama and kept at it. No wonder I was pretty surprised to learn Hiroki was very interested in doing other genres. For all those wondering what such a film would be like, New Type will give you all the answers you need. Beware though, it just might not be what you were expecting. With New Type Hiroki demonstrates what it means to be a true author.
New Type is essentially a superhero flick. It features people who are similar to those inhabiting the Marvel universe, only without the spandex costumes and the cheesy oneliners. Rather than turn it into an actual genre film, Hiroki changes nothing of his style and uses the new genre impulses to find new dramatic angles in his work. He sacrifices nothing of his slow-paced, realistic atmosphere and so it takes a while before you even realize this is not your average Hiroki drama but a film with superheros on the run.
The story starts with Yuki, a young girl wearing an eye patch and selling ferry tickets in a rather remote Japanese town. A stranger turns her life upside down when he invades her home and takes her hostage. They befriend each other though, slowly finding out about the special powers they harvest. The stranger has mind powers while Yuki can turn back time. But her powers come at a price as she has to sacrifice the sight in one eye every time she uses her powers.
While fantasy and superhero antics usually lend themselves to visual grandeur, Hiroki keeps his film as small as possible. There are no special effects here, no action scenes or big showdowns which involve any kind of visual trickery. There is just the camera, registering the lives of the film's protagonists, observing rather than leading. Which doesn't mean the film is visually bland. Hiroki knows how to smuggle in some beautiful shots from time to time, it's just not what you'd expect from a superhero film. It's the exact opposite in fact.
The score is similarly minimalistic. No overblown dramatic soundtrack to aggravate the seriousness of the situation, just subtle and light music underlining the dramatic atmosphere of the film. The acting is strong as always, Hiroki really knows how to work with his actors, pulling the best performances from them even if they are still quite unexperienced or new to the world of cinema. It's a big plus that helps to establish the drama in this film. Without it, the film just couldn't have worked.
The final half hour sees a small rise in action and story, but the dramatic events remain central to the film while the fantastical elements are just there to create a stage for the drama to unfold. It's mighty weird to see a film combine these two elements in this manner, but it works remarkably well. The dramatic events are just as strong as in Hiroki's other films, unless you can't take the superhero jump (which is not all that unlikely). It's a small gamble but one worth taking.
Hiroki made a pretty brave move here, incorporating new elements from other genres into his movies without changing anything of his trademark style. If you're not familiar with Hiroki's other films you might not understand what the hell is going on here, but seeing him move to different territories while keeping true to himself is something quite unique indeed. The film is as beautiful as his other work, just make sure you know what you're getting into when watching this. If you've never heard of Hiroki before, you're better off watching some of his earlier films first, otherwise this is a must see.