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Yamato (California)

Yamato (Kariforunia)
2016 / 119m - Japan
Yamato (California) poster

Alternative Japanese youth culture. Japan has a pretty decent hip-hop scene, but it rarely features in its cinema. That makes a film like Yamato all the more interesting. It's a very solid drama in a slightly different setting and sporting a handful of interesting protagonists. It made me curious about Miyazaki's other films.

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Sakura is a young girl growing up in Yamato, next to an American air base. She's really into hip-hop and she writes her own lyrics, but she has stage fright and doesn't dare to perform. Then the daughter of her mother's boyfriend comes to live with them. At first, the two don't really get along, but after a while, it turns out they have quite a bit in common.

The music is really cool and well-used (a mix of hip-hop and trip-hop), the characters are fun, the performances are solid and even though the start of the film is a bit slow, Miyazaki makes up for that in the second half. It lacks that little bit of extra polish, but I was pleasantly surprised by this film.