‘Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?’ is a bittersweet coming of age film about a pool race by two boys competing for the affections of Nazuna Oikawa.
You get to see both results: The dispiriting real winner and a ‘what if’ for the boy who hurts himself during the race and loses. Parental divorce secretly stealing Nazuna away from her hometown either way…
This ‘Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?’ advance U.S. premiere review contains spoilers. The film will be screened at Japan Society NYC on December 10, 2022 at 5:00 pm.
Growing up, we don’t realize every action, every misstep counts. Opportunities disappear just as fast as they appeared, a bout of bad luck or hesitation to seize the moment means losing out for good. No second chances. Like Depeche Mode once sang, “Everything counts in large amounts”.
So when your crush turns the tables and says “I like you” after overhearing you struggling with plans to say it to her, you don’t think of others. Love is selfish. But that’s exactly what Yusuke Azumi does, denying himself of happiness so he doesn’t let down his male friends. Hurting himself, Nazuna, and best friend Norimichi in the process.
Early on, we learn teen Nazuna Oikawa (played by Megumi Okina) will soon have to leave her school due to her parents divorcing. Nazuna delivers a hand written letter by her mother to a homeroom teacher, which the school decides to hide from the rest of the students. No classmate is the wiser, despite Nazuna acting noticeably depressed. Even lying on the floor poolside in her own world, asking classmate Norimichi to lift an ant off her.
Yusuke Azumi and Norimichi Shimada decide to race in the school pool, with Yusuke promising to finally tell Nazuna how he feels. The boys race but Norimichi badly hurts his foot on the turn, Nazuna greets winner Yusuke by telling him she likes him. Asking Yusuke to go see the fireworks with her that night.
But Yusuke slips up on the very same day, instead of meeting a waiting Nazuna, he does everything in his power to avoid her. Telling an injured Norimichi to go to his father’s clinic and tell Nazuna he’s not coming. Nazuna storms off, telling Normichi perhaps her family is bound to be defined by betrayal. That she was always going to ask out the winner of the race.
Norimichi tells Nazuna he wouldn’t have betrayed her if he had been the winner but Nazuna’s mother suddenly appears… Grabbing Nazuna and Nazuna’s suitcase out of Norimichi’s hands, shooting him a death glare.
Yusuke and the boys witness the moment and ask Normichi what happened, only for Normichi to stay silent… And punch Yusuke in the face. Wishing he had been the winner.
We get to see the very scenario. Normichi doesn’t get hurt and Nazuna asks him to accompany her as the winner of the race.
Yusuke sees Nazuna, dressed in a yukuta, grab Normichi’s hand and run off and is angry the rest of the way. Later yelling to the sky in front of the other boys that he loves Nazuna. But it’s too late, he had his chance and squandered it.
A dark turn avoided
At first, it appears Nazuna is dragging Normichi to become a runaway with her, as they get on a bus and she wants to elope. Nazuna promises to support both of them by lying that she is sixteen years old (when she’s actually fourteen) and work in the nightlife industry.
It briefly appears she is headed to being exploited in the nightlife scene as a result of her parents’ divorce.
But she has a change of heart, and instead of a train ride to Tokyo or Osaka, she and Normichi go on the bus home.
“We’re like thieves.” “What are we stealing, the water?”
Nazuna convinces Normichi to sneak into the school pool at night and gives him one of the greatest memories of puppy love he’ll ever have. When Nazuna eventually leaves, she tells Normichi she’ll “see him in the second semester.” Knowing she’ll likely never see Normichi again as she moves to another town with her mother.
There will never be a second semester but the youthful memory will never evaporate… Because Normichi did not hesitate when opportunity came calling.
Conclusion: ‘Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?‘ is a keen expression of youth and how we should cherish it while we still have it.
– You can purchase in-person tickets for Japan Society NYC’s U.S. premiere of Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom? this Saturday, December 10th at this link.
– The film is part of Japan Society’s ‘Love Letters: Four Films by Director Shunji Iwai’ series.
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