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Always - Sunset on Third Street - 2
Always - Sunset on Third Street - 2

It's A Wonderful (Showa) Life:
Beautiful artwork for Takashi Yamazaki's Always Zoku - San Chome Me No Yuhi.
  Japanese: ALWAYS 続・三丁目の夕日
Year: 2007  
Director: Takashi Yamazaki  
  Producer: Hime Miura, Kamei Osamu, Yoshinari Tsumatani, Fumihiro Hirai, Yuji Tsumamoto, Kinichiro Nishiga, Noboru Otsuki, Tatsuo Shimamura, Tsutomu Takano
  Writer: Takashi Yamazaki, Ryota Kosawa, based on the manga series "Yuyake No Uta-San Chome No Yuhi" by Ryohei Saigan
  Cast: Hidetaka Yoshioka, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Koyuki, Hiroko Yakushimaru, Maki Horikata, Kenta Suga, Kazuki Koshimaru, Fumiyo Kohinata, Miura Tomokazu, Ayame Koike
  The Skinny: Brilliant sequel to Takeshi Yamazaki's award-winning 2005 film. An absolutely heartwarming, feel-good retrospective drama which will have audiences teary eyed and nostalgic for the "Showa" past.
     Always Zoku San Cho Me No Yuhi (a.k.a. Always - Sunset on Third Street - 2) is the much anticipated followup to director Yamazaki Takashi's exceptional 2005 film Always San Cho No Yuhi which swept the Japan Academy Awards that year.
     Based on the the popular manga series "Yuyake No Uta-San Chome No Yuhi" by Saigan Ryohei, Always was a nostalgic, touching time capsule look at life in Tokyo's "shitamachi" (working class districts) amidst the backdrop of the construction of the Tokyo Tower, during the late 50s. A box office sensation, winning both critical and audience acclaim, Always ended with a bit of a cliffhanger and it was only a matter of time before a sequel was made.
    Always Zoku directly follows the events of the previous movie and begins with a dynamic crowd pleasing opening featuring the familiar movie monster Godzilla that puts the recent Cloverfield to shame with its visual mayhem. This is part of an elaborate dream sequence belonging to struggling writer Chagawa Ryunosuke (Yoshioka Hidetaka) who is still writing kids fiction stories while trying to get more serious writing assignments.
     Yet life is good for Chagawa and his young ward, Junnosuke (Suga Kenta) but their happiness is soon put to the test as Junnosuke's estranged father Kawabata (Kohinata Fumiyo) makes another bid at trying to take custody of the child. He gives Chagawa an ultimatum: that should he fail to properly raise and care for Junnosuke, he will take the child away to live with him. In turn, Chagawa vows to turn around his aimless life and sets his sights on trying to win the prestigious "Akutagawa-sho" literary award.
     As Chagawa struggles with his uncertain future, the Suzuki family deals with a family problem of their own. A distant relative has come to them to ask them to care for his young daughter Mika (Koike Ayame), while he deals with a struggling business in the country. Privledged, arrogant and spoiled Mika is at first appalled with her new living arrangements and complains about everything from the lack of a proper TV to the humble food.
     While garage owner Suzuki Norifumi (Tsutsumi Shinichi) and wife Tomoe (Yakushimaru Hiroko) show restrained patience with the girl, vocal son Ippei (Koshimizu Kazuki) gives Mika a piece of his mind and chides the girl for her selfishness and ingratitude. The two strong willed children dislike each other at first but soon begin to warm up to one another. Mika also develops a special bond with Tomoe, who becomes like a second mother to the girl (Mika lost her mother while still an infant).
     Meanwhile, young high school intern Hoshino "Rokko" Mutsuko (Horikita Maki) has firmly established herself as part of the Suzuki family and is slowly learning how to become a mechanic. A former high school classmate, Nakayama Takeo (Asai Yosuke), a high school crush, happens by the shop and they soon develop a bit of a romance.
     Former bar hostess Ishizaki Hiromi (Koyuki) is also adjusting to her newfound life as a burlesque dancer at a local cabaret and now goes by the name of "Betty". While she is surrounded by rich admirers and suitors, she still longs for the simple life that she left back at San Chome Me and eagerly waits for Chagawa to come for her as he had promised.
     Director Yamazaki and writing partner Kosawa Ryota again turn in a terrific and poignant script which strikes all the right positive and dramatic notes. Some may find all the "Showa" sentimentality and references a bit puzzling - especially for those 30 years and younger/ However, I found it to be a fascinating if idealized look at life in Tokyo during the 50s.
    The SFX and model work (VFX) by Shibuya Kiyoko are again absolutely extraordinary, particularly the detailed recreations of old Nihonbashi, Haneda Airport, Tokyo Station and the newly constructed Tokyo Tower. It is truly breathtaking and wonderful to behold.
     The cast is remarkable and special recognition should go to both Yakushimaru Hiroko (Sailor Fuku To Kikanjuu, W No Higeki, Bubble E Go!) and Koyuki (Alive, The Last Samurai, Kairo) for their supporting roles. Koyuki iswas the standout this time in her role as Hiromi/Betty and brings much vulnerability and charm to her role. I couldn't help but cry as she struggled with her feelings for the socially inept Chagura. I thought her scenes were the most touching and heartfelt.
     If there are any problems with the film, it is in its absolute idealism and overly positive attitude and outlook. There were no real villains in the film and everyone, even the children, are shown to be virtuous and righteous people who seem almost too perfect to be real. Perhaps that was Yamazaki's intention - to present an idealized and near-perfect vision of the 50s, but it does strike as a bit of a biased viewpoint and Yamazaki only briefly touches upon some of the social issues and problems that were occurring during the time (e.g., the "kakusa shakai" - stark discrepancy between the rich and the poor, rampant crime and theft, juvenile delinquency and unemployment).
     Always Zoku tells the story of a time in Japan when there was an abundance of hope and optimism for a bright promising future. While current times are rough for many Japanese, perhaps Always Zoke can serve as a reminder that the Japanese have overcome many obstacles and adversities in the past and can do so again now and in the future. (JMaruyama 2008)
Availability: DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English Subtitles
image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen