From starring in the post-apocalyptic film Taiyou, to voicing the lead character in the animated phenomenon Kimi no na Wa, to kissing Yoshizawa Ryo at Amuse Handsome Festival (hahaha!), 2016 was definitely an amazing year for Ryunosuke Kamiki. The eccentric musical Too Young to Die! where he starred alongside Nagase Tomoya reached the number one spot at the box-office when it was released mid-2016.
Kamiki plays Seki Daisuke, a normal teenager who is dealing with typical puberty issues both physically (like acne and bad hair days) and emotionally (like having a crush on classmate, Tezuka Hiromi). His plan to express his romantic feelings for Hiromi is completely hindered by a big accident that sends their school bus to a cliff — and Daisuke straight to Buddhist hell! He wakes up in the underworld and meets Killer K.
Daisuke is perplexed upon realizing that while his school mates’ souls ascended to heaven, he is the only one who falls to hell. He then finds out that his death is mistakenly ruled as suicide-the gravest sin one could ever commit in his life. After several kinds of torture, he gets shackled onto a board to join the other souls at Hell’s Agriculture School that’s facilitated by a cowhead-teacher and a horsehead guidance counselor. This is where they are taught about The Five Commandments and the corresponding punishments if you break them.
Daisuke hears that by proving his worth to the monstrous guardian Principal Enma, he can appeal his case and request for reincarnation. However, there is a huge time difference between the two worlds. Seven days in hell is equivalent to 10 years on earth. Will Daisuke be able to recognize a grown-up Hiromi? Also, a reincarnated soul does not go back to his original form. Usually, he’d be reborn as a member of a different species. There is only a handful of souls who were reborn as human beings again. They did it by winning the Hell Rock Battle Royale. Together with Hellz’ frontman Killer K, drummer Cozy, and bassist Jako, Daisuke tries out for this epic rock band competition at the inferno as he goes to great lengths to return to the world of mortals.
Daisuke also learns about Killer K’s life on earth. Unlike him, Killer K has already turned into a full-blown horned demon, incapable of going back to earth in any way. So Daisuke made it his (after)life mission to deliver a message to the loved ones Killer K has left behind.
This doesn’t even cover half of the madness that goes on in the film but to write more of what happened is giving too much away.
Recently, Japanese cinema has seen an apparent increase in the number of live-action adaptations based on anime, manga, novels, and stage plays. Award-winning writer and one of my personal favorites, Kudo Kankuro, proves that Japan is capable of producing an impressive original as he shows his comedic screenwriting prowess in this bizarre but heartwarming tale of love and loss. This talented man also directed the movie and wrote the lyrics of its main theme song.
A competent writer-director is not enough to make a quirky musical. It also requires talented leads. Looking like a cross between a KISS member and a kabuki actor, Nagase Tomoya plays his first lead role in seven years. This one hot mothafucka’ continues to overact but he is clever enough to choose characters that require that kind of performance and projects that will bring out the best in him. His charisma never fades.
23-year-old uniform-clad Ryunosuke Kamiki has an innate acting talent that usually outshines co-stars who can’t keep up with him. But in this film, he and Tomoya have equal levels of energy. Together, they have great chemistry.
Too Young To Die! certainly belongs to the list of the ‘Most batshit crazy contemporary Japanese movies I’ve seen’ but in spite of all the tropes, references, twists and turns, and outlandish visuals thrown altogether into this seemingly convoluted piece, it doesn’t let go of its central theme. In Killer K and Daisuke’s intertwined story arcs, the film manages to evoke poignancy amidst the whole absurdity. Above all, this is a musical comedy and yes, it’s funny! And the music.. rocks! \m/