Kikujiro draws parallels between a boy’s quest and the transition to adulthood
Kikujiro (1999) is an essential summer movie, but it’s all about when you decide to watch it. This summer was a time for me to break away from the last few years of stressing over adapting to adulthood. Watching Kikujiro at this time in my life really validated what I was going through.
Kikujiro is about a little boy, Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) who embarks on a journey with his elder neighbour Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano). Together, they have a very random, yet life-changing summer adventure. The movie pulls you in with the innocence and sadness of young Masao, but it takes you on a trip that lets you reflect on the value of the people you meet throughout your life. Written and directed by Takeshi Kitano, who also stars in the film, Kikujiro was entered in the 1999 Cannes Film Festival.
The sad tone of the film is balanced by the light-hearted nature of Kitano’s character, and the bizarre encounters he and Masao have along the way. As a viewer, you are introduced to a rather despondent nine-year old boy who lives with his grandmother.
When his summer vacation begins, Masao has nothing to do and no one to play with, since all of his friends go on trips with their parents. Masao doesn’t know much about his parents—the only thing his grandmother tells him is that his mother is working hard. One day, he stumbles upon a picture of his mother. Written on the back of the picture is an address in Toyohashi, several hundred miles away. He decides to take a trip to meet her.
A lowly neighbourhood thug, Kikujiro becomes Masao’s companion. His wife, a former neighbour of the boy, convinces him to accompany Masao on his trip.
Their trip starts off a little shaky, with both parties forced into travelling together. After winning a bicycle bet, the pair stumbles into several messy situations, such as hitchhiking after their taxi breaks down, that help the two grow closer.
Watching this movie, I realized there are special people you meet that can change your life and how you view yourself. Regardless of how you feel about this movie, Kikujiro perfectly captures a pivotal journey in the characters’ lives. Kikujiro reminded me of my childhood, when I was a bored kid living in the city with a working parent, trying to find any way to amuse myself. The film also reflected my current situation, as I struggle to transition into adulthood.