Thursday, July 24, 2008


Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Terrorism as Pre-Teen Bonding Op in Japanese Road Flick

This impressionistic fantasy was inspired by a real-life act of bioterrorism, namely, the release in 1995 of poisonous sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system by members of a religious cult called Nirvana. (That’s some name for a murderous mob, huh?). Their cowardly act resulted in the deaths of a dozen innocent people and injured over a thousand other commuters.
Oddly, this coming-of-age road flick focuses not on the fallout visited upon any of the victims’ families, but on Koichi Iwase (Hoshi Ishida), a 12 year-old who had been raised inside the apocalyptic sect. Abandoned after the atrocity by his irresponsible, nut case of a single-mom, the boy ended up in the clutches of a bureaucratic, child welfare system.
He makes a break from the orphanage in order to track down his little sister in Tokyo, and en route encounters the equally- traumatized Yuki Niina (Mitsuki Tanimura), a runaway his age who’s escaping an abusive father. The socially-ostracized urchins somehow bond, despite her being a precocious prostitute and his still being pre-pubescent and left a bit of a zombie by all the brainwashing during his dogma-driven upbringing.
Their ensuing misadventures together lie at the heart of Canary, a difficult to peg picture which might best be thought of as chronicling the poignant endeavor to reclaim innocence lost. This proves to be easier said than done because the kids are already pretty damaged goods, and they encounter further adult situations in their meanderings, like the advances of the solicitous lesbians who pick them up hitchhiking.
As you can imagine, getting there is all the fun in this patiently-paced, immorality play. So, by the time they finally rescue Koichi’s sister and return to the road, the question left unanswered is whether they have the wherewithal to survive on the city’s mean streets.
The Orient’s relatively-eloquent answer to Eminem’s 8-Mile and 50-Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, replete with gangsta’ rap on the soundtrack. A sobering, universal message that it’s even hard out there for the Hip-Hop Generation in Japan. .

Very Good (2.5 stars)
In Japanese with subtitles.
Running time: 132 minutes
Studio: ImaginAsian Pictures

To see a trailer of Canary, visit:

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