Subaru has lived most of her life very much like a wild street cat: surviving each day on her own while trying to overcome the tragedies in her life. But there is one thing that keeps her going—her passion for dance. Will she remain hidden in the dark alleys or will her talent shine through for all the world to see?
The plot: Kuroki Meisa plays Subaru, a girl who has a twin brother Kazuma, both of whom love ballet as influenced by their mother who used to be a dancer. Unfortunately, their mother died and they were left with their dad who does not care much about dancing. Following Subaru’s misfortunes was Kazuma falling terminally ill with the same disease that killed their mother (brain tumor). She would dance around his hospital room to make him happy, and help him remember things he’s forgotten because his memory was slowly deteriorating. In between wanting to go to dance school and taking care of her brother, Subaru became frustrated because their father would not allow her to attend classes. In an argument, she wished Kazuma “would disappear,” an act which she would regret after his death. She would eventually attend classes with Mana, a girl whose mother is a ballet teacher, and who’s always jealous of her skills. Subaru then accidentally stumbled upon a strip cabaret/ comedy club ran by a former dancer (Kaori) who will teach her unconventional dance and take her under her wing. One night, after performing “Bolero” amidst dirty old men and a jeering drunken crowd, Subaru encounters a beautiful Korean-American girl named Liz Park (Ara) who will lead her to the world of competitive dance—in a face off that will determine their fate.
Directed by (Hong Kong-based) Lee Chi Ngai, Subaru is an adaptation of a manga of the same name. The lighting of this movie reminds me of classical Shanghai films, even the settings and characters were beautifully shot in a slightly dark backdrop. Kuroki Meisa displays astounding skills in this movie as a ballet dancer and it’s amazing how well she displayed technique and grace. She was not quite convincing as a street/ hip hop dancer though as in one scene where she is introduced to an underground club as part of her exploration of dancing. Her character is stoic, most of the time arrogant because she has to toughen up after the deaths of her brother and mom, though she still displays weaknesses and gentleness with the people she is close with. I love Meisa, I think she’s one of the most beautiful faces in Japan and she’s really elegant, but in this character I found it difficult to get attached to her. She had this dense, I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude about her which made sense what with all the things she went through—but she didn’t quite effectively display her supposed “passion” for dance. Idunno, maybe it’s the weird, messed up storytelling that forced to cram tons of misfortunes and dance sequences in a two hour film, or maybe her character wasn’t meant to be liked at all. But her dance sequences were stunning, especially her final performance where she had to do an interpretative dance despite her high fever.
Sano Miku plays Mana, a girl in Subaru’s neighborhood who has always been jealous of Subaru. Her character’s pretty typical—an overly striving dancer who is pressured to excel by her mother. Overall she did well, but she used the same expressions most of the time. She was quite forgettable, but at least she achieved what her character was supposed to be—the second lead who was always outshone by Subaru.
I have to admit, one of the reasons why I watched this was because of Go Ara. Love her! She just lights up the screen with her smiley face and bright eyes. BUT her character and motivations were messed up—one day she’s a friend to Subaru and the next she was plotting a hidden agenda. It’s like this: she thinks Subaru is her rival so she “trains” her and gives her the opportunity to compete against her in Shanghai to ignite her passion in dancing and to fulfill a bet she made with a teacher in New York. I was like.. WTF. Her motivations were not really clear and her portrayal was very flat—though props to her for speaking Japanese so well!
Hiraoka Yuuta plays his usual role of the guy who falls in a one-sided love for the girl. He didn’t bring much to the story and it was hard to believe that he is friends with a group of hardcore hip-hop dancers. Too bad though, I’m sure Yuuta is more than just eyecandy.
One of the perks of having SM Ent. and Avex in this film was that DBSK was in it! For like 20 seconds or so as a group that was singing in a club. That was quite exciting to see though they were completely irrelevant to the scene. Like when SS501 (Triple S) performed in a club scene in Boys Over Flowers. You also get to hear BoA’s “Eat You Up” get overplayed and the other OST were sang by CSJH and Koda Kumi.
DBSK with Meisa. Junsu looks so bored like he’s thinking, “the hell, get me outta here” while Yoochun looks lost as always. The rest just looks dead tired. Come on dudes! You’re sitting next to Japan’s most coveted girl! Couldn’t hurt to fake even half a smile. Love these guys but sometimes it’s better for them to just take a breather (SM!!) than have them looking like this.
Showdown of beauty: Which would you prefer, Meisa’s sharp beauty or Go Ara’s soft, lady-like features? Hmmm… Tough choice. I wanna root for Team Go Ara based on appearances but for the whole package it’s definitely Meisa.
In the end I think Subaru is a good movie but with many flaws and unanswered questions. It’s overly melodramatic and there were parts of the plot that just didn’t make sense. Again, the movie was trying to be everything all at once. The scene where Go Ara arrives leaves the question, what the hell was she doing in a cabaret? Why was she part of the “in crowd” of hip hop dancers when she’s a professional/ famous talent from NY? The whole part where she was rooting for Subaru because she’s her rival got me all lost. They were trying to show her as a backstabbing bitch who was at the same time nice and gentle. I would understand if she was pretending to be nice but that was not the case. Her transition from being nice to being bad was just confusing. Plus the random arrival of characters with different background stories convolutes and makes the film lose focus. Even the part where Subaru was flown to Shanghai all of a sudden for a competition was a blur. But this is a must-watch for those who want to see stunning, show-stopping dance performances. In the end, Subaru just did and kept doing her twin brother’s last words, “Subaru, dance!”