100 Yen is a Japanese movie released in 2014 only in Japan. Although the movie does not have any famous actors and actresses, it won many movie awards and was chosen for Japanese official entry for Academy Awards in the Foreign Language Film category. The story is about how boxing changes a woman in her 30s named Ichiko who does not have a job, boyfriend, nor any friends, and lives her life without any goals and purposes. It is definitely not a fun movie that you want to watch with your family or boyfriend/girlfriend, however, it was very refreshing to see how she transforms from just a useless woman into a cool boxer.
The first part of the movie is very painful and serious. Ichiko fights against her sister and they throw things each other and mess up their house. After the fight, she decides to start living alone and working for the first time and tries to be independent, however, it just does not go well. She gets raped by her co-worker. It was so sad and shocking, but she does not have anybody to talk with or ask for help so all she can do is just cry at home alone. This movie shows how messed up her life is very well. She always wears baggy and shabby t-shirts and her hair is always messed up and looks like birds’ nest. She does not talk that much and does not even have facial expressions and barely laughs. The first part of the movie makes the audience think that it is not okay for her to keep living this life and she needs to change it.
I went to see this movie with my American friend, and she said she never expected that a Japanese movie could have been this dark. I guess people around the world tend to think Japanese movies are happy and comical in general because of the influence of animated movies. I agree with the thought and I believe those kinds of movies are not a popular genre in Japan either. However, the kinds of movies written in a serious tone have been made in Japan since a long time ago and they were just not popular. I think it is interesting that this movie has got good reviews and won a lot of major awards in Japan, because as I mentioned, those kinds of movies have never come to the font line and got a spotlight. I assume this kind of genre will be more popular in Japan eventually.
The transformation of her life was absolutely amazing. After she has been through all the tough things, she realizes all she needs to change her life is to set a goal and work hard for it, and she meets boxing. She is asked her boyfriend why she chooses boxing, and she says it just looked cool. I guess she does not have a specific reason why she chooses boxing, but she just needed something that she could concentrate on, or she could give her life for it. Then she starts going to the boxing gym and training everyday. As she trains, the audience can see a lot of transformations throughout the scene. She wears more sports clothing and ties her hair up. My favorite scene among the transformation part is when she meets up with her dad and he says she has started smiling often. Her smile and laugh are so refreshing and beautiful because the audience knows how hard she practices and how rough her previous life was.
The audience can also see the speed of her life gets faster. Her life before boxing flows very slowly. She does not have to move quickly because she does not have anything to do or any goals, so nothing will make her rush. She walks so slowly and it kind of makes the audience irritated. She just lets time go by and does not accomplish anything. However, after she starts boxing, the time flows so fast and the audience can feel it. She is always running and her moves get so quick. She does things on purpose and knows what she needs to do and she should not waste her time. This dramatic change of her life is the climax of this movie and very exciting.
If there is one thing that this movie could have improved, I would say the last scene. At the last scene, Ichiko’s boyfriend, who leaves her, comes back to her, but I believe he does not deserve her. He is such a jerk that left Ichiko who helped him to live and moved on to another girl. I am sure other audiences would also be disappointed by the last scene because she fights against all the things she has been through and her boyfriend is one of those tough things she is getting over. However, they are getting back together. At the end of the movie, now she changes into a independent woman, so she should deserve a better man.
Overall, I really liked how she gets over her previous life and gets stronger. Boxing is not always fun, because you can get hurt. However, for her, the hurt she gets from her boxing games is nothing compared with what she has been through. That is why she stands up even after she gets punched and beaten a lot of times, and it made me want to cry. Although I have never done boxing before and I did not actually like the sport because it looks painful, now I am interested in boxing and I think it would be cool if I could play it.