By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Written by Jeff Mizushima and directed by Junya Sakino, this culture clash comedy gives some genuine insight into Sakino’s experiences and observations regarding some of the vast differences between Japanese and Japanese-American cultures. Through the character of Naoto (Gaku Hamada), audiences get to see through his eyes and reactions, the bewilderment and awe of America and Asian-Americans, particularly his angry cousin Sebastian (Eugene Kim). Sebastian, who aspires to achieve world wide success through his website, rants and raves about Asian stereotypes, conventions, traditions and misconceptions that he comes across as someone ashamed of his heritage. When Naoto arrives in the U.S. in pursuit of a past romance, he and Sebastian take a road trip where they bond and learn much about each other, their respective cultures, and about their uncertain futures.
I really enjoyed this funny and charming film. Hamada, who actually knew no English when he took on this role, does an amazing job speaking English when necessary. I had the pleasure of meeting Hamada during an interview session and it is evident that he utilizes his naturally warm personality well as the “fish out of water” character. As Sebastian, Eugene Kim passionately and effectively portrays the angry Japanese-American character. He certainly has a natural talent for this art and craft and knows how to channel that energy well.
I enjoyed the movie overall. I did find a few attempts at humor ineffective, but most of the jokes and gags made me laugh and smile often. The movie has a heartwarming story about relationships and cultural differences and deserves to be seen by audiences. Not only Asians and Asian Americans will relate to the characters and themes. Other ethnicities and cultures that have their Americanized counterparts and vice versa will enjoy this intelligent comedy.