With more than 35 feature films to his credit, Satoshi Tsumabuki is one of Japan’s most accomplished young actors. We are having this blog-a-thon to showcase 10 of his best movies to date. Our first post features the movie Waterboys – the same film that gave him Rookie of the Year award at the Japanese Film Academy.
Satoshi is best known for his dramatic performances, but before he became the acclaimed actor that he is, he started getting raves when he was cast in the youth-oriented movie Waterboys.
More after the jump!
What the Movie is all about
It’s springtime in Japan and the Tadano High School swim team is barely keeping afloat. When a pretty new coach turns up with the nutty idea of creating a top synchronized swimming team of her own, she has just a few problems to overcome. First, she’s teaching at an all-boys school; second, the 5 boys who have committed to the team are all hopelessly bad swimmers; third, she suddenly discovers she’s 8 months pregnant and due for maternity leave.
Inspired by their darling coach’s dream, the boys bumble through the spring and summer, preparing a routine for Tadano High’s festival. They face great adversity: the derision of their fellow students, a swimming pool full of dead fish, the mounting pressures of college entrance exams, and worst of all, their own dismal record of constant failure. Their only encouragement comes from a gaggle of local drag queens and the crazy owner of an aquarium, whose idea of training them, is making them polish fish tanks round-the-clock.
When autumn finally rolls around, the boys have not only miraculously perfected a truly unique routine, they’ve won the respect and participation of a whole crew of new teammates. On the eve of the festival, the performance is threatened by one last catastrophe. Will the Waterboys hard work be wasted, or can they paddle their way to the success and recognition they’ve worked so hard to win? [ source ]
The movie is extremely funny, enjoyable from start to finish and has a lot of heart. At the center of the film is the young Tsumabuki who is the leader of the five boys seriously training for a big presentation doing synchronized swimming. You may wonder why these young boys got involved in sports dominated by women… That’s what makes it the successful comedy that it is!
“Waterboys” is funny from beginning to end, and what’s most likeable about the film is just how happy-go-lucky it is. Writer/director Shinobu Yaguchi turns what might have been a slightly awkward movie about young boys cavorting in nothing but teeny-tiny swim briefs (for much of the film) into a fun and harmless experience. Besides a pedestrian plot, the film sometimes mirrors “The Full Monty” perhaps just a little bit too closely. Although that doesn’t really matter, since as the saying goes, even the Ancient Greeks copied their myths from someone else. What sets the film apart is its comedic gags, everything from Sato’s burning Afro to Suzuki’s inability to tell his tough, karate-kicking girlfriend that he’s (gulp!) learning to be a synchronize swimmer. The boys’ first practice session, where Sato loses his Afro and another boy loses his briefs, is, in a word, hilarious. [ read more ]
I agree that there is nothing unique about the story and that it has been done many times already – losers who are geeks who turned themselves around and became winners in the end. Tsumabuki’s take as the insecure young student who led his inexperienced swimming team into becoming the toast of the school, deserves all the acclaims he got. His performance was genuine and honest, and it’s not easy being in skimpy briefs all the time!
Says Tsumabuki about being an actor:
At first, I thought an actor’s job was easy and anyone could do it if they wanted. That was because I unexpectedly won a big nationwide audition for newcomers when I was 16, and then became a professional actor in major media straight after that. I therefore imagined acting was a pretty simple job and I didn’t think there was anything special about it. After all, I had managed to do almost everything I’d wanted to do well enough — whether studying, playing sports or making friends — so I didn’t take acting especially seriously. [read more]
He was, of course, talking about winning the Star Audition contest where more than 24,000 contestants joined. It was co-produced by talent agencies Amuse, Horipro, and television network NTV. He won the competition and soon afterwards signed with Horipro. Later that year Satoshi made his acting debut in the 1998 Fuji TV drama “Subarashii Hibi”.
Waterboys garnered a 7.2 rating at IMDb, which is quite respectable since most of the top rated movies are from Hollywood.
Our Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
The Last Word: Let me quote a part of Nishikata’s review of the film:
Waterboys is successful because it never takes itself too seriously. The underlying plot device could be described as a kind of ‘if you don’t succeed, try, try again’ story, but the film only expects laughs and not tears from its audience. It’s not really about winning but about going through the process of improving oneself. And of course, although there are individual stories of triumph in the plot, as this is a Japanese film succeeding as a group is what is most important. Or, as Naoto Takenaka in the role of Sea World boss Isomura-san tells Suzuki-san (Satoshi Tsumabuki): getting out there, having fun, and making a fool of yourself is much better than feeling worthless for the rest of your life. [ read more ]
Are you a fan of Satoshi Tsumabuki? Which of his movies are your favorites? Let us know what you think!