22 December 2008

Sumiko 2 ( あなたの態度が気に入らない, 2008)

In Uruma Delvi’s follow up to Sumiko Forever, Sumiko shows another aspect of her personality. The first short film had a melancholic feel to it and Sumiko’s voice was sentimental and nostalgic. In I Don’t Like Your Attitude (Anata no Taido ga Ki ni iranai/あなたの態度が気に入らない), Sumiko takes on a rather petulant tone as she rattles off five things that really annoy her.

Her first complaint is about the fact that her mother always seems to make curry for dinner on the exact same days that she gets curry for lunch at school. Sumiko wonders if her mother even bothers to look at the meal plans that the school sends home.

Next, Sumiko complains that she borrowed her best friend’s cell phone, only to discover when she inputted her own name that her spelling of ‘Sumiko’ comes up sixth on the list. This is a joke that can only be understood by those who understand the intricacies of typing Japanese names into electronic devices – which can be a particularly aggravating with common names that take obscure kanji combinations. The more often you input a certain spelling of a name, the more likely it is to come up first – thus Sumiko feels betrayed by her ‘best friend’ because name is preceded by five others!

To make matters worse, Sumiko is fed up with an elderly woman she sees regularly who mistakenly calls her “Tomiko” all the time. In the song, Sumiko can indulge her inner frustrations in a way that she couldn’t in public by shouting “I am Sumiko!”

Sumiko’s fourth frustration is her confusion about why people are always surprised when she tells them she is 8 years old. It is unclear whether or not they think she looks younger or older than she actually is. In her final act of rebellion, Sumiko complains that if she is really honest, she does even really want to be singing this song.

The song is sung in enka style – a traditional Japanese singing style that is quite popular in karaoke bars. The verses are spoken and Sumiko sings the very catchy refrain “Anata no taido ga ki ni iranai” (I don’t like your attitude) with accompanying movements (à la The Chicken Dance or The Macarena).

This film follows a slightly different graphic style to the first Sumiko film. The verses of the song are done in black and white – a graphic style Uruma Delvi played with in their earlier film Mr. Calpaccio. The black and white sequences are punctuated by the refrain sequences that set an image or images of Sumiko against a dark red background. During these sequences, Uruma Delvi indulge in graphic manipulation – such as the upside-down mirror image of Sumiko shown below, or the multiple images of her shown at the top of the page.

The general graphic design of the film reinforces the theme of Sumiko feeling unsettled, confused, and angry. This is made particularly obvious during the bridge when Sumiko sings facing a stormy sea. She sings that she realises that people don’t intend to annoy her out of bad or evil intentions, but all the same she finds it very frustrating. The scene ends with an image of her sitting in a boat in a stormy sea – visually depicting the old ‘sea of troubles’ cliché from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Something which has not come across at all in my description of this song is just how hilarious it is. The singer’s delivery has perfect comic timing and really had me laughing out loud. Although many of Sumiko’s complaints seem trivial or petty, I think that even adults can identify those feelings of frustration when it comes to the behaviour of others. In Japanese culture in particular, where voicing one’s personal frustrations openly is often seen as bad form, I can people enjoying the venting aspect of this film. As the verses are spoken word, one could easily make up one’s own list of personal grievances while singing the song in the shower…. Or in the karaoke version which apparently is included on the DVD!

Both Sumiko Forever and this film have been available in Japan on DVD since the fall, but they have not appeared on amazon.co.jp or yesasia.com yet, though one can buy other Uruma Delvi products there – I’m hoping to get a hold of Capsule Samurai soon!

NHK Minna no Uta Oshiri Kajiri Mushi / Kids
© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2008