18 August 2010

Jellyfish Boy (くらげくん, 2009)


Jellyfish boy, he is my friend.
He dresses like a Jellyfish, so I named him Jellyfish boy.
He likes me even though we are both boys.
One day, Jellyfish boy told me he's moving.
We can't play together anymore.
He asked me to go somewhere far together.
He told me he wants to run away from his life.
We can't run away from our life, so we went to the sea.

The sexuality of children is normally a taboo subject in the world of filmmaking. It is even rarer to find a film that portrays a young, homosexual boy in an unabashedly postive manner.   In his short film Jelly Fish Boy (くらげくん/Kurage-kun, 2009), young director Shoh Kataoka (片岡翔) tackles the issue head on by presenting the story of two prepubescent boys.

Kotaro (played by Ren Yasuda) is a very masculine type. His hair is shorn short, he wears masculine clothes and he likes to play with toy soldiers. 

In contrast, Kotaro’s best friend Kurage-kun (Daiki Gunji) is very effeminate. Kurage means ‘jellyfish’ and ‘–kun’ is the diminutive placed at the end of boys’ names in Japanese. This is the affectionate nickname that Kotaro gives his friend because the flowy dresses that Kurage-kun likes to wear remind him of a jellyfish. Kurage-kun likes to play music on his ocarina, and in addition to dresses, wears a pink scarf, a necklace, and frilly shoes. 

In spite of the pair’s different outward appearances and different interests – Kotaro likes to play rough, while Kurage-kun has a more gentle nature – the two are fast friends. They play chase, and tease each other and spend a lot of time talking with each other.

When they learn that Kurage-kun will be moving away with his family, the two boys decide to run away to the seaside together. While at the seaside, it becomes clear that Kurage-kun has a slight crush on Kotaro and that his dreams for the future and Kotaro’s vision of the future don’t exactly match up.

The story unfolds in a lyrical manner with beautiful cinematography by Yoshinobu Murahashi and music by Mayumi Nakata. The scene of the two of them sitting on the stairs together was surprisingly dialogue heavy for a film, but as the two young actors made the words seem natural it worked. The best moments of the film were of the two of them playing together or just simply sitting together on the train, for their body language and expressions spoke more than words could say.

The cynic in me thinks that the relationship portrayed in the film is an idealistic one – a relationship that could only develop outside of the pressures of school peers and with liberal-minded parents. On the other hand, the young actors portrayed their characters so convincingly that I wanted to believe that two such boys could have a friendship that transcends the prejudices of society to conform. 

An enchanting and thought-provoking film, Jellyfish Boy won the runner-up prize at the 2010 Pia Film Festival. I had the good fortune to see at the Shinsedai Cinema Festival in Toronto. Definitely check it out if it comes to a festival near you. In the meantime, check out the trailers on Kataoka's Youtube channel.

Shinsedai Festival 

Shoh Kataoka Filmography

2006 Can Kick
2007 Nitankasanso
2008 28 (6‘)
2008 hero (3‘)
2008 Guru-guru Mawaru (28‘)
2009 Following (5‘)
2009 Mr. Bubblegum (13‘)
2009 Kuragekun (Jellyfish Boy, 14‘)
2010 Gurunika (21‘)

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2010