Western fans of Japanese cinema will be well aware of director Takashi Miike, having created ripples of excitement with Audition (1999) and 13 Assassins (2010). What they may be unaware of is the sheer volume of movies that he’s churned out over the years, not just as a director but with writing, producing and acting credits to his name. Whilst some of his productions strike enough of a balance between eccentric and formulaic to be acceptable to Western audiences, For Love’s Sake (2012) may be slightly too insane for the majority. Emi Takei plays Ai, an educated, wealthy teenager who has led a sheltered and privileged life.
Ai has never forgotten the boy who saved her in their childhoods, who obtained a nasty scar in the rescue and who carried her through the snow to safety. When she sees Makoto again in their teens (Basking Lite lead singer Satoshi Tsumabuki), she realises how different their lives are. Abandoned by his parents and continually mistaken as a violent gang member for his scar, he eventually grows into everyone’s expectations as a hardened, aggressive loner.
Despite Makoto punching her in the face, Ai convinces her father to admit Makoto to her exclusive private school, where he proceeds to alienate his peers and beat up everyone, including geeky student Iwashimizu (Takumi Saitô) who is deeply in love with Ai despite her obvious adoration of Makoto. The gang fights and bloody noses increase when Makoto leaves Ai’s prestigious school for a rough state institution ran by goth girls with a penchant for pain. Apparent leader of the pack Gumko kidnaps Ai out of jealousy after falling in love with Makoto, not realising beautiful psychopath Yuki also wants him. She wants him so much, she wants him dead and sends her protector Gonta (Ihara Tsuyoshi) in with his cronies to finish him.
Take Miike’s For Love’s Sake at face value and watching it becomes an almost excruciating experience. Over two hours of cringing at the script, the clichés and the numerous song and dance numbers they break into (seriously). It wasn’t until closer inspection of the press release that the penny dropped – it’s a spoof, a send-up of the high school musical genre that has taken young audiences in its tenacious grip.
Suddenly, the lines that seemed so lame became funny, the characters that were so one-dimensional were well-observed and the casting of a 31 year-old man as a teenage boy made perfect sense. Yet, despite the film’s tongue-in-cheek spin, the repetitive fight scenes, obscene amount of musical numbers and the number of girls getting punched, stabbed and doused with highly corrosive sulphuric acid leaves Miike’s For Love’s Sake a bit of a chore for all but his most ardent admirers.