In the interview included on Third Window’s release of See You Tomorrow, Everyone (2013) director Yoshihiro Nakamura acknowledges how his film makes certain demands of the audience. Specifically, he notes the sharp turn in tone that occurs midway through. Though some viewers may indeed be troubled by this abrupt shift, or understandably resent that key narrative information has been withheld, that’s also where much of the artistry lies. You omit this shift, and you’re left with a disarming coming-of-age story that would certainly deserve its own fans, but not the kind of ambitious work that one expects from Nakamura.
Based on a novel by Takehiko Kubodera, See You Tomorrow, Everyone stars the hard-to-dislike Gaku Hamada as Satoru, a middle-schooler who finds himself unable to leave his housing project even when he begins to push 30. At first we ascribe Satoru’s avoidance of high school or even the streets beyond his neighbourhood as a matter of preference or disposition, and then eventually it becomes clear that this is a physical aversion akin to that of the trapped dinner guests in 1962’s The Exterminating Angel. Unfortunately, Nakamura’s handling of Satoru’s emotional paralysis in such scenes comes across as both too standard and too heavy-handed, especially when contrasted with the light touch of the filmmaker.
Hamada, in a role that seems tailor-made for him, convincingly plays an archetypal man-child regardless of whether at any given point he’s closer to being a man or a child. He’s so good at being both hapless and plucky that it’s not a stretch to call his performance reminiscent of the great silent comedians. (The fact that See You Tomorrow, Everyone is also a stealth martial arts flick further hints at why Hamada is so unforgettable.) Because of Satoru’s slow maturation, one might even term this a not-coming-of-age film. After all, the only thing that motivates him to change is a new focus on others that permits him to move beyond his own backstory, which, again, is concealed from the audience for much of the runtime.
The problem, though, is not so much that secrets are suddenly sprung on us – the effect is audacious and bracing – but rather that these flashbacks, brief as they are, seem as generic as Satoru’s anxiety attacks. That said, it turns out that all along Nakamura is playing an emotional game on more levels than these criticisms might suggest. This becomes clear at See You Tomorrow, Everyone’s ending, during which tears are dragged from us regardless of how hard we may resist all the sentimentality.