“Shodo Girls” high school students save the world – no wait, the craft paper and calligraphy traditions in a Japanese community

Shodo Girls (sketchy synopsis) at IMDB?
Review by Russ Imrie Feb 2, 2013

Poster from Wikipedia – “Shodo Girls” as distributed in Japan

At Wikipedia: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shodo_Girls

Production of: Nippon Television Network Corporation and Warner Bros.


I was fortunate to view Shodo Girls at the Japanese Information and Cultural Center (Embassy of Japan) on 18th Street in Washington DC.
At first, the cultural milieu seems stilted. But then you “get it” and the terseness evolves into an appreciation of the film’s framework—the drive, the community dynamics, the art of Shodo (Japanese Calligraphy), and something everyone can relate to, a cherished hometown and its people.

The true storyline actually evolved into an annual Shodo competition among schools from across Japan. Here’s a YouTube video of a recent one.

Riko Narumi as Satoko Hayakawa (早川 里子?) leads the way, hard-headed and driven. Her breakthrough moment comes as the school calligraphy club shrinks and is losing members, many upset with her style. The community’s tradition as a center for the arts of calligraphy and premium, hand-made paper are at risk as business slows in the general business slowdown of 2008-2009.

Insight and the contributions of the goofy substitute club mentor, family and friends in the paper trade, some less-straight-laced club members, and ultimately the city’s wholehearted appreciation of the art unleash her. The final scenes of the messy, musical competition that takes place at the high school gym had the audience in tears. It’s a good one.

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