Aoi Miyazaki (EUREKA) plays Sachiko, a thirteen year-old girl living with her depressed mother (ryo, DISTANCE). The film starts by showing her mother's suicide attempt, a scene that pretty much sets the tone, both content-wise and stylistically. Director Akihiko Shiota is brutally honest in showing what happens, but never exploitive or dramatic. When in the next scene both of them are at the breakfast table the next morning, things aren't as they seem. 

While going through the parenting motions, mother is wearing a bandage around her wrist. And even though Sachiko is wearing her school uniform, she has long since dropped out of school.


directed by Akihiko Shiota 

Review of the film and DVD by Jeroen

Sachiko is a sad and lonely girl, trapped in a mature world. Alienated from her classmates and even her own mother who is never there for her, she has closed herself up from everybody. And there's the rumor about an affair with her math teacher. Even though the film to me makes clear nothing sexual happened between them, the teacher still left town to go work somewhere else. They correspond through letters, and it's obvious she still depends on him a lot.

One night when she's walking home, a stranger safes her from almost being assaulted by an older man. When she keeps looking her rescuer straight in the face, she has the most perfect and saddest smile, one that says 'safe me' and 'please kill me' at the same time. It's an extremely touching moment. She then starts running after him, and with a nice little surreal touch it's suddenly broad daylight when she's still running after him. It turns out the young man lives in an old abandoned factory building, together with his retarded uncle. Being an outsider herself Sachiko hooks up with them, and for the first time we see her being somewhat at peace. But the good times don't last, and when her new friend gets involved with a violent gang she's on her own again.

The scenes of her aimlessly wandering around the town, contemplating suicide, are just perfect. A truck pulling up behind her, honking its horn. When she walks around a corner a sudden blast of wind literally almost blows her away. Danger is just around the corner. But so is help, and this time it's her best friend and classmate Natsuko, played by the wonderful Yu Aoi who played a character a little bit like Sachiko in Shunji Iwai's masterpiece LILY CHOU-CHOU NO SUBETE. She convinces Sachiko to come back to school with her. But even though all her classmates are kind to her it doesn't work because she no longer connects with any of them. Then when she almost gets raped by her mother's new boyfriend, it's all too late and she goes over the edge.

What follows is a horrific but cinematically mind-blowing sequence, set to violent early nine inch nails-esque music. The long shot of Natsuko's face to me is the most powerful of the entire sequence. The warmth and genuine kindness of her character touched me immensely, and when you look at her in this scene you can really feel her pain when she realizes she has lost her friend forever. Unbelievable how Shiota managed to get such deep performances out of these young actors.

It's hard to say anything about the ending and not spoil it, but I'll try. It involves the math teacher from the letters. It's one of the most heart-wrenching endings I have ever seen. I guess you could look at it in a positive way, but to me it's extremely sad. The scene where she looks around when the car drives away, finally leaving her fucked up childhood behind, even after six viewings I still have to cry. There's no way things are going to get better for 
this girl.
It saddens me that very few people will get to see this amazing film. Even in Japan it wasn't received very well. And I doubt it will get a video release in the US, considering the topics it deals with. It's a shame Bandai decided to release the Japanese DVD without English subtitles, even though you hardly need them because maybe a hundred lines of dialogue are spoken the entire ninety-minute running time.
GAICHU is a raw and highly emotional film, one that doesn't shy away from controversial subject matter. It's a smart film that respects its audience, never overly explaining things or manipulating you. Shiota's direction is humble and discreet. Use of music is in tone with the sober style of the film. There's no score, and only two songs are played, both perfect for the moment. Acting is great! Just like her character in EUREKA Aoi Miyazaki speaks through body language and facial expressions, and delivers one of the most powerful performances I have ever seen from an actor her age. A perfect film.

FILM and DVD Details 

Region 2, ntsc, oar 1.85:1, 16:9 enhanced, film-sourced. Japanese, with no English subtitles. Except for this time perfect 0 ire black level and excellent shadow detail this is another typical Bandai release, with the same mild level of edge enhancement, the same chroma delay, and the same gritty/grainy look. But it's still very watchable, only detail level of the widest shots suffer because of the edge enhancement. Previous Bandai DVD's all have very weak blacks, but like i said they are perfect here. Which is great because there are a lot of darker scenes. Colors could be a touch stronger. The picture is grainy, but I like that. Audio is Dolby digital 2.0 surround, no pcm unfortunately. Quality is okay, with some surprisingly convincing overhead surround effects towards the end, if you like that sort of thing. The music sounds good, but could be more dynamic. No dialogue a/v sync problems.

Great extras! The making-of documentary is excellent. With lots of behind-the-scenes footage and informal interviews. And never intercut with scenes from the film. Another highlight are the pv's from the two songs featured in the film. Extras are all video-sourced with again no English subtitles.

Credited cast overview

Aoi Miyazaki .... Sachiko 
rest of cast listed alphabetically 
Yuu Aoi 
Tetsu Sawaki 
Seiichi Tanabe 

Also Known As: 
Harmful Insect (2001) (International: English title) 
Runtime: Canada:92 (Toronto International film festival) 
Country: Japan 
Language: Japanese 
Color: Color 

DVD Details 


  • Running Time: 92 mins.
  • DVD Video
  • Color
  • Layers: single-sided/dual-layered
  • Aspect Ratio(s): 16:9 LB Vista
  • Regional Encoding: 2
  • NTSC Format
  • Audio Track :
      Japanese /Dolby Digital /Stereo
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