The latest film by Shinobu Yaguchi is one of the happiest upbeat films coming out of Japan in a long time.
It is a hot summer day in Yamakawa High School. A bunch of losers (all girls) are stuck with extra math classes with a boring teacher Mr. Ozawa (Naoto Takenaka). The schools brass band drives away in a bus to play for the schools baseball team. Looking out the window Tomoko Suzuki (Juri Ueno) notices a van with the brass bands lunches arriving after the bus has left. She suggests that the girls bring the lunches. They take the local train, and eat one of the lunches on the way.
The day is hot; the girls fall asleep and miss their stop. They have to walk back with the lunches, which spoils in the heat. The band members are taken to the hospital with severe stomach cramps except for Takuya Nakamura (Yuta Hiraoka), whose lunch was eaten by the girls.
He is left with the task of getting a replacement band before the next baseball game. The girls reluctantly agree to try to learn to play at least it is better than math class. They are just starting to like it, when the original band members walk in recovered and ready to take over.
Some of the girls dont want to stop playing, but most of them just drop out. The remaining girls keep on practicing, and when the dropouts hear them play they want to join in.
And soon we have an all girl (and a boy) big band playing swing music.
Shinobu Yaguchi started out making absurd black comedies like Down the Drain, The Secret Garden and Adrenaline Drive. With Waterboys the comedy got more mainstream, and you could make a very good case for the comedy in Swing Girls being completely mainstream maybe even formulaic.
But as always with most things good in this world it is not so much the ingredients but the mixing that makes the difference. This is about the girls growing interest in swing music. You dont get big melodrama, dramatic love scenes or the usual sexual undertones that we have come to expect whenever we see a pretty Japanese girl in her school uniform. You just get refreshing clean comedy and happy swinging music!
The girls actually play their own instruments. Most of them could not play, when they started, but after months of hard practice they learned how. They actually learned so well, that they went on a live tour after the filming and played concerts in both New York and Los Angeles!
What makes "Swing Girls" such a treat is the novelty of seeing school girls play swing music, the obvious good chemistry between all the members of the cast and the excellent choices made by director Shinobu Yaguchi along the way. Not only what he wants to tell us, but even more how he does it is what make this film a treat and a well deserved success in Japanese theatres.
The whole film is a buildup to a 15 minutes finale that will have you clapping your hands, stomping your feet and leaving the theatre with a big happy grin on your face.