Director: Hayato Kawai
Cast: Suzu Hirose, Yuki Amami, Ayami Nakajo, Hirona Yamazaki, Mackenyu, Miu Tomita, Haruka Fukuhara, Yurina Yanagi, Kentaro, Hana Hizuki
Runtime: 2 hrs 1 min
Released By: Encore Films and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 16 March 2017
Synopsis: High school freshman Hikari Tomonaga (Suzu Hirose) enters Fukui Chuo High School, and joins the cheer dance club in hopes of cheering on her crush Kosuke (Mackenyu) at his soccer competition. The team’s Sparta-like teacher Kaoruko Saotome (Yuki Amami); however, has a few rules of her own, which includes a ban on boyfriends and fringes, and declares that they will be aiming for victory at a prestigious cheer dance competition in America! The senior members quit the club in defiance, and it is now all up to the newbies and the newly appointed club leader Ayano Tamaki (Ayami Nakajo) to hold the team together. As these girls stumble through their training, amidst quarrels, laughter and tears, the challenge to realise this impossible dream is just beginning.
Let’s go, Jets! is a movie based on a real story that happened at an ordinary high school at small town in Fukui, Japan. The cheer dance club was established in 2006, and since its 2009's win at the international competition, they have bagged the trophy 6 times up to date. It is definitely not an easy feat to be able to excel in an international competition as such, and it's even more humbling that it all started from such an ordinary place. Having the narrative based on such a backdrop, the movie further fleshes out the people on the team, including the lead, Hikari (by Suzu Hirose).
Hikari's journey on cheer dancing had a superficial start, as her motivation was to cheer and impress her boy interest. However, the movie did live up to its tagline as it boasts of one that depicts "the bond between the high school girls and the teacher, a youthful and moving success story that has never been seen before". The journey that the team went through was entertaining and exhibited the growth. Although the team members came in all shapes and with different motivations, they broke through the barriers and achieved a common goal what they could not have achieved individually.
Beyond that, the casting for the main character, Hikari, is done with perfection. Hirose Suzu, who recently rose to fames, was just right for the character. Her charisma and smile charmed the audiences as much as it did for the judges in the movie. Her naturally amiable character in the movie was criticised said to be unfit for the team, yet she was able to glue the team together in her own way. Director Kawai Hayato, who has been working on high school themed movies and dramas quite a fair bit recently, showed growth in his works as well. Those ordinary but defining moments in building up to their victory were well captured. The movie rightly depicted those overwhelming feelings between the teacher/coach and the students, the miracle and beauty created only through teamwork.
The only complaint about the movie is probably its forceful attempt to weave in the romance element. For the most, the movie was about the relationship between the girls, the teacher and the coach. Yet it went back to the triviality of Hikari's relationship with the boy interest. While arguably that was the motivation she held from the beginning, but it was something which diluted in meaning and was inconsequential.
Overall, this movie stood out from other Japanese movies as it has cleverly selected a lesser known sport and also a backdrop out of the typical Tokyo. It's an easy and entertaining watch which helps you break out of the mid-week blues. It may not be a film that is competing at international film festivals for awards, but it's definitely made with lots of heart, sweat and good cheer.
(A movie celebrating the ordinary moments that lead to that defining moment in history. The strength of dreams, teamwork and sportswomen all built into one!)
Review by Tho Shu Ling