As a filmgoer, I'm pretty accustomed to seeing footage of Tokyo, but there are less opportunities to see the Japanese countryside. Here's a chance. Kikujiro starts in the city but spends most of its time meandering through the lush green land surrounding it.
The movie stars a forlorn latch-key kid and a hapless former yakuza who embark on a journey across country to find the boy's mother. For its star Takeshi Kitano, more accustomed to starring in violent gangster movies, it's a departure into a silent, deadpan style of movie-making, quirky and offbeat, subtle and even lonely.
The first quarter of the movie sees the little boy wandering through Tokyo streets, over bridges, through markets, past trinket stores, vending machines and temples, along the river, and into a residential neighborhood, where houses start where the pavement ends.
When the yakuza enters his life, he is whisked away into a strange world, starting with the bicycle races, where the older man fritters away their money, and a public park, where the little boy encounters a 'scary man'.
The bizarre events continue as the yakuza ('Mister') steals a cab, and they head west for Toyohashi. The action is slow so there's plenty of opportunity to take in the scenery. Lingering scenes include the pair walking along the edge of an unfeasibly long pool, and a stay in a bus stop that lasts two nights.
Mister tap dances in the middle of the country roads, pretends to be blind and is run over by a passing car. The little boy finally starts to emerge from his introversion when he meets a young couple who dance and juggle for him in the middle of a lush, green field.
It's hard to know exactly where the locations are. The boy and the yakuza don't even know most of the time, and the only locations identified are Tokyo, Toyohashi and Daito-cho, both of which have coastlines like those in the movie. All the locations in between are as vague as the story.
It's a great combination of offbeat (it was apparently inspired in part by The Wizard of Oz) and picturesque, making it very easy to watch. The film ends with the yakuza wishing the boy well, and saying, 'Let's do it again sometime.' Then revealing his name: Kikujiro.
– Roshan McArthur