[Review] Like Grains of Sand 「渚のシンドバッド」

Like Grains of Sand 「渚のシンドバッド」
Ryosuke Hashiguchi (director, writer)
December 16th, 1995

129 minutes

Like Grains of Sand is a genre-defining coming-of-age film that sets the bar for Japanese high school dramas. It checks all the boxes: Love, loneliness, jealousy, teenaged hijinks and a search for identity – splashed across a quintessential Japanese summer backdrop.

The film was director Ryosuke Hoshiguchi’s second full-length feature after his 1993 box office hit, A Touch of Fever

Like Grains of Sand follows six second-year high school students. Shuji Ito (Yoshinori Okada), who is hiding the fact that he is gay, is in love with his friend Hiroyuki Yoshida (Kota Kusano). However, Yoshida is in a pseudo-relationship with Ayako Shimizu (Kumi Takada) a girl in their brass band club. They are joined by the hot-tempered Toru Kanbata (Kouji Yamaguchi). Rika Matsuo (Shizuka Isami) is something of a class bully, first seen persuading other girls out of their cash to help her “friend”. Finally, there’s transfer student Kasane Aihara (Ayumi Hamasaki) whose frankness has lead others to deem her stuck up and unapproachable.

Hoshiguchi once again taps young talent for his film, the standout stars being Yoshinori Okada and Ayumi Hamasaki (who at the time was still years away from her debut as a singer-songwriter). Their characters, while forced to carry the burdens placed upon them by others, find solace in each other. When they are together, they can smile, make jokes, and open up about themselves. Around others, Shuji becomes reserved, tiptoeing around his sexuality, while Aihara’s intuitive ability to read people’s true intentions puts her at odds with those around her.

But that’s not to say that all of the actors don’t stand out their own ways. Hoshiguchi pushes all of the leads to their extremes in grueling long takes that are as fascinating to watch as they must have been difficult to create. It’s as if he took all of the techniques he experimented with in a Touch of Fever and dialed them up to 11. Many of the scenes are so rife with tension that they may leave the viewer’s stomach in knots, which is a testament to the skill of both Hoshiguchi and his cast. In addition, Ayumi Hamasaki shines in every scene she’s in, proving her star power years before her singer/songwriter debut.

Like Grains of Sand is a film that, like the 1992 film Okogeis still incredibly relevant today.

Like Grains of Sand is available on DVD and iTunes Japan.

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