“I throw away anything I don’t need. Anything old, broken, unused, or no longer needed gets tossed. Where does spent time go? There is time that I no longer use, or can no longer use. Does that mean I threw it away? Are we throwing away our time right this very moment? Someday the trash building up inside of me will turn me into a middle-aged man, an old man, and eventually I may become trash myself.”
Hidden gems like these are hard to come by.
Beneath Shounen Hollywood’s simple exterior lies a melancholic heart that observes the life of a boy who just entered the strange world of Japanese showbusiness. The second episode is thematically held together by a pair of shoes, namely Mike Pedro’s Copernicus. It’s so popular that Kakeru and his highschool friends have to wait outside and line up just to buy a pair. It retails at 23,000 yen (around $226) and everyone wants one. Turns out these ones for sale are just a reproduction of the original sneakers that came out years ago, but that doesn’t change that people still recognize the name and the brand.
Kakeru is the much desired reproduction of the Copernicus sneakers. No one really goes into the details of what makes it so necessary to own one. With the right marketing and enough subliminal advertising, anyone can come to the decision that they need to get an overpriced pair of shoes. You can say the same about idols, the more they push them on the spotlight, the more you’re forced to believe in their made-up personalities and buy into the fantasy.
There’s also the fact that everyone wants one because of the original production. Kakeru and the new members of Shounen Hollywood are ‘reproductions’.
When his friend starts doodling on his school shoes to imitate Copernicus, the other comments that it’s now trash and unusable. The other denies this and exclaims that it’s actually one of kind, but that’s a value he’s assigned himself. To everyone else, the crummy imitation is useless and ugly.
He then claims it’s friends with the Copernicus sneakers, but is it really? Kakeru’s current friends are the same as the shabby, drawn on pair of school shoes. No one in their right mind would pay 23,000 yen for that pair nor would they find any sort of value in them. They’ll never be displayed in the same shelf in a store in Harajuku. That said, his friend won’t be known as a ‘reproduction’ of something else. He is who he is no matter how shabby but that romantic thought doesn’t change the simple truth that Kakeru’s status as an idol gives him privileges that other people don’t have.
Kakeru doesn’t say it outloud, but he realizes this as well. He is different and that truth puts him on a path of uncertainty. The person who can see through his facade is the president himself, who coincidentally was out buying Mike Pedro’s Copernicus as well. The president urges him to stay on the path of an idol with the reasoning that the right path only when we regard it as such.
It turns out that the president actually bought everyone Copernicus sneakers. This is especially meaningful when Kakeru says that the president is like everyone else because he had to get in line to buy the shoes. The older man reasons out that of course he’s like everyone else, he’s not an idol after all.
Kakeru didn’t have to go in line to get a pair nor did he have to ask anyone to get him the shoes. It’s right there when he goes back to the theatre and he didn’t have to do anything to get them. It’s then that he realizes that he is different and that eventually, he and his friends will lead very different lives.
By the end of the episode Kakeru slowly begins to build a wall between them by telling a lie. He does this because he doesn’t want to make it apparent that he’s not like them. He doesn’t want them to realize that somehow, deep inside him, he believes that he’s better and more important than they are. He calls his new sneakers the ‘Sneakers of Truth’ because they’re proof of what separates him from his friends.
A shadow of sadness hovers over Shounen Hollywood. It’s a product of the cynicism and brutal honesty that pervades our everyday lives. This week’s episode functions the same way as a prolonged metaphor does. The threads are interwoven with precision resulting in yet another solid installment to the series. There’s a certain maturity to how scenes are dealt with. The way in which Ikuyo Hashiguchi portrays painful realities behind the most glamorous and superficial of industries leaves me in awe.