What’s up with that girl, why is everyone crying?
Must be the Kirishima thing again, right? It’s got everyone all riled up.
Hey, what exactly happened with that? Where is Kirishima?
You didn’t hear?! Kirishima quit the volleyball team! And nobody’s heard from him since; doesn’t answer calls, doesn’t answer texts - he’s in the wind....
Damn, man, that’s cold! Wonder what happened....
What happened to Kirishima and why he’s upped and quit the volleyball team suddenly, right after having been made captain and with the team on course to win a big championship, actually turns to out be almost totally irrelevant. We may speculate on why someone might do that, but we can never really know. What is important is that Kirishima’s unpredictable action causes a seismic wave to rip through the social structure of his class. With Kirishima gone, everyone else starts to question their own place in the social hierarchy - are they really where they want to be, where they ‘belong’ within the all important high school pecking order? Some threaten to move up and others down but will anything be the same ever again?
The ‘cool’ kids are in the ‘going home’ club or possibly in a sports team but blowing off practice, the next level are ‘kind of in a club because it’ll look good on my application forms (it’s not like I enjoy it or anything)’ and then at the bottom we have the geeky guys and girls who are really into their club activities, exemplified here by the downtrodden film club. When Kirishima just quits and effectively demotes himself from the A crowd by quitting the volleyball team, nobody’s really certain of anything anymore - what’s cool, what’s not, what do I care? The volleyball team feel betrayed by their captain’s absence, the cool boys are puzzled and uncertain without their leader to look to, the popular girls doubt their status now the alpha guy isn’t around and the film club.... carry on as normal and try to ignore all the silly drama going around the school.
However, there are those in the higher echelons who maybe feel like they don’t belong there. One of the cool girls has a secret liking for ‘geeky’ films but is frightened of becoming ‘one of them’ and losing her 'popular' status. Another girl, nominally one of cool girls, both hates and admires her friends for their vacuity and refusal to see whats going on around them. She is the only who really sees what’s going on everywhere, but even she too is afraid of losing her position. The most troubled and changed though is Hiroki, Kirishima’s ‘best friend’ who nevertheless didn’t know anything about his friend’s decision. Half-in and half-out of the baseball team, he’s trapped between the cool world of the going home club and the slightly less cool one of being able to do something very well. The only people who aren’t really affected are the film club who are, to some extent, too invested in their own sense of inferiority to really notice what’s going on everywhere else.
The film club are in some ways the heart of the film, as they both refuse to see and ultimately document the social fracturing that’s going on within the school. They seem to think themselves very hard done by - ‘they’re always winning’ complains one boy after they find a location they want to use already occupied, and later ‘I won’t cast them when I’m a director’ about the annoying popular clique who’ve just been laughing at them loud enough for them to hear before they’ve even gone past. However, they are the key to the film's climactic rooftop confrontation scene as the film club’s high school zombie invasion movie is rudely interrupted by the popular kids' desperate search for Kirishima. This leads to a day of the dead style zombie fantasy sequence as the film club zombies devour the unwitting volleyball stars and popular girls, which is the highlight of the film. The intermingling of the two groups which would never normally have anything to do with one another finally forces the ramifications of "the Kirishima thing" to come to a head. In some senses it clears the air; the tensions have boiled over and worked themselves out. However, for some the outcome is far from clear and they remain trapped between levels of high school cool.
The Kirishima Thing is certainly not for for those who like a lot of action, zombies aside, or something with a heavier plot element, but as an ensemble character study it excels. As an allegory for the wider problem of conformity and social norms versus individuality and self-recognition in the adult world it’s certainly a very apt parable, but all of the characters concerned are very well drawn and each afforded a degree of sympathy and understanding. The Kirishima Thing strikes a more realistic tone than the director’s previous films (Funuke: Show some love you losers!, Perfect Nobara) which took place in a world of heightened reality but still has a strongly comic tone. An extremely nuanced and layered tale, The Kirishima Thing may require multiple viewings to completely appreciate but it's certainly well worth the investment in time.