A moving story about a 23-year old girl, with a disability, who wants to have her own manga published. The movie has won several awards and was directed by Hikari, who is also known for producing Tsuyako and Where We Begin. She also had a small role in Memoirs of a Geisha. 37 Seconds played at the Berlin International Film Festival last year and premiered in Japan a few days earlier.
Directed by: Hikari
Written by: Hikari
Started airing: February 7th 2020
Total Length: 115 minutes
37 Seconds depicts some of the challenges people with disabilities face on a daily basis and yet manages to not make disability its main focus point. Instead, it tells the story of Yuma, a 23-year old aspiring mangaka who suffers from cerebral palsy, and gives you insight into her life. The actress who plays Yuma, Mei Kayama, manages to show you that there is so much more to Yuma, and this movie, than disability alone. It’s a story with some sexual themes, but overall the main theme is freedom. Yuma longs to be independent and be able to live her life as she sees fit. Although it is a fictional movie, it is clearly grounded in reality.
On her journey to becoming more self-reliant, Yuma meets some new friends, who encourage her to find her freedom. Where will Yuma’s life take her? Or rather: Which directions will Yuma take in life?
37 Seconds, or 37 Sekanzu, is overall a definite must-see movie. The story itself is moving, but also compelling. It gives you some realistic insight into what it’s like to live with cerebral palsy and shows you that there is so much more to someone than their circumstances. Despite the focus on Yuma’s struggles as a disabled person, the movie tells you about her, not just that part of her.
The movie contains some sad scenes, but also provides a lot of sweet moments. The lighting and music are clearly in tune with whatever happens on screen. Some of the heavier scenes take place in darker rooms, for instance, which fits well with the mood. The actors and actresses in this movie each play their parts well, they portray their characters and their characters’ emotions skillfully.
All of the characters in this movie have their own perspectives in life, but there seems to be no judgement towards any of them. This fits well with the kind of person Yuma is, kind and forgiving. The movie tells the story of a girl with an overprotective, and at times controlling, mother, but it doesn’t vilify her mother. Instead it provides you some insight into what might’ve made her mother behave this way.
Want to know more about how 37 Seconds earned such a high rating? Keep reading!
The movie starts off giving some insight into Yuma’s daily routines. Despite her disability, Yuma is able to draw and she is quite skilled at it. Yuma works for a mangaka named Sayaka, as her assistant. It soon becomes clear that Yuma wants much more in life. She wants more independence and she wants her own published manga. When she presents some of her work to an adult magazine editor she gets the advice to get some real sexual experience, because her sex scenes don’t feel authentic. The editor tells her that as a mangaka she needs to draw from her own experiences. While the advice to experience life to find inspiration isn’t bad, it does feel a little weird to hear someone say you need to have sex in order to draw ‘realistic’ sex scenes. Especially given the fact that most pornography, including hentai, is based on fantasy and very scripted.
After getting this advice Yuma starts experiencing life in new ways and tries to make and navigate new relationships, both on a friendship level and on a romantic level. She experiences setbacks, like her date not showing up, but despite all of it seems determined to make something of her life.
Through some bad luck, or good luck depending on how you look at it, Yuma is stuck in front of a non-functioning elevator and meets Mai, mr. Kuma and Toshi. They introduce her to a new way of life, one where she can enjoy her life to the fullest.
There are definitely some heavier parts to this story, but overall it wasn’t hard to watch. The tone of this movie wasn’t a sad one, in fact, it was beautiful to watch. It felt genuine, even though is a fictional movie. Despite the many events in this movie, it never felt rushed. There were a few surprises as well, but none of them seemed farfetched.
Although Yuma is the main focus of this movie there are some other amazing characters in it as well. Especially Yuma’s mother, Mai and Toshi play a big part in Yuma’s life.
The relationship between Yuma and her mother is interesting to see, there is clearly love between the two but also conflict. Part of Yuma’s routine is to bathe with her mother, who undresses her and washes her in one of the first scenes. This really shows how her mother treats and sees Yuma, making it clear that she sees Yuma as a dependent child rather than an adult. Whenever Yuma tries to do things on her own, as get dressed, her mother intervenes quickly. It soon becomes clear her mother makes most of her decisions for her, rather than let Yuma decide things on her own. When Yuma tries to let her voice be heard her mother tries to restrict Yuma, using excuses as to why things can’t change.
Meeting Mai, mr. Kuma and Toshi was a liberating experience for Yuma. Mai had an almost instant unconditional love towards Yuma and immediately saw she needed someone to confide in. It’s beautiful to see the relationship between them develop and to see how Mai helps her, free of judgement.
The characters in this movie complement each other well and have plenty of interesting interactions with one another. Overall there is a lot of love in this movie, even if the actions don’t always match their intent.
The actors and actresses have clearly been carefully picked for their parts, each showcasing some great talent for portraying their assigned character. Mei Kayama in particular is perfect for her part, as she does have cerebral palsy. She had never acted before this movie, but it is clear that Hikari has great casting abilities.
Everything in this movie feels well thought out, from the movie’s logo to the outfit choices of the characters to the design of their homes. The lighting adjusts to the mood, making some heavier scenes take place in the dark. The busy streets of Tokyo shine a light on Yuma’s struggles as someone with cerebral palsy, but don’t make them look bigger than they are. Instead they provide a stage to show how well she navigates these settings and situations.
All of the music in this movie was made by Aska Matsumiya. None of the songs has lyrics to them, but they convey emotions very well. Aska Matsumiya is a composer and producer known for composing songs for several other movies and series, like Betty and Selah & The Spades. The songs she made for 37 Seconds fit seamlessly with the scenes they’re used in, supporting the images and emotions you see on the screen.