High school student Yuki lived a peaceful, uneventful life until one day Aya, her classmate since middle school, is killed in a car accident. Her other classmates were at the beginning saddened by Aya’s death, but when a rumor Aya killed herself is spread, their sudden change in attitude causes turmoil among them. Yuki stands up to a classmate who is maligning Aya and as a result is ostracized by the rest of the girls in her class. Meanwhile, unexpected repercussions also begin to spread among the relationships of Yuki’s classmates.
Ishibashi Yuho directed her first independent film while attending Toyo Gakuen University. Her 2015 short Bokura no Saigo was screened at numerous film festivals in Japan. She followed with several more short movies which have garnered attention in one form or another including 2016’s Sorekara no Koto, Korekara no Koto starring Imou Haruka all while working a number of part-time jobs over those years. Apparently still employed at a job unrelated to the film industry, making her debut feature was also fraught with the challenges of independent production. A year prior to the start of filming, Ishibashi met with illustrator Gomen, the author of the original manga who had wanted to draw a “movie-like” manga. It so happened Ishibashi was a fan of ‘Sayounara’ for its cinematic feel and ambiguity. “Its charm comes from how it tacitly creates a commotion in your heart because what the protagonists Yuki and Aya are feeling and where the truth actually lies is only known to them.” (crowdfunding campaign statement) After gaining Gomen’s blessing, Ishibashi set about adapting the 18 page manga into a feature which would require funds she herself could not undertake. Somehow sensing if she didn’t make it then, the movie would never be made, she turned to crowdfunding which proved successful. In my impressions of the movie, I remarked on the openness of the movie’s ending and the way Yuki’s true psyche is depicted indecipherably–to positive effect. Reading the reason behind Ishibashi’s affection for the original material reinforces her having succeeded in bringing her and the author’s vision of the manga to life. The outstanding cinematography by Hagibara Shu, who also shot Igashi Aya’s A Crimson Star, is also worth noting as is the cinematography in all of Ishibashi’s works suggesting she has a natural eye for lovingly portraying her characters. Considering the commitment Ishibashi has made to bring Sayounara to the screen, this promising talent’s vision certainly deserves more attention.