Asakusa Kid (2021) Review: Alluring Take on the Rags-To-Riches Tale

Asakusa Kid is a Japanese language Biopic on the life of Takeshi Kitano directed by Gekidan Hitori. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Asakusa Kid review does not contain any spoilers

The comedy scenes in Asakusa Kid are heartwarming

Asakusa Kid follows Takeshi Kitano (Yuya Yagira) to become a stand-up comedian. He is no stranger to biopics. He’s got his problems and idiosyncrasies, but the film portrays the devotion towards and the sentiment for celebrating his mentor Senzaburo Fukami, played by Yo Oizumi.

Fukami is an older performer who shares Kitano’s interest in avant-garde comedy, but with a greater emphasis on the absurd. Kitano is dedicated to understanding what makes people laugh, and Fukami seems happy to pass on some of his knowledge.

Asakusa Kid (2021) Review: Alluring Take on the Rags-To-Riches Tale

The friendship between them is touching, particularly when Kitano gets a shot at fame and becomes the subject of media attention. Fukami never wavers in his support for Kitano’s career. Kitano’s journey from obscurity to fame was helped by his mentor Fukami.

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Asakusa Kid – Kitano’s voice lends gravitas to Fukami’s prominence

The biopic charts his early career as he moves up the comedy ladder in Tokyo, eventually writing and starring in his plays. Asakusa Kid was published initially in Kitano’s autobiography and is based on his experiences working on the strip club circuit before finding fame as an actor, director and performer.

Beyond being a thrilling work in its own right, Asakusa Kid also replicates the near-mystical power of Takeshi Kitano’s storytelling and his ability to transform himself into a myriad of cinematic personas. Yuya Yagira deserves massive credit for the physical transformation, but it’s the actor’s charisma and understated performance that seals the deal. His Kitano is an instantly iconic figure.

Asakusa Kid (2021) Review: Alluring Take on the Rags-To-Riches Tale

Asakusa Kid is an excellent biopic that sheds light on the early career of one of Japan’s biggest film stars and filmmakers. The movie has a fantastic script, great acting and incredible cinematography.

Metamorphosis of a star performer – Asakusa Kid hits the nail

This is a film that’s both an affectionate look back at its subjects and a celebration of the power of art and expression to lead someone out of poverty and into the realm of the rich and famous.

It’s an achievement for Yuya Yagira to make us believe that he is indeed Takeshi Kitano, in much the same way that it was an achievement for Kitano himself to transform himself into one of the most renowned filmmakers in Japan.

Kitano’s early life is dramatised here in a rags-to-riches tale, charting the comedian’s journey from a hand-me-down suit to become a living legend.

Asakusa Kid (2021) Review: Alluring Take on the Rags-To-Riches Tale

Asakusa Kid is inevitably best enjoyed by those who know Kitano personally, but anyone interested in the man will find much to enjoy here. Fans of Kitano will no doubt have seen some of these scenes before – he has already used them as material in his memoir – but Asakusa Kid is nevertheless an engaging and surprising biography, depicting a man whose life was far more turbulent than many realise.

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Asakusa Kid is a poignant reminder of struggle and conflicts in life

The biopic charts the rise and fall of the titular comedian, played here by Kitano in his pre-Beat Takeshi days. It charts his working-class upbringing, his early fascination with comedy and his attempts at stand-up.

He then becomes an apprentice to Senzaburo Fukami (played by Oizumi). He helps him build a reputation as a hipster comic who dresses snappily and has a calm on-stage persona.

Movies about comedians are a tricky business. They always seem to be either too corny or too broad, which could be said of Asakusa Kid. It’s a lovely portrait of Takeshi Kitano’s early years as a comedian and the hard graft that preceded his success, but it’s certainly not without its faults.

Asakusa Kid (2021) Review: Alluring Take on the Rags-To-Riches Tale

However, I was impressed by how naturalistic this biopic feels – perhaps because Kitano is a big name in Japan, and his story is so well known. Nobody here will be unfamiliar with Kitano’s rise from the seedier end of Tokyo to the mainstream success he enjoys today.

The movie charts his beginnings as an aspiring comedian in a failing nightclub, where he struggles with the drudgery of pleasing the crowd and keeping them coming back for more. In a typically charismatic performance, Asakusa Kid is particularly effective when it focuses on Kitano’s relationship with his mentor, Senzaburo Fukami.

Stream It or Skip It?

It’s all here: the rise, the fall and the redemption. The film is a triumph for Kitano, who displays a maturity as a director that belies his status as a comic actor. This film may be your best bet for seeing him on stage, with or without the topknot.

Asakusa Kid is streaming on Netflix.

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The biopic-Asakusa Kid charts the rise and fall of the titular comedian, Takeshi Kitano in his pre-Beat days.

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Asakusa Kid (2021) Review: Alluring Take on the Rags-To-Riches TaleThe biopic-Asakusa Kid charts the rise and fall of the titular comedian, Takeshi Kitano in his pre-Beat days.