Haiiro no Karasu 灰色の烏 (Grey Crow)
There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it?
The GAY force and the Asian Culture!
Kobayashi Kaho as Mana
Ampo Sayo as Shiori
Haiiro Karasu (Grey Crow) is one of those many Japanese slice-of-life movies. Now when I say SoL I don’t mean the anime kind of cute girls doing cute things! For me I call these kinds of movies ‘Silent Movies’. The rarely have BGM, they are so real that they might just be characters in everyday life.
The simple premise of this is that in a small town somewhere, girls gather to go on a simple trek in the mountains. They are of different ages are part of a club. The youngest for example is under 9 years old, the next is still in final elementary, Shiori and Mana our girls, are in middle school (junior high) and the leader is in her mid-twenties.
The go on the trek as planned but something happens and they find themselves lost when they go to watch the stars only to stay longer than they had planned after falling asleep. Being in the woods and it being dark, they lost their way but as luck would have it, they managed to stumble upon a few forgotten houses up there. And so most of the movie takes place there but before we get there, the characters were already established and we knew them (except the guy they find there).
The Leader has a history that is so damaging it literally broke her. Even after the movie she was still damaged. I mean usually movies happen in order to solve some MC’s predicament but not this time, no way Sir! I felt so much for this main character that I almost didn’t enjoy the yuri as much as I should have. It was never explicitly stated (or maybe it was but I didn’t catch it) but they gave all the hints necessary.
She was raped when she was young and now even in her twenties, she is so afraid of men she literally has physical attacks in conjunction with the emotional and psychological ones. At first though it seemed like she might have over-come this when they met that guy at the camp, turned out he was no hero like he first was made out to be. The bastard tried to strangle Mana and that totally gives him the name Dick in my book!
But enough about the MC.
The reason I am writing about this movie in the first place is because of the characters Shiori and Mana. Mana is played by Shiritsu Ebichu Chuugaku’s Kobayasho Kaho. You know, that Idol group with the girl that has the weirdest voice in the whole of Idol industry? This group also has a Kashiwagi (Hinata) that will be joining the reviews in December when her movie (she is in with Taketomi Seika) gets released on DVD/BD.
The other girl Shori is played by Ampo Sayo who some might remember from Kato Miliyah’s PV (Lonely Hearts). What is interesting is that I did not believe it at first. She looked really older in that PV but at the moment she is only 17 so she had to be about 14 or 15 at the time of that PV filming. Anyway that is her.
You know, for me to get this movie was like a lottery! I passed by it five times over a week because it didn’t seem interesting from the poster. Finally because I was short on what to watch I decided to go ahead and get it anyway. There were two girls on the cover so maybe…And just like that, I fell upon a heap of gold!
Yes, this is a goodness to God yuri movie! It is the exact dose of yuri that I prefer! Light, yet heavy enough to punch a hole through my heart! The yuri was tackled so damn well too. They went through all the stages in the time that other movies have in spades and more. Usually Japanese movies, especially this kind, are in the 2hr mark. This one strangely was at the 90min mark and yet they gave us everything!
They teased and dropped hints to those that are paying attention with Mana’s behavior towards Shiori. Meanwhile they also showed us how helpless Mana was because of the way that Shiori was/acted. All this was backed up by the incredible camera work that also told a whole different story! All this while there is other points of the story going on and nothing felt rushed. Everything moved at the pace I am used to in Japanese movies that are way longer than this and so it goes without saying that this movie kept me up all night because I just couldn’t stop thinking about it and Mana and Shiori!
Best believe it I am going to get this BD come December with the others that are being released that month.
The movie first grabbed my undivided attention at the 8min or so mark. This was when Mana went over to Shiori’s house. She found Shiori laying on the couch talking to someone, whom we can deduce is her boyfriend. She gets up to go get Mana something to eat and in doing so leaves her sweater she had used to warm her legs on the couch where Mana was sitting.
Mana lies there on the couch as she listens to Shiori speak on the phone. As she waits, she takes a hold of Shiori’s sweater, studies then smells it. She does it again. And when she hears Shiori tell the listener goodbye, she promptly drops the sweater and studies the ceiling again. When Shiori comes back, Mana starts a convo, with how lovey-dovey Shiori is with her boyfriend and then they proceed to talk about the trip.
Mana smelling Shiori’s sweater! I usually would have let it go but not when it happens twice and apparently in secrecy! No way! And so my ears and eyes perked up from that moment on! Thinking of it now actually if someone did dismiss it as meaning nothing, they might have been right too because at that moment Mana wasn’t aware, not exactly anyway, of the meaning of these strange feelings and it was she was doing and why she was doing it!
Like I said, this movie went through all the stages! We got to see the signs, the moment of truth when the person in question finally figures out there feelings, the conflict within oneself after said revelation, and then the confession and the results of that confession! None of that confession -> turn to black/transition till the end of the movie bullshit!
The sweater smelling was the light stuff! When the movie progressed the signs got stronger. The next came as the girls were watching the stars. Just like all the other times they were sleeping, Shiori and Mana were lying next to one another. As the two watch the stars, Mana turns and takes in the form of Shiori next to her. I swear if this was some cheesy romantic movie, and I have to confess that I heard the lines in my head, I was expecting Shiori to sigh out ‘It’s so beautiful’! Then Mana, who was not looking at the stars but watching Shiori would then reply ‘Yes, beautiful’.
But none of that c-rate dialogue made it in the movie (Thank the Lord) and instead Shiori only closed her eyes then Mana too turned back to the sky and closed hers.
The point in the way that Mana was watching Shiori. Nay, the action itself! The starts were really beautiful and there was no reason at all for Mana to prefer Shiori over the stars in that moment except for the implied reason! And yet even within it the scene didn’t come off as corny at all. It really was life-like because anyone can do that, given the setting (being in the dark and thus more forward coming)!
So, if one was tickled by the sweater smelling but brushed it off, the star-gazing scene was sure to finally grab attention! But even so that was still light stuff! Now remember that I said something about the way that Shiori was acting towards Mana? Now, while this might be normal, when you understand Mana’s current predicament you just have to see Shiori’s actions in a different light and what those actions might do to poor Mana.
The amount of physical touching in this movie was way too much! And when you pay attention you realize that it was all started by Shiori! But you also have to remember that Shiori didn’t mean anything bad by it! It was only fate that these contacts were much more to Mana! And so while Mana usually put of an air of indifference, which was kind of actually in line with her character as a tomboy whereas Shiori was the girly of the two, when we get to the moment of truth you have to think that maybe she was also putting on air! She was being affected on the inside but did not let it show because just like everyone else in this world, she was afraid of what it would all mean and we see her finally combust later on.
Seriously, Shiori wasn’t making things easy for Mana. The way she touched her…Like this moment when she was waking Mana up after the Leader (the MC) had gone off, I swear I thought Shiori was about to hump a sleepy Mana at some point. She was touching her knees, caressing her face and everything, all early in the morning! And yet you have to hand it to Mana for having resisted until that point! Then again she might just not have been awake but that wasn’t the first time. If you think back on the couch scene (sweater-smelling scene) there was some uncomfortable closeness (for Mana maybe) then too.
So, we have had signs as on-lookers. We have also been shown that Mana herself might suspect but she is still not comprehending or too much in denial. So then the next logical step would be for her to finally realize what those feelings meant and this is what happens next!
While still lost in the woods, just like clockwork one night the two are sleeping close. This time things are really bad, and by that I mean that the positions were in the worst state as far as Mana was concerned! It was late in the night and by the way the sun rose after a certain moment it must have been way later in the night, or more like early in the morning.
At the ungodly hour we zoom in at the two and Mana is still wide awake! She is on her side watching Shiori sleep only inches away from her.
This scene dear Readers! The intensity of this scene – that was very visually and emotionally highlighted with the way Mana’s breathing went from pure silence to snoring levels of loud as the scene went on thus telling us of her emotional rollercoaster…I don’t even…
Mana starts out by oh so delicately and carefully touching Shiori’s hand. She then starts feeling her hand with her fingers. Meanwhile her breathing is picking up intensity as her mind suggests her ideas that anyone, even I know have had in my life. She takes on the ideas even as scared as she is, her heart pounding and demanding more oxygen from her lungs which increases her breathing even more.
She takes the plunge as she moves her fingers to slowly feel Shiori’s lower lips, delicately rubs her finger on said lip, meanwhile her breathing is getting out of control!
Funny how I think while she was breathing stronger and stronger, I was breathing less and less and I think I stopped breathing at one point, especially the next when they zoomed in on Shiori’s face and we see her eye lids begin to open slowly and stare!
I think my heart really stopped at that moment! I was so sure that Shiori would awaken and lose it just like how it usually goes and what is even worse is that Mana was frozen but only with her hand which did not move from Shiori’s lip! Her breathing was getting worse and worse and when Shiori closed her eyes again, not doing anything else, not even turning around, which led me to believe that she hadn’t seen anything and was just staring into space!
As Shiori’s eyes close again Mana finally gets up and flees the pit of Hell with billions of seduction! And it was then that I noticed I needed to breathe! I swear to you that scene is a heart-stopper! No other scene comes even close in all the movies I have seen this year! No one!!
But things aren’t yet over just because Mana flees! Nope, for where she goes is where the Guy is sleeping! She kneels in front of him, then bends and kisses him in his sleep!
Yeah, I won’t judge you if you flipped a table but it is a necessary evil for it was a way for Mana to come to terms with what was going on with her. The only way to be sure was to see if the Guy affected her the same way Shiori was affecting her. And though I know it isn’t a fare comparison, after all, she hadn’t kissed Shiori only touched her, kissing the Guy meant that if she didn’t feel anything even through a kiss, her fate was sealed!
And it was sealed because right after she kisses the guy, she breaks down when she realizes that it was nothing! Kissing the Guy was nothing when she nearly had a heart attack just touching Shiori!
As to why she had gone to the guy, I think this is Shiori’s fault. Before this moment, Shiori confesses that she had fallen for the Guy. In fact she even cries when she realizes that she had no chance as the MC seemed to be hitting it off pretty well with Dick. She then went on to ask what kind of guy Mana liked which Mana avoided by saying that wasn’t the time for such talk! So Mana might have used the guy because Shiori had seen something in him.
Speaking of the talk about guys, Shiori went on to theories that Mana’s type of Guy was probably one that was like Shiori, if she were a guy! Now remember that she did not know Mana had feelings for her so she wasn’t calling her out on it. Hell, not even Mana knew for she just let the insinuation go by like it was just another line said. Shiori only said it in line with how her relationship with Mana was and how she had to pull Mana along, Mana being a laid-back person.
Anyway Mana now knows that she has feelings that are not merely friendship for Shiori. Also to prove my deduction, the next day Shiori does seem to remember what went on the night before all she knows is that Mana is acting very strangely. And of course that can only mean one thing! Mana knows but she hasn’t come to terms with what she discovered! Meaning…conflict!
At the river, Shiori is her usual happy self and does the usual touchy things she does with Mana. Mana was trying to catch fish like Dick had done that one time which had actually gotten Shiori to fall for him because of how cool he had looked. Now I don’t think that Mana was doing it to impress Shiori the same way but that doesn’t mean that she was not to be hit hard when Shiori asked her to leave the fishing to Dick!
She then called Mana over and held her hand and proceeded to say how happy she was being there with Mana and Dick all around oblivious to what was going on within Mana. Mana finally snaps having had enough Dick talk for one day and bursts out saying that Shiori doesn’t know anything then leaves, after roughly pulling her hand out of Shiori’s hold! Shiori tries to stop her but she eventually lets Mana walk away!
Now usually movies would not bother to show us Mana and what she does after that and would have only showed her to us coming back maybe even cut to a much later time of the day but like I said, this movie’s cinematography and story-telling is Godly! We do follow Mana and the way we are shown her break down after she is alone having finally succumbed to her fate is just…
But just because we got shown a scene we wouldn’t normally see didn’t mean that we should not see what we normally see. While I wouldn’t have complained because usually these stories are one sided, especially in one-sided loves, I wouldn’t have minded if Shiori’s side of the story wasn’t touched upon. People can’t control who falls in love with them just as much as how those who fall in love can’t control who they fall for and so I wouldn’t have minded if Shiori went of being her usual self.
But then you have to remember that they were friends and to her Mana was acting strange and maybe she sees it as Mana becoming less of a friend with her. So she might wonder if she had done something wrong or what not so I am happy to see that we got at least to see her being affected, unlike a certain Card Captor that shan’t be named!
And so when Mana starts drifting and in her being lost Dick taking advantage of her and tries to kill her, or double suicide or whatever he was planning to do, the way that everything else in Shiori’s life was dumped in priority to saving Mana really hit me right where it hurts! Shiori was so affected when she thought something was going to happen to Mana that she even seemed to lose her soul. The other younger girls had to drag her from the ground when the MC came back after rescuing Mana because she was the dead inside!
Another great thing is that Shiori wasn’t stupid! While other characters like her would have been blinded and were more worried about their crush (Dick in this case) Shiori knew that Dick was a dick! She went and released the MC (who had been tied up because she was suspected of being out of her mind because of said Dick) in order to save Mana! She implicitly begs the MC to save Mana!
And when Mana comes back, supported by the MC’s shoulders, Shiori takes her other hand, places it over her shoulders, holds and squeezes Mana’s hand and cries! Tears of joy!
But while all that is well and good, something is still missing. And I confess that since after the rescue the group finally found the road to their freedom from the forest and with the movie nearing the end, I was succumbing to not having to see the confession! I was ready to accept thy fate of another love unrealized!
Nope, not this movie! Only seconds left? Plenty of time! We see Shiori and Mana back to their high spirits. They are riding cycles to school! Mana tries to tell Shiori something but seems to change her mind! I am ready to give up because usually that line means the end but nope!
Mana tries again and tells Shiori that it seems that she has fallen in love with her. Shiori says something that is so ambiguous that I can’t really put into words. I am not sure if she is just saying ‘OK’, is saying that as an evasive maneuver or what!?!
But then when Mana stops and turns around declaring that she is going to Karaoke (skipping school in the process? Girl you so bad!) Shiori too stops and turns around to follow her. But before she does she says something that needs discussion!
The phrase can mean that I will go with you or I will accompany you in any other context! But here is the thing, the words she used are words that are sometimes, if not most of the time, used to ask someone out after a confession. Like ‘I love you, will you go out with me?’ kind of ‘go with’.
What I am trying to say is that it was a double meaning here. Saying it after Mana had confessed her feelings for Shiori, it was as if Shiori was answering her twice. First she was saying that she will accompany Mana to Karaoke and next she was saying that she will go out with Mana – accepting her feelings. This is supported with the happiness she radiates having said mentioned words!
In other words Ladies and Gentlemen, we have ourselves here an actual yuri movie that delivered everything necessary without cashing in on the making out! It still boggles my mind how some people still can’t grasp yuri that doesn’t have obvious necking or sex! I would take a movie like this, a relationship so full of context like this over girls who kiss only to not end up together by the end of the movie! Yes, I am talking about you Shishunki Gokko and Houkago Lost and so on an endless list!
Oh year, that is how the movie ends! I am surprised no one has mentioned it at all. This is an A-grade yuri movie! It doesn’t advertise it like the fore mentioned and many others but the yuri is as part of the pain story as anything else. I am so buying this Blu-ray and so placing it in front the likes of SG, HL, etc in the queue!
If I was rating, this movie is 9.8/10. Only losing out to perfection because the MC did not get to get over her men problem. Sure they resolved her problems with her mother but the other is almost as important an issue! Other than that….Purrrfect!