“What’s wrong with a little happiness?” one of the “eight heroes” of Aoba Jr. High Class 1-A asks, retreating from the duplicitous adult world into a teenage paradise. Another Kadokawa teen movie, Seven Days War (ぼくらの七日間戦争, Bokura no Nanoka-kan Senso) adapts the first in a series of Kadokawa novels by Osamu Soda and situates itself very much in the throws of the Bubble era in which the young rail not only against a rigid, conformist society but familial disappointment and the enduring legacy of the authoritarian past.
According to the principal’s assembly speech, at Aoba Jr. High the motto for the day is “intellect, morality, and physique”. While he’s busy talking, another teacher, Yashiro (Shiro Sano), is patiently going through students’ bags and confiscating things he doesn’t like, even such innocent items as hairbrushes lest they should be used “to attract boys” rather than to maintain one’s appearance as the school would doubtless wish seeing as we later see the same teacher taking a ruler to make sure all the girls’ skirts are at regulation length. A boy late for assembly is also taken to task over his hair, accused of having had a perm and physically dragged towards a water butt by violent P. E teacher Mr. Sakae (Yasuaki Kurata) who later beats another overweight student for not performing well enough on the monkey bars.
It’s small wonder the kids want to rebel. Eight of the boys in Yashiro’s class suddenly disappear one day, seceding to form their own society hiding out in a disused factory. Discovered and questioned, their only demands are to have the bad teachers fired and for all the students to be treated equally, but as expected their requests fall on deaf ears. Mindful of the school’s reputation, the principal tries to calm the anxious mothers but his underling, Nozawa (Yasuo Daichi), cooly absolves himself of all responsibility insensitively telling the parents that their children’s actions are obviously a reflection of poor parenting rather than a reaction to conditions at the school.
As crude as that sounds, it’s accidentally echoed in another of the children’s demands in that they reject the idea that “children are robbers of parents’ lives”. Many of them are dealing with some degree of familial discord, often caused by the socio-economic stresses of the Bubble era in which everyone works all the time. The parents of ringleader Eiji (Kenichiro Kikuchi) are always arguing because his father is never around to help out at home, claiming that his golf weekends etc are essential work activities while his mother complains she’s worn out expected to handle the domestic responsibilities all alone. The broody Hiroshi (Toshitada Nabeshima) resents his mother for never being home, forever off working and communicating with him largely through answerphone messages. Nakao (Ken Ohsawa), the most studious of the boys, complains that he doesn’t really like the subjects he’s forced to study and only goes to cram school to please his parents. Hitomi (Rie Miyazawa), a female student who ends up joining the group later, is often left to her own devices with her father away working in Mexico and her mother always off “playing golf” which she seems to suspect is a euphemism for some other activity.
What the kids want is to be free to be themselves, rejecting the salaryman straitjacket the mainstream world seems to be preparing for them. This being 1988, it goes without saying that the older teachers were children themselves during wartime and the legacy of militarism seems to have endured in their extreme love of order and discipline which has also infected the slightly younger and especially scary Yashiro. The wartime echoes are driven home by the very random find of a WWII tank for some reason hidden in the factory which the kids eventually repurpose and weaponise as part of their resistance, fortifying their hideout with a series of otherwise non-lethal booby traps to keep the authorities out even after the principal orders armed troops in. In the final confrontation, Nozawa turns up wearing a WWII German uniform only to be humiliatingly defeated by one of the gang’s Mousetrap-esque devices.
Their rebellion, however, remains temporary and goodnatured, culminating in a beautiful fireworks display that has the adults admiring their artistry, while they later appear dressed once again in their school uniforms apparently considering their next revolutionary act. A Bubble-era time capsule, Seven Days War has much in common with other ‘80s kids movies, but positions its contemporary teens at the intersection of the authoritarian past and the consumerist present each of which conspire to rob them of their freedom but in their own way fighting back for their right to be themselves in a still conformist society.
Music video (no subtitles)