Sh˘jo (2001) from Tuna

Sh˘jo, aka Showyo: An Adolescent, aka SHOUJYO: THE ADOLESCENT is a Japanese Lolita story. Tomokawa is a bicycle policeman in a small village. There is very little crime to occupy his time in this bailiwick, so he has found a great way to make the work day seem shorter. He finds pets, keeps them at home for a few days, then returns them to their grateful single female owners. He knows exactly how the women can express their gratitude while dispelling some of their loneliness in the bargain. A girl named Yoko (Mayu Ozawa) seduces him, claiming to be 17, but he later discovers that she is 16, is in Junior High School, and is the sister of a simpleton he has befriended.

The simplified plot description makes Sh˘jo sound like an exploitation movie with a little pedophilia thrown in for good measure, but that is not the case. It is an artistic film which had a tiny NY/California run in the United States, and was reviewed by such mainstream media as The New York Times and TV Guide. It won the Grand Jury prizes at the AFI fest and the Paris Film Festival in 2002, and Maya Ozawa won some festival awards for her lead performance.

Tomokawa is a sensitive, caring person, and is in love with Yoko before he knows her true age. They are also connected in a somewhat mystical way. He has a tattoo of a one-winged bird covering his back. The legend has it that he needs the female version of the one-winged bird before either of them can soar. It was Yoko's grandfather that gave him the tattoo, and her mother was supposed to have the female version. For her part, Yoko had probably loved Tomokawa from an early age based on his tattoo.

Veteran character actor Eiji Okuda, making his directorial debut and also starring as Tomokawa, seemed to have no difficulty being both in front of and behind the camera. The photography is absolutely wonderful, and the film also serves as a beautiful portrait of small village life in Japan, but Okuda's greatest directorial accomplishment is that the 132-minute film moves very quickly in spite of some fairly lofty artistic aspirations. Sh˘jo is a must-see for lovers of Japanese cinema.


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  • Mayu Ozawa shows breasts and buns in several scenes.

  • An unknown shows breasts when Tomokawa returns her dog.

The Critics Vote ...


The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this is a C+. If you enjoy Japanese cinema and don't mind burned-in subtitles, this is one you will want to see.

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