Story: Barefoot (Marika Ito) has been a big fan of Chanbara movies since her childhood. After having seen "Zatoichi" as a kid, the samurai genre is all there is for her. She and her friends Kickboard (Yumi Kawai), who is mainly interested in science fiction, and Blue Hawai (Kirara Inori), who spends most of her time at the kendo school club, watch old samurai movies after class and discuss the best scenes. Barefoot had also pitched her idea for a Chanbara movie at the school's film club, but a large majority wanted Karin (Mahiru Coda) to shoot her vision of a teen romance. Since the club's budget is used up for Karin's movie idea, Barefoot now has a script, but no money to shoot the movie. However, her biggest problem is that she has a clear vision of what her main actor should be like, but wasn't able to find him yet. One afternoon, when she goes to a special cinema in order to watch a samurai flick, she notices Rintaro (Daichi Kaneko) in the audience, who is also enthusiastic about the genre. Barefoot immediately tries to persuade him to be her main character, but he refuses. Nevertheless, he absolutely wants her to shoot her vision of a Chanbara movie, which is why he at least helps her to scrape up the money. So Barefoot puts together a film crew, but for her the success of the movie entirely depends on whether she can convince Rintaro to star in it...
Review: The title of this school romcom Chanbara comedy drama (?) promises a good time, and that's exactly what you get! The fact that it is hard to even try to pinpoint the movie's genre (as there are also some science fiction elements thrown in) should already make clear that everyone will have fun with some aspect of the movie. And this is not meant in the sense of the extremely optimized Marvel flicks, in which there is something to be found for everyone, but almost no one leaves the cinema completely satisfied either. "It's a Summer Film!" is a love letter to the medium of movie and maneuvers through the various genres with ease by repeatedly jumping to a meta-level. Thanks to the extremely energetic characters and a story that seems to go in every direction, the movie manages to draw you in right from the start.
"It's a Summer Film!" is a romantic comedy for all those who don't really like the genre. In the first half, the movie constantly makes fun of the film club, which shoots a ridiculous love flick with even more ridiculous dialogues. Over and over again, the club is exactly at the same location where Barefoot is currently trying to shoot her little indie movie with great difficulty. But what is initially used for humor gets a different touch towards the end. Because Barefoot and her "rival" Karin are not that different from each other after all, and neither are their two crews. They are united by the motif of love. Their love for movies. Realizing this is heartwarming and also refreshing, because with that the flick manages to avoid clichés that would otherwise inevitably have resulted from a simple story about rivalry. At the same time, the movie is pleasantly lighthearted, but still gives us the obligatory obstacles the characters need to overcome.
Barefoot's "rivalry" with Karin also mirrors the motif of many Chanbara movies: mutual respect and chivalry. Which also includes helping your rival if it is the right thing to do. The filmmaker herself also has some problems at the beginning. But less with the bunch of actors that she managed to round up or the people behind the camera, and more with the fact that her vision is perhaps bigger than what is really feasible for her. However, she is in it with all her heart and soul, and so is her team. Blue Hawaii is able to choreograph the flick thanks to her kendo skills, while another crew member is responsible for the lighting using his pimped out bike with its countless lamps, etc. In the end, everything falls into place. The only real problem is that Barefoot is not satisfied with the ending of her movie and has rewritten it several times. Which is no wonder, as she grows in the course of the story - thus, "It's a Summer Film!" is actually also a coming-of-age movie.
Even though there are also some science fiction elements, those are not disruptive at all, as the story constantly jumps to a meta level, but without breaking the fourth wall. Some of the scenes of the filmed samurai - or more precisely jidaigeki - flick are fascinating. You can clearly see Barefoot's love for the genre, and there are countless bows to classics like "13 Assassins" or "Gate of Hell". There's even a short, beautiful fight scene. But the real highlight is a showdown, which turns out a lot more different than you would expect - but in spirit it could actually come right out of a jidaigeki movie. The way director Soushi Matsumoto deconstructs a lot of things and puts them back together in an innovative way is particularly praiseworthy. Strictly speaking, he has also included the obligatory school festival in its finale, which is characteristic for romantic flicks set at school, and with that it becomes clear that "It's a Summer Film!" is actually a romantic comedy on several levels. But a refreshingly different one.
Of course, there are also a few minor problems. Rintaro often seems too distant, and some supporting characters fade too much into the background. But with its running time of 97 minutes, the movie is not longer than it needs to be. You have to admit, though, that the flick is also a little cluttered, and that at the very least, the science fiction elements are merely used as an instrument to justify some aspects of the premise. But none of this matters, because the enthusiasm of the filmmakers is extremely contagious and you can feel the love for filmmaking in every scene. Similar to movies like "One Cut of the Dead" or "Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes", even though "It's a Summer Film!" is a lot easier to digest and more light-hearted and obviously had a bigger budget. The flick is touching, but without getting cheesy, and it always offers some twists that you would not have expected - especially when the ending heads into a direction that you could only describe as stereotypical, but then surprises you after all. "It's a Summer Film!" is an ode to the medium of movie and leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. It's a pity that so far, the flick has received relatively little attention outside of the Nippon Connection, because it definitely deserves a bigger audience.