There is always something so satisfying with a film where the underdog proves their doubters wrong through sheer hard work and infallible self-belief. Flying Colours carries this message for students attempting exams, repeating the motif “where there’s a will there’s a way”.

Sayaka Kudo (Kasumi Arimura) is a gyaru who parties rather than studies, and as a result despite being in the 2nd year of senior high school her academic level is that of a 4th grade elementary student. She struggles with the basic notion of north and south, preferring to make jokes to make people laugh. Her attitude is sunny, despite the constant negativity she faces from her teacher and father who both call her things such as “loser” and “air-head”.

Seemingly the only one to believe in Sayaka is her sweet-hearted mother (Yo Yoshida), who takes Sayaka to enroll in a cram school for problem students. Here she meets Yoshitaka Tsubota (Atsushi Ito), the school’s tutor, who has a unique approach for his students. Rather than trying to cram normal teaching styles on the young pupils he attempts to understand them and adjust the techniques to suit their learning methods. His students brighten under his constant positivity and encouragement, particularly Sayaka to whom he dubs a “genius of imagination” and resolutely determines that he will help her get into the prestigious Keio University.

Flying Colours is a truly beautiful film chock full of important messages about overcoming obstacles, the power of belief and the value of hard work. The audience comes to believe in Sayaka just as much as Tsubota, willing her to succeed as we witness the effort she puts into her studies and the harsh criticism and doubt she continues to receive. It is also an important reflection on the value of teachers, for as Tsubota explains there are no bad students, only bad teachers. When he vehemently defends Sayaka to her high school teacher, arguing that if you call a student a loser they’ll start to believe it, it is incredibly touching. Be prepared to feel the emotions.

This is a fantastic warm-hearted film that provides an interesting insight into the Japanese school system and the struggles of study and competitive student life, but most importantly shows that where there’s a will there’s a way!


Catch the Japanese Film Festival in Melbourne November 26 – December 6.

Visit Japanese Film Festival for more information and session times.