While companies like Arrow, Criterion, and Eureka’s Master of Cinema are doing a lot to bring lesser known or previously unavailable Japanese films to the west – sometimes being seen for the first time with English language translations – there are still hundreds upon hundreds of films languishing in obscurity. Anime and even Japanese dramas can sometimes count on dedicated fansubbbers to provide unofficial translations (and host illegitimate, downloadable copies) but films rarely get the same treatment. Hard to Find will be an irregular feature on Kino 893 looking at films I’d love to watch, but haven’t yet found a way to.
For the first entry in Hard to Find, let’s talk Shakotan Boogie (1987). I stumbled across this title through my interest in cars – particularly (you guessed it) classic cars from Japan. Automotive enthusiast site Speedhunters is my regular fix for old Skylines and Fairlady Zs. I’d come across the word shakotan before, used to describe a particular style of quite extreme car modification, typically with the car riding low, tall bosozoku-style exhaust pipes, and outlandishly cambered wheels. I have no idea whether the term shakotan came first or if it was popularised by the manga, anime, and film – all titled Shakotan Boogie – but I first heard of the connection in this article by Mike Garrett. I think Garrett actually has some of the timeline wrong here, at least going by Wikipedia; it looks as if the film was in fact an adaptation of an on-going manga – but that’s neither here nor there. We’re here to talk about the Toei movie from 1987.
Garrett compares the movie to George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973) – a movie that doesn’t really have much of a plot beyond the main characters cruising around in customised cars trying to pick-up girls. American Graffiti, with it’s iconic yellow ‘32 Ford, became popular with hot rodders in the US. Likewise Shakotan Boogie, while obscure, became popular with Japanese fans of classic cars. The idea of checking out this niche bit of pop culture from late ‘80s Japan was irresistible – the only problem is that the film is virtually unknown in the West, and hardly easy to find in Japan.
First of all, it doesn’t appear to have ever received a Western release of any kind. Immediately, that quashes the idea of official English language subtitles, but further investigation doesn’t throw up any likely examples of a fansubbed version on sites like YouTube or a certain Buccaneer Cove. Checking Amazon.jp is no help either: it suggests that Shakotan Boogie never even received a DVD release in its native Japan, leaving only ancient VHS tapes on sale for nearly 20,000 yen.
After unsuccessful dives into Reddit and finding nothing but a handful of out-of-context clips on YouTube, I was just about ready to give up the quest entirely when I stumbled upon the entire movie just sitting there on Vimeo.
It’s hardly ideal: the picture quality is awful and there are of course no subtitles, but there it is. I’m far from fluent in Japanese, so I’ll have to sit down and see just how much I can understand without subs; if it goes well, Shakotan Boogie might just end up reviewed on Kino 893 after all.
…and if some kind soul from Arrow or Eureka! wants to collaborate with Toei on a proper release, that’d be massive improvement.
Shakotan Boogie / シャコタン☆ブギ
Director: Shun Nakahara
Japanese Release Date: ?? 1987