A microcosmic spec so small, one would hardly realize what they are in the presence of. The read-out of the radar (faintly) falls something along the lines of the anabasis of an alienated teenager, struggling to adapt, from day to day, of the stresses and dilemmas of daily home and school life.The Japanese film again shows a startling sensitivity to the subject and the subject matter. In the U.S., we either get Bully or crazy/beautiful, neither of which serve as a selectable alternative. It’s like Bush versus Gore; choosing one over the other is only an individual’s moral choice of the lesser evil. So I would rather go with the Nader, or the Perot, or in this case, the Shiota. Likewise, it is not the most preferable possibility (nor are any in politics), but as far as the options reach, it better fits my ethics, my standards. Back to sensitivity, there is also a semblance of non-judgmental objectivity that was so evident in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Millennium Mambo. It is illustrated, repeatedly, as the climate at which the comely, disciplined girl is driven to the brink. Her silence, her reticence is an indication of how deep the alienation has burrowed, and elsewhere, each time she is let down after that, seals off another form of trust. Director Akihiko Shiota, the erstwhile assistant director to Kiyoshi Kurosawa, similarly employs a distilled detachment to the subject, a staid snapshot instead of an artificial portrait. There is no deprivation in the technical quality of the film, possibly even an advancement with the utilization of Tokusho Kikumora’s cinematography. Shiota has a tendency, like his trainer, to let whim and occurrence dictate the vicissitudes of the story, but he also picks up Kurosawa’s bad habit of letting that free-flow turn into an arid overhaul.