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Swing Girls (Japanese Movie)

Updated on August 28, 2011

Why you should watch the 2004 Japanese film "Swing Girls"

Swing Girls (Suwingu Garuzu) is a charming Japanese movie by Shinobu Yaguchi about the efforts of five high school students -- four girls and a boy -- to form a jazz band. Above anything, the movie is all about teamwork and overcoming challenges to reach a shared goal.

The comedy film stars Yuta Hiraoka (Takuo, the bandleader), Juri Ueno (Tomoko), Shihori Kanjiya (Yoshie), Yuika Motokariya (Sekiguchi) and Yukari Toyashima (Naomi). One of the best things about this movie is that the actors actually performed their own music!

I watched this film recently, mainly because I enjoyed Shinobu Yaguchi's work on Waterboys and Juri Ueno's acting in Nodame Cantabile, but I found Swing Girls so delightful and entertaining that I just had to share it with all of you. If you want to learn more about this inspiring and uplifting Japanese film, please read on.

Swing Girls DVD with English subtitles is available at YesAsia.

Presenting the Swing Girls!

Presenting the Swing Girls!
Presenting the Swing Girls!

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Swing Girls Movie Synopsis - Read about the story of four delinquent girls (and a boy) and the unlikely path they end up choosing to follow.

Swing Girls
Swing Girls

It's a sweltering day during summer vacation in a remote town in northeast Japan. The Yamakawa High School brass band climbs aboard a bus, off to provide moral support for their team at a local baseball championship. Thirteen delinquent girls who are stuck in remedial math with Mr. Ozawa (Naoto Takenaka) look out enviously from a classroom window. Tomoko Suzuki (Ueno Juri) notices that the caterer had missed the bus and so the band's lunches were apparently left behind. She gets the bright idea of ditching class and delivering the lunches themselves.

However, the girls' extreme laziness causes the lunches to spoil, and soon nearly the entire brass band gets sick. The remaining member is Takuo (Hiraoka Yuto), who recruits Tomoko's classmate Sekiguchi (Motokariya Yuika) into the band, even though Sekiguchi's musical talents are entirely in question. But Tomoko and the other girls soon follow, partly to get out of math class, and partly because it's their fault that the entire band got sick in the first place. But there's a catch: nobody knows how to play a wind or brass instrument, much to the dismay of Takuo, who proposes that the girls play swing band jazz - and take their act all the way to a battle-of-the-bands finale!

Intense training sessions on school band instruments follow but they face many other challenges: taking on odd jobs so they can buy their own instruments, members dropping out, and a situation involving a wild boar (!). They manage to survive the odds and the remaining girls, who at first have trouble even making a sound, gradually start to play entire melodies. Gradually, what started as a scheme for cutting class gives way to actual enthusiasm for music.

Add the fact that their remedial math teacher turns out to be a jazz enthusiast so he coaches them into some real swing. Excited to see their friends' transformation, the members who left eventually returns and the Swing Girls finally achieve that Big Band sound.

Watch the Swing Girls Trailer - This movie has subtle humor and a sharp wit so prepare for some laughs!

Film director Shinobu Yaguchi ran across an account of a dwindling high school brass band that reinvented itself as a youthful Big Band. He decided to track the band down to the boondocks where he found an ensemble composed almost entirely of girls with bobbed hair breezing through jazz numbers. The contrast between the band's look and its sound inspired Yaguchi to create Swing Girls, set against the seasonal beauty of northeastern Japan.

Hit play and watch the trailer below. Enjoy!

Information sourced from AsianMediaWiki

Buy the Swing Girls DVD on Amazon - Watch it from the comforts of home.

Get ready to swing! From the director of Waterboys comes Swing Girls, an inspirational zero-to-hero tale about a group of girls who find their rhythm - and then some! Tomoko (Ueno Juri) leads a group of bored girls stuck in remedial summer math class, who decide to ditch their boring teacher (Takenaka Naoto) to deliver lunches to the school brass band.

Description from Yesasia

Swing Girls
Swing Girls

Directed by Yaguchi Shinobu (Waterboys), Swing Girls struck a chord with audiences thanks to its feel-good emotions and energetic cast of young girls, and ranked eighth at the Japanese box office for 2004. Like the characters they play, many of the actors were strangers to their instruments when filming began, and learned to play as filming went on! Full of humor, heart, and more than a little satisfying irreverence, Swing Girls is a toe-tapping, crowd-pleasing good time at the movies!

 

The Cast of Swing Girls

Who's who in the charming Japanese movie

Swing Girls was a huge success, ranking #8 at the Japanese box office in 2004, and winning seven prizes at the 2005 Japanese Academy Awards, including "Most Popular Film" and "Newcomer of the Year" awards for Yuta Hiraoka and Juri Ueno, launching their careers. See the complete list of characters below.

The Swing Girls

Juri Ueno as Tomoko Suzuki (lead saxophone)

Yuta Hiraoka as Takuo Nakamura (keyboards)

Shihori Kanjiya as Yoshie Saito (trumpet)

Yuika Motokariya as Kaori Sekiguchi (trombone)

Yukari Toyoshimaas Naomi Tanaka (drums)

Naoto Takenaka as Tadahiko Ozawa (math teacher and jazz sensei)

Extended Cast List

Nagisa Abe - Reiko Shimoda

Noriko Eguchi - Shop Assistant at Muscial Instruments Shop

Hana Kino - Manager at supermarket

Fumiyo Kohinata - Yasumi Suzuki

Fumiko Mizuta - Yuka Yamamoto

Naomi Nishida - Masumi - student at music school

Mutsuko Sakura - Suzuki Mie (Tomoko's Grandmother)

Miho Shiraishi - Yayoi Itami

Issei Takahashi - Band Leader

Masaaki Takarai - Kubota-sensei

Yoji Tanaka - Manager of Pinball Parlour

Kei Tani - Morishita

Eriko Watanabe - Sanae Suzuki

Asuka Yamaguchi - Chika Kubo

Hidekazu Mashima

Yu Tokui

Chise Nakamura

Seiji Fukushi

Natsuko Tatsumi

Tadashi Sakata

Masashi Mikami

Information from AsianMediawiki / Photos are screen grabs from the film

Listen to the awesome Swing Girls OST - Revel in their bright and lively big band jazz

The main cast members were all selected from an open call as members of the Yamakawa High School Big Band because director Shinobu Yaguchi completely overlooked the need to cast performers with musical skills. However, just like in the movie, several months of intensive practice and rehearsals allowed the actresses to record all the musical numbers in the film. Listen to the fruits of their efforts in the Swing Girls OST.

Swing Girls
Swing Girls

Songs performed in Swing Girls include "In the Mood" by the Glenn Miller Orchestra (song playing while walking along the apartment complex), "Moonlight Serenade" by Glenn Milller (The first song played at the concert finale), "Mexican Flyers" by Ken Woodman (The second song played at the concert finale), and"Sing Sing Sing with a Swing" by Benny Goodman (The final song played in the concert finale). Listen to the music performed by the actors themselves in the Swing Girls soundtrack.

 

Memorable moments in Swing Girls, the 2004 film - Watch the clips and see why this film was such a big success in Japan.

Swing Girls (2004) Photo Gallery - Memorable scenes from the heartwarming Japanese movie.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

"Bravo!"

"Bravo!"
"Bravo!"

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Your thoughts about this page are most welcome too.

Did you enjoy reading about the 2004 film Swing Girls? - Do you plan on watching it? Tell me right here.

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    • profile image

      Brian Fitzgerald 3 months ago

      A great movie, the natural girls in their glory. Very well done

      pleasure & to watch every day. The d.v.d. I have bought & now awaiting delivery. Australia

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I actually found this after renting it from GEO (shockingly, the Japan-market Region 2 DVDs actually contain English subtitles) and couldn't disagree more with almost literally every positive thing you said about this movie! It was easily one of the worst movies I've ever seen, to the point where I felt compelled to watch to the very end simply to see what would be the next thing to happen simply because the script called for it to. The subtitles removed any sort of plausible deniability that it was my unfamiliarity with Yamagata's dialect causing me to find the movie to make no sense, and it was to my simultaneous relief and bewilderment that the movie ended literally the moment the climactic scene came, without even a little bit of denouement to tie up the storylines that the writer had apparently introduced and then forgotten along the way.

      The only way I could recommend this movie would be either "It's the second piece of notable pop culture to use the song 'Mexican Flyer,' and the first one is referenced explicitly within it" or "it is such an unimaginably bad movie that you will hopefully find it hilarious."

    • Inkhand profile image

      Inkhand 5 years ago

      Yes, I enjoyed watching Swing Girls. I thought it was very funny how all the cast spoke in local Yamagata-ben dialect, Shinobu Yaguchi is a comic genius. Thank you for this lens.

    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 5 years ago

      Thanks for the great information. I love exploring other cultures through film! Blessed :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I loved it. Music my parents grew up with. Want to visit Japan to live the culture.

    • cuteordeath profile image

      cuteordeath 6 years ago

      This looks awesome! I will definitely check it out!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You make it sound wonderful!