Let's begin with the first case, hoi!
Doing it with an only daughter, hoi!
Ask her parents' permission first, hoi!
During various reprises, singers will take us as far as the twelfth case, but Otake moves on to a ranting reading from a favorite author in favor of rebellion before he passes out drunk. He and the four lads end up overnighting in the girls' dorm. One of the guys ventures out of their guest room and blunders about the halls, encountering Otake, freshly passed out, in his own room with a gas heater in disarray. In the morning, the kids learn that Otake has died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Reeling from the news, the boys, with their ringleader Nakamura feeling certain that he killed Otake somehow, rekindle their obsession with No. 469, and imagine themselves gang-raping her in the exam room. While Nakamura crashes Otake's wake and confronts his mistress, Miss Tanigawa, the other three guys hook up with a Korean girl and head to a protest concert in search of 469. At the wake, Otake is lauded as an activist who had led protests against the reinstatement of the traditional "imperialist" Founder's Day holiday. Friends sing protest songs at the wake to honor his memory, but Nakamura disrupts the remembrance by reprising "Let's start with the first case." It's a protest of his own, his insistence that death has no meaning of the kind Otake's friends want to impose on it. It's also an assertion that the bawdy song expressed Otake's essence more than the political lyrics.
The boys adopt the song as a mantra, as if they can make it the one constant in their uncertain existence. Other characters have songs as well; the Korean girl, for instance, has a number about the hard life of a prostitute. The importance of music to the story and the cultural moment in which it's set becomes most clear when she and the other three boys reach the protest rally. On this ostensibly anti-American occasion, we find Japanese students playing western instruments and singing American folk songs in English: This Land is Your Land, We Shall Overcome, and from a single riveting voice, Goodnight Irene.
"The Festival of the Black Sun is upon us: Japan, Spring 1967." Talent search winner Kazuko Tajima as Mayuko Fujiwara, "No. 469."
Nihon Shunka-ko, to let the title speak for itself, is a coming-of-age film for a nation in tumult. The students are waiting to learn their future while worrying about the future of their country and the wider world. The songs in the picture express competing if not incompatible worldviews, and the cumulative effect is a carefully calibrated cacophony giving voice(s) to the uncertainty of "1967: Spring in Japan." The real-life protests included in the film give it an authentic sense of urgency, while the long takes with which Oshima shows us the musical protest rally sympathetically convey the students' own sense of its significance while sustaining suspense as we await the inevitable confrontations. Oshima immerses us in the atmosphere of the moment, from the weather to the music to the light of the bonfires. The "you are there" quality of this film is particularly strong, and cinematographer Akira Takada deserves much of the credit for that.Oshima completists may want to make something, given one of his best-known later films, of the repeated references to "Lawrence," with the students wondering whether D. H. or T. E. is meant, but since I haven't yet seen Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence I'll say no more on the subject.
Criterion Eclipse doesn't give you trailers, but Criterion has uploaded one for this film on its YouTube page. It doesn't do the film justice, either, but take a look anyway.