He’s corrupt, he’s misogynistic, and he holds the country’s highest office. No, this isn’t a certain US President—it’s Japanese Prime Minister Keisuke Kuroda (Kiichi Nakai), the protagonist of director Koki Mitani’s film Hit Me Anyone One More Time. A rare political comedy from Japan, the film elides biting satire and instead offers a playful and mostly idealistic portrayal of a boorish leader who makes a change for the better. It’s a refreshing escape for those tired of today’s polarized global political landscape, but rather milquetoast for anyone who relishes political dogfights.
Hit Me Anyone One More Time begins with Kuroda waking in a hospital, confused. Unable to remember who he is, he slips past suited guards and finds himself on Tokyo’s streets. After receiving insults from random passerby and catching a glimpse of himself on the news, Kuroda realizes that he is Japan’s universally loathed Prime Minister, with a 2.3% approval rating.
As it turns out, an angry citizen threw a rock and hit Kuroda in the head—wiping out Kuroda’s adult memories and asshole tendencies. It’s an amusing twist on the global political catchphrase “I do not recall,” which also happens to be a more direct translation of the movie’s Japanese title (記憶にございません!), and should’ve stayed as its English title too.
When Kuroda returns to his official residence, his three aides Isaka (Dean Fujioka), Banba (Eiko Koike), and Nonomiya (Takaya Sakoda) decide to keep his memory loss a secret, and have him continue serving as Prime Minister. Kuroda follows along and, as he stumbles upon each instance of carnage his past self wreaked, resolves to become a more respectable Prime Minister and human being.
Gag After Gag
Over Hit Me Anyone One More Time’s two hour duration, Prime Minister Kuroda’s journey away from assholery plays out as a lively succession of gags. Reminiscent of video game levels, these gags feel like a series of challenges that build on top of each other as Kuroda rediscovers his political ropes. Besides repairing his relationships with his wife and son, Kuroda must reverse his past plan of constructing an unnecessary second parliament building in exchange for kickbacks, “relearn” English and golf when the US President visits, thwart a chief cabinet secretary in order to reform Japanese politics, and so forth.
None of these challenges are particularly complex, nor do they require much understanding of Japanese politics. Hit Me Anyone One More Time makes ample use of physical and situational humor, for example by giving Kuroda’s foreign minister ridiculously large ears. This makes the film accessible for general audiences, and accentuates its rather idealistic undertones. With his memory loss, Kuroda is a classic “fish out of water,” akin to the protagonist of classic American political comedy Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, in which an admirable but naive reformist fights corruption in Washington DC.
For Idealists, Not Political Junkies
With ideological polarization raging across the world today, it’s rare to see a political movie that not only evokes the pure heartedness of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but also steers clear of hot-button topics. High-minded political narratives still exist, for instance the US’s Designated Survivor and its Korean remake, but they all at least touch upon contemporary issues like digital disinformation or the military-industrial complex.
Despite the multitude of meaty issues plaguing Japanese politics today—revisions to Japan’s pacifist constitution, building coal power plants instead of nuclear ones, female workforce participation—Hit Me Anyone One More Time avoids meaningful parallels to real life. Prime Minister Kuroda bears no resemblance to Shinzo Abe, and the closest look we get at his policy stances is a remark about tariffs on American cherries. For a political movie, Hit Me Anymore One More Time feels strangely apolitical, avoiding policy or ideology for surface-level playfulness .
Those interested in politics, but tired of its polarizing excesses, may find this approach refreshing. However, political junkies will find Hit Me Anyone One More Time tantalizing and bland. With its lack of real life references, the movie offers only limited insights into Japan’s political dynamics, and could’ve taken place in pretty much any other parliamentary democracy. Alas, Japanese media generally avoids biting political satire, and Hit Me Anyone One More Time may already be pushing the envelope when it comes to political comedy. We can only hope it paves the way for more aggressive fare.
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Hit Me Anyone One More Time (Japanese: 記憶にございません!) —Japan. Dialog in Japanese. Directed by Koki Mitani. Running time 2hr 7min. First released September 13, 2019. Starring Kiichi Nakai, Dean Fujioka, Yuriko Ishida, Masao Kusakari, Koichi Sato.