Rainbow Kids

Joining Geneon Entertainment’s Foreign Film Favorites DVD line is director Kihachi Okamoto’s humorous tale of three amateur kidnappers trying to outfox a shrewd 82-year-old woman to earn some money. Rainbow Kids follows three pitiful thieves recently released from jail trying to get some money. Their leader, Kenji Tonami (Toru Kazama), knows of a rich old woman who would be perfect to kidnap and demand a ransom for. His accomplices, Masayoshi Akiba (Katsuyasu Uchida) and Heita Miyake (Hiroshi Nishikawa), perk up at the idea of kidnapping the richest lady in Kishu because they can demand fifty-million yen for her safe return and live on easy street for awhile. Toshiko Yanagawa (Tanie Kitabayashi; My Neighbor Totoro) may be old, but these thieves are in for a rough ride when the popular matriarch’s disappearance becomes a media news sensation. 

DVD: Rainbow Kids
Release Date: 8/29/2006
Release Studio: Geneon Entertainment

MSRP: $29.98
Audio: Japanese 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English
Episodes: 1
Runtime: 120mins
Extras: Theatrical Trailers, Foreign Film Favorites Previews

Notes: Review is based on a Screener copy of the final product.

The trio of would-be kidnappers set up a stakeout near the Yanagawa mansion so that they may grab her when she leaves the complex. However, Toshiko Yanagawa doesn’t leave the estate very often. The boys come up with code names, a hiding place, and routes to follow to catch their prey, but weeks pass by without a single appearance by the old woman. Just as supplies begin to run low for the group, Toshiko Yanagawa decides that she wants to take a hiking trip. The kidnappers follow Toshiko, but miss their chance. By some luck, one of the mansion’s employees mentions what Yanagawa’s schedule will be the next day and once again the trio prepare to grab their target.

Surrounded while walking through the woods, Yanagawa convinces the trio that she will come willingly if they let her chambermaid remain free. Kenji and co. are hesitant at the idea of letting a witness get away, but the old woman convinces them it would be easier to watch one hostage than two. The group take Yanagawa back to their car and head for the hideout when she begins to pick apart their well-laid-out plans. After all, it’s pretty obvious to even this old woman that the head of the Wakayama prefectural police, Daigoro Igari (Ken Ogata), will figure out that an apartment recently rented in the Wakayama area may be the hideout of the kidnappers. And the Mark II car that the boys own has been spotted in the area of the mansion by the staff of the estate, so their vehicle is known. Stunned by her simple deductions, the group is at a loss for what to do. However,  Toshiko Yanagawa knows someone they can visit in a secluded area that the police wouldn’t think to check out. Begrudgingly, they head towards the farm belonging to one of Yanagawa’s former employees.

The police, led by Igari, do move fast and follow the pattern Yanagawa mentioned. Toshiko Yanagawa is a popular woman who has gained many loyal friends due to her helping them financially in life, often with paying for their higher education. Igari is among the people who have benefited from Yanagawa’s kindness and is gung ho to find the woman. The Yanagawa family gathers at Toshiko’s mansion to start talking with the police about getting their mother back. A sum of three-hundred-million yen is also gathered to pay off the ransom for the old lady. Meanwhile, Toshiko Yanagawa and her kidnappers arrive at the home of Ku-chan in Kinomiya Village, one prefecture east from Wakayama. Ku-chan is thrilled to see the grand old lady once again, but is a little wary of her three masked attendants. However, she doesn’t think much of the masked men wearing sunglasses with strange names like “Thunder, Wind, and Rain”… they could be ninjas.

With Ku-chan willing to do whatever is needed to help her former employer, the new hideout is set and the ransom demands can begin. The boys explain how they are going to ask for fifty-million yen for her safe return, but Yanagawa won’t hear of it. It’s insulting to ask for such a small amount. No, it must be ten-billion yen for her safe return. Once again, the group caves in to her demands and even adopts the name “Rainbow Kids” when she hears how they came up with their codenames for the kidnapping. Slowly, her suggestions help push the group of boys into doing whatever she wants for her kidnapping, from what to say to how to reveal that she’s safe. The police and Yanagawa clan are going to have to match wits with the most dangerous criminal mastermind ever known: Toshiko Yanagawa.

Rainbow Kids is an amusing story of an old woman trying to make a grand adventure out of such a simple kidnapping. Every person she comes in contact with is won over quickly, including her own kidnappers. As the event stretches out into weeks, the news story grows bigger as people begin to take bets on whether the police can even beat the Rainbow Kids. The ending is cute and we are even given a further look into the background of the story as it wraps up all the loose ends. Each character is well presented, with you never doubting the sharpness of Tanie Kitabayashi’s character as she manipulates everyone around her. The kinder souls within each of the kidnappers slowly reveal themselves as each one meets a situation where they cannot hide behind their masks anymore. And poor Daigoro Igari is put to the test playing a brilliant policeman who always falls one step short of beating the Rainbow Kids.

Rainbow Kids is an early 90’s film that still works across cultural barriers as a comedy thanks to its universal themes. The anamorphic DVD presentation looks great on a newer TV set so you will not be disappointed in the quality of the DVD transfer.  There are a few minor subtitle errors in capitalization and spacing between two words, but nothing to suggest avoiding the title. As more and more asian cinema titles are brought over to America, it’s nice to find rare gems like this one waiting for an audience to hear about it. Rainbow Kids is a greedy popcorn comedy title to thrown in for a night of fun.