“Gachi Boy: Wrestling with a Memory” is a heartrending and uplifting story about a college student, Igarashi, who having lost his short-term memory from an accident, joins his school’s “pro wrestling” club in an attempt to get his body to remember his life for him through the bumps and bruises of training. Though awkward and scrawny, his innocent sincerity and never-say-die attitude is sure to endear him to audiences everywhere as he struggles to cope with his condition and issues of friendship, family, romance and youthful angst, culminating in a stirring and unforgettable finale.
The film is adapted for the screen from a legendary stage production by Tokyo repertory company, The Modern Swimmers, and was entitled “The Igarashi Legend” (written and directed by Ryuta Horai). Popular film, television and commercial actor, Ryuta Sato, who had always wanted to play the lead role of Igarashi and “take all the hits”, is wonderfully supported by Saeko in the role of the pro wrestling club’s manager and Igarashi’s love interest, Asako Asaoka. The all-star line up is rounded out with Osamu Mukai as the pro wrestling team captain, Riisa Naka as Igarashi’s sister, veteran actor and singer-songwriter, Shigeru Izumiya as Igarashi’s father, and Daisuke Miyagawa providing dry humor as pro wrestling team alum and play-by-play announcer. The film is directed by Norihiro Koizumi, who splashed onto the Japanese film scene at the incredibly young age of 25 with his hit directorial debut, “Midnight Sun” (’06), and who has been yearning to tackle this subject and create a high-energy and moving picture with plenty of comedic elements.
Twenty-year-old Igarashi wakes up every morning, able to remember only his life prior to a bicycle accident in which he suffered permanent damage to his frontal cortex and temporal lobe. Resorting to copious notes and Polaroids, Igarashi must try to cull together some semblance of continuity to his life that will validate and confirm his existence. Igarashi finds a possible solution in his school’s pro wrestling club. Collegiate pro wrestling differs from “real” pro wrestling in that it focuses on the entertainment and comedic, storytelling aspects of the sport, which inspire and enthrall Igarashi to no end. Seeing this as an opportunity to feel alive again, he joins up and is openly welcomed by the club, which has seen its popularity dwindle. Unaware of Igarashi’s condition, the club members are mystified at his inability to learn even the simplest staging, and when his much anticipated debut match comes along, Igarashi ends up improvising most of it, to the great delight of viewers. Soon, he has drawn a large following and is single-handedly boosting the club’s popularity to an all-time high. Just when he seems to have overcome his fate, Igarashi is dealt another challenging blow.