REVIEW- Swing Girls: On selfish girls, downplayed romance and #squadgoals

Swing Girls Review

Artwork by Rena Johnson

After the success of Shinobu Yaguchi’s Water Boys, a film about a group of boys who decide to start a synchronized swimming team at their high school, Yaguchi took it upon himself to make another film that follows the same winning, underdog story formula– but this time, with girls. And guess what? It’s better.

Set in a small, rural town in Japan, a group of delinquent and lazy high school girls spend their vacation stuck in summer school, re-taking a math class they all failed. Tomoko (played by Juri Ueno aka Nodame in Nodame Cantabile, possibly the greatest television show on earth) gazes out the window and enviously watches the brass band cheerfully load on to the school bus to go perform for the school’s baseball team. Minutes later, a lunch catering bus arrives late; failing to provide the band with their bento boxes for the game. Tomoko notices the distressed delivery man and sees it as a chance to ditch class. In a faux-concerned voice, Tomoko convinces her teacher to let all the girls deliver the bento boxes to the brass band. Of course, the girls don’t exactly fulfil their (self-serving) good deed smoothly. They eat one of the lunches, they miss the train stop they’re supposed to get off at, they fall into a rice field, and they drop one of the lunches on the ground… By the time they arrive, the food is spoiled and all but one of the band members falls ill with food poisoning. Nakamura, the awkward cymbal player, never gets his lunch because the girls ate it and is therefore unaffected. As a result, he now holds the responsibility of getting a replacement band together before the next baseball game.

Nakamura, knowing the girls are to blame for the food contamination, blackmails them to join the band. The girls simply see this as a delightful opportunity to skip summer school yet again and is able to convince their teacher to let them skip class in order to learn how to play instruments. Although simply goofing off at first, the girls start to actually enjoy playing music and form a ‘Big Band’ jazz group. However, right when they finally start to get the hang of it (although they still suck ass), the original brass band returns: healthy and ready to reclaim their instruments. Undeterred and not quite ready to give up her love for jazz, Tomoko talks the girls (and Nakamura) in to starting their own Big Band jazz group called ‘Swing Girls.’ Hilariousness ensues as the girls discover real jazz and face the great uphill task of making cash to buy their own instruments.

The plot is simple enough but it was the chemistry between the girls that really made it worth watching. They’re energetic and fun; you can’t help but be charmed by them despite their lazy and selfish personas. I also loved Tomoko and Nakamura’s maybe romantic storyline. I love that they underplayed the romance. In fact, the film never addresses the two’s feelings for each other at all! They only go as far to build up talking about romantic involvement; a refreshing change to most teen flicks.

The film doesn’t take itself very seriously. It’s ridiculous and unbelievable at parts but entertaining all throughout. I wish I could describe the simple and charming humor of the film with justice but most of it takes place within the dialogue and I’m afraid it’ll only be funny if you’re watching it. But whether you’re in to jazz or not, what is there not to like about a group of quirky, funny gals that come together to start a girl jazz band?? #squadgoals

By Rena Johnson


Rena (/Lae·na/) is a 17 year old high school student from the USA. She really enjoys coming-of-age movies and is especially concerned with the A E S T H E T I C of a film. She loves Sofia Coppola with all her heart and is still waiting for a response to the hundreds of mail she has sent her.  Her favorite movies are Amélie, The Virgin Suicides, An Education, Ginger and Rosa, and 500 Days of Summer. She blogs over at

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