I just finished Arigato-san
, my first Shimizu, and I was very impressed by the effortless handling of the gradual reveal of the title character throughout the film. Mr. Thank You is initially a very enigmatic figure, glimpsed, for the first time outside his bus, pensively smoking alone while the situation of the girl being sold is explained. From then on, his eager politeness, exemplified by his trademark phrase, is contrasted with his peculiar distance and reticence to play along with the bold woman in the seat behind him who seems to be flirting with him. This paradox is slowly explained throughout the course of the film in a series of episodes, through which we come to discover that he is at once deeply sympathetic to the plight of the innocent poor and suffering (made clear by his slight overeagerness to befriend the girl being sold) and alienated from them, feeling himself apparently part of the rat race that leaves them in the dust. After all, in a time of widespread unemployment, he has a job at which he is clearly successful (or at least remarkably well-liked) and he also seems painfully aware of the direct part his own work plays in the ruining of many people, whom he transports to a future of exploitation and hardship in the city.
It is therefore ironic but also fitting that in the end, he should be convinced by the bold woman, who one might guess hails from the city or is otherwise aware of its ways, to abandon, to some extent, his monetary ambition and save the girl from prostitution. And of course, in keeping with his respectful distance, he doesn't take credit.
On the whole, the film struck me as a charmingly optimistic portrayal of the potential for benevolent interaction between social classes (and that's not even mentioning Shimizu's marvelous satire of the pretensions of the middle class in the form of the gentleman with the fake moustache).
I'm looking forward to more Shimizu, but does anyone have any recommendations as to where to turn next once I've exhausted the set?