An actor struggling with life. An executive hellbent on getting married. A hitman with amnesia. When these three get together, what can go wrong? The answer lies in Kenji Uchida’s dark comedy.

Takeshi Sakurai is a struggling actor who feels the need not to go on anymore. The company he once worked for is shut down and he is heavily in debt. However, when he goes to the public bathhouse after a failed suicide attempt, his life soon takes a turn. When a respectable looking fellow enters the bathhouse, he slips on a bar of soap and hits his head hard. In a moment of desperation, Takeshi switches locker keys with the knocked out fellow, who turns out of be Kondo Yamazaki, a professional hitman.

When Takeshi pays back all of his debt, he soon learns whose identity he has stolen. When he pays the hitman a visit to the hospital, he learns that the hitman has amnesia and is believed to be Takeshi. Undaunted, Takeshi decides to become Kondo while Kondo becomes Takeshi. At the hospital after his release, Kondo meets Kanae Mizushima, an executive for a theater magazine who announces she will be married. However, there is one little problem. She doesn’t have a suitor. She gets to know Kondo, who believes he is Takeshi. Meanwhile, Takeshi’s life is really about to go insane when while posing as Kondo, is hired to perform a hit. When these three soon get together, chaos is truly ready to ensue.

Kenji Uchida’s interconnection dark comedy is quite funny thanks to the leading trio cast of characters. Masato Sakai’s Takeshi is truly someone who starts out pitiful as we are introduced to him by his failed suicide attempt. However, this comes after the introductions of our other two central characters. Ryoko Hirozue’s Kanae is truly a woman who never failed at anything and when she focuses on something, she will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. When she announces she will marry, she shocks everyone by telling her staff she hasn’t met anyone but wants them to find someone for her. The reason for this abrupt marriage is known later. As for Teruyuki Kagawa, he starts out as a stone cold hitman who soon is given himself a somewhat new lease on life when he is stricken with amnesia. The slip heard round the world in the bathhouse scene is quite funny due to its slow motion and little exaggerated height of the fall.

While these three are the central character, the main two sub-characters who make the most impact are Yakuza boss Kudo, played by Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, and Ayako Inoue, played by Yoko Moriguchi. Kudo is the one who hires Takeshi/Kondo to kill Ayako because apparently, she might know the location of some money that her fiance (who is stabbed in the real Kondo’s introduction scene) had stolen from his gang. In the midst of this pivotal subplot, many things begin to happen, including Kondo/Takeshi getting a job in a movie as a gangster due to his stone cold looks. However, when the expected happens, the two whose identities have been switched must help each other out in the most chaotic of events, and we mean chaotic when Kanae finds herself involved in the madness.

Key of Life is quite the funny comedy that melds stolen identities with raw determination with a taste of Yakuza chaos. This meshing truly works quite well.


A TV Asahi/Asahi Television production in association with Life of Key Partners, The ClockWorx and Dentsu. Director: Kenji Uchida. Producers: Satoshi Akagi, Kazumi Fukase, and Hiroshi Ohnishi. Writer: Kenji Uchida. Cinematography: Akira Sako. Editing: Shinichi Fushima.

Cast: Masato Sakai, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ryoko Hirozue, Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, Yoko Moriguchi.