2006 / Hitoshi Yazaki > As a story of four women in the anonymous city of Tokyo, Strawberry Shortcakes paces itself like life, with a steady unraveling while interjecting jolts of reality. Yazaki’s direction is meticulous and endearing, streamlining his own craft’s sensitivity to the existence of the women he’s portraying. By themselves, none of the stories are necessarily special, but rather simple slices of life with which the viewers should be able to find some sort of commonality. There are some balancing issues: For example, Akiyo the escort is a complex character and almost all her scenes yield something special for the viewer. But Chihiro, the office worker, is almost intentionally stereotypically girlish, to the point where you pity her instead of extending sympathy. Somehow, though, these balancing contradictions actually make the film more poignant with its ebbs and flows.