Amazon Prime Video’s Japanese film ‘Homestay’ centers around Shiru AKA Blank, a soul who reincarnates in the body of a deceased high school student named Makoto Kobayashi. Directed by Natsuki Seta, the film progresses through Blank’s attempts to find the cause of Makoto’s death to extend his second chance at life, as instructed by “Guardian.” Starring Kento Nagao as Makoto and Anna Yamada as Makoto’s childhood friend Akira, the heart-warming tale ends astoundingly, revealing Makoto’s past and the premise of his death. Intrigued by the nuances of the ending, we have taken a closer look at its intricate details. Let us share the same. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Homestay Plot Synopsis
‘Homestay’ begins with Blank, a soul, waking up in the body of Makoto Kobayashi, a dead high school student. Upon walking up, a perplexed Blank encounters “Guardian,” who promises him a rebirth if he succeeds to find out Makoto’s “cause of death” without revealing that he is a soul. Blank becomes Makoto in front of the latter’s family, who rejoices Makoto’s return to life after being presumed dead in the first place, to investigate the truth behind the high school student’s death. He starts to go to Makoto’s school and mingles with his friends to find any clues. With three chances and hundred days in front of him to find the answer, Blank tries his best to unravel the truth.
While Blank’s life as Makoto progresses, he realizes that Makoto was a loner who mainly spent his time painting. He goes out with Mitsuki to select a present for Mitsuki’s classmate assuming she likes him. Along with his attempts to find out the truth, Blank encounters “Guardian” in several forms, who guides him forward to Makoto’s cause of death. As the days left for him to find the answer reduces, he manages to get hold of Makoto’s sketchbook and reads the dead boy’s suicide note. The next time he comes across Guardian, he answers that Makoto died due to suicide. He loses one of his three chances due to an incorrect answer since suicide is not the cause but the way Makoto died.
Blank dives into the life of Makoto to find more details about the boy to reach a conclusion. He finds out that Makoto wasn’t given much attention by anyone around him, including his family. The suicide note also reveals that Mitsuki isn’t really interested in him. Moved by Makoto’s final words before his suicide, he dismisses Makoto’s childhood friend Akira, without realizing that she accompanied Makoto through thick and thin. Blank also finds out that Makoto’s mother cheated on her husband and Makoto knew about it. When Guardian approaches him, Blank answers that the family and relatives killed Makoto, driving him to suicide. He loses his second chance due to another incorrect answer.
Homestay Ending: Is Makoto Really Dead or Dreaming?
Since the narrative’s beginning, ‘Homestay’ oscillates between fantasy and realistic drama regularly. While the presence of the hourglass indicates that Guardian isn’t just an entity in Makoto’s possible dream, Blank’s recollection of Makoto’s past and the eventual realization that he is the soul of none other than Makoto do raise questions regarding Makoto’s presumed death and Blank/Makoto’s existence as a soul. Since Makoto swallowed a lot of pills to die, there is a possibility that he is saved and hallucinating the existence of a guardian figure and a soul due to brain damage.
However, Makoto’s doctor’s statement that the high school student returned to life after a day of presumed death makes it clear that he actually died. Since it’s seemingly impossible to return to life from death after a day’s length, we believe that Makoto was dead and the narrative does unfold in a fantasy realm. Considering that the narrative of the film doesn’t attempt to establish that Makoto is dreaming or hallucinating his existence as Blank, it is safe to move on to the significance of death and its placement in the narrative.
Death is used as a plot device to depict the central theme of the film, the value of life. ‘Homestay’ primarily revolves around Blank’s attempts to extend his stay in the world after death. Even though the soul cannot remember anything about his former life, his desire to extend his life and the inherent drive to defeat death motivates him to find the truth about Makoto’s death. When Blank/Makoto realizes more about his life, he realizes that he was indeed loved and cared for. He understands how Akira was a perfect companion and Mitsuru was a selfless brother. These realizations make him aware that life is much more than something to end with a bunch of pills.
When the hourglass of death hangs above Makoto’s soul, he realizes the value of life. The presence of death teaches him that life is a gift and not something he can throw away. Makoto conquers death and embraces the second chance at life to be a better companion for Akira, a better brother for Mitsuru, and more than everything, a better Makoto for himself.
What is Makoto’s Cause of Death?
Makoto’s life was filled with challenges and loneliness. He often felt that he isn’t understood by anyone. His father broke his paintbrushes and stopped him from pursuing art. When Mitsuki lied about knowing him, Makoto was left heartbroken. Mitsuru’s supposed selfish life and his mother’s affair with her superior affected Makoto, leading him to suicide. However, in his pursuit of the cause of death, Blank initially fails to realize the “real cause” behind Makoto’s suicide and eventual death. He comes across the truth only when he realizes that he is none other than Makoto and his misunderstandings are the cause of his death.
While living in a world of his own, Makoto never attempted to comprehend the lives of others. When his father broke his paintbrushes, he never stood up for himself and expressed his desire to pursue painting to his father. Even when he blamed Mitsuru for being cold towards him, Makoto failed to realize how much his brother cared for him as he grew up. His misunderstanding that he is isolated from Mitsuru, who was always present for him, led him to think that he doesn’t belong in his family. Even when he confronts his mother’s affair, Makoto didn’t think about the causes of it or the troubled marriage she is going through.
Makoto’s interest in Mitsuki blinded him from seeing her affection towards Riko. He misunderstood Mitsuki and failed to acknowledge Akira’s companionship, only to suffer from the loneliness which could have been avoided if he was patient enough to understand others rather than demanding to be understood. Makoto’s soul realizes the mistakes he made and finds out that the cause of death is his own misunderstandings. When he becomes aware of the mistakes he made, he promises that he will change for others and himself.
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