The premier Naruse-Takamine partnership is a light, charming short underlying a deceptive punch against more pertinent issues to come. In a developing world where the driver is a dog-eat-dog capitalist, old-fashioned modesty, courtesy and honesty serve no competition. Moral self-satisfaction pave the bittersweet ending, as the little engine plods on boldly towards its last course against father time.
A film that starts off with a cheery and bright disposition but gradually deepens as a driver and a conductress (Takamine) try to improve their service by implementing minor changes only to ultimately shoot themselves in the foot. It contains some pertinent, yet surprising, commentary about a mindset of a warlike nation.
Oh, it's a nice, sunny movie from Mr. Grumpy! What joy, the very young Takamine Hideko conducts little bus tours of her little rural province, and everyone's quite friendly and helpful (except that money-grubbing old boss!) and all's going swimmingly, and one thinks that Naruse might actually pull off a happy movie. But then comes the ending...
Inhabiting the hot summer world of dusty roads, small villages with mountains hazy in the background, Naruse's magical, charming and quite devastating social satire comedy introduces Hideko Takamine in her first Naruse collaboration, as she, bus driver, and a writer try to win over more business with local commentary about the area. It echoes Shimizu's "Arigato-san," but has a peacefulness and warmth all of its own.