The last thing that Asian-American YouTube sensation Sebastian (Eugene Kim) wants to do is help his Japanese cousin Naoto’s (Gaku Hamada) on his quest to find his “one true love.” Nonetheless, the two embark on road trip to Petaluma, California in Sake-Bomb. Soft-spoken sake-maker Naoto leaves his native Japan for the United States to find out why the love of his life left him. His contact in California is Sebastian, a pessimistic American-born cousin who struggles against the stigma of his Asian ethnicity. Full of himself and enamored with the opportunity to explore his newly awakened sexual freedom, Sebastian is the polar opposite of Naoto. The difference in each man’s relationship to his Asian identity seems to be a gulf as wide as the ocean that separates them.
After Sebastian is begrudgingly forced into joining Naoto on his journey, the pair explore Northern California together. As the pair hit the road in search of answers they meet a diverse array of characters. A beautiful and seductive young writer (Marlane Barnes) tests Sebastian’s loyalty in ways that he never before considered. In spite of their distinct backgrounds, Naoko and Sebastian must rely on each other during their journey. They realize that their shared ethnicity is what the outside world responds to- rather than their distinctive personalities.
Sake-Bomb is director Junya Sakino’s debut feature, and provides plenty of laughs alongside its searing social commentary and vibrant visuals. The leading performances by Eugene Kim and Gaku Hamada are nothing short of courageous. Marlane Barnes is impressive with her believable portrait of a fiery free-spirited writer. Deftly examining how racial intolerance can emerge from some of the most unexpected sources, Sake-Bomb is a raucous ride through the fringes of American youth culture that doesn’t balk at the opportunity to explore the difficulties of cultural identification in young adulthood.