Fish Story review – a genre-defying modern cult classic Fintastic

August 9, 2020
Alix Turner 0
Film, Film Reviews
4

Summary

Stories from four decades woven together into a message about hope and making a mark. Bold, fabulous film from Japan, newly available on home release.

4

Summary

Stories from four decades woven together into a message about hope and making a mark. Bold, fabulous film from Japan, newly available on home release.

Fish Story is such a fantastic film that, to be honest, I’d rather be watching it again than writing about it. It’s about how our choices and actions can make a difference, about the impact one person can have on the next, or on the whole world. It’s about a song, the people connected to it, and how – because of a string of chance connections – that song was a factor in the salvation of the Earth from destruction. Yeah, really!

The film opens on an empty street, where we follow a man to a record store. Two people are listening to the 1975 song “Fish Story” by the obscure (and yes, fictitious) punk band Gekirin. This stranger interrupts them with news that the world is about to end because of a comet heading right for us. He claims to have known this was imminent, but the younger two are shocked, confused, and well, find it easier to put hope in Bruce Willis or the Go Rangers stopping the comet than accept their doom. One of them comments that the little-known single they’ve been playing is just as likely to save the day… and from there, the film takes us back in time.

Fish Story is several stories woven together, with a screenplay by Tamio Hayashi and based upon the novel by Kotaro Isaka. We see a young man Masashi (Gaku Hamada) working on assertiveness during an evening out in 1982; another young man who has been raised as a potential Champion Of Justice (Mirai Moriyama) and ensures that an intellectual student Asami (Mikako Tabe) is safe during the hijacking of a cruise ship in 2009. We watch a cult revise their predictions when the world does not end in 1999, and then the closer risk of Armageddon in 2012. Between and around all those are scenes of the band in 1975, leading towards their recording of the pivotal single; and scenes of the record shop. Then, like a magician showing me how he has carried out his sleight of hand Fish Story finally shows how all those events tie together; and I grinned all the way through the closing credits.

Directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura, Fish Story is also a blend of several genres: there is comedy, teen drama, action, rockumentary, science fiction, and even a little martial arts; all in just under two hours. It’s a fine blend that works well, so although we cannot tell where each scene is going to lead (beyond the occasional hint), there’s never a jolt from one to the next.

The music is catchy, of course; sure the title song leaves ripples that continue nearly forty years. The band members themselves (Atsushi Itô, Kengo Kora, Kiyohiko Shibukawa and Kazuki Namioka) studied hard to make their scenes authentic and went on to release an album in their own right after the success of the film. Their scenes are some of the most interesting, with the emotional dynamic of their final days, and the birth of their final single. Each of the characters is well-drawn, though, so that even those who don’t contribute much to the story have a clear personality. Even the smallest contribution can turn out to have significance, and so the ultimate message of the film is to do something whenever there is cause to: you never know when that act might reach a person who needs it.

Fish Story is one of those films with a reputation that precedes it; the stuff of legend, like the song in the film itself. I had heard of it many years ago, but I cannot for the life of me remember who brought it up. It premiered in 2009, made a hit at a few festivals, and had a couple of late-night TV slots. If you’ve heard about it and wondered, wonder no longer: Fish Story is to be released on BluRay for the first time. In the meantime, click here for the trailer.


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