What the Fish!!! So I'd thought that it'll be somewhat of a chore to sit through almost two hours late into what's left of a Friday night with Fish Story, directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura and based on the novel by Kotaro Isaka. But I was utterly blown away, leaving me feet tapping and head bobbing all the way through to the end credits roll, and a smile plastered on my face all the way home. It's an armageddon film done with pizzazz and creative flair, and not to mention that dash of comedy and great music, that I'd feel is a hard act for the rest of the festival lineup to keep within touch for the Audience Choice. I know it's still early in the festival, but Fish Story has established itself as one of the best films I've watched this year, and one of the rare few that will likely give you that familiar fuzzy feeling after you've sat through an awesome film.
The story unveils itself in non-linear fashion, and somewhat like Sandcastle, has a little lingering mystery - a punk rock song that contains a minute's silence - to what it actually all means, which comes altogether as a climax when everything gets to show hand. It tackles that wonderment of how events in the past will inevitably shape what's to come in the future, even if it doesn't make sense in the present. And Nakamura takes this premise, and through the narrative structure enables the audience to experience just that. We're brought from timeline to timeline that at the point of presentation the scenes seem disparate to one another and don't make much sense, but contains enough in their individual segments to entertain.
Hinging on a song called Fish Story that's performed by a punk rock band called Gekirin, it's amazing just what this one song can do to carry the entire film, not only because it sounds great (those not into punk rock, I'd think you'd find it hard not to enjoy this, especially when the cast members go into overdrive in their performance), but has an intriguing story on how it got produced, that forms the bulk of the film. Like most songs that seem fated to fade into obscurity without proper promotional or marketing power or fans to ensure some longevity, or worst, a band that's being condemned as talentless and to be let go by their record company, little do the band members know that one day this song will just about save humankind.
And in that respect, with Japanese fantasy/sci-fi stories in a similar mould such as the Twentieth Century Boys trilogy, Fish Story tackles the same doomsday scenario with an ensemble cast, and that plot element of a song of hope yet unfulfilled and unexplained, in a succinct fashion that doesn't meander unnecessarily. Spanning almost 40 years, we're treated to one off stories such as a timid driver (Gaku Hamada, resembling a youthful looking Jackie Chan with that hairdo he spots) who finds some resolve to stand up for himself and for others after being told of a prophecy about saving the world, and another tale where a young cook onboard a ferry saving a schoolgirl (Mikako Tabe) and other passengers from gun totting hijackers. They're as disparate as they can get, and if you're wondering just what's going on when you see recurring characters or instances in each, I'd say to enjoy the moments crafted, from a tinge of horror to an all out action-adventure, before the payload at the end truly hits you.
All these and more, based upon the single introduction set in the year 2012, where the world is threatened by a comet on a collision course for Earth, and a group of strangers gathering in a niche music shop. It's 5 hours to impact, and the shopkeeper whips out the rare Fish Story vinyl record for them all to give a listen to, thinking that it's quite futile to head toward Mount Fuji to avoid an impending tsunami scenario, and of course hoping for a miracle to come from a country that on one hand is not expected, and on the other totally plausible for the maths and science experts it produces.
There are references to other Japanese icons such as Godzilla and Go-Rangers, and for fans of Hollywood films, you'll probably be able to identify the oh-so-funny references and cheeky dissing of films from The Karate Kid (PAt Morita's Mr Miyagi version, not the Jackie Chan Mr Han version though), and Michael Bay's Armageddon, in fact "quoting" the what-if scenario of having the nuclear bombs on the comet, but yet to be exploded because, well, of what happened to Bruce Willis. Some stories are played out in tongue-in-cheek fashion, and they complement one another really well, which of course makes the finale all the more fun, especially when everything starts to make sense, and goes the full circle.
Watch this film with an appreciative audience. Fish Story screens again on 28 Aug Sat at 430pm. Tickets are still available, so don't miss this!
Take it away, Gekirin!!