out of Five
Running time: 112
Engaging and original, this is an impressively structured Japanese drama heightened by strong performances, a catchy theme song and an offbeat script that's laced with subtle humour.
What's it all about?
Directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura, Fish Story is based on the novel by Kotaro Isaka and spans a period of 37 years, from 1975, when a little-known, pre-Sex Pistols Japanese punk band called Gekirin (“Wrath”) record their final song (Fish Story), to 2012, when the world is about to be destroyed by a giant comet. As the comet approaches, the last three men left in the city gather in a record shop, listen to Fish Story and discuss whether music can save the world.
Meanwhile, flashbacks reveal the story of how the band (including Atsushi Ito and Kengo Kora) came to write and record the song. At the same time, two seemingly unrelated plot-lines also unfold: in 1982, shy student Masahasi (Gaku Hamada) listens to Fish Story and later meets a woman who tells him he's destined to save the world; and in 2009, a teenager named Asami (Mikako Tabe) is rescued by a mysterious cook when the ferry boat she's on is hijacked by terrorists.
The characters are engaging and the script moves along at a decent pace, generating a strong sense of mystery as to how the various storylines will eventually fit together. This pays off beautifully in the final scene, which is guaranteed to send you out of the cinema with a smile on your face.
The performances are excellent, particularly Ito and Kora as the more thoughtful band members. There are also several superbly written scenes, such as the sequence detailing the origins of the song – the title means “exaggerated story” but the film contains a fictional, poorly-translated book with that title that comes with its own unique and fascinating history.
The script is frequently amusing and contains several good-natured digs at the likes of Armageddon. Similarly, the title song is extremely catchy, if not quite up there with the likes of Linda Linda Linda (from Linda Linda Linda). The only real problem with the film is that the climax is a little disappointing, given the build-up.
Enjoyable and original, Fish Story is an impressively directed drama with a sharply written script, a catchy theme song and a terrific final payoff. Worth seeing.