Director: Yukinori Makabe
Writer: Atsumi Tsuchi
Starring: Matsuya Onoe, Kanako Momota, Nicole Ishida, Hayato Kakizawa, Naoki Kawano, Masayasu Kitayama,
Love, Life and Goldfish is a beautiful Japanese musical based on the manga Sukutte Goran. It takes the tropes of rom-coms and turns them into something completely magical by turning the mundane in the fantastical.
The story follows Makoto (Matsuya Onoe), a Tokyo banker, who’s career is halted after he confronts a superior and is demoted to a small village in the middle of nowhere. Once he arrives at his new position he is completely determined to be job focused and try to prove his worth, but he can’t help but fall in love with Yoshino (Kanako Momota), and he has to make a choice between work and love.
The film is a quirky and fun musical with offbeat characters, bizarre moments and even an intermission halfway through and a warning for when the film is due to end. It’s an infusion of 9-5 work, which some of the songs are even about, and the simple joys in life. Yoshino runs a goldfish scooping shop, which is a pastime in the village Makoto is demoted to. At first Makoto is resistant towards it, thinking it childish, but also not understanding the joy that his new co-workers find from it, after he learns the tricks and catches his first goldfish everything changes and he starts to understand the differences between the city and the village.
That’s one of the main themes of the film, the difference between the urban and rural lifestyles. Makoto is completely work focused, getting straight to it on his arrival, while Yoshino and the other locals help Makoto understand there are different ways to living. The joy in life in the small things, the scenery, catching goldfish or just being around music. It’s all so vivid and magical to watch and it immediately sucks you in.
It feels like a live-action manga, with all the flairs and flourishes you’d expect and is a pure joy to watch from start to finish. It may follow some typical rom-com tropes, but it’s so fantastical that everything feels fresh and brand new. The story opens with Makoto in a field trying to get to his way when someone driving a goldfish themed truck picks him up. There’s no hesitation for the film getting a little bit strange and showing that its something a little different. It really pays-off.
Unlike some musicals, the songs here are short and sweet. They never outstay their welcome. In fact it’s the opposite where you want the songs to last longer. They’re quirky and unique in how the film takes something so normal, such as Makoto’s day to day banking duties and turn them into something that seems special and fun.
Love, Life and Goldfish is completely magical from start to finish. It instantly hooks you with the strange goldfish truck in the middle of nowhere and with some beautiful visuals and eccentric characters, you’re completely taken away into a much brighter world, and one that you’re in no rush to leave.
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