Monday, December 15, 2014




This 2010 release, directed by Sion Shono and starring Mitsuru Fukikoshi (pictured above), Asuka Kurosawa, Megumi Kagurazaka and a guy called Denden, is what I can only describe as a WOWSER.  We were initially attracted to the film because of the title, and my assistants and I put it in the player not expecting much.  But then...WOW!

PLOT SUMMARY:  This is a tale of two hobby shops and the people who run them.  One, the Shamoto Tropical Fish Shop, is run by an man getting old before his time (Fukikoshi) and his young second wife (Taeko, played by Kagurazaka), both of whom are also struggling to manage his defiant teenaged daughter (Hikari Kajiwara).  When the parents are called out in the middle of a pouring rainstorm because there's been some trouble at a store where the daughter has been busted for shoplifting, they meet the owner of the other hobby shop -- a bluff, hail-fellow-well-met type of guy (Denden) who bowls them over with his knowledge of tropical fish, his ability to talk the store manager out of prosecuting and his generous offer of a live-in job for the little brat.  Apparently he has a detachment of teenaged girls living at and working in his shop, making something productive of their lives.  All three Shamotos are delighted with the idea and are even more impressed when they see his place, the Amazon Gold -- a huge, brightly-lit place with Hawaiian music on the PA and pretty girls in uniform polishing the tanks, feeding the fish, serving the customers!  Wow! 

Before long -- before the day is out, really -- problems begin to pop up, none of them small ones.  Shamoto is suprisingly roped in as a new business partner at the Amazon Gold, and his first task is to help dispose of the old business partner, poisoned at a meeting.  Denden's character, Yukio Murata, is some sort of piscatorial yakuza, and as he cheerfully explains to the terrified Shamoto, he's already killed 58 people -- you'll get used to it in no time, he says.  Shamoto has no interest in getting used to it, but now he's an accomplice in a crime.  His wife and daughter are being threatened.  And the more he learns about these people, the weirder and more dangerous they turn out to be.  WILL ANYONE SURVIVE?


>> Despite the director's efforts to draw attention away from the main action with murder, dismemberment, boundariless sexual activity and religious bizarreness, this movie is ALL ABOUT THE FISH. Interestingly, where there are many empty tanks in the dispirited little Shamoto family shop, the Amazon Gold is fully stocked with adult operatives at the height of their powers, observing everything, missing nothing. PROBABLY MORE ARE NEEDED TO TRACK ALL THE WEIRDNESS GOING ON. 

>> I want to point out that the owner of the Amazon Gold has only good things to say about the Shamotos' shop -- he points out that they have "all the important things" stocked and that the fish in their shop are livelier than the ones at his own place.  (What counts as an 'important' fish is never explained.)  I'm sure the Shamoto Tropical Fish Store residents are a good deal happier, accounting for the liveliness.  Who wants to see the kind of stuff going on among the humans over at Amazon Gold? They have a powerful role in the story in that they give the Shamotos a reason to get out of bed in the morning and work to bring humans and fish together.  IS THERE ANY TASK MORE IMPORTANT?  I think not.

>> Another attempt to make the fish unimportant in this story is the fact that some of the key fish in the story are never shown to us.  There is a long conversation between Mrs. Shamoto and Mr. Murata about how a certain fish is not a male of this species but a female of that species, and how she draws the male of the species to her "because she knows she is attractive."  What I find important about this scene -- which ends with Murata forcing himself on Taeko as she begs to be hit again and again -- is that THERE WAS NO FISH IN THAT TANK.  We are never a party to this sort of weirdness, up on dry land or underwater.  In fact, the closer a human gets to becoming a fish, the less interesting he or she finds that kind of thing.

>> Similarly, the meeting that leads to a business partner being dispatched and Mr. Shamoto replacing him is all about a huge, huge business deal concerning a single specimen of a single fish.  This fish is also never shown to us, AND I THINK WE ALL KNOW THE REASON WHY.  Fishy don't play that!  If you want to kill each other, that has NOTHING DO TO WITH US.

>> The deal is blown, the poor man is killed, and Mr. Shamoto is grossed out of existence as Murata and his wife (played by Asuka Kurosawa) matter-of-factly chop him to bits and put their new business partner on cremation detail.  Then, suddenly, things take a turn for the better, maybe even the miraculous.  Together, they put the soft tissues and cremains in the river.  "THE FISH TAKE CARE OF THE REST," explains Murata.  INDEED THEY DO.

>>  When you watch and think about how many people are KILLED, then EATEN BY FISH in the course of this story, you will get a tingle of satisfaction as we all did.  Sometimes the recruits COME TO US WITH NO WORK AT ALL ON OUR PART.  Several recruits were poured out of garbage bags into the river, INTO OUR WAITING MOUTHS.  Sigh!

>> Unfortunately, Shamoto completely loses it by the end of the picture and wastes some additional recruitment material, leaving them up on dry land instead of feeding the fish with them.  What I want you to notice is that he leaves someone to go on taking care of the Shamoto Tropical Fish Shop -- a trained dry-land recruiting operative, you might say -- and the others, you ask?  ARE THEY THE SORT WE WANT IN OUR RANKS?  No, they are not.  Let the porcupines have them.  (Do they have porcupines in Japan?)

>> I do regret what happened to TsuTsui (played by Tetsu Watanabe).  Him, we could have used.  But then I felt better when I reminded myself that THIS IS ONLY A MOVIE. 

So while this is quite a Debbie Downer movie when seen from a human perspective, it's a very mixed bag (chuckle) if you are a fish.  The human behavior in this movie would GAG A MAGGOT.  The fish behavior is EXEMPLARY, and richly rewarded from the first frame to the last. 

I would recommend renting, not necessarily buying this one.  It's not going to be suitable for all half-human, landfish or newly-recruited viewers. They just won't get it. 


Post a Comment

<< Home