Fish Story

Director - Yoshihiro Nakamura

Cast - Nao Omari, Gaku Hamada

Country of Origin - Japan

Discs - 1

MSRP - 14.99

Region - 2

Distributor - Third Window Films

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

The Film (5/5)

     Fish Story is one of very few films that I went into watching almost totally dry.  I did not know anything about this film, other than the synopsis and picture on the Third Window Films website.  It is very rare these days that I see a film without knowing much about it.  With the internet it seems like the element of surprise in film is long gone, so when I saw this it was a really nice surprise.  Having no expectations whatsoever, Fish Story blew my mind completely.

     Fish Story is a multi-generational story that spans 4 decades from 1975-2012.  It begins at the latter date, Tokyo has been abandoned as a comet is going to make impact with the Earth in 5 hours.  There are only 3 people left in the city, an insane handicapped man, a record store owner, and his friend.  While the world is ending they listen to records, in particular, they 2 friends are enamored by the record Fish Story by Gekirin. 

     The story then flashes back to 1975, and the writing/recording of Fish Story.   Gekirin are in dire trouble, they’re a punk band with a label that does not know what to do with them.   The Sex Pistols and Ramones are a year or so from making waves around the world, and no one knows what to do with the stripped down rock and roll Gekirin produces. The record company gives them one last opportunity to record one song, before letting them out of their contact, that song is Fish Story.

    The movie then jumps forward in time to 3 seemingly unrelated narratives.  The first takes place in 1982, and involves a few friends hanging out one night.  They are listening to Fish Story, and trying to uncover the mysteries behind the song. 

     The film then jumps forward to 2009.  A girl falls asleep on a ferry while on a class trip.  When she awakens she comes to the realization that she missed her stop, and begins to freak out.  She doesn’t get much of a chance to freak long, because all of a sudden terrorists take over the ferry, and she along with the other passengers are held hostage. It is up to the ships baker, who also just happens to be a champion of justice to save the day.

    I will stop my synopsis there. Fish Story is one of those films that the less you know about it the better.  It is an intricate multi-layered narrative that really does pay off.  It also feels like the director decided to throw an action movie, behind-the-scenes music documentary, and a horror film in a blender and pressed puree.

     Normally, a film that scattered would seem more confusing and frustrating but director Yoshihiro Nakamura really brings it together smoothly.  It simultaneously feels like a few different films, and yet still flows together as a cohesive whole. 

     The performances are uniformly excellent though out, a scene toward the end with Gekirin discussing the potential influence there song may have in the future is on my short list of favorite film scenes that I’ve seen this year. Also, the actual song Fish Story is pretty bad-ass, if these guys pulled a Spinal Tap and actually released a record, I could see myself buying it.

Audio/Video (4.5/5)

     Third Window films have presented Fish Story in it’s original theatrical aspect ratio in a crisp anamorphic widescreen transfer.  The film looks amazing, no grain or noise can be seen anywhere on this transfer.  Also, no compression artifacts or edge enhancement can be seen.  This is one seriously nice looking DVD.

     The audio is similarly excellent. Third Window has included with Fish Story a Dolby Digital Stereo track in Japanese. This track has optional English subtitles, and it is these subtitles that I find my only serious complaint regarding the presentation. The subtitles appear to be quite accurate, but they are very very small. Granted, I do not have the best eyesight, so maybe someone with 20/20 could view these well, but I had a hard time with it.

Extras (4/5)

    Third Window has put together a pretty nice package together for Fish Story.  The main extra on this disc is a 34 minute making of that interviews the cast and crew regarding their experiences on this film.  There is also a short featurette called Live at Tower Records – Shibuya.  The disc concludes with the trailer for Fish Story, and other Third Window DVD releases.



     There aren’t many films that I would wholeheartedly recommend that everyone check out, but this is definitely one of them. Fish Story is simply brilliant, it takes a multi-generational, multi-genre, multi-narrative film, and makes it feel like a compelling cohesive whole.  

    I was not bored during one single second of this film.  The transfer and audio are great, and the only problem is that the subs are a little too small. The extras are excellent, and offer a good deal of background on the film. Fish Story does not have an American DVD distributor at the moment, but if you are region free (or in a Region 2 territory) the Third Window disc is a must buy. I would recommend it to any and everybody.