Fantasia Film Festival: Love, Life and Goldfish (すくってごらん) Review

Love, Life and Goldfish

Based on the josei manga by Noriko Ootani, Love, Life and Goldfish lean heavily on the style of material it’s based on. From the expressive kanji letters overlaid on the screen to the anime-style Japanese pop (J-pop) music, Love, Life and Goldfish feel like an anime come to life. What makes Goldfish so intriguing to Western audiences is that the film is one of the rare musical films that come from Japan. Yet, what Westerners don’t realize is that Japanese cinema has seen a recent boom in musical films over the past 3 years alone. Films such as Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku and Dance With Me have shown a market for these types of films at the Japanese box office.

Love, Life and Goldfish follow elite banker Makoto Kashiba (Matsuya Onoe). He gets demoted from his position in Tokyo and sent to a small country town. However, a chance encounter with a girl named Yoshino (Kanako Momota) inadvertently changes his life forever.

The biggest difference between Japanese musicals and Hollywood Broadway musicals is through the music. Japanese musicals use more J-pop for their musical numbers, and Love, Life and Goldfish are no exception. The musical numbers written and arranged by Daisuke Suzuki are very catchy, and I found myself nodding my head and tapping my feet as each number unfolded on screen. “Akai Gen-y,” the film’s musical finale, is an upbeat and heartwarming song. Not to mention, “The Reason of Heartbeat” is another fantastic polyphony number that gets into Makoto’s love for Yoshino.

From the expressive kanji letters overlaid on the screen to the anime-style Japanese pop (J-pop) music, Love, Life and Goldfish feel like an anime come to life.

Goldfish also employs a lot of the character tropes you see in Japanese manga/anime. For one thing, Makoto Kashiba is a variation of the hikikomori trope. Unlike the typical definition of the trope, he isn’t a total hermit. However, he does obsess over his work and doesn’t socialize much with the townsfolk. As you might expect, the plot for the film is predictable. However, not all of it goes according to Kashiba’s plan. Admittedly, I haven’t read all three volumes of Sukuttegoran, so I’m not sure what the differences are between the two. Nevertheless, Makoto’s arc is something that people of all different cultures can relate to. Finding yourself is a universal theme, no matter what language you speak.

Unfortunately, backstories for the side characters are left on the wayside. Yoshino has a history with Noboru (Hayato Kakizawa), but screenwriter Atsumi Tsuchi doesn’t delve deeper into their relationship. At the same time, Asuka (Nicole Ishida) is nothing less but a plot device to move the story forward. Nevertheless, the cast gives it their absolute all. Not only do they sing incredibly well, but they also capture the nuanced manga expressions well.

Overall, Love, Life and Goldfish is a heartwarming musical that’ll make you bob your head and put a smile on your face. Because despite all of its flaws and weirdness, it’s still a charming film full of catchy J-pop songs. With musicals slowly becoming a thing in Japan, our hope is that future films are as fun and entertaining as this one. 

Rating: 4/5 atoms

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