Saturday, August 22, 2020

Fly Me To Saitama / 翔んで埼玉 - Fantasia 2020 Movie Review

The Movie: Fly Me To Saitama / 翔んで埼玉

The Director: Hideki Takeuchi

The Cast: Fumi Nikaidô, Gackt, Yûsuke Iseya, Masaki Kyômoto, Kumiko Takeda, Haruka Shimazaki, Kumiko Asô, Ryô Narita, Brother Tom, Shôtarô Mamiya, Akaji Maro

The Story: In a world where people are discriminated based on their birthplace, a resident of the much-reviled Saitama Prefecture embarks on a revolutionary campaign to improve things for his home.

The Review
Looking at the poster for this movie, you get the idea that it's going to be a wildly crazy and colorfully epic historical tale. It is all of that and more. It is wild, it is colorful, and it is crazy in all the best ways. Director Hideki Takeuchi creates a flamboyantly excessive story telling style that is impossible to look away from and is endlessly entertaining. After a while you begin to expect the unexpected in every single moment and even then, every moment fills your brain with "What just happened and why is it so amazing?!"

To say this movie caught me off guard is an understatement, partly because of how insane it is and also because by the end, you realize just how much it makes sense in comparison to the real world we live in and the messaging the movie provides. There is a lot of commentary about issues that plague not only Japanese society and culture, but the entire world as well. The story deals with these issues in a way that is highly entertaining and easy to digest because it frames them in a mythological context before letting you know just how close to reality it really is.

I loved how the mythology is told through a radio dramatization that a family is listening to as they drive through the Saitama prefecture on their way to Tokyo for an engagement party. This adds more depth to the heritage and culture behind the legendary dysfunction and corruption between Tokyo, Saitama, and Chiba. I honestly don't know how much of this is drawn from actual history between the prefectures but it definitely speaks on how the ruling factions could have fought over wealth and resources.

Visually, the characters within the dramatization all look like they have come to life straight out of an anime or manga series with bold costumes, exaggerated hairstyles, and distinctive personalities. As I'm writing this review, I did a bit of research and discovered that the movie is based on a 1980's manga series of the same name written and illustrated by Mineo Maya so yeah, it all makes sense. The cast members fill each of their roles perfectly although the real star of the movie is Fumi Nikaidô who plays Momomi, the over privileged offspring of Tokyo's corrupt governor.

Even with a lot of metaphor and allegory to Japanese society and culture, the movie is still really fun and told in such an outlandish and comedic way that it's hard not to enjoy. You can easily just sit back and have a great time with the wild theatrics and unpredictable scenarios that unfold without really having to worry about the deeper meanings. It's also hard to believe that the movie is considered to be a low budget movie because of how epic and grand in scale every aspect of the production seems to be.

The Verdict:
Fly Me To Saitama is a wildly entertaining manga story brought to life in a bold and comedic style that is impossible to resist. The story is filled with amazing characters and so many twists and turns yet it all wraps up nicely in an extremely satisfying way.

Fly Me To Saitama is an official selection of the 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival.

To see more reviews, interviews, and festival coverage please go to: TwoOhSix at Fantasia 2020

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