Josee: The Tiger And The Fish: A visually and emotionally captivating adventure

Bryan Tan
·Contributor
·3 min read
Josee: The Tiger And The Fish. (Still: Golden Village Pictures)
Josee: The Tiger And The Fish. (Still: Golden Village Pictures)

Length: 98 minutes
Director: Kotaro Tamura
Cast: Kaya Kiyohara, Taishi Nakagawa, Yume Miyamotoe
Language: Japanese with English and Chinese subtitles
Release details: In theatres 29 April (Singapore)

3.5 out of 5 stars

If you've watched the live action movie of Josée last year, you'll be absolutely surprised how different and refreshing the anime adaptation of Josee: The Tiger And The Fish is.

For one, the anime's storyline is very upbeat and cheerful compared to the depressing and downtrodden feel of the live action film. The colours are bright pastel and vivid, with beautiful art styles in the hand-drawn paintings that Josee sketches out which fuel her imagination as a voracious reader.

I can't remember when an anime movie really tugged at one's heartstrings, at least not since Ni No Kuni which was released in 2018 and Your Name in 2016. 

Josee: The Tiger And The Fish. (Still: Golden Village Pictures)
Josee: The Tiger And The Fish. (Still: Golden Village Pictures)

Unlike its counterpart, which is more about class separation and mismanaged expectations, Josee: The Tiger And The Fish is all about emotions, empathy and the relationships we have with the people around us. 

While Nam Joo Hyuk's Yong Seok in Josée was a promising, elite engineering student, Tsuneo Suzuka (Taishi Nakagawa) is a poor high school student struggling to make ends meet, living in Osaka and far away from his parents who live in the countryside.

To achieve his dreams of moving overseas to Mexico to study marine biology in college, he takes on multiple part-time jobs, including working for a diving company where he regularly goes to sea to take pictures of marine wildlife and organises diving sessions.

Josee: The Tiger And The Fish. (Still: Golden Village Pictures)
Josee: The Tiger And The Fish. (Still: Golden Village Pictures)

A chance encounter brings Tsuneo right into the arms of Josee, a disabled girl who crashes into him when her wheelchair spirals out of control while on a walk with her grandmother. He is invited to their house for a meal and awkwardly but politely accepts, in the typical manner of the courteous and social graciousness of the Japanese.

Here is where all semblance of the two movies end. While we never find out Josée's real name in the live action film, here she is Kumiko (Kaya Kiyohara), a disabled girl who lives alone with her grandmother and her vivid imagination through books. 

In one breath-taking Studio Ghibli-esque scene, Josée transforms the whole world into a stunningly brilliant likeness of Ponyo's underwater sea, floating through it as a mermaid.

Josee: The Tiger And The Fish. (Still: Golden Village Pictures)
Josee: The Tiger And The Fish. (Still: Golden Village Pictures)

Tsuneo gradually becomes attached to Josée despite her callous attitude and petulant remarks, and starts working for her as a sort of caretaker and babysitter. The couple start exploring the world around them against her grandmother's wishes, making visits to the beach, aquarium, and amusement parks.

Enhancing the beautiful colour scheme is director Kotaro Tamura's experienced hand, having steered previous titles like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Sword Art Online to great success, guiding the plot forward seamlessly without missing a beat. 

Josee: The Tiger And The Fish's visually and emotionally brilliant storytelling walks in the footsteps of Studio Ghibli's work and is uniquely flavoured, with characters as colourful as its art. Definitely a film worth catching.

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