Out of TOKYO 202x (Japan, 2022) [OAFF 2022]

From George Pal’s classic The Time Machine (1960) to Robert Zemeckis’ crowd-pleaser Back to the Future (1985), to Shane Carruth’s puzzling low-budget indie Primer (2004) and Christopher Nolan’s epic espionage thriller Tenet (2020), time travel films come in many forms that show that the genre is truly timeless. Even now, new ideas keep emerging. Writer Takuya Matsuura and director Akinori Ikuse add to the genre with their Olympics-inspired short Out of Tokyo 202x, a hopeful story that relays romance and razzamatazz found at the Tokyo 2020 games.

It starts with young time traveller Rika (Ucyu Imagawa) meeting mysterious young man Shin (So Morozumi) amidst a crowd of onlookers during the opening ceremonies of the summer games. Their discussion of temporal movement smoothly slips the proceedings into the realm of the sci-fi as we learn more about Rika’s novel method of traversing time via the manipulation of masses of collected data, like photos, videos, and blogs. She is from the future but it turns out that he is actually from even further forward in time. As the atmosphere of the day overtakes them, their relationship blossoms into something deeper.

Those expecting hard science should lower expectations as Out of Tokyo 202x eschews details and goes straight for mood by being romantic and optimistic. Whether it is from something foundational as taking advantage of filming the oft-delayed Olympic games, during pandemic conditions no less, to the charm of briefly meeting a person who leaves a deep impression, Ikuse channels a sense of possibility. He finds optimism by filming entirely on location at the Olympic stadium on the opening day which affords a crowd’s-eye view of the proceedings and captures some of the electric atmosphere of the event. Shot with a wide-angle lens, the actors race around the packed area with looks of glee as they talk time travel and the future.

Their enjoyment of conversation and the historic occasion becomes a beguiling sight, one made brightly energetic by high saturation visuals and handheld camerawork. There is also manipulation of footage speed as Wong Kar-wai-esque step printing and slow motion accentuate the experience of momentary togetherness felt by Rika and Shin. Meanwhile, the soundscape of crowds chattering, cicadas buzzing, and traffic rumbling away matches the highly active visuals to give a sense of life and the protagonists joining its flow. Upbeat music further enhances this feeling.

Imagawa and Morozumi have the distinctive looks necessary to stand out from the crowd and share sufficient chemistry to hold attention as their relationship quickly shifts through numerous gears. Even though this is a brief film, it still conveys a sense of love blossoming during a momentous occasion.

Out of TOKYO 202x ends on an open note of sci-fi speculation, which makes it a hopeful story. It definitely captures the experiences of ephemeral romance and being caught in a memorable sporting moment. Indeed, one can detect a life-affirming message that people and places not only create happy memories but also provide abundant inspiration. 

Out of TOKYO 202x was shown at the Osaka Asian Film Festival on March 12 and March 16.