Fish Story (Japan, 2009)

Yoshihiro Nakamura’s Fish Story is adapted from Kotaro Isaka’s novel concerning an obscure single by a punk rock band that broke up after the song was recorded. This song itself was inspired by an even more obscure book that had an issue with its translation. The film follows the band’s recording of the song, as well as how the song has had an impact on others over the decades from 1975 to 2012.

Fish Story opens in 2012 with a large comet headed right towards Japan. Most people have fled to higher ground, though the situation looks hopeless. Taniguchi (Kenjiro Ishimaru) walks into a record store and begins lecturing the proprietor Okazaki (Nao Omori) and a customer about the inevitable disaster. Okazaki plays the song “Fish Story” by the forgotten punk rock band Gerkin, telling the customer that thee song will save the world. The film then jumps back to the 1980s and we see Masashi (Gaku Hamada) driving around two friends while listening to the song, with one of the friends saying that the song is cursed. Later in the evening, Masashi is told by a woman he meets that he needs to stand up for himself so he can meet the woman who will help him save the world. He finally takes matters into his own hands and saves a woman from being attacked on the side of the road. The then film jumps ahead to the 1990s where we meet Masami (Mikako Tabe), a teenager who falls asleep on a ferry and misses getting off with her classmates. She meets Segawa (Mirai Moriyama), a chef on the ferry, who claims to be the Champion of Justice.

The term ‘fish story’ is defined as an improbable tale, possibly originating with fishermen who exaggerated the size of the fish they caught. Fish Story definitely lives up to that definition. It is an improbable story about a struggling band whose song just may save the world. The people that link events together over the years don’t have anything in common apart from the song – and it is a good song. The main theme is perseverance and while the band wasn’t able to continue making music together, the song lived on and helped others overcome their own obstacles.

This is a funny and quirky film with endearing characters which moves seamlessly between the times and the individual stories. There are also a number of pop culture references, including the Sex Pistols, Godzilla, and the Hollywood blockbuster Armageddon (1998). The end of Fish Story may be somewhat predictable but it’s satisfying, and it’s certainly a lot of fun getting there. Some scenes could have been edited down a bit, but overall, this is a fun movie which comes highly recommended for its unique blend of action, drama, and comedy.

Fish Story is available on Blu-ray from Third Window Films.