London seems to have almost regained ‘normality’, with returning of the crowds and noise in the streets, bars, restaurants and clubs… but if you still, like me, don’t feel very comfortable being carried away too soon, remember that there is a much safer option to appreciate cultures: going to the cinema, where we wear face masks and remain quiet.
For the first time after the lockdown I had a chance to visit the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, where they’re currently showing a Japanese animation film ‘Josee, the Tiger and the Fish’. Inspired by a short novel by Seiko Tanabe in 1984, the anime version was released in Japan in 2020 and now shown in UK cinemas.
Enjoying the reimagined story
I said ‘inspired by’, instead of ‘based on’ the novel, because the characterisations and plots have gone through quite a makeover in the animation. Unlike the original story, which is rather complicated and a little erotic, the animated film focuses more on pure romance, dream seeking, mental independence, well-matched with the sweet but beautiful ilustrations. You could probably enjoy the movie better without reading the Japanese original tale (although the novel itself is a gem).
In any case, I’m not going to offer a spoiler here, as this anime itself is worth watching, but just to give a very brief synopsis - ‘Josee’, taken from Françoise Sagan’s ‘Wonderful Clouds’, is the name by which the girl in the wheelchair wants to be called by the boy, Tsuneo, who happened to get a job as her ‘caretaker’. He has a dream of going to Mexico in order to study clarion angelfish which you can’t encounter anywhere else. The word ‘Fish’ in the title, therefore, symbolises the dream he seeks, and the dream ‘Josee’ herself finds while creating a relationship with Tsuneo. ‘Tiger’ indicates the harsh reality that ‘Josee’, as a disabled person, feels as threatening in the real world.
The main characters, such as Josee, Tsuneo, Josee’s grandmother, and their friends, embody different types of love and friendship. Observing those characters could make you reflect upon what kind of love you’re having and have shown to your precious ones. Are we over-protective, possessive, self-indulgent, hypocritical, or truly respectful to each other…? You can probably find your own answer, or if not, have at least a chance to think it over.
Going to the reimagined cinema
The cinema is doing their best to protect us, encouraging online bookings, limiting the capacity of seating, providing a generous amount of hand sanitisers, advising people to wear face masks. More importantly, we’re not supposed to talk loud while enjoying films. Why don’t we make a visit there to maintain our cinema-going culture with respect to others? Besides, ‘Josee’ is such an inspiring film, which enables you to re-appreciate your relationships, aspirations, and meanings of life.
Josee, the Tiger and the Fish - Official Trailer
(Japanese, but you can show English subtitles from the YouTube setting)
The Prince Charles Cinema