A few months ago, I reviewed a film in which I said that I loved the plot, but really disliked the execution of said plot. And, sometimes, this can be worse than actually disliking the overall film; the potential can be seen but is just out of reach and will never be changed. And, unfortunately, ‘Josee, the Tiger and the Fish’ belongs in that category.
‘Josee, the Tiger and the Fish’ is an anime film that was directed by Kôtarô Tamura (Sword Art Online Art Department). It revolves around student Tsuneo who accidently meets Josee, a wheelchair bound young woman, during her evening walk with her grandmother.
I am a huge fan of the anime genre; the art style that the genre offers are gorgeous, and this film is no exception. It looks fairly simple, with incomplete lines appearing on background characters’ occasionally, but it works really well here. It makes the film visually memorable, with a highlight being a dream sequence from Josee at the beginning. She dreams about swimming as a mermaid, in an underwater version of her home city, which is the first indicator that she shares the same love of the ocean as Tsuneo. The voice acting was also great. These two aspects were delightful to see and hear. Simply put, the casting and animation are perfect.
However, my experience and thoughts of this film differs throughout each act, and this has to be one of the more challenging films that I’ve reviewed, purely because of this. To begin, the pacing in the film is extremely uneven. The first 25 minutes could be a short film on its own and the meeting of the two main characters happens very quickly, while Tsuneo’s story arc of wanting to study abroad seems to be wrapped up quite quickly too. This was to the point where, once a certain aspect of his arc occurred, I was confused and checked the timestamp on the film and was surprised to learn I still had an hour left. This means that the rest of the film appears to lose momentum as it progresses, purely because it’s told its main plot points in the first half of the film’s runtime.
My other issue was with Josee herself. She is a wheelchair bound young woman who is forced to stay at home by her grandmother, Miss Kumiko, during the day. However, after a chance meeting with Tsuneo, Kumiko asks him to be Josee’s career during her workdays, which is Josee’s gateway to seeing the outside world during the day. On paper, this sounds like a ‘Tangled’-like romance drama which I would be fine with, but Josee is an awful character for the first half of the film and the reasoning for her staying at home is extremely flimsy. The first encounter with Josee involves Tsuneo saving her from a fall and she responds with biting his arm and calling him a pervert. From that point, she spends most of her interactions with him being quiet and bossy.
And this can be explained by her staying at home all the time, so she hasn’t been given the chance to interact with people, but it’s hard to deny that I really disliked her for the majority of the film. Furthermore, if there was a villain at all in ‘Josee, the Tiger and the Fish’, it would be Miss Kumiko, who tells Josee that the world is full of scary beasts and that she’d be safer locked up indoors during the whole day. This particular story arc was very reminiscent of Disney’s ‘Tangled’ and, while I am not wheelchair bound, I am walking disabled, and this particular arc made me feel a little uncomfortable. Miss Kumiko was not a likable or sympathetic character at all and, if that was the film’s intention, then it did a fantastic job at portraying someone who was technically trapped due to their disability and guardian. But the execution felt a bit off to me. I think a better way of executing this would’ve been if Miss Kumiko had hired Tsuneo as a career because she herself was too old to walk her around too much.
While this wasn’t a bad film, ‘Josee, the Tiger and the Fish’ was in desperate need of a rewrite, which is a shame. It was overall fine but left me wishing a lot of the story details had been changed. However, the animation and voice acting are worth watching this for. Plus, the inclusion of a disabled lead character is something to highlight, considering the lack of disabled representation in the film industry as a whole. So, while the writing is in need for improvement, I would still recommend watching it, purely for the latter aspect and the animation. I just wish the overall execution of the story, and the character writing, had been better.
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