I have been waiting for this film for so long. Whenever an anime film gets a UK release my ears flick up like a predator who has spotted its next kill. There’s something very exciting about seeing anime in cinema and it’s usually the big hitters like My Hero Academia and Dragonball Z. Other times it’s films like Josee, the Tiger and the Fish. They’re rarer, particularly in the UK, but when they get an official release you instantly know that they’ll be special… And Josee, the Tiger and the Fish is one of those films that I will cherish for a long time.
I had, and I cannot stress this enough, the absolute pleasure of watching Josee, the Tiger and the Fish before it’s UK release and I have been trying to figure out how best to discuss this film. There’s so much to love in this film and I really want people to experience it the way that I did… completely blind. I think you gain a wider appreciation for it when you know very little about the story and the characters that guide us through the story. So this review will focus primarily on the aesthetics of this movie while also briefly touching on the narrative-driving elements. It may be vague, but it’ll be worth it. Just in case you don’t know…
Here’s the official synopsis:
Insisting on being called “Josee”, a character from her favourite book, Kumiko Yamamura is stubborn and unruly. Not even her thick Osakan accent can hide the sharpness of her tongue. However, she’s also trapped in a home ill-prepared for her disabilities. She’s hidden away from a world she’s been told is full of hostile “tigers”. When she literally falls into the arms of aspirational college student Tsuneo Suzukawa, however, the two start to see the world and what they want from it in a whole new light in this uplifting romance that’s a refreshing change of pace for a studio mostly known for action anime like the UK box office smash-hit My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising.
The animation is simply divine. There are some absolutely wonderful shots and gorgeous landscapes but I think what I truly admired was that Josee, the Tiger and the Fish focused primarily on the characters in terms of style. Films like Your Name focused heavily on this grand-scale spectacle, it didn’t sacrifice anything in regards to the characters but the setting became a separate entity. Almost like a character. Josee, the Tiger and the Fish spends so much time fleshing out their characters ensuring that they contribute to the unravelling love story and that they can visually project how they’re feeling and what they are thinking. Sometimes they don’t say a word but their expressions paint an entire picture.
These characters are beautiful and insanely detailed. They come with their own unique traits and they just come to life on screen. I was drawn to the character designs immediately when I saw the poster, but seeing them move and flow was an entirely different experience.
There is also a uniqueness to Josee, the Tiger and the Fish. Just based on the anime that I’ve watched, I haven’t seen many characters that are limited in terms of mobility. But what’s great about Josee is that she isn’t always confined to her wheelchair and that did two things. One, Josee was able to elicit various emotions that helped us relate to her and just feel for her. Whether we’ve spent time restricted to a chair ourselves or know of someone who has a very similar problem, there is something we can latch onto. Two, Josee’s disablity allowed for some very playful animation that depicted her inner thoughts, her longing to be free and actually put her vulnerability on display- how she carries herself, daily struggles and fears that are associated with mobility issues.
Josee, the Tiger and the Fish is the perfect example of a “show don’t tell” film purely because it relies entirely on the visuals to tell Josee’s story as well as Tsuneo’s. Through painting, fish, tigers, and even subtle details, Josee’s world expands and she becomes a drastically more complex character.
Josee and Tsuneo
Part of me knew that I was going to love Josee, the Tiger and the Fish. The animation was definitely a major contributing factor but I am a sucker for a nice romantic story. However, this felt very different. Considering that the film only had one major trailer, I was pleasantly surprised by what was in store. The bond between Tsueno and Josee is reminiscent of other classic shows like Toradora! whereby there’s this playful and somewhat antagonistic relationship between the main protagonists which then gradually flourishes. But the story takes some very surprising turns. Some that I didn’t really anticipate… And it uses the constant heart and comedy to guide us into a slight false sense of security.
Now, it isn’t an entirely devastating film. Tears may be shed, but it’s mostly sweet and wholesome. It’s just when things get bad, it hurts a lot. Despite the short runtime, you feel so easily attached to both Josee and Tsuneo. They’re fun, charming and the bond they share is incredibly endearing. Within moments, you just want the best for them. Unfortunately, they have a lot of obstactles to tackle and some are easier than others.
Josee, the Tiger and the Fish is a beautiful piece of art. Simply put. I found myself smiling, laughing and aching. Not only is the film visually stunning, it’s also carried by an incredibly heartwarming story that is further enhanced by the visual aspects- the character designs, the more artistic and paint-like world, and the overall detail both in the background and in the characters themselves. This film is an absolute must.
Whether you’re leaning more into the animation side or just love a bit of romance, there is something for everyone. Josee, the Tiger and the Fish is a perfect combination of fun, heart, warmth and sadness. The vibrant world that Josee is hidden from is brought to life and filled with great characters and interesting twists which illuminate and bring forth Josee’s own anxieties. Josee, the Tiger and the Fish will be a favourite of mine for quite some time and I can’t wait to hear what people say about it when it gets released tomorrow. I simply can’t wait for the cinemas to be filled with excited fans and to hear the laughter and occassional sob echo over the tranquil soundtrack. If you’ll excuse me, I need a nice cup of tea and a hug after that.
Please go and see Josee, the Tiger and the Fish. Tickets are now available to buy, so make sure you visit wwwJoseeFilm.co.uk
Don’t forget to check out the adorable trailer below:
Are you excited for Josee, the Tiger and the Fish? Let us know your thoughts in the comments and be sure to check out more anime related news here.
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