Nishi has always loved Myon since they were little. And now as adults, he wants to pursue his dream of becoming a manga artist and marrying his childhood sweetheart. There's one problem, though. She's already been proposed to and she thinks Nishi is too much of a wimp. But upon meeting the fiancé while at her family's diner and accepting him as a good guy, they encounter a couple Yakuza (Japanese mafia), only to have Nishi grasp a certain revelation. And, with his newly aquired look on life, adventures abound as he, Myon, and her sister Yan escape the Yakuza into a most unlikely location where they meet an old man...
The film was awarded the Animation Division Grand Prize at the 2004 Japan Media Arts Festival. It also won the Oufuji Noburou Award at the 2005 Mainichi Film Awards. Also in 2005 it won the Best Film, Best Director (tying with Survive Style 5 +), Best Script (tying with Survive Style 5 +), Special Award – Visual Accomplishment, and the Audience Award for the Best Animation Film during the Fantasia Festival in Canada.
Contrary to the title, this doesn’t so much play with your mind as it rubs its crotch against it furiously and dunks it in an ocean full of hallucinogen.
Produced by one of the most innovative animation studios around, Mind Game takes an abstract approach to a theme that a lot of mainstream anime has been promoting to viewers for decades: Don’t give up, live life.
You see it everywhere, from Naruto to Mobile Suit Gundam to Ghibli. Anime is always reminding you of how short life is; encouraging you to stop watching it and go outside. Stop being self-conscious, act freely, chase your
dreams, jump into the melting pot of humanity!
Mind Game's humorous approach is through a breezy kind of animation style that isn’t afraid to become inconsistent at random moments. The most striking moments are when characters' faces are replaced by actual real life actors, which gives a surreal charm to the whole thing. A reason why I keep thinking of obscure quirky live action Japanese films, like Survive Style Five+, instead of other anime, because that’s where Mind Game's sensibilities lie.
It is both aware and ignorant of the fact that it's animated, taking full advantage of the medium to show us wonderfully insane visuals, and ignoring it to use a narrative template that is underused in anime-land which is obsessed with plot driving the characters rather than the other way around, and whenever it is the other way around its labelled as 'slice of life'.
Not so much slice of life in Mind Game as it is a gigantic bite. We follow Nishi as he hooks up with a childhood sweetheart, we laugh at a violently ugly encounter in a restaurant, we grin stupidly at a loony action scene and spend the long remainder of the film captivated by a couple humans stripped bare, their hearts naked for all to see, and with that freedom enforced on them they're truly able to live life like they never were before.
The enforced freedom ultimately has to be taken away, which results in the film's powerful climax which is basically a race for life. A metaphorical dash across the debris of 21st century living; a furious rush that takes everything in the characters to achieve a future full of life and possibilities.
Mind Game itself shows the future and possibilities of anime. Another accomplishment for Studio 4C.
Mind Game is easily one of my favourite anime movies....all the way through. At first I was a little offput by the art, some scenes work REALLY well...some scenes don't. But seriously, this anime is the best thing I've seen in a LONG time of watching anime.
Story: It's a story that you cannot take seriously. There are essentially 3 different scenes in it. All three of them are beautifully executed. The pacing in this movie is also very nice, the few slow scenes are beautifully shown, there's never a single moment of tediousness.
Art: " I think that Japanese animation fans
today don’t necessarily demand something that’s so polished. You can throw different styles at them and they can still usually enjoy it." -Masaaki Yuasa (director) The art in this is so spaced out, to call it anime would be to really push the border of what anime is and can be. This free, wild form is both beautiful and also sometimes detrimental. There are some scenes that are not beautifully executed, they seem dull and boring, almost lifeless. Whereas others are beautiful, and some are quite hilarious. One of the best scenes involves God. However the best scene, is a love scene. It is worth it to watch the entire anime JUST for this one 3-4 minute scene. I cannot describe to you how beautiful this one scene was to me, you really need to see it for yourself.
Sound: The voice actors are magnificent, Niishi is especially great, he's energetic and sounds absolutely crazy half the time. The sound effects are also amazing and the background music incredible as well.
Character: To fully get the characters, to fully understand all the relations and dreams of each character this anime needs to be watched at least twice. Almost every character has a detailed story and aspirations. Niishi's dream of being a Manga artist leads to a cute little story. The characters at all time seem human, they seem pliable and three-dimensional. This aspect is so beautifully shown, it's one of the many highlights of this series.
I was never let-down during this entire movie. However I would not recommend it to everyone. If you don't have an open mind about what you believe anime is, then don't watch this. This anime is incredibly unique. To use the word "weird" would be an insult to this. I have never seen anything like this, it's an anime that really does a magnificent job at being a beautiful piece of art.
This was a 'solid' effort. Fair. Decent. Average. 6 out of 10. There isn't a modest and balanced review for this movie on this site yet, and I feel its fair to those who are interested in it to realize its not the '10 OUT OF 10 FIVE STARS 1000%!!!!' bonanza its been made out to be. However, if you're convinced this movie is just that, don't read on.
Despite the title, this isn't a movie that will mess with your head or challenge you to think. It has a very simple message, one that was clearly stated: Live Life. The characters go on
a journey that, while being fantastic, ended up feeling like a hollow victory come the climax. You can either blame that on the "reset button" ending or on the fact they chose to send us on acid trips over fleshing out the story.
The characters themselves were very much the same as the story. Decent, with some depth, but you could feel as though there was a wealth more to be explored that simply wasn't for one reason or another. Again, more time was given to the exploration of the art.
But what about the art? This movie is probably best known for its atypical style and beautifully executed animation. The problem though is its not a matter of execution, its a matter of content. Yes, the animation was expertly done, but the animation itself was a Wal-Mart bargain bin of good, bad, and indistinguishable. In this department, it really relies on the person watching and their preferences. Personally, I found it to be distracting and in some cases, absurd.
Basically it should come to this. If you've seen the movie or if you're thinking of watching it, ask yourself this one question..."Did I enjoy it?" . No, don't ask yourself if you 'understood everything' or if you 'appreciated the art'...ask yourself if you truly and honestly 'enjoyed' it.
Personally, its not a movie I'll watch again nor a movie I'll forget. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't that one amazing movie that its hyped to be either. It falls in the middle of the road.
It's raining outside, and you’re eating in a small diner with the girl you’ve been in love with for eleven years. Beside her, talking calmly, is her current boyfriend. Things are going smoothly, while you fester in guilt over lost opportunity yet try to hope the best for the two of them—when all of a sudden, an unshaven squinty-eyed bastard strolls in with his angry pinheaded diaper-wearing charge, and start a ruckus. What do you do in this situation?
One possibility is to cower on the floor while your love interest is about to be raped, hope nothing bad happens, and eventually
get your brains blown out. That works, though few would consider it a good resolution. Too bad you’ll miss watching the pinhead get shot up by his partner.
With these first twenty two enthralling, surreal, and utterly absurd minutes of Masaaki Yuasa’s Mind Game out of the way, one can rest assured that it only gets better. Yakuza car chases, a dancing stripper artist balloon girl, a piano sonata in a whale belly, and general trippy psychedelia are all things the viewer has to look forward to over the film’s hour and forty-some minute runtime that flies by like a bullet train.
For any unfamiliar with Yuasa’s body of work, Mind Game is both his first film and a wonderful introduction to his overall style. He got his start in the 1990s doing mostly key animation work for various programs, breaking into character design and animation direction periodically. Mind Game, however, is his first feature film with full directorial credits. It was animated mostly by Studio 4°C, an animation studio that has come to be known for its oftentimes off-beat or abstract works of Japanese Animation thanks to titles such as this one, as well as the Genius Party and Memories short film collections.
As has come to be expected by anyone who has glimpsed some of his work, the film’s visual appearance is easily its most immediately noticeable aspect—and is so jarring in its stylistic schizophrenia that it will probably put off many viewers just from the first handful of scenes. It hobbles back and forth between crudely-rendered environments and shape-shifting blob people and rotoscoped head-on close-ups for the entirety of the film, unafraid of emphasizing cartoonish over-exaggerated expressions while also managing to mock visual realism with bizarre photographic manipulation. The backgrounds maintain some level of lucidity, however one should not expect any sort of photorealistic renderings from the film.
Cinematically, Mind Game delivers with every bit of zeal, craziness, and energy that one can expect from a contemporary anime film, the likes of which are at least superficially comparable to the more down to earth director Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), and the nearly-as-zany madman Hiroyuki Imaishi (Dead Leaves). Mind Game’s form is solid and eclectic, embellished by its fantastic switcheroo of color pallets and ambiance in order to convey very specific tones. Shot compositions are meticulous and revealing, but there is little to explicitly link his influences to the people who had come before. Yuasa’s rhythm for editing is possibly its most successful feature, as best showcased in the breathtakingly succinct, ambient, and moving montages that divide up and help structure of the film. The montages alone are worth the viewing experience, since even though they may seem arbitrary or meaningless upon a first viewing, the patterns that arise and the underlying narrative flow is sure to be uncovered by interested viewers.
These aspects all come together to define Mind Game as a surreal “art film”, no doubt, but as of yet nothing has been said of the characters, the plot, or any other narrative devices. This is for good reason: Mind Game is so fluid in its plot progression, so dynamic in its structure, and subtle enough in the development of its characters that a succinct commentary on its actual narrative substance is quite difficult. It fills plot holes with absurdity and gleefully skips around any attempts at seriousness or profundity, and its characters are just as much victims of incomprehensible circumstances as they are the designers of such circumstances in the first place.
So what exactly IS Mind Game?
Well, it’s rough and unpolished, it’s meandering, indecent and ludicrous, it’s absurd, it’s surreal, it’s asinine and obnoxious. It’s also heartwarming and poignant, possibly insulting, it’s hazy, blurred, and inconsistent. It’s at once philosophically profound and superficial to an utmost extreme. It doesn’t make much sense when one dwells on its contents, and it joyously defies serious scrutiny should one even attempt it. It is the sum of its parts and yet about absolutely nothing—or perhaps everything—at all. There are subtle jabs to modern culture, blatant jabs at modern consumerism, and general allegories, metaphors, and possibly even a message or two to be found within its crazy imagery and circular plot. This short review isn’t going to tell you what they are, though—that’d ruin the suspense.
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