Based on the short story of the same name by award-winning author Seiko Tanabe, Josee, the Tiger and the Fish is a heart-warming tale all about finding ourselves and each other through adversity. The film premiered at the 25th Busan International Film Festival last year and is now arriving on British shores.
Tsuneo Suzukawa is a young college student who dreams of studying abroad. One day, he encounters a stubborn young woman in a wheelchair after she accidentally rolls down a hill and luckily, Tsuneo manages to save her. Kumiko Yamamura- who insists on being called ‘Josee’ after a character from her favourite book- spends her days stuck at home painting, hidden away from the world that she’s been told is full of hostile ‘tigers’ by her grandmother.
After the two meet, Josee’s grandmother hires Tsuneo to help look after Josee and the two grow closer together as they push each other to places they never thought possible. They start to see the world and what they both want from it in a whole new light.
The film marks the feature debut of director Kotaru Tamura, and it’s an impressive debut with Tamura really making the most of the medium of animation. The animation throughout the whole film is impressive, most notably a dream segment where we see Josee swimming with fish through the beautiful sea which helps the viewer get inside Josee’s vivid imagination.
The film has all the right pieces to be an excellent romance story à la other anime hits such as Your Name or A Silent Voice, but the problem with Josee is that the characters just aren’t as strong as those in the aforementioned films. While still a good, sweet and charming film, it’s by no means a great one.
Josee’s character is quite insufferable, constantly calling Tsuneo a servant or a pervert or even going so far as biting him. In fact, the film’s depiction of disability isn’t a particular good one as Josee is displayed as helpless at multiple points throughout. And whilst she does have some agency at certain points, if she was given a bit more agency and Tsuneo didn’t have to keep coming to rescue her, its portrayal of disability would be far better. Instead, it perpetuates the idea that disabled people are helpless.
The film does present a really nice message about pursuing your dreams and its release actually comes at a very good time. Throughout the story, more so in the first act, we see Tsuneo sneak Josee out of her house and away from her over-protective grandmother to take her to places and to see the world. Josee longs to visit the ocean and taste the sea and there’s a really beautiful scene where that happens. The timing of the movie feels quite fitting as lockdowns are ending and restrictions are easing up. We’re finally able to go out again and to visit all the wonderful places in the world, something we might have taken for granted.
Josee, the Tiger and the Fish is a pleasant anime film. While it doesn’t bring anything new to the romance genre and brings in a rather unnecessary love triangle in the final act, it’s a story with a lovely message making it an enjoyable watch.
Josee, the Tiger and the Fish will be released in selected cinemas across the UK/IRE from 11th August 2021.