Destiny: The Tale Of Kamakura


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Destiny: The Tale Of Kamakura
"Takashi Yamazaki’s brilliantly realised fantasy universe, based on the manga by Ryôhei Saigan, will thrill fans of fantasy animé and Japanese mythology." | Photo: Fantasia Film Festival

One of the strangest parts about developing a career as a writer is coming to terms with the odd things people believe about what we do all day. For most of us, this doesn’t look so different from the average office job: we sit at computers, haggle over the phone and occasionally throw things. Perhaps this is what Akiko (Mitsuki Takahata) expects when she marries Isshiki (Makato Takai). Instead she gets something closer to the fantasy version. Isshiki actually spends very little time at his desk. When not pacing around his mysterious old house with its still more mysterious old housekeeper, discovering unexpected treasures, he’s out solving mysteries for the local police. He doesn’t have much time left for her, but Akiko does her best to take this in her stride. What she finds far more disconcerting is Kamakura itself.

Isshiki is a fantasy writer, and perhaps that’s why he’s chosen to settle in a town where the conventional and mythical worlds overlap. Helping his new wife adjust to this is something he tries to do gently, but it’s quite a challenge. Here, an assortment of strange creatures live side by side with humans, trading with them, sometimes threatening to eat them. Death gods and gods of ill fortune dwell side by side with goblins, frog creatures and the spirits of the recently deceased. Ordinarily this is a peaceful community, but recently, strange things have started happening. Before they know it, Isshiki and Akiko find themselves caught up in events that could tear them apart and forever alter the destiny of their immortal souls.

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Takashi Yamazaki’s brilliantly realised fantasy universe, based on the manga by Ryôhei Saigan, will thrill fans of fantasy animé and Japanese mythology. It’s highly detailed, from the cast of characters to the house, the marketplace where many different species mix, and the train that carries the dead into the afterlife. Much more has been packed into the animation than is necessary for the simple telling of the story. Sweeping music adds to the grand sense of adventure as the domestic story expands into a more dramatic one, with costumes growing more elaborate and, towards the end, some energetic action sequences which manage tension well in light of how unevenly the two sides are balanced.

The film is very old fashioned, even for Japan, in terms of its depiction of gender roles, and Akiko spends most of the film dependent on her husband in one way or another. Even his romantic thoughts about her tend to dwell on her ability to be a helpmate and do the housework. Other female characters are similarly treated, whilst male characters fret over their duty to be protectors and providers. This has the effect of making the place where it’s set seem still more remote from today’s world. Takahata charms like a Fifties Hollywood heroine, genuinely lovely, but many viewers will find themselves longing for Akiko to take control of her own destiny.

Beautiful to look at, internally consistent and always visually entertaining, Destiny: The Tale Of Kamakura – which featured at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival - is bound to attract a strong fan following. Although its story is ultimately a little too familiar, it’s told with verve and with a creative flair that many will find delightful.

Reviewed on: 15 Jul 2018
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A woman tries to cope when her fantasy writer husband moves them to a small town regularly visited by fantastic creatures.

Director: Takashi Yamazaki

Writer: Takashi Yamazaki

Starring: Masato Sakai, Mitsuki Takahata, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Sakura Ando, Min Tanaka, Jun Kunimura

Year: 2017

Runtime: 129 minutes

Country: Japan


Fantasia 2018

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