Love, Life And Goldfish


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Love, Life And Goldfish
"Not only are there goldfish emblems absolutely everywhere, but the lives of fish and humans sometimes blur." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

“I made one mistake!” Makoto Kashiba (Matsuya Onoe) laments upon arriving in the small, backwater village where absolutely everything is goldfish themed and he can barely stand upright in his apartment without hitting his head. That mistake, it will emerge, was trying to sell his boss on the idea of a robotic massage parlour. his boss thinks that sound like a collection of massage chairs, and doesn’t sound very inspiring, even though Makoto insists that the numbers show that it would be a good investment. “Numbers don’t lie,” he keeps repeating. if only he had realised that his boss wasn’t ready for the modern world.

Makoto thinks he has been sent away from Tokyo to work in this remote branch office as a punishment. It will be pretty obvious to viewers, even early on, that he has misinterpreted the situation. He has been sent there to learn how to connect with other people. The charming hamlet’s old fashioned qualities are exactly what he needs to wrap his head around if he is to successfully relate to all the company’s customers. And although he may whine about it a lot, one thing appeals to him from the start: the beautiful Yoshino Ikoma (Kanako Momota), who run’s the local goldfish scooping store.

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Goldfish scooping? There really isn’t a lot to do in this place, so it’s the local source of entertainment. Though it might sound cruel, it’s really very gentle – that’s the point, as Makoto soon discovers. The fish involved are evidently used to it as they don’t display any stressed behaviours, but still, to catch them, one must be very calm and patient. These are not qualities which our hero possesses in any significant measure. Nevertheless, before the film is out, he will find himself taking on the local champion goldfish scooper in a desperate effort to win Yoshino’s affections – even though viewers can easily see that she’s in love with someone else and that he should try paying more attention to local bar owner Asuka Yamazoe (Nicole Ishida), who has a crush on him.

Despite his promotion of modern values, Makoto plainly has quite old fashioned ideas about what a woman should be, which he is gently disabused of in a film which makes charming use of traditional tropes (from time to time the streets are filled with kimono-clad chorus girls dancing with fans) yet celebrates social progress. It shows due responsibility towards its piscine stars, providing lots of practical advice about fishkeeping and even featuring a musical number in which Yoshino plays the piano to entertain a fish, who clearly enjoys the performance (though in this reviewer’s experience, most fish prefer grittier sounds like death metal and grands prix). Not only are there goldfish emblems absolutely everywhere, but the lives of fish and humans sometimes blur, with water making its way into musical fantasies and dream scenes, human characters appearing to swim, and visuals distorting as if they were being seen through the side of a goldfish bowl.

The progression of the plot here is not difficult to anticipate, but it’s nicely played. Whilst initially the comedy is mostly at Makoto’s expense, he becomes easier to root for as the town softens him. His intense social embarrassment, especially when confronted with people who openly show their feelings whilst sober, combines with his exaggerated expressions and outlandish physical comedy in a distinctively Japanese blend of humour, but the film is still very accessible for viewers around the world, and quite endearing. Its romantic themes and cheerful J-pop tunes contribute to a sweetness which it would be difficult not to like – even if you are inclined to think in the way that Makoto does to begin with.

Reviewed on: 06 Mar 2022
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Makoto Kashiba is an elite bank clerk and works for a big bank at its Tokyo HQ. Due to a minor mistake, he is demoted to a small branch office in a country town. He is devastated by his situation. There, he meets beautiful Yoshino Ikoma, who runs a goldfish scooping store. Makoto falls in love with her at first sight.

Director: Yukinori Makabe

Writer: Asumi Tsuchi, based on the manga by Noriko Otani

Starring: Nicole Ishida, Hayato Kakizawa, Naoki Kawano, Masuyasu Kitayana

Year: 2021

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: Japan

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