Mind Game

A virtuoso experiment in animation that combines traditional anime aesthetics style with a variety of Western animation styles, this bawdy, kaleidoscopic, scatological romp swirls around the existential dilemma of meek, goofy, 20-year-old aspiring manga artist Nishi (Koji Imada). On the verge of working up the nerve to reclaim his high-school sweetheart,...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A virtuoso experiment in animation that combines traditional anime aesthetics style with a variety of Western animation styles, this bawdy, kaleidoscopic, scatological romp swirls around the existential dilemma of meek, goofy, 20-year-old aspiring manga artist Nishi (Koji Imada). On the verge of working up the nerve to reclaim his high-school sweetheart, the awesomely endowed Myon Uchida (Sayaka Maeda), from her studly fiancé, Nishi finds himself in the middle of a brutal yakuza shakedown at the Uchida family's yakitori stand. Murdered by psychotic rapist thug Atsu (Kenichi Chujou), Nishi wakes up in the sweet hereafter, where a shape-shifting God matter-of-factly shares the truth of human existence: He created mankind for his own amusement, and there is no afterlife — you just fade away. Disillusioned and dumbfounded, Nishi defiantly returns to Earth for a do-over and vows to do things right. He wrests away Atsu's gun and takes off with Myon and her sister, Yan (Seiko Takuma), on a magical mystery tour that includes a wild car chase and shootout, a long sojourn in the belly of a whale, where a half-mad castaway lives surrounded by mannequins and extinct sea life, and a sci-fi-tinged reckoning with the heartbreaking reality of abandoned dreams and half-held hopes. Directed by anime veteran Masaaki Yuasa and based on the cult manga series by Robin Nishi, the film's influences range from Astro-Boy and biblical parables to Slaughterhouse-Five and Yellow Submarine. Yuasa mixes and matches visual styles with unbridled abandon; he rotoscopes lightly over live footage (à la Richard Linklater's 2001 WAKING LIFE), juxtaposes watercolor delicacy with bold, advertising-style graphics and scratchy, rough-sketch doodlings. And if the film's pop-psychedelic noodling about fate, self-determination and the power of love looks muzzy-headed on closer consideration, its dense barrage of images richly repays second and third viewings.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A virtuoso experiment in animation that combines traditional anime aesthetics style with a variety of Western animation styles, this bawdy, kaleidoscopic, scatological romp swirls around the existential dilemma of meek, goofy, 20-year-old aspiring manga ar… (more)

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