In this post, Irina (from I Drink and Watch Anime) and I will be talking about the Masaki Yuasa film: Mind Game. She will be in plain text and I will be in bold. (Insert classic font based joke here). Thank you for reading everyone :).
Hi Scott! Let’s get our Mind Game on.
In a way, this is a very timely collab. We have an international film festival every summer in Montreal (well we have a few) that features quite a bit of anime. It’s called Fantasia and it’s going on right now. In fact, I’ll be seeing a few movies over the weekend. And that’s exactly where I first saw Mind Game back in July 2005!
Yeah…it’s been a while. This was quite the movie to see on a big screen and with a festival atmosphere to booth! So tell me, Scott, where did you see Mind Game and how did you come across it?
Hi Irina, I’m putting on my Mind Game hat right now, I think. I probably lost it somewhere.
Oh, my story with this movie isn’t quite as dense as yours. I’ve watched it a couple weeks ago now and it’s been running through my mind ever sense. How weird is that, huh?
In general though, I’ve been watching a lot of Masaki Yuasa anime on and off for a while ever since I saw Devilman Crybaby on Netflix and The Night is Short, Walk on Girl in movie theaters. I also picked up the disc for another Yuasa work, Kaiba and fell in love with it. I feel like I’ve been craving more and more of his works since then.
As a director, he seems to tackle a wide range of genres, tones and narrative structures but I think he has a brilliant eye for movement. Pretty much all his movies feature a lot of dynamic animation scenes and he has that exaggerated bouncy movement to his characters that’s almost hypnotizing. Since this was his first movie, I feel like it’s even more obvious here since he was trying a lot of things out in the visuals.
Did you notice it too?
I think I did.
There were some instances like the closes on some of the character’s faces in a more live action focused shots yet had that cartoony mouth movements that really caught my eye in the beginning of the film. Plus, there are so many instances of that exaggerated movement style that really gives each character their own personality. It’s just fantastic visual storytelling. Feel emotion through lines is hard to do and I think Masaki Yuasa knows how to do that better than a lot of people.
Plus, it’s a lot of fun just watching a character run as fast as a car and then realizing they can actually do that.
It has an old school looney toons feel!
Oh do you think we should actually tell folks what the story is about? Or try to?
I think we try to give people a general idea of what happens in the beginning of the film, because I think that’s the easiest to explain to people.
So, Mind Game starts with our main character, Nishi, who is twenty years old, a bit of an unconfident loser, and has an on and off relationship with a girl named Myon. She tells Nishi that she is getting married to someone else. Since he never gained the confidence to ask her out and still isn’t able to do it, Nishi goes to Myon’s dad’s yakitori restaurant to meet Myon’s soon to be husband.
Am I getting that right? Not completely sure.
I think so although I remembered Myon being his childhood girl. Anywho, everyone is at the restaurant where Myon’s dad and sister work, new fiancee included, when a couple of yakuza storm in looking for the dad. There’s a bit about mistresses and stolen lovers from previous generations, things get out of control and Nishi ends up on the wrong side of a bullet This is where things start getting… Yuasa-like(?)
I think that’s a great way to put it. I honestly don’t know if there is a better word for it.
Nishi dies, meets god who is immediately dismissive of Nishi and wants him to go to hell, but Nishi runs back through the other portal with a new sense of confidence to fix the situation.
Can I just say that I love how god changes forms every time you look at him to really give him a sense of other worldliness?
Actually, that is probably also my favourite way of illustrating the divine. They are all things and everything it just that we simple humans can only see one at the time… It’s so tricky to try to visually represent a god. It’s bound to be disappointing after all. This is a fantastic way to handle it.
And Nishi is an interesting hero. I guess hero isn’t the right word… Main character. Dude. Everyman… I mean he’s a bit of a screw-up but you get where he’s coming from. Well, at least I did.
I completely get what you mean. He’s lack of confidence in himself and how it’s expressed in the film is pretty relatable. Plus, his sudden personality change after gaining a second life makes sense to me too. How Mind Game approaches him is pretty special. I feel like how the film approaches most character in Mind Game is similar somehow.
Nishi is a wannabe mangaka and the actual author of the Mind Game manga is also called Nishi… maybe he’s an autobiographical character?
Oh man, I didn’t know that. Still, that would make a lot of sense. An author writing from their own viewpoint is a great way to start a story.
I always figured Mind Game was a clever retelling of something. It feels epic. Maybe even a few things smooshed together but I don’t know what. The divine comedy maybe. Nishi does start off in limbo and have to make it through some pretty ominous situations. But I’m a simple soul, as soon as I saw a giant whale my mind went straight to Pinocchio. Oh there’s a big whale at some point guys….
Maybe it’s my biblical upbringing talking to me, but I thought about a parable from the Old Testament. The classic Jonah and the Whale tale. That’s where my mind decided to stay for some reason before searching for a better answer. I’m sure Mind Game was influenced by a lot of tales of different genres thrown together.
Oh yes, there is a whale and the characters, Nishi, Myon, and Yan (Myon’s sister) meet an old man and find some interesting ways to spend time in the whale to say the least.
Um, I”m not sure you want this in the post but as you know I am a religious ignoramus and I would really like to know what the tale of Jonah and the Whale is. I’ve heard the name but that’s about it. Are there sexy times in it?
Oh no, it’s fine. I wish there were sexy times in it, that would make it more interesting.
In general though, Jonah and the Whale is a story about how Jonah was chosen to be a prophet by God, but he refused and wanted to go on a sea voyage instead. So a storm brewed because of his decision and he was eaten by a whale and stayed inside it for three days. After the three days were up, Jonah was spit up on dry land a changed man and decided that maybe being a prophet was a good idea.
No sexy times in it unfortunately, but who knows what he did inside the whale?
You know that does sound like Mind Game, kinda. Minus the sexy times.
But tell me, what about this movie has captured your imagination so?
There are a couple things about Mind Game that make me wonder about it quite a bit besides Yuasa’s visuals. The first one is the ending in which I’m still not sure how to interpret it. I mean, obviously they get out of the whale right after sexy times and such. I’m just wondering about what it means, did they reset their lives or move on from that or are we not supposed to know? It’s been puzzling me for a while.
The second one is about Yan’s character, surprisingly. I’m wondering ever sense she escaped from supporting Myon every day, are we seeing her true self? A wild person who doesn’t mind dressing provocatively and letting herself go without society being there to judge her.
I also liked Yan as a character and I do think that what we saw was maybe not “the real” her but a side of her she never got to explore. She never had the chance to sow some wild oats. That’s just my theory though. Maybe she really is just a wild girl at heart!
Or maybe this is all in Nishi’s mind and he wanted to see Yan a little more *carefree*…
Is there anything calling to you about Mind Game that brings you back to it constantly?
I liked the sort of repeating pattern we see throughout. There was the time-bending aspect of the narrative where certain scenes replay and all that but also on a grander scale the fact that parents make mistakes that impact their children who start making the same mistakes and so on. It’s all one big wheel. People slowly turning into person’s they swore they would never be. However, and that is also a common staple to Yuasa’s style, it’s sort of tragic when you think about but also silly and at times even funny.
Ah yes, I see what you mean.
This melding of moods, that goes with the melding of visual styles, was very interesting to me. And I’m a sucker for surrealism in any story.
As for the end, well “The Story Has Never Ended”…right?
Right. The best sort of open ended “The Adventures continue” conclusion.
Thank you for joining me on this little collab, Irina. I’ve been wanting to talk about some anime with you for a while and I am glad that we finally got the chance to do it.
Wait collab? I thought we were just having an awesome chat! Well if this is a collab then you can count me in anytime!
I’m glad that you had some fun too. Maybe we can talk about Lu Over The Wall or something next time? I don’t know when that will be, though.
Good things come…