Movie Review: ‘Josee, The Tiger And The Fish’

Review by James Lindorf

“Josee, the Tiger and the Fish,” the latest project from Funimation Films, is, without a doubt, melodramatic. However, it balances those over-the-top elements by being a charming tale of love, dedication, and self-sacrifice. “Josee, the Tiger and the Fish” will be in theaters for three days, July 12-14, in select cities around the U.S. and Canada. The beautifully animated coming-of-age love story was directed by Kotaro Tamura and produced by studio Bones, best known for Fullmetal Alchemist and My Hero Academia. It is available in Japanese with English subtitles as well as an English Dub.

Adapted by Sayaka Kuwamura, “Josee, the Tiger and the Fish” is based on a 1984 short story written by Akutagawa Prize-winning author Seiko Tanabe. Tsuneo is a gifted student and a bit of a loner who spends all of his free time working multiple jobs to fund his dream of studying abroad in Mexico. One night while walking home with dinner for one, Tsuneo’s life is forever changed when he saves a young woman in an out-of-control wheelchair. Kumiko lives with her overprotective grandmother, who prefers that the young woman never leaves the house, only relenting for their nightly walks. Even those come to an end after this latest accident. In an impulsive move, the grandmother offers Tsuneo a job as a part-time caregiver for Kumiko as long as he agrees never to take her outside.

Along with giving Tsuneo several tedious tasks, such as counting the number of rows in a tatami mat, Kumiko insists he calls her Josee. The name is an homage to her favorite author Françoise Sagan and a hint about her caustic view of love. Kumiko is a talented artist. For most of her life, she could only use her imagination to explore the world beyond her grandmother’s house. After Josee attempts to run away to the ocean, Tsuneo agrees to start taking her out. The duo came together out of necessity, he needs the money, and she needs freedom, but their shared passion for the ocean brings them closer. But when the tide turns against them, they push each other to places they never thought possible and inspire a love made for a storybook.

The message at the heart of “Josee, the Tiger and the Fish” is how important it is to follow your dreams. No matter who you are and what real or perceived limitations you have, the world isn’t as scary and imposing as it seems, and your passion is worth chasing. Themes supporting that message include empathy and self-sacrifice. The most genuine moment of love comes from neither of our main characters. Mai, one of Tsuneo’s coworkers, shows how powerful love can be, providing the second most moving scene of the film. All the themes and messages come together in a final act where real and digital tears are shed, truths are told, and lives are changed. “Josee, the Tiger and the Fish” is an excellent looking film. Still, it falls just short of the top tier of anime films like “Spirited Away,” “Your Name,” and “Weathering With You.” If the melodrama were toned down just a little in the performances, the emotions would feel more natural. They also would have been more fitting of characters in their early 20s. “Josee, the Tiger and the Fish” is the purest expression of love in a film this year and earns a 4 out of 5.

Genre: Drama, Anime, Romance, Animation
Original Language: Japanese
Director: Kotaro Tamura
Writer: Sayaka Kuwamura
Release Date (Theaters): July 12th, 2021 Limited
Runtime: 1h 38m
Production Co: Bones

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