Why review a Japanese-language film without sensational violence, naked ninjas, or giant robots? Because when it's a movie as smartly comic, raggedly rocking, warmly appealing, and richly rewarding as Yoshihiro Nakamura's Fish Story, you want the whole world to know. Or, at least, people who don't happen to be in Austin right now.
Not that Fish Story is the best movie ever made, but it certainly deserves to be seen by a wider audience than will have a chance to see it at special events like Fantastic Fest. And distributors tend to shy away from films that don't have easily marketable elements, like those mentioned in the opening line. In several important ways, this is a rather modest little flick, and I don't want to hype it out of proportion to its relative merits. But I must say: Fish Story engages, delights, and surprises as it criss-crosses wildly through the decades, and I think it's the kind of movie that a broad variety of people would enjoy, if only they had a chance to sample its many pleasures.
Rather than a fish, or fishes, the linchpin of the narrative is a song entitled "Fish Story," recorded by an obscure Japanese punk band in 1975 (one year before the Sex Pistols were formed). Unappreciated in their own time, the band's song takes on a life of its own over the years, still entrancing listeners in a record store in 2012. A comet is about to strike the earth, and mankind only has five hours left to live. With the rest of the populace departed to supposedly safer high ground, three men come together, listening to the record and fantasizing that, somehow, the song will be able to save the world.