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Jellyfish Eyes, Blu-ray (2013/2015)

Jellyfish Eyes, Blu-ray (2013/2015)

Director & Writer: Takashi Murakami
Actors: Takuto Sueoka, Himeka Asami, Masataka Kubota
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9, 1080p HD color
Audio: Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English
Studio: Janus Films/Kaikai Kiki/ The Criterion Collection 787 (12/8/15)
Extras: New interview with Murakami, “Making F.R.I.E.N.D.s,” “The Art of Film” – new documentary by Murakami on the making of the film, Theatrical trailer for Jellyfish Eyes 2, Booklet with essay by critic Glen Helfand
Length: 101 min.
Rating: ***1/2

A little boy moves with his mother to a country town after the death of his father. He befriends a jellyfish-like sprite that he finds, and discovers that his schoolmakes have similar friends but they are controlled by little special smartphones given them by someone. Murakami made this whimsical tale following the Fukushima disaster and tsunami and it supposedly has a message of cooperation and hope, but basically it’s for kids and young adults who dig monsters and special effects, and as the notes say, there are parts of it which Westerners will not understand at all.

Considering Murakami’s modest budget, he came up with a variety of strange little creatures, and they are not all loveable at all. They include a human-sized frog creature and another with a metal box for a head. There is also a giant monster, Oval, which is a sort of a Godzilla stand-in, who must be vanquished. The film combines Japanese popular culture with the director’s ideas about it, including his criticisms of it. The cuteness quality, as with Hello Kitty and other Japanese pop culture items, is very strong. Much of it uses traditional anime techniques and is not that original. Murakami had to rush shooting it since the children in the cast were only off school for four months in the summer. Kids who are into Pokemon etc. will love it.

—John Sunier

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