- Titles: Josee to Tora to Sakanatachi
- Genre: Drama, romance, slice of life, coming of age
- Duration: 1 hour, 38 mins
- Studio: bones
Kumiko, excuse me, I mean Josée, is a spirited young woman. And as spirited young women usually go, she can be a bit hard to deal with, even dare I say temperamental at times. But that’s part of the charm, isn’t it? Those beautiful fay like young women who are wont to change their minds and wear their passions on their sleeves. They can be a challenge but aren’t they fun? To be fair, Josée hasn’t had that much experience dealing with people so she’s still learning to ropes. She’ll get better at it. Maybe she’ll make some friends, maybe she’ll even figure out who she wants to be. And lucky for her she’s just met Tsuneo who happens to be a heck of a nice and patient guy. Who better to learn from? They can talk about fish together!
I’m not sure I’ve ever written a less descriptive summary. I mean it’s accurate. If you ask me what Josée, The Tiger and The Fish is about, it’s essentially about a young woman who has never learned to deal with people and how meeting a kind young man changes her world. It’s cute. But it’s also about other things, you know
Josée, The Tiger and The Fish is from bones and I like bones. I tend to appreciate the visuals they bring to anime pretty consistently. And Josée, The Tiger and The Fish is no exception. I thought it looked great. I guess I might have been disappointed that it didn’t look considerably more impressive than their series. Movies are usually more polished but their series look very good so it’s not a fair expectation.
The one thing I can actually fault Josée, The Tiger and The Fish for is that it’s a very safe production. The designs look like pretty anime folks. The backgrounds are stunningly realistic views of Japan. There isn’t really anything that stood out too much to me with two solid exceptions.
The first and less interesting is the CG. The CG in this movie is quite subtle and I personally thought it was beautifully integrated. It brought a lot to the animation as it gave a more dynamic feel to scenes that would have likely been a lot flatter otherwise.
The second is Josée’s art. Throughout the movie, we see images drawn by Josée’s character and they are in a completely different art style. And I love them. Wait I took a few screencaps but my favourites aren’t here. I like the undersea ones and the mermaid’s castle. I really thought it was beautiful. I was thrilled to see that the artist for those particular pieces was prominently credited, their name is Namako Mitsuda. Art is in the eye of the beholder of course but I thought the contrast between the polished anime look and those more naïve and emotional pieces was really great.
Story & Characters
Josée’s favourite author is apparently Françoise Sagan. I like Sagan. I’ve never read her work translated though. Let’s be honest, her prose tends to be a bit on the depressing side. And Les Merveilleux Nuages is an odd choice to reference in a romantic movie, Josée is probably not at all someone you want your boyfriend to compare you to.
Les Merveilleux Nuages (The Wonderful Clouds) is apparently Kumiko’s favourite book and Josée is the main and point of view character. The story is an exploration of a deeply unhappy and occasionally abusive marriage in which both people have grown to deeply dislike each other. Josée feels trapped by her relationship and she retaliates in hurtful ways in a desperate bid to regain a sense of freedom and youth. It’s a bit like calling your boyfriend Humbert Humbert. Sure there’s a nice dark humour in there but it doesn’t match the tone of this movie at all.
And that’s sort of illustrative of the issues with Josée, The Tiger and The Fish. It’s an often sweet movie and some issues were interesting but at times it feels like it doesn’t quite have a firm grasp on its own messaging or actually like it was written by two people who had very different views on what the story is.
Oh wow, look at that, I’m 700 words in and I haven’t even mentioned that Josée is in a wheelchair. That’s good, that’s one of the best things about the movie. Josée’s disability is explored with sensibility and respect. That wheelchair is never made into an inherent part of her personality, disabled is not who she is but it is an important reality she has to deal with. Neither Josée herself nor those around her ever victimize her.
Her grandmother can be overprotective because of her condition, which is understandable, but she doesn’t treat her as broken or anything. In fact, everyone Josée meets is completely chill with her… just like actual real people would be I supposed but it’s rare to see that in media. It’s not overdramatized at all and the one-time Josée does actually give in to self-pity is when she is already emotionally distraught for completely unrelated reasons and she lashes out. It’s such fantastic representation.
But at the same time Josée, The Tiger and The Fish doesn’t pretend that there aren’t inherent challenges to being wheelchair bound. Josée lives with her grandmother and there is real concern about if she can manage to survive alone if something happened to said grandmother. Would she be able on a practical basis to take care of herself? And unfortunately, the movie does confront us with that question.
Everything dealing with Josée’s disability, her struggles and success with attaining independence and confidence, and her eventual career choice are all well done in my opinion. I loved that element of the movie. Even if Josée herself is a little too pixie girl at times for my tastes, I still found those parts charming.
And Tsuneo is a decent character too with a great arc, for the most part. He’s a struggling student who is passionate about marine biology and a specific species of Angelfish found off the coast of Mexico. He is working extremely hard in his academic career to find a way to go do post-graduate work at the University of Mexico and that has been his dream since childhood.
And there’s this really amazing dilemma that comes up about 2/3rds into the movie. He’s originally hired as Josée’s helper and has been with her for months now and he’s already starting to realize that he may care for her a lot more than just as a friend when he gets the scholarship of his dreams and then Josée’s grandmother dies just days afterwards and he has to decide whether he leaves behind a disabled girl he really cares about, who has never been alone before to pursue his own dreams or whether he puts them on hold to help her with all the bitterness that would imply. It’s a poignant and very real dilemma.
But then they kind of screw it up in my opinion. You see, when they finally have a conversation about him leaving, Josée gets obviously distraught, they get into an argument and she yells something stupid at him like you’ll never know what it feels like to not be able to walk and then smashcut to him getting hit by a car. Horrifically I might add. Out of all the car accidents I have seen in anime I think this one was one of the most visceral. I felt it.
But the setup makes it almost comical in that absurd timing and the wonderful dilemma that was just set up gets brushed away. The scholarship is rescinded since he can’t travel and all those fascinating questions no longer matter. From then on the movie goes on a much more trite route as Tsuneo deals with depression and his own changed reality and it’s now up to Josée to help him for once. There are some sweet moments but you can more or less imagine how it goes.
And you know, I get it. I think that for a younger audience, the high drama of a car crash and all the emotionally charged moments afterwards are easier to engage with and possibly more exciting than a simple but difficult moral choice to make. And I would think that if you are looking for a movie to watch with your kids, then this plot choice will make Josée, The Tiger and The Fish a more appropriate family viewing. But I really thought it would have been better without it. More challenging for sure but more rewarding as well.
As it is, Josée, The Tiger and The Fish is an ok romantic drama. It has some really sweet moments and like I said some elements of the plot are handled really well, but it could have been a much better movie… for me.
You might like this anime if:
You are in the mood for a classic romantic drama. You want to see more positive disability representation.
My favourite character:
Hayato Matsuura. It’s this guy… He was cheery!
- Every time Josée is a menace – take a sip
- Every time we see Tsuneo’s coworkers – yay
- Every time we see the cat – gasp!
- Every time anyone is drinking – join them
- Every time Josée gets around without her wheelchair – raise your glass
- Every time Josée’s drawing – try to get a peek
- Every time Josée hits someone – take a sip
- Every time anyone mentions Mexico – take a sip
- Every time something is salty – get some snacks
- Every time anyone cries – there there
- Every time Tsuneo wears his glasses – take a sip
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.