The exhilarating Japanese animated coming-of-age fantasy Mind Game plays out like a hallucinogen-fueled shaggy-dog joke that only ends after twenty-year-old horndog Nishi (Kôji Imada) discovers that the world does not revolve around him.
Over the course of 103 lightning-fast minutes, Nishi realizes that his quest to woo good-natured childhood crush Myon (Sayaka Maeda) depends on the influence and consent of others, in this case supporting characters like hothead yakuza gangster Atsu (Kenichi Chujou), Myon (duh), and her apathetic mother, Yan (Seiko Takuma). But Nishi only makes this personal discovery after he dies from a gunshot wound up the ass, gets reincarnated by charming a fickle, shape-shifting god, and then gets swallowed by a colossal whale.
Director Masaaki Yuasa (Kick-Heart, Devilman: Crybaby) gives viewers a perpetually escalating high by presenting the pit stops on Nishi’s road to post-adolescent enlightenment as a manic series of flashbacks and chase scenes. First, we watch Myon’s deadbeat dad (Toshio Sakata) revisit his premarital bachelor days in a seconds-long montage of drinking, dancing, and womanizing. Then, minutes later, we join Nishi in the afterlife as he tries to race back to Earth and reinhabit his still-warm corpse before a wrathful, leopard-shaped God can destroy his eternal soul.
And every so often, we see Nishi inch closer to happiness, though only after he performs a synchronized swimming routine with a Nessie-like sea monster set to Franz Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody. Don’t waste time unpacking that last sentence: Just relax, and let Yuasa take you wherever the hell he wants.
Directed by Masaaki Yuasa
Opens March 2, Metrograph
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 1, 2018