Review of The Tale of Iya (2013)

Moving picture, 169 minutes

Seen in 2014.

Great potential, hamstrung by fabulism as opposed to fantasy. The early echo of Momotarō should have tipped me off, but there is a long walk from there to the moss, and then the bottom falls out.

The whole Bacterian sequence is laughably bad: a novel species straight out of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1982) stopped by water and sewage authorities not because it is unsafe—the fact that it’s edible is proffered as evidence of safety!—but because it would make some menial jobs obsolete. That’s terrible conspiracy SF, so perhaps it is for the best that the consequences go entirely unexplored.

The good stuff in this film, like natural beauty, poverty, the intelligent critique of green-wave pastoralism—better than the similar Wolf Children (2012)—and the generational shift, could all have been compressed into a normal feature length. I was happily surprised that the character of Michael is largely redeemed, but the initial depiction of him as the stereotypically loud and colourful foreigner and troublemaker who does not really understand what he is protesting is perfectly in line with the more consistently shallow, uninitiated depiction of the environmental movement that he represents. I doubt that an American environmentalist would complain about excessive reforestation of the mountains.

References here: Your Name (2016), Okja (2017).

moving picture Japanese production fiction