As I have mentioned many times before, anime/manga adaptations form one of the largest categories of films in Japanese cinema, with a number of works being produced every year, frequently with great commercial result, although not so frequently with significant artistic value. In that fashion, it is great to see a title that manages to embrace this second aspect fully, in a movie that does not take itself seriously at all and succeeds just because of that.

“The Fable” is screening at the Toronto Japanese Film Festival

The story is based on Katsuhisa Minami’s manga, and revolves around an elite contract killer nicknamed Fable. His uncanny abilities are presented from the beginning of the film, in a scene that could be easily perceived as a parody of the initial scene of “Ghost in the Shell|” (closer to the Scarlet Johansson one than the actual anime). Eventually, his bosses, troubled by his growing infamy in the underworld, force him to lay low in Osaka (where he takes the name Akira Sato), along with Yoko, an associate who spends most of her time winning against men in drinking “competitions”. However, soon he finds himself sucked into the violent machinations of the Osaka underworld and is challenged to keep his promise, particularly when Misaki, the woman he has fallen for, is threatened by yakuza thugs, while two paranoid killers/fans of his are on his heels, in an effort to kill him and become famous themselves.

Kan Eguchi directs a movie that combines comedy, parody of both manga and adaptations, and violent action in an impressive package, which, amazingly, manages to thrive because Eguchi does not seem to know where exactly he wanted to go with the overall style, but exploited the fact in order to present a rather entertaining spectacle. In that fashion, the film begins as a comedy filled with slapstick humor and gags, with the concept of Jackal Tomioka being the highlight, but as time passes, it becomes more serious, to the point that, at the end, it borders on the action thriller. Furthermore, the flashbacks to the protagonist’s childhood provide a somewhat dramatic element, in essence resulting in a film that takes loans from every commercial genre.

Another combination that benefits the narrative greatly is the intelligent irony (which results in the parody aspect I mentioned) and the cheesy and silly humor, with the two switching places quite frequently, in a style that carries the film for the whole of its 123 minutes.

The combination of SFX, fast editing, polished cinematography and great choreographies benefit the action the most, with the lengthy finale being the apogee of the work done in the department, although again through much excessiveness.

Another great aspect of the movie is its casting, with the work done in the specific department being exceptional, as each actor seems to fit his corresponding persona both as appearance and in acting style. Junichi Okada as the Fable is great both as silly Akira Sato and as the cool contract killer. Yuya Yagira as Kojima, another member of Akira’s Yakuza group, highlights the fact that the role of the cruel sociopath is the one that suits him the most, while Sota Fukushi as one of the two paranoid killers and Osamu Mukai as Sunagawa are great villains. Fumino Kimura as Yoko and Mizuki Yamamoto as Misaki embody the difference in the narrative style through their differences in both acting and appearance.

“The Fable” is occasionally silly, cheesy, imbalanced but damn me if it isn’t one of the most entertaining movies of the year and one of the best manga adaptation I have seen during the latest years.