Review: Fly Me to the Saitama (Japan 2019) – NYAFF 2019

I fucking loved this movie. Perhaps the campiest thing I’ve seen in years, this boys-love Romeo and Juliet fable of a Rococo oppressive Tokyo dominating its lame bedroom suburb neighbor Saitama (imagine if folks from New Jersey needed visas just to enter NYC) is an insane riot of color and set design that made laugh out loud with glee. Repeatedly.

Director Hideki Takeuchi (of the similarly delightful, though much lower key, Thermae Romae) unfailingly leans into the crazy: Saitama is a mud-filled wasteland while Tokyo students prance around in kimonos on white horses, and the world is a mix of steampunk, medieval fashion, and high sci-fi. Not to mention that the lead male teenagers in this star-crossed love story are played by 44 year old musician Gackt in full Dracula-meets-Barry Lyndon garb, and a cross-dressing Fumi Nikaido playing male as the Tokyo Governor’s son.

I legitimately have no idea how well the humor translates (though if audience laughter is any guide, pretty well). I’ve lived in Tokyo (practically on the Tokyo-Saitama border, just the right side of Tokorozawa) and I know there were plenty of jokes so local that they went over my head, but when we finally get to see the prefectures one step further removed from Saitama and they are populated by LITERAL DINOSAURS, I dropped any resistance.

4 out of 4 stars (great).

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