Mind Game (マインド・ゲーム) is a 2004 Japanese animated feature film based on Robin Nishi's manga of the same name. It was planned, produced and primarily animated by Studio 4°C and adapted and directed by Masaaki Yuasa in his directorial debut, with chief animation direction and model sheets by Yūichirō Sueyoshi, art direction by Tōru Hishiyama and groundwork and further animation direction by Masahiko Kubo.
It is unusual among features other than anthology films in using a series of disparate visual styles to tell one continuous story. As Yuasa commented in a Japan Times interview, "Instead of telling it serious and straight, I went for a look that was a bit wild and patchy. I think that Japanese animation fans today don't necessarily demand something that's so polished. You can throw different styles at them and they can still usually enjoy it."
In North America, GKIDS announced that they had licensed the film, which began streaming on VRV Select on December 29, 2017 followed by a limited theatrical run in February of 2018 and a home video release set for spring 2018.
The film premiered on Adult Swim's Toonami block on March 31, 2018, during Toonami's April Fools surprise. The film aired with the original Japanese dialogue and english subtitles, making it the first Japanese anime film to air on Toonami with subtitles.
Nishi is a 20-year-old loser with dreams of becoming a comic book artist. One late evening he runs into his childhood crush, Myon, on the subway. Nishi declares he has always loved her, but she tells him she is due to marry someone else.
They go to her father's yakitori restaurant, and see Myon's father and her elder sister Yan (who runs the restaurant). Nishi also meets Myon's fiancee, Ryo. Two yakuza gangsters enter, Atsu and a senior yakuza whom Atsu calls Aniki (lit. brother. A term used by Yakuza to refer to each other). They are looking for Myon's father, who seduced and stole Atsu's girlfriend, and now hides cowering behind a corner. It is later revealed through flashbacks that the senior yakuza is actually the first boyfriend of the girls' mother, who was also seduced away by her husband during a disco in their youth.
As Atsu threatens Myon with a gun, Ryo steps in and tries to punch Atsu, but instead gets knocked out. Atsu then prepares to rape Myon, who calls out Nishi's name. Atsu turns on Nishi, who is rolled in a ball, terrified, placing his pistol against Nishi's anus. The gun goes off when Nishi suddenly moves, thus killing him instantly. The senior Yakuza, offended by Atsu's lack of control, shoots him dead, and then nonchalantly orders dinner.
Meanwhile, Nishi is in some sort of limbo where he encounters a being whose physical image changes every fraction of a second, Kami-sama (God). Kami-sama directs Nishi to walk into a red portal where he will disappear, but at the last moment Nishi runs for the opposite blue portal in order to return to life. Kami-sama becomes impressed by Nishi's sheer will to live, and so lets him escape.
Nishi returns to the moment just before Atsu pulled the trigger. This time, Nishi seizes Atsu's gun with his buttocks, and shoots him dead. He, Yan and Myon all pile into the yakuza's car, leaving the father and Ryo (still unconscious) behind. They speed off, followed by the massed yakuzas. The Yakuza boss rings (calls) Nishi using the yakuza's car phone and reveals that Atsu was a player on the Japanese national soccer team. Then after further chase the boss has his men force the trio in to a dead end on a bridge. However, Nishi steers the car off the bridge and they are swallowed up by an enormous whale.
Inside the whale, they meet an old man who was formerly yakuza and has been trapped in the whale for more than 30 years. (He is later shown through flashbacks to be the father of the senior Yakuza shown earlier). He shows them to the elaborate suspended house he has constructed over the 'sea' inside the whale's belly. Nishi attempts to escape the whale but he fails and they resign themselves to life inside the whale. Yan practices dancing and art, Myon practices swimming (a dream she gave up when her breasts got bigger), Nishi practices writing and drawing humorous manga and he and Myon finally become sexually intimate.
They attempt to leave the whale, again failing. And the old man reveals that the water level inside the whale is rising, and he believes the whale is probably dying. They concoct a plan to make a motor boat out using spare parts and fuel from the car they arrived in. On the day before the final match of the soccer World Cup, the whale returns to Osaka (their home town) and Yan, Nishi, Myon, as well as the Old Man, manage to escape.
As the four fly through the air, the film returns to its very first scene, with Myon running from the Yakuza, only this time she does not get her leg caught in the door of the train, and the Yakuza is left behind on the platform. This is followed by a lengthy montage, similar to that of the opening credits, showing the histories of the various characters. The movie ends ambiguously, with the phrase "This Story Has Never Ended" appearing before the credits roll.
- Father of Myon and Yan
- Yakuza boss
|Character||Japanese Voice Actor|
|Old man||Takashi Fujii|
|Father of Myon and Yan||Toshio Sakata|
|Yakuza boss||Jōji Shimaki|
- "Interview with Satoshi Kon ". Gamestar.com. November 19, 2004. https://web.archive.org/web/20041119102223/http://www.gamestar.com:80/11_04/pause/pause_disc_satoshikon.shtml. Retrieved on April 1, 2018.
- "Yuasa, 4°C's Mind Game Film to Stream on VRV Select, Play in N. American Theaters ". animenewsnetwork.com. November 19, 2017. https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2017-11-18/yuasa-4c-mind-game-film-to-stream-on-vrv-select-play-in-n-american-theaters/.124217. Retrieved on April 1, 2018.
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