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Fly Me to the Saitama (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version)
Nikaido Fumi | Iseya Yusuke | Aso Kumiko | Takeuchi Hideki (Director)
Fly Me to the Saitama (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition)  (Japan Version)
Saitama forever!
March 18, 2020 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
Somehow, this happened: Fly Me to the Saitama won Best Director and Best Screenplay at the 43rd Japan Academy Prize.

Some may want to point out that last year was a particularly weak year for Japanese cinema, and that this is the kind of stuff that happens when Kore-eda Hirokazu uses his one-film-a-year output on a French co-production instead of a Japanese film that everyone can safely award. But I'd like to think that it's all part of the Saitama Liberation Front's master plan to spread the influence of the suburban prefecture.

Directed by Takeuchi Hideki, Fly Me to the Saitama is the kind of crazy Japanese film that you would show your friends to perpetuate the stereotype of Japanese films being crazy. Based on Maya Mineo's manga Tonde Saitama, the fantasy comedy cheekily channels Saitama's unexciting reputation and rivalry with Tokyo into the alternative history of a stratified Japan in which Saitama is oppressed by Tokyo. People from the prefecture to the north are treated as uncouth second-class citizens by elitist Tokyoites, who recoil at the mere thought of Saitama. A dedicated special force sniffs out and descends upon rogue Saitama folks who dare to sneak into Tokyo without permission.

Into this classist society comes rocker Gackt as the princely-looking Rei, who sends everyone into a tizzy when he transfers into a prestigious Tokyo academy. However, he turns out to be – gasp! – a plant from the Saitama Liberation Front. Nikaido Fumi gender-bends as Momomi, the snobby son of the governor of Tokyo. After falling head over heels for Rei, Momomi eventually throws all caution and prejudice to the wind, and runs off to join the resistance. The Saitama Liberation Front plans an uprising against Tokyo, but the power balance is disrupted when Chiba enters the fight. I repeat: this film won Best Screenplay at the Japan Academy Prize. Amazing.

Fly Me to the Saitama is thoroughly over the top in every way. The awesomely ridiculous story is matched by flashy costumes and sets, flamboyant acting, hilariously intense dialogue and colorful visuals that thoroughly embrace the live-action manga aesthetic. The film is chock-full of local jokes and references, with characters even fighting and testing each other by listing out regional specialties and celebrities. Having somehow made the Thermae Romae adaptations work before, Takeuchi Hideki has a good handle on the tone and pacing of Fly Me to the Saitama, balancing between taking the filmmaking seriously and the off-the-wall material in good fun. Anyhow, I sure had a lot of fun watching it. Saitama forever!

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