The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue (2017)

Directed by Yuya Ishii

Mika works as a nurse by day; by night she entertains covetous men at a girls' bar. Shinji is blind in one eye and ekes out a living as a construction worker. Young and grown-up at the same time, they both lead a lonely existence, but somehow their paths keep miraculously crossing under the Tokyo sky.

This film obscurely reminded me most of the craze of 'hyperlink cinema' a few decades ago. These films, such as Thomas Anderson's Magnolia (1999) and Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel (2006) stand or fall entirely on how well they communicate some narrative superstructure — their 'overall message,' if you will.

Yet although this was often quite a funny and touching film (a character genuinely emoting over his dead friend's collection of lesbian porn, for instance), the underlying thrust of this film often felt like I was a world-weary teenager posing rhetorical questions again: "Love just leads to breaking up, so what's the point, man?" or "We care more about people in our country than people in the global South, aren't we total hypocrites?" Yes, well, that is all true, but I think movie audiences require more than these sophomoric observations or at least a novel treatment of them. I did admire the film being primarily concerned with the lives (and deaths) of various precarious and/or immigrant workers, but it felt a little paint-by-numbers at times and did not attempt any systematic analysis — at the very least, it is the same people who will watch this film and read this review who enjoyed the very Olympics that they injured themselves to build. Oh, I could have done less with a character's disability being deployed as a metaphor, but that's perhaps a more minor misstep.

Anyway, I'm not sure I've ever seen a film adaptation of a book of poetry before (or have I…?), and despite it lacking the aforementioned superstructure — which, quite frankly, is lacking from most hyperlink cinema — there really was much to admire here, not least the random and sudden forays into animation.

[Watched as part of the Cambridge Japan Film Fest 2023, itself part of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2023]