The story is timeless even if the specifics are new. A young man, entitled, the world at his feet, has his eyes on investment banking supremacy. However, in his hubris he makes a crucial error and is banished from the bustling metropolis of ambition to a small town to work with local customers. He rages and curses his fate – and then he meets a young woman whose entire existence enchants him. She owns a parlour where people compete to scoop the most goldfish in a minute. It is wonder, and love, at first sight for him; her heart, however, is set on a master goldfish catcher and skilled pianist – a man whose life is inconceivable to the corporate acolyte. 

The performances live and breathe this larger-than-life air, with Kabuki star Matsuya Onoe deftly carrying Makoto Kashiba’s transformation with more nuance than the script gives him (plus some excellent song and dance skills). As his muse, Kanako Momota imbues Yoshino Ikoma with grace and wistfulness. Their chemistry is caught in shimmering reflection and refraction, heightening this dreamlike universe. 

Love, Life and Goldfish will not work unless twee musicals, with fluffy dialogue interspersed between 90-second songs, appeal. If such saccharine artifice is not appealing at the start, the film is unlikely to convert sceptics. It requires immediate buy-in, continuing in its richly styled blend of sincerity and facetiousness that only works with heavy suspension of disbelief. For those ready to plunge into wonder, the good heart of the film keeps the device magical rather than cloying. 

Perhaps Love, Life and Goldfish begs a fraction too much forgiveness for its leading man, who does not face any meaningful challenges or perspective shifts on his journey. But the film’s heart is shimmering spun sugar, and it is impossible to resist the musical fantasy. 



CAST: Matsuya Onoe, Yoshino Ikoma, Noboru Oji

DIRECTOR: Yukinori Makabe

WRITERS: Atsumi Tsuchi, Noriko Otani (manga series)

SYNOPSIS: A disgraced clerk banished to a small town falls in love with a woman who owns a goldfish parlour.