The Japanese are the masters of stealth.
I checked out FISH STORY after seeing someone place it #1 on their top of the year list. All I knew about it was that it was supposed to be about a band "Saving the World". The trailer didn't give me much (No subs)
I wandered into its the cinematic world upreared.
We open in a record shop as a clerk explains to a customer the magic of the album "FISH STORY". An old man in the store reminds them that an asteroid is about to destroy the earth in a few hours. Out of nowhere, we're off to a a seemingly unrelated story in the past. After that one ends (rather abruptly) we're back in the record store for some seemingly unrelated dialogue. Before you know it, it's another seemingly unrelated vignette with random characters.
Take note of the word 'seemingly' in all this.
Patience is a virtue. The film starts slow. Real slow. I was worried that I had signed up for another mild-mannered Japanese drama. I wasn't sure if one character was supposed to be a younger version of another, the time-line is all over the place (at first) and I kept waiting for the rock band to finally make an appearance (Aren't they supposed to save the world after all?) The film takes a while to ramp up, but once all the pieces fall together it's a beautiful thing to see.
FISH STORY is not instantly involving, nor is it particularly exciting (Except for an perfectly performed out of left field action scene in the middle). It's a little puzzle picture that begs to be re-watched. The performances, characters and story mean so much on a second viewing that is only slowly revealed on the first. It may prove frustrating at first, but stick with it, and your patience shall be rewarded.