Mind Game

June 18, 2006 on 8:21 pm | In Mind Game | 5 Comments

When you go to anime with a full house and, as the credits roll you hear a fifty year old Australian man say “that was utter rubbish”, you know you’re onto something. Traditionally experimental Studio 4ºC has sprung back into action with their excellent Mind Game, a film that decides to begin off the rails and then gradually works itself back onto them for an ultimately coherent, thoroughly entertaining and at least semi-profound film.

Nishi is an aspiring manga-ka who finds out that his childhood sweetheart, Myon, has been proposed to by her “hard working, trustworthy looking” boyfriend. The matter is complicated when some yakuza enter Myon’s family yakitori restaurant looking for its owner, a situation that culminates in Nishi having a gun jammed into his sphincter and his brains painting the wall of the store.
Yet for Nishi the adventure is only just beginning!

To say too much about the story of Mind Game is to give away a lot of its charm, and it is a story that works on non-sequiturial surprises to get by in life. Surprise is an element that is not strictly required for its enjoyment, as I am already desperate to watch it again a mere half hour after its consumption, but part of the joy of the film is in its sense of discovery for a first time viewer. It’s either that or the film’s downfall.

The film is charactered by Nishi, Myon, her sister Yan and an old man who has been out of touch with society for thirty years. Here is the core of the film’s metaphor: a film that refuses to have a consistent style or rhythm can relax a little bit when it suggests that a person absolutely must not withdraw him or herself from the world at large because regardless of the pain or the victory that comes they must enjoy and endure it. This aspect of the film brings to one a horrid dread that it will all be “just a dream”; there is one scene that opens with that indication but it turns out to be the much safer option: a memory sequence.
The present is measured against the past for the majority of the film, with the ending providing a glimpse into the future of existence. The past is what defines us, but the future is what we must use our present selves to define.
“Your life is the result of your own decision”. It may be hard to see, but what one chooses to do will determine

The film is not always beautiful: it has rough lines about it all the time and, in the more frenetic and worrisome first parts there are frequent uses of human actors in the place of the characters, with strange colours and outlines applied to themselves. I personally did not like this decision because it’s a jarring aesthetic choice and the characters look nothing like their real life counterparts. When the film gets to its strongest part – the intricately designed “inner world” – this is toned down significantly. People are frequently real and there is an ethereal quality about the production that suggests that the situation is not of this world. Within there is a period devoted to pure joy and escapism, played with utterly bizarre dance situations and colour design, a situation that eventually turns to reality and is then punctuated by what one of my comrades described as “a perfect representation of sex being the best thing in the world”. I can’t say much for the truth of that statement, but I can say it was a damn sight better than a similar scene in Xanadu (a pox on Don Bluth!).

There were signs outside the cinema warning that the film contained scenes of graphic violence, but Mind Game is actually quite reticent in this respect. It sees no reason to go for over the top reality when it can just as easily go for inventive metaphor. If you’re not used to this kind of thing your delicate sensibilities might be offended but there are far more terrible things in “real” cinema. The ideas presented in the allegedly graphic scenes aren’t even shocking, either.

I’m not going to lie and say that Mind Game is a brilliant film for everyone: if I hadn’t had intense training for this kind of anime over the last six years I would have quite possibly been screwed. Thanks to Dead Leaves and its ilk, I came into this quite prepared and managed to formulate my own reading due to my keen “Animation Eye” (it’s like a “Vision Eye” but for interpreting anime). I felt that Mind Game is a film that would definitely reward anyone’s patience, so if one is willing to try to follow it then they can emerge satisfied.

… Unless they’re an older Australian man who has no idea what the eff he’s stumbled into. Then they’re screwed.

Mind Game was shown in Australia as part of the 53rd annual Sydney Film Festival.


  1. Gunsechz?

    I’m in.

    Comment by DrmChsr0 — June 18, 2006 #

  2. Mind Game? In a cinema? Around these parts, I can but dream….

    Comment by GDM — June 19, 2006 #

  3. In Australia? Where might I see this? How much time is left? I’m in Canberra and I don’t think I’ll be able to make it back to Sydney before the 24th…

    Comment by Lupus — June 19, 2006 #

  4. It was only showing on the 17th and 18th, at George Street.

    Comment by Alex — June 19, 2006 #

  5. Try Mercury Cinema Adelaide Tues 24 July 7:30 !

    Comment by Grant — July 2, 2007 #

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