17th Jul2018

Fantasia 2018: ‘Destiny – The Tale of Kamakura’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Masato Sakai, Mitsuki Takahata, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Min Tanaka, Jun Kunimura, Hiroko Yakushimaru, Tomokazu Miura, Sakura Ando, Tamao Nakamura, Koji Ohkura, Mayu Tsuruta | Written and Directed by Takashi Yamazaki


The honeymoon is over for newlyweds Akiko and Masakazu Isshiki, who’ve just moved into his family home in the quiet town of Kamakura. While her husband, an author of fantastic fiction, struggles with writers block, Akiko has to come to terms with the rough spots in a marriage – the misunderstandings, the doubts, her husbands obsessive toy-train hobby. And then there are the peculiarities of Kamakura, which, as Masakazu remarks offhandedly, has been a magnet for mystical energy for millennia. Ghosts, goblins, even a charming local death god amble through its streets, and what’s more, her husband moonlights as a “spectral investigator” for the local police! For such a sleepy little town, there are certainly a lot of strange things going on.

Starting out, Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura feels very much like an Eastern take on Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts – the mixture of the real world with the fantastical, creatures sharing a town with humans… You get my drift. It has the real sense of wide-eyed wonder at the beginning too, a childlike innocence if you will, as we’re introduced to the strange place that is Kamakura through the eyes of Akiko who, like the audience, is new to this wonderous world. But then that sense of wonder strangely becomes a sense of mundanity as the fantastical elements are played down, the creatures become just other characters in the story and, sadly, Yamazaki’s film never really recovers from that.

Based on Ryohei Saigan’s Kamakura Monogatari manga series, Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura plays out very much like the manga – carrying the episodic nature of the original book into the film, which means that – at times – Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura is little more than a series of vignettes, as Akiko and Masakazu come across different spectral beings: a nice old lady whose staying around after death to care for her husband; a jinx who is the physical embodiment of bad luck; and the entire of the “night market,” a haven for the various mythical creatures that live in Kamakura. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially given that this films target audience is families, who’ll no doubt have attention-deprived kids!

Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura does recover from the mid-film maliase somewhat when Masakazu ventures into the “afterworld”, with the sense of wonder returning (and again I can’t help but compare the train journey to the afterworld to Harry Potter, in this case the ‘magical’ Hogwarts Express) but by then it’s too late… the audiences attention will, by that point, have waned too much to care about the story and thus the conclusion of what is essentially a love story of [literal] mythical proportions. And that’s a shame, because taking Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura as a love story rather than a fantasy-adventure, which many will position it, adds a huge amount of depth to the film.

Kids will undoubtedly love the amazing characters that inhabit Kamakura (the creature design is definitely a highlight of the film) but whether they’ll be willing to give a subtitled fantasy tale the attention it seeks is debatable; meanwhile adults might be put off by the lull in the story mid-film. A little tighter editing and a faster pace for Western audiences will do wonders for Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura in the long run.

**½ 2.5/5

Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura screened at this years Fantasia Film Festival on Sunday July 15th.


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