After watching Adrift In Tokyo not too long ago I was excited to dig a little deeper into Satoshi Miki's oeuvre. This title immediately drew my attention as it looked pretty quirky and a little less dramatic than former film. It turned out to be exactly that, which can only be a good thing if the film is coming from the hands of Miki.
Even though Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers [Kame wa Igai to Hayaku Oyogu] cuts down on the drama, the atmosphere and feel of the film is still pretty much the same. After watching three Miki films it's obvious the man has a very unique style which he likes to explore in different gradations and settings. All of his usual traits are present, just a little wackier, bolder and more colorful than I'm used from him.
It's hard to explain the story without giving away too much, but central to the story stands Suzume, a rather plain and boring housewife living her life in general mediocrity. Her everyday rituals are numbing her down and when she rather unexpectedly gets the chance to liven things up a bit she accepts reluctantly. From there on, things get stranger by the minute.
Visually Turtles is a bit more colorful than the other Miki films I've seen so far. In some ways it even reminded me of Sasanatieng's earlier films, with brightly colored wallpapers, interior decorations and costumes blasting out of the screen, though Miki is hardly as visually capable as his Thai peer. Still, framing of the shots is strong, the editing is cute enough and the flashy colors do lend the film a brighter façade.
The soundtrack can be called pretty typical for a Japanese film. Some soothing piano tunes and light-hearted melodies carry the viewer through the whole film. Nothing too out of the ordinary but suitable and pleasant nonetheless. Acting is pretty decent too with a somewhat plain main character (which you could say is part of the setup) and some very good supporting roles. The Ramen Chef in particular has some pretty funny moments, but the other actors also deserve their share of the praise.
The film knows a rather vast cast of secondary characters, some returning, others merely there to lighten up the atmosphere or to add some freakiness to the film. The humor is never laugh out loud funny, but it is ever present and often coming from places you wouldn't have expected. Turtles is a strange little film following a weird story outline, but without ever feeling disjointed or out of place. Miki possesses the rare comedic gift to make this work, which is quite unique even outside the borders of cinema.
Turtles is a film that will go down well with people who have a certain affinity for Japanese comedy and have a good idea of what to expect. It's a fun, quirky and silly film that slowly grows on you and leaves you behind with a warm smile. It's probably a little too odd to fearlessly recommend it to everyone, but if you know what you're in for it's a damn fine experience.