Mind Game (film)

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Mind Game
Japanese name
Revised HepburnMaindo Gēmu
Directed byMasaaki Yuasa
Written byMasaaki Yuasa
Based onMind Game
by Robin Nishi
Produced byEiko Tanaka
StarringKoji Imada
Sayaka Maeda
Takashi Fujii
Edited byKyōko Mizuta[1]
Music bySeiichi Yamamoto
Distributed byAsmik Ace Entertainment
Release date
  • August 7, 2004 (2004-08-07)
Running time
103 minutes[2]

Mind Game (Japanese: マインド・ゲーム, Hepburn: Maindo Gēmu) is a 2004 Japanese animated experimental feature film based on Robin Nishi's manga of the same name. It was planned, produced and primarily animated by Studio 4°C and adapted and directed by Masaaki Yuasa in his directorial debut, with chief animation direction and model sheets by Yūichirō Sueyoshi, art direction by Tōru Hishiyama and groundwork and further animation direction by Masahiko Kubo.

It is unusual among features other than anthology films in using a series of disparate visual styles to tell one continuous story. As Yuasa commented in a Japan Times interview, "Instead of telling it serious and straight, I went for a look that was a bit wild and patchy. I think that Japanese animation fans today don't necessarily demand something that's so polished. You can throw different styles at them and they can still usually enjoy it."[3][4]

The film received a cult audience and was well received, winning multiple awards worldwide, and has been praised by directors Satoshi Kon[5] and Bill Plympton.[6]


Nishi is a 20-year-old loser with dreams of becoming a comic book artist. One late evening he runs into his childhood crush, Myon, on the subway. She tells Nishi she is due to marry. They go to her father's yakitori restaurant, and see Myon's father and her elder sister Yan (who runs the restaurant). Nishi also meets Myon's fiancée, Ryo. Two yakuza gangsters enter, Atsu and a senior yakuza whom Atsu calls Aniki (literally 'brother', a term used by Yakuza to refer to each other). They are looking for Myon's father who hid under the table when the gangsters walked in. Atsu is after him as he had seduced and stole Atsu's girlfriend.

As Atsu threatens Myon with a gun, Ryo steps in and tries to punch Atsu, but instead gets knocked out. Atsu then prepares to rape Myon, who calls out Nishi's name. Atsu turns on Nishi, who is rolled in a ball, terrified, placing his pistol against Nishi's anus. Atsu fires when Nishi finally musters the courage to yell, "I will hurt you!", thus killing him instantly. The senior Yakuza, offended by Atsu's lack of control, shoots him dead.

Meanwhile, Nishi is in some sort of limbo where he encounters a being whose physical image changes every fraction of a second, Kami-sama (God). Kami-sama directs Nishi to walk into a red portal where he will disappear, but at the last moment Nishi runs for the opposite blue portal in order to return to life. Kami-sama becomes impressed by Nishi's sheer will to live, and so lets him escape.

Nishi returns to the moment just before Atsu pulled the trigger. This time, Nishi seizes Atsu's gun with his buttocks, and shoots him dead. He, Yan and Myon all pile into the yakuza's car, leaving the father and Ryo (still unconscious) behind. They speed off, followed by the massed yakuzas. The Yakuza boss calls Nishi using the yakuza's car phone and threatens to frame the three for armed robbery and murder. Then after further chase the boss has his men force the trio in to a dead end on a bridge. However, Nishi steers the car off the bridge and they are swallowed up by an enormous whale.

Inside the whale, they meet an old man who was formerly yakuza and has been trapped in the whale for more than 30 years. He shows them to the elaborate suspended house he has constructed over the 'sea' inside the whale's belly. Nishi attempts to escape the whale but he fails and they resign themselves to life inside the whale. Yan practices dancing and art, Myon practices swimming (a dream she gave up when her breasts got bigger), Nishi practices writing and drawing humorous manga and he and Myon finally become sexually intimate.

They attempt to leave the whale, again failing. The old man reveals that the water level inside the whale is rising, and he believes the whale is probably dying. They concoct a plan to make a motor boat using spare parts and fuel from the car they arrived in. On the day before the final match of the soccer World Cup, the whale returns to Osaka (their home town) and Yan, Nishi, and Myon, as well as the Old Man, manage to escape.

As the four fly through the air, the film returns to its very first scene, with Myon running from the Yakuza, only this time she does not get her leg caught in the door of the train, and the Yakuza is left behind on the platform. This is followed by a lengthy montage, similar to that of the opening credits, showing the histories of the various characters. The movie ends ambiguously, with the phrase "This Story Has Never Ended" appearing before the credits roll.


Voice cast

  • Koji Imada as Nishi
  • Sayaka Maeda as Myon
  • Takashi Fujii as Old man (jiisan)
  • Seiko Takuma as Yan
  • Tomomitsu Yamaguchi as Ryō
  • Toshio Sakata as Father of Myon and Yan (Myon to Yan no chichi)
  • Jōji Shimaki as Yakuza boss (yakuza no bosu)
  • Ken'ichi Chūjō as Atsu (yakuza member)
  • Rintarō Nishi as Senior yakuza member (Aniki. lit. "brother". A term used by Yakuza to refer to each other).

Other crew

Production companies

Other companies


The film's music, produced by Shinichirō Watanabe, as well as the score by Seiichi Yamamoto includes an image song by Fayray[2] and piano performed by Yōko Kanno.[1]


As of July 2011, the film's only home video release in a primarily English-speaking country is a region 4-locked, "PAL" DVD-Video released in Australia by Madman Entertainment in 2008,[7] though the Japanese (region 2, "NTSC") DVDs have English subtitles for the feature itself. According to Tekkonkinkreet director Michael Arias, there was consideration for a release of the film on R1 DVD but it fell through.[8] GKIDS announced that they licensed the film, which streamed on VRV Select on December 29, 2017 followed by a limited theatrical run in February 2018 and a home video release in spring 2018.[9] On April Fool's Day in 2018, the movie aired on Adult Swim's Toonami block with Japanese audio and English subtitles.


The film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 12 reviews.[10] The film's accolades include the Ōfuji Noburō Award at the 2005 Mainichi Film Awards and the Animation Division Grand Prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival in 2004, outranking nominee Howl's Moving Castle.[11] Outside Japan, the film had its international premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival in June 2005.[12] It had possibly its biggest success at the Fantasia Festival in Canada in July 2005,[13] wherein it beat many live-action films to win all three of the festival's own jury awards it qualified for: Best Film, Best Director (tying with Gen Sekiguchi for Survive Style 5+) and Best Script.[14] It also received an additional Special Award for "Visual Accomplishment", as well as placing first (Golden Prize) in the audience award for Best Animation Film and second (Silver Prize), behind Survive Style 5+, for Most Groundbreaking Film.[15]


  1. ^ a b "Mind Game" (in Japanese). Sakuga@wiki. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Mind Game" (in Japanese). Japanese Movie Database. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  3. ^ Schilling, Mark (28 July 2004). "Director has whale of a time making experimental 'Mind Game'". The Japan Times. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  4. ^ Leong, David (1 July 2005). "Mind Game: Anime for the 21st century". KFCC. Archived from the original on 23 February 2009.
  5. ^ "Interview with Satoshi Kon". Gamestar. Archived from the original on 4 January 2011. GS: Have you seen any films lately that you found great? Any you're looking forward to? SK: I've not seen many movies lately but Masaaki Yuasa's theatrical animation, Mind Game, was outstanding. The images were full of pictorial allure. I'm looking forward to its overseas release.
  6. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes: Five Favourite Films with Bill Plympton". RT.
  7. ^ "Mind Game (2 disc set)". Madman Entertainment. 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  8. ^ "Michael Arias interview". Anipages. 2007-04-17. Archived from the original on 2011-12-26. Retrieved 2022-10-09. The deal in question was never closed - Youtube and the English subtitles certainly didn't help - and I've no idea what the current status is.
  9. ^ "Yuasa, Studio 4°C's Mind Game Film to Stream on VRV Select, Play in North American Theaters". Anime News Network. November 18, 2017. Retrieved November 18, 2017.
  10. ^ Mind Game, retrieved 2022-10-09
  11. ^ "Award-winning works in 2004 (8th) Japan Media Arts Festival". Japan Media Arts Plaza. 2004. Archived from the original on 10 April 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  12. ^ "Mind Game". New York Asian Film Festival 2005. Subway Cinema. 2005. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011.
  13. ^ Brown, Todd (26 July 2005). "Fantasia wraps up and Mind Game cleans up". Twitch Film. Archived from the original on 15 October 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  14. ^ "Official award list of the 9th edition of the Fantasia International Genre Film Festival". FanTasia. 26 July 2005. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  15. ^ "Fantasia 2005 Public's Prizes". FanTasia. 26 July 2005. Retrieved 12 December 2015.

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