Blu-ray Review: Mind Game

Back in the 20th Century there were animated films that were referred to as trip movies. People would get stoned in various ways and head down to the theater so that the images could get even wilder when the substances were kicking in and causing your eyes to hallucinate. The films including The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, Fantastic Planet, Fritz the Cat and even Disney’s Fantasia. Lately so much feature length animation has been so straight that you’re better off being sober in the theater chair. Writer-director’s Masaaki Yuasa’s Mind Game needs no outside refreshments to mess with your mind. It’s an amazing trippy film.

The film does have a plot, but quickly it goes into a strange space. Comicbook artist Nishi runs into his old crush Myon. Things are kinda looking good for the two finally hooking up until the Yakuza gets involved. They also have an interest in Myon. When Nishi gets in the wrong place, thing go bad very quickly since the gangsters aren’t up for his nonsense. That’s when even more weirdness starts as Nishi finds himself trapped in an alternate world where he meets God. This becomes a surrealistic landscape where the cowardly character must choose whether to try to return to the land of the living or stay dead.

The description makes things sound a bit normal, but Yuasa and his crew’s animation keeps things constantly off kilter. This is not an exercise in restraint and style. There’s various techniques at odd times. They mix augmented live action with harsh line characters. This is a bit too wild for an audience used to a certain level of restraint in their anime. The film has a bit of a Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat) feel, but goes even beyond Wizards with kinetic outbursts and abrupt shifts in approaches to the screen. The film treats the viewer like a character in Tex Avery cartoon as it demands your eyeballs to pop out of their sockets and wrap around each other. Ultimately you don’t need to do any drugs when watching Mind Game because your mind can’t keep up with the visual on screen orgy of colors and lines.

What’s amazing is that Mind Game was originally released in Japan back in 2004 and is finally getting a home video release 14 years later. The film has been extremely influential to many of today’s American animators that had caught it at various festivals. Now you can just pull the home video and freak out to Mind Game in the comfort and privacy of your living room.

The video is 2.39:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the details in the animation. There’s a sharpness in the dazzling imagery. The audio is Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1. The movie is subtitled in English, Spanish and French. The sound mix matches the visual insanity.

Production Artwork Galleries includes Background Designs (2:33), Character Designs (3:04) and Mechanics and Props (2:23) to give a sense of how things were drawn together.

Trailer (1:44) does a fine job in giving a taste of the weirdness.

Scenes with Director’s Commentary (31:25) lets Yuasa speak about the moments in the film that are essential. He speaks in Japanese, but all is subtitled.

Shout! Factory and GKIDS present Mind Game. Directed by Masaaki Yuasa. Screenplay by: Masaaki Yuasa. Starring: Kōji Imada, Sayaka Maeda, Takashi Fujii & Seiko Takuma. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 103 minutes. Released: August 28, 2018.

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