Jellyfish Eyes (2013)
Jellyfish Eyes (めめめのくらげ is a 2013 Mememe no Kurage)tokusatsu kaiju film produced by Kaikai Kiki Co. and Nishimura Motion Picture Model Makers Group. It was released to Japanese theaters by GAGA on April 23, 2013.
The Black-Cloaked Four conduct an experiment in a laboratory, resulting in the brief appearance of a wispy, monstrous head. They deem the test a failure, in need of more negative energy to succeed. A researcher berates them for carrying out the test without notifying him, and notes that they've set loose a F.R.I.E.N.D., a pink creature who watches the laboratory from afar.
A year after an unspecified natural disaster, two evacuees prepare to begin a new life in a rural town. Before long, young Masashi Kusakabe notices strange things in he and his mother's apartment: glimpses of a small figure's shadow and chee-kama (cheese-and-fish-cake stick) wrappers strewn about the floor.
The next day, Masashi returns home from a visit to his new elementary school to find it ransacked. Suddenly, a box of chee-kama launches itself towards him. He pins it to the ground and discovers the pink creature inside, who he names Kurage-bo (Jellyfish Boy). They quickly become friends, playing soccer and practicing martial arts at a shrine. That night, Masashi dreams about eating chee-kama and talking to his dead father, who made the snack as part of his job. They are interrupted by a tsunami shimmering with unnatural colors, a single eye at its center.
On the first day of school, Masashi brings Kurage-bo in his backpack, sneaking him chee-kama when he gets hungry. To his surprise, everyone in his class has a similar companion, who they call F.R.I.E.N.D.s. (Life-Form Resonance Inner Energy Negative Emotion and Disaster Preventions) Smartphone-like devices allow them to summon and control these creatures, who emerge en masse as soon as their teacher turns around to write equations on the board. A frog-like F.R.I.E.N.D., Yupi, menaces Masashi at the whim of its owner, Tatsuya, but Kurage-bo defeats it in a fierce battle.
After school, Masashi overhears the researcher, his uncle Naoto, warning his mother than the town is dangerous. He tells Masashi a different story - that the laboratory is trying to bring happiness to the world - but asks the boy to let him know if he sees anything unusual. He spots Kurage-bo hiding in Masashi's backpack but says nothing. At work, he watches an old video of the Black-Cloaked Four claiming they've tapped into a source of life energy that will allow them to prevent natural disasters. Since this energy is strongest in children expressing negative emotions, they attempted to collect it with a magic circle, only to for the energy to form into F.R.I.E.N.D.s who bonded with the children.
While playing with Kurage-bo, Masashi comes upon a group of his classmates holding F.R.I.E.N.D. battles near the shrine. When they discover him, they menace him with their creatures until Kurage-bo intervenes, riding atop Luxor, a furry, human-sized F.R.I.E.N.D. Yupi battles Kurage-bo again, but even with the help of Juran's F.R.I.E.N.D., the rocket-powered Shimon, Masashi's monster still prevails. Luxor's human turns out to be a girl from Masashi's class, Saki. She explains to Masashi that he's the only kid in town with a F.R.I.E.N.D. but no device. She received hers after a meeting of the cult her mother joined, the Earth Salvation Society, from the Black-Cloaked Four. While Luxor is clearly the strongest F.R.I.E.N.D., she despises the fighting her classmates use the creatures for.
Saki's mother tries to drag her into an Earth Salvation Society protest against the laboratory during a festival, but Masashi pulls her away and they hide inside the mysterious structure. They discover the magic circle, which activates when Masashi steps onto it. Naoto directs him and Saki to the exit and shuts it down, but the Black-Cloaked Four have taken an interest in him.
One of Masashi's classmates overhears him talking to Saki about his uncle working at the laboratory and tells the rest of the class. After swimming lessons, one group abducts Kurage-bo and stuffs him inside a locker at a junkyard, while Tatsuya attacks Masashi with Yupi. When Saki tries to intervene, the frog accidentally knocks her unconscious. The boys are berated by their parents after a teacher discovers what they've done, Tatsuya's father even knocking him to the ground. Visiting Masashi in the hospital, a man who appears to be Naoto gives him a device. As the Earth Salvation Society continues to protest in front of the laboratory, the man jumps off the roof. When Masashi's mother tells him the news, his devices activates, funneling incredible power to the magic circle.
The Black-Cloated Four dispatch tournament invitations to every device in town, offering a power-up to the victor. Tatsuya and Juran find themselves facing Koh, an orphan who hacked characters from a fighting game into his device, with the magic circle as the arena. He calls upon Ko2, an anime woman who completely outclasses Yupi and Shimon. Though despondent at Naoto's death and Kurage-bo's disappearance, Masashi agrees to help Saki try and stop the fighting. As they reach the laboratory, lightning bursts out of the roof and strikes a nearby building. Luxor blocks debris from hitting bystanders. After dispatching Yupi and Shimon, Ko2 trains her fire on their owners, but Masashi pushes them out of the way. Tatsuya apologizes and they agree to work together. Koh climbs up some scaffolding, followed by Tatsuya and Juran, while the fake Naoto, revealed to be a F.R.I.E.N.D., pins Masashi to the magic circle. His cry for help revives Kurage-bo, who rockets to his rescue, tackling the fake Naoto. The fake crashes through the door to the room where the Four were holding the real Naoto. Kurage-bo takes on Ko2 while Naoto battles his copy. Both malevolent F.R.I.E.N.D.s seize the upper hand while the magic circle continues drawing power from Masashi with bolts of lightning. The same monster the Four briefly summoned on Kurage-bo's first night begins to take form again. Koh falls from the scaffolding, but the other boys catch him. He instructs Ko2 to turn her attention to the fake Naoto, who she throws into the monster's jaws. The monster shoots out of the laboratory, then crashes back down onto it, taking on a kaiju-sized physical form: Oval. The Four are delighted, calling him a F.R.I.E.N.D. that will change Japan through destruction. They flee, with one grabbing Masashi's device.
As the rest of the populace flees, Saki's mother reverentially walks towards Oval, believing him to be the answer to the Earth Salvation Society's prayers. Naoto asks Koh to connect his hacked device to the Four's computers to determine Oval's weakness. As the monster crashes down, Saki saves her mother with Luxor, only for it to walk off with her as a metal barrier becomes caught in its teeth. Tatsuya calls one of his classmates, Manato, at school, and convinces him to lead an attack on Oval with all the school's F.R.I.E.N.D.s. With coordinated charges, they irritate Oval enough for him to drop Saki. Held aloft by Kurage-bo, Masashi catches her, and she summons Luxor to break their fall.
Koh completes his analysis: Oval's weak point is the gem on the tip of his snout, the manifestation of all the childrens' negative emotions. Naoto cautions the kids that destroying Oval will likely mean the loss of their F.R.I.E.N.D.s., but they press on. As the rest of the class makes a final push, Kurage-bo flies Masashi to the gem, which he stabs with a metal pole. The cracked gem consumes Oval and the rest of the F.R.I.E.N.D.s, even Kurage-bo, who slips from Masashi's grasp. But as Masashi and Saki weep, Koh uses his device to revive all of the childrens' F.R.I.E.N.D.s, who rush to embrace them.
Watching from a distance, the Black-Cloaked Four withdraw, the data from Masashi's device in hand.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Takashi Murakami
- Written by Jun Tsugita, Yoshihiro Nishimura
- Based on a story by Takashi Murakami
- Produced by Mana Fukui, Chiaki Kasahara, Yoshihiro Nishimura
- Executive producer Takashi Murakami
- Music by kz, Yoshihiro Ike
- Cinematography by Yasutaka Nagano
- Edited by Yoshihiro Nishimura
- Production design by Nori Fukuda
- Assistant director Jun Shiozaki
- Special effects by Kiyotaka Taguchi, Tsuyoshi Kazuno
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Takuto Sueoka as Masashi Kusakabe
- Himeka Asami as Saki Amamiya
- Asuka Kurosawa as Shizuko Amamiya
- Kanji Tsuda as Tatsuo Kusakabe
- Mayu Tsuruta as Yasuko Kusakabe
- Takumi Saito as Naoto Kozuka
- Masataka Kubota as Blue Dragon
- Shota Sometani as White Tiger
- Hidemasa Shiozawa as Black Tortoise
- Ami Ikenaga as Vermilion Bird
- Takehiro Otsuki as Tatsuya Kodaira
- Taiki Negishi as Juran Sagara
- Arata Ishikawa as Koh Nakagawa
- Masaya Fukumoto as Manato Hayashi
- Wataru Murakami as Toshida
- Eihi Shiina as Homeroom teacher
- Shoichiro Masumoto as Mr. Sasaki
- Kentaro Shimazu as Vice-principal
- Kentaro Kishi as Ichiro Kodaira
- Umi Yamano, Shin Ikeda, Makishi Suzu as Cultists
- Naoki Haga as Akira Shibata
- Tensei Matsuoka as Ryo Kokubo
- Kakeru Yoshida as Yusuke Kuwano
- Ruka Uchida as Hayato Yokosaka
- Keiya Inada as Shingo Noguchi
- Kazuki Hashimoto as Kazuya Hara
- Ami Fujii as Hisako Sawano
- Miyu Takagi as Kumiko Okada
- Mofuku-chan with Denpa Gumi.inc as Idol singers
- Flamingo as Performance group
- Shofukutei Riko as Rakugo performer
- Arata Yamanaka as Manato's father
- Ikuko Tsuruoka as Akira's mother
- Nami Miura as Ryo's mother
- Mieko Ishikura as Yusuke's mother
- Masaki Hayashi as Naoto's body double
- Akiko Yajima as Kurage-bo (voice)
- Houko Kuwashima as Ko2 (voice)
- Arata Yamanaka as Luxor
Weapons, Vehicles, and Races
Contemporary artist Takashi Murakami originally conceived of Jellyfish Eyes as a computer-animated film. Shortly after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, he solidified plans to work on a live-action film with horror director Yoshihiro Nishimura, who would ultimately serve as a co-writer, editor, and producer. With Murakami funding the film through his company Kaikai Kiki Co., he would enjoy total creative control. Ideas for a low-budget horror movie with a subplot about a nuclear power plant gave way to making a live-action version of Jellyfish Eyes. Murakami cited the early entries in Tsuburaya Productions' Ultra Series, which aired during his childhood, as inspiration: "Society becomes warped and then a monster appears, either to wreak havoc or to wipe society away. Perhaps the monster appears because society is warped, or perhaps the other way around." Over 100 F.R.I.E.N.D.s were designed over the course of three months, with Studio Higemegane making the suits for Oval and Luxor and maquettes for the other major creatures. Murakami decided to incorporate his well-known 1997 sculpture "Miss Ko2" into the film as well. The Black-Cloaked Four were based on Mephisto from the manga Akuma-kun.
Due to the large number of child actors involved, principal photography on Jellyfish Eyes took place in the summer of 2011, when they were on vacation.
- Main article: Jellyfish Eyes/Gallery.
- United States - April 8, 2013
- Japan - April 23, 2013
- Spain - October 12, 2013 (Sitges Film Festival)
- Canada - July 20, 2014 (Fantasia International Film Festival)
- Mexico - November 14, 2014 (Morbido Film Fest)
- Argentina - April 18, 2015 (Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema)
- Poland - November 19, 2016 (Five Flavours Film Festival)
Jellyfish Eyes toured six American art museums, with screenings from May 25, 2014, to June 5. The Criterion Collection released the film on DVD and Blu-ray the following year.
Jellyfish Eyes has a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 13 reviews.
Toho Blu-ray (2014)
- Region: Unknown
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese (5.1)
- Subtitles: Unknown
- Special features: Unknown
Criterion DVD/Blu-ray (2015)
- Region: 1 (DVD) or A/1 (Blu-ray)
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese (5.1)
- Subtitles: English
- Special features: Leaflet, Jellyfish Eyes Part 2 trailer, interview with director Takashi Murakami (23 minutes), Making F.R.I.E.N.D.s behind-the-scenes featurette (16 minutes), Takashi Murakami: The Art of Film behind-the-scenes featurette (40 minutes)
Production on Jellyfish Eyes Part 2 began on August 1, 2012, before post-production on the first film had concluded, and wrapped on September 12. Reshoots took place the following year. Takuto Sueoka, Himeka Asami, Taiki Negishi, Masayo Fukumoto, Takehiro Otsuki, Asuka Kurosawa, Masataka Kubota, Hidemasa Shiozawa, Ami Ikenaga, Shota Sometani, and Takumi Saito all reprised their roles, joined by Shota Matsushima (Hikaru), Ayako Konno (Ann), Jyuna Aoki (Nina), Reina Asami (Ilkka Hanzaki), Itsuji Itao (Captain Takeda), and Tomorowo Taguchi (Dr. Amamiya). The trailer, available on the Criterion Jellyfish Eyes DVD and Blu-ray, indicated that a significant amount of post-production work had been completed by 2015. However, on June 30, 2020, Murakami announced the film's cancellation on his Instagram, as the COVID-19 pandemic had brought Kaikai Kiki Co. to the brink of bankruptcy. He has since released 12 videos chronicling the project's demise, though he remains hopeful that he may be able to complete it at some point in the future.
- The title Jellyfish Eyes comes from a misprint in a famous manga by Yoshiharu Tsuge, "Screw Style." It furthers a favorite theme of Murakami's: that "misinterpretation, misunderstanding, produces something new and interesting. As the title for my first film—because I didn’t have any idea what I was making, where it was going—I wanted the title to be something that can be anything." He first used Jellyfish Eyes as the title of a piece in 2002.
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