Film: Cold Fish (冷たい熱帯魚)
reviewed by Amy Seaman
If you’ve read Tokyo Vice, you’re already familiar with the story of Sekine Gen and Hiroko Kazama, the husband and wife pet-shop owners that killed at least four people in the nineties, poisoning them and dismembering their bodies in a very gruesome but effective fashion and the strange twists and turns the police investigation took along the way to their arrests. (Both have been sentenced to death). The cult film director, Sion Sono, made a movie based on the case, in which he changes the venue from a pet shop to a tropical fish shop, but is more or less faithful to the actual events until the final third of the movie. Jake Adelstein, my editor, caught the film while it was still playing in Tokyo and later did an interview with the DVD producers for the UK release. The protagonist of the film who become an accomplice, Shamoto-san, is based on a real person, who was not convicted for murder but was arrested on those charges.He was later convicted for helping in dismembering and burying the bodies illegally.
Patrick Galloway, at the Asian entertainment blog, Asia Shock, has a very good review of the DVD release movie and notes in his writing: I received a review copy of the Cold Fish double disk from Third Window Films and particularly appreciated one of the special features, a half-hour discussion of the actual case upon which the film is based. This comes courtesy of Jake Adelstein, journalist and author of the book Tokyo Vice. Adelstein relates the details of the case in great detail, revealing how accurate the film is to real events (although the plot goes in a completely different direction in the third act). Adelstein also offers insights into the way murder is investigated (and often not) in Japan. Apparently 80,000 people a year go missing in Japan, and only 4% of suicides are investigated. So it seems that a lot more people are being murdered in Japan than is reflected in official records.
Jake says that the portrayal of Sekine Gen, called Murata in the film, is eerily accurate.
Jake said, ” I had the pleasure of meeting Sekine twice before his arrest and watching him interact with customers several times and the performance is dead-on. I was awed by the movie until the point on the bridge where the plot bridged off from the real events and knowing the real story as well as I do, I’m probably not able to give the film an objective review.” However, Mr. Galloway does and if you’d like to know more please check out the review of Cold fish here. My take on the film is that if you’re interested in the psychology of serial killers, how ordinary people can be coerced into playing a role in murder, and have a very strong stomach–it’s a film worth seeing, but not before dinner.
*Jake Adelstein contributed to this review.