Home / Culture / [Editor’s Pick] Always – Sunset on Kamakura

[Editor’s Pick] Always – Sunset on Kamakura

Yamazaki Takashi is the undisputed master of Japanese films that are simultaneously loaded with state-of-the-art special effects and old-fashioned nostalgia. After applying his visual effects expertise and palpable sentimentalism to wartime dramas Eternal Zero and Fueled, the Parasyte series and even Doraemon, the director circles back to the nostalgic works of mangaka Saigan Ryohei for Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura.

Yamazaki is perhaps best known for his three adaptations of Saigan’s long-running Always – Sunset on Third Street series. The blockbuster award-winning film franchise gently pushed the envelope of Japanese visual effects with stunning renditions of postwar Tokyo in the 1950s and 60s. Based on Saigan’s other representative long-running manga Kamakura Monogatari, Destiny returns to the old-timey era of 1960s/70s Kamakura, a historically rich city southwest of Tokyo. Recreating the past is basically Yamazaki’s forte, and Destiny‘s traditional yet fantastical setting gives him even more to work with visually.

With its many temples and shrines, Kamakura is a bit more mystical than other places according to mystery writer Masakazu, who is played in typically eccentric fashion by Sakai Masato. Masakazu’s wife Akiko, played in typically cute and flighty fashion by Takahata Mitsuki, has much to adapt to as she settles into newlywed life amid the everyday magic of her new home. Her neighborhood boasts a goblin night market, a friendly soul reaper and all manners of demons and spirits that are just hanging around. Being the kind and naive heroine that she is, Akiko goes ahead and befriends the supernatural. Soon she gets herself into dire trouble when she mysteriously loses her soul. Devastated and guilt-ridden, Masakazu risks his own life to rescue her from the afterworld.

Yamazaki has created many different kinds of special effects spectacles in his past films, from an outer space odyssey to WWII aerial warfare to a parasitic alien invasion, and Destiny further expands his reach to traditional folklore and the afterworld. The beauty and imagination of Destiny‘s afterlife are a sight to behold, and the character designs for the film’s various creatures and spirits are endlessly delightful.

Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura most definitely has its serious and heartrending moments as the film deals often with themes of death and loss, but it’s also very earnest and playful throughout. Even when portraying death-defying love and epic battles with evil, the film maintains a reassuringly warm and whimsical quality. Like in the Always series, there is much comfort and humor to be found in Destiny‘s magical yet ordinary neighborhood, which might as well be Third Street in Kamakura.

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