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DESTINY: The Tale of Kamakura is a hugely fun film to watch. DESTINY is a romp through Japanese mythology with a genuine sense of humour, a heavy dose of Night on the Galactic Railroad, and an understated sweet romance that glues it all together.

Publishing assistant Akiko has married author Masakazu and they return to Masakazu’s home of Kamakura after the honeymoon. On arrival Akiko gets introduced to the supernatural which has always been part of the ancient city of Kamakura, and does not initially handle it well.

DESTINY then takes an episodic approach to showing the couple’s life in Kamakura as Akiko adjusts to both the aspects of her husband she didn’t know about before marrying him[1], and to the quirkiness of life in Kamakura generally[2].

The episodic nature is probably drawn from the original manga by Ryohei Saigan, but contributes well to the final arc of the film. There are Chekhov’s Guns scattered throughout these early episodes, and watching one of them in particular fire in the final arc is immensely satisfying. I won’t go into too many details, but suffice it to say that a good deed done purely for its own sake is duly rewarded.

The episodic nature of DESTINY may also have contributed to the comedic elements, especially early on. There’s a genuine sense of humour here and I found a lot of funny moments in this film. Importantly the humour isn’t nasty, I didn’t have a sense that the jokes were punching down, more that they were gentle, wry, commentary on the human condition[3].

The final arc of the film, as I suggested in the first paragraph, involves riding the soul train to the afterworld[4]. Having that train be the Enoshima is just adorable, and also reminiscent of Spirited Away now that I think about it. Night on the Galactic Railroad seems to have been one of those novels that resonates in a culture – the list of allusions in other works on Wikipedia is extensive and notably includes Galaxy Express 999 which is more or less built on it.

So the idea that, at 2AM, there would be a special edition of the Enoshima that runs one way to the afterworld carrying the spirits of the recently deceased and escorted by Shinigami, worked really well in the context of DESTINY.

I obviously also appreciated that DESTINY was set in Kamakura – the sense of recognition, the “hey, I’ve been there!” really did add to the fun for me.

Overall: a hugely fun film with a satisfying ending that I don’t want to talk too much about. Although the trailer does spoil several key elements so watch it at your peril.

On limited screening in Australia as part of the Japanese Film Festival 2018 the remaining dates are available here. Recommended. Here’s the highly spoilery trailer:

[1] “THIS IS WHY WE’RE POOR”. It seems that Masakazu is a bit of a train model otaku…

[2] Watch out for the magic mushrooms. They can be killers….

[3] Noting that human is a negotiable concept in the context of DESTINY.

[4] There is an amusing mention of a bridge over the River Styx along the way.