Japan is unique in the way that manga is integrated and enshrined in its culture.  Whilst comics fill the shelves of stores, anime floods onto TV screens. Children are brought up on both and this fascination carries on into adulthood. Japanese cinema mirrors this love affair. However, popularity and quality do not regularly go hand in hand.  Based on Katsuhisa Minami’s manga, The Fable is a great example of adaptation done well.

Trained to be a killer from childhood, The Fable (Junichi Okada) is a legendary assassin who is unstoppable and indestructible. Indeed, he’s so successful that his boss orders him to have a year off from killing. He adopts a new identity and, along with his ‘sister’ (Fumino Kimura), moves to Osaka to take up a regular job. Despite his best efforts he keeps getting drawn back into yakuza politics.

The Fable is a heady mix of outrageous action thriller and equally irreverent offbeat comedy. Throw in a whole melodramatic love interest angle and you have a film which is multi-layered and exhilaratingly original. This freshness is epitomised by director Kan Eguchi’s approach to filming. He adopts a plethora of styles and techniques to keep the fighting fun and frenetic. The Fable is a blast. Moments of genuine absurdism conflate with stupendous fight choreography to create a brilliantly ‘out there’ crime pastiche.

The Fable screened at Fantasia Festival 2019.