NYAFF Capsule Review: Chasuke’s Journey


Chasuke’s Journey is an indictment of dramatic shortcuts in writing. The head tea server in heaven works among the screenwriters who decide the fates of everyone below, but their stories are trite. The immortal one who watches over them all wants something Avant Garde, because it’s all so… typical. But the butterfly effect is in full, um, effect, as a decision to move a marriage proposal to a karaoke bar ends with the death of Chasuke’s favorite character (who is, remember, a human). He goes back to earth, but he begins to come upon people with all kinds of ailments; they’re blind or can’t walk. They’re sad, sorry people. Chasuke’s furious, because what kind of garbage narrative is that? So he fixes them.

And of course, the reality is more complex than that, and there are absolutely useful places for a character to be deformed or otherwise in physical trouble, but the fundamental belief that ailments = drama is alive and well, and a film that quite literally says “Fuck you” to that establishment is A-OK in my book. The big character introductions take the form of flashbacks, where we see an interesting backstory take form. Generally speaking, the backstories are more interesting than the characters that result from them, but I’d take a story about a man who grew up with ten hobo dads, became a young soccer star, was found out and kicked off the team, became a boxing star, punched a reporter, met the girl of his dreams, made bowls with her, had her die in a tragic filmmaking accident, and ultimately open a ramen shop using the bowls that they made together over a sad child in a wheelchair any day.

That’s compelling drama. This is a film walks the walk. And seeing how it all plays out, the conflict between Chasuke and the holy screenwriters who cannot control him is equal parts hilarious and poignant. Your move, everybody else.

Chasuke’s Journey (天の茶助 | Ten no Chasuke)
Director: Sabu
Country: Japan