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Turtles Are
Surprisingly Fast Swimmers


No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti
Ryo Iwamatsu, Juri Ueno and Eri Fuse
Year: 2005
Director: Satoshi Miki
Writer: Satoshi Miki

Juri Ueno, Yu Aoi, Ryo Iwamatsu, Eri Fuse, Jun Kaname, Masato Ibu, Shunsuke Matsuoka, Yutaka Matsushige, Kyusaku Shimada

The Skinny:

Quirky comedy from Japan's king of quirky comedies, Miki Satoshi. While not as successful as Adrift in Tokyo, this strange little movie still has the power to amuse, charm and even oddly affect. Featuring the most boring spies ever put to film.


While not a cure for insomnia, Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers is, like many Satoshi Miki works, relentlessly strange, surprisingly pleasant, and even quietly affecting. An odd and amusing look at suburban boredom, Turtles stars the genuinely funny Juri Ueno (Swing Girls, Nodame Cantabile) as young wife Suzume. Left alone by her always traveling husband, Suzume passes her days in suburbia dealing with her supremely uninspired daily life. Getting an incredibly unflattering perm, dealing with bad plumbing, taking care of her pet turtle these are the days for Suzume, so a little excitement wouldn't be unwelcome.

The promise if not the actual reality - of excitement arrives when Suzume happens upon a postage-sized advertisement that says, "Spies Wanted". Intrigued, Suzume signs up for espionage work, meeting a group of laid-back sleeper agents who are all lying in wait for, uh, something. That "something" is a complete mystery, but all the sleeper agents (including Miki regulars Ryo Iwamatsu and Eri Fuse) seem content living boring lives as they await orders to do whatever it is they're supposed to do. Suzume joins their ranks earnestly, suddenly finding that her narrow, compartmentalized world has expanded into something greater. Or maybe it hasn't. It's hard to tell really, but at least her hairstyle improves.

Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers strikes a middle ground between Satoshi Miki's sometimes manic In the Pool and his emotionally resonant Adrift in Tokyo. It's over-the-top in concept like Pool but very relaxed like Tokyo, with the characters proving funny thanks to their benign strangeness and recognizable eccentricities. Miki presents his gags in a deadpan manner that elicits more giggles than guffaws, the film never straying from its strange yet relaxed comic tone. Despite the spy storyline, the film is more about the mundane lives that normal people face, with joy and meaning found in the smallest of things. One major accomplishment occurs when a character cooks a better bowl of ramen. A thrill-a-minute movie this is not.

Ultimately, the sleeper agents do receive a call to arms, but what happens to them is hard to say. Miki offers little resembling a resolution; his plot seemingly exists only to justify the circular connections between his characters, with cause or effect not playing much of a role. Still, Suzume changes, and as minor or hackneyed as that change may be, Miki sells it in a suitably subtle and comic fashion. The actors help tremendously; the plain-yet-pretty Ueno has a talent for playing dopey comic heroines, and she's ably supported by Yu Aoi (as Suzume's old high school friend) and an assortment of character actors who give life to Miki's affable and eccentric sitcom setups. Turtles are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers is not up to the standard of Miki's Adrift in Tokyo, but those who enjoy their comedies weird and warm should like it just fine. (Kozo 2009)

Availability: DVD (UK)
Region 2 PAL
Third Window Films
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 2.0
Removable English Subtitles
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