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Mind Game (マインド・ゲーム) is a Japanese animated feature film based on the comic by Robin Nishi. It was written and directed by Masaaki Yuasa and animated primarily by Studio 4°C.

Nishi is a 20-year-old, self-deprecating loser who dreams of drawing manga for a living. Since the age of nine, he has always been in love with a girl named Miyo - but although she has feelings for him, his shyness and inability to confess his love have led her to think about marrying another man. Shortly after learning of this, Nishi is shot through the butt by an angry Yakuza mobster and dies - and thus begins the story of Mind Game, a movie about second chances and living life with no regrets.

The whole movie is told in several different styles of animation, visual metaphors, intertwining plots and philosophical messages. Since its release, it has become something of a Cult Classic, being praised by directors from both the West and the East for its storytelling and visual style(s).

This film played on Toonami during April 1th, 2018 subbed.

This film provides examples of:

  • All Just a Dream: It is being theorized that the bulk of the story takes place inside the head of "Aniki", the senior Yakuza, while waiting in the car. That explains the Bookends closing scene where he snaps out of his day dream to give the story a different turn where Atsu fails to catch up to Myon, and "Aniki" drives off and boards a train with Myon's mother.
  • Always Night: Most of the locations are set in a dark environment. The first part plays out at night in typical rainy City Noir style. The second part is set inside a whale with limited artificial lighting. The only time its shown during the morning is when "Aniki" drives to the train station and leaves with the Myon/Yan's mother.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Considering that the entire series of events might have just taken place in Aniki's head, and Myon's attempt in running away from Atsu succeeded unlike in the beginning, there's no telling what path each of the three main characters take in life because of it; only possibilities. The climatic Time-Compression Montage at the end of the movie does clear up some aspects but it doesn't come together in a coherent way.
  • An Aesop: While at first it seems like the main moral is live life to the fullest (and its important to keep that moral in mind) the end of the movie teaches us that we live in a never ending story where the outcomes all depend on our choices and it really is an amazing thing we have.
  • And the Adventure Continues: "This story has never ended"
  • Art Shift: The entire movie switches between three or four different art styles, the main two being a sketchy, surreal style and Rotoscoping.
    • Stylistic Suck: ... which is occasionally interspersed with clean, fancy and sometimes breathtaking animation.
  • Ass Kicks You: Saves Nishi's bacon on the second time around.
  • Attempted Rape: Atsu attempts to strip down Myon and violently assaults her, right after beating her boyfriend Ryo into unconsciousness. Fortunately, he stops because Myon mentions Nishi's name - unfortunately, this causes Atsu to target Nishi and shove his gun up Nishi's ass, which ends up the catalyst for the rest of the plot.
  • Blipvert: The intro and final scene show fast-paced flashes of images depicting events going on before and after the timeline of the movie.
  • Bond One-Liner: The senior Yakuza, after shooting Atsu for killing Nishi.
    "Aniki": Think about what you did on your way to hell.
  • Bookends: The film starts with Atsu and the senior Yakuza waiting in the car, when they see Myon run by. We return to the same scene at the end of the movie. See All Just a Dream for a possible explanation.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Characters often comment how big Myons boobs have gotten in the past couple years of her life. This could be a reason why she gets more attention than her sister.
  • Central Theme: We are all part of a fascinating and never ending story. We are all alive and are able to be a part of it all.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Nishi and Myon.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Half-way through the movie, Nishi has a nightmare in which he is locked away in a cell by God. Cue the Catapult Nightmare.
  • Deranged Animation: The message may be clear, but the presentation leaves one occasionally baffled at just what sort of chemicals would be required to envision what plays out on screen.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Subverted; As revealed in the ending montage, "Aniki" lost Myon's mother to another man at a club, who would end up becoming the father of Myon and Yan. Due to the man's adultery, specifically with that of Atsu's girlfriend, Myon's mother would end up dealing with the Yakuza banging on her door for her ex-husband's whearabouts. "Aniki" would step in to help her get away, and as shown in the final scene before the montage, he and the mother eventually flee together with the implication that they're finally back together.
  • Diner Brawl: In which The Hero Dies. Or does he?
  • Dirty Old Man: "Ji-san" (his real name is never revealed and his nickname is an abbreviation of 'Oji-san', Japanese term literally meaning 'old man'), the old man in the whale.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Many parts of the movie fit the bill.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: Nishi narrowly avoids being erased from existence by God after he dies.
    • Actually, it's rather The Nothing After Death than the Cessation of Existence.
    • The scene where the people trapped inside the claustrophobic darkness of the whale are helplessly listening to the radio... and the weatherman describing the beautiful day, hoping everyone enjoys the warm sunlight and lovely breeze...
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The names of "Aniki" and "Ji-san" are never revealed in the entire movie.
  • Extreme Doormat: Nishi may have a kind nature but he starts off the movie as a total wuss.
  • Flash Forward: The ending basically shows a series of possible future events.
  • Forgiveness Requires Death: Done to Atsu, the junior Yakuza, by "Aniki" (his real name is never revealed and his nickname is a Japanese term of respect literally meaning 'older brother'), the senior Yakuza, after he killed Nishi.
  • Green Around the Gills: Nishi's head turns blue after tasting the food prepared by Myon. Apparently, she wasn't such a good cook.
  • High-Pressure Blood: The baddie in the Diner Brawl scene has blood spurting from his nose at high pressure after getting slapped in the face by Myon.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Many believe the old man to be gay and eventually coming to terms with his orientation towards the end of the movie.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Atsu blowing Nishi's brains out (through his ass), which most likely wasn't planned to happen.
  • Imagine Spot: Early on, when Myon tells Nishi she wants to marry someone else, he has a Heroic BSoD and retreats into a short wish dream of Myon falling around his neck, asserting she still loved him.
  • Important Haircut: Yan cuts her hair short, supposedly as a sign of new found self-confidence to live out her masculine side.
  • Innocent Innuendo: Half-jokingly Nishi suggests to Myon to look for a Love Hotel after they met on the subway. Then the scene cuts to a series of misleading close-ups: on a disposed package of what could be condoms, a zipping sound, Nishi telling Myon not to move, Myon's straining face, Nishi's grinning face with grunting sounds. Cut to the Reveal Shot of how he patched up her ankle. What else were you thinking?
  • King of All Cosmos: God, "In all his infinite manifestations".
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Atsu blows Nishi's brains out through his ass just to be a dick, right after putting a gun to the face of his superior, Aniki, and preparing to rape Myon for the hell of it. Aniki promptly guns down Atsu after proclaiming he was going to spare him; when Nishi revives for a second chance, he's the one that pops Atsu instead, and Aniki doesn't care much at all beyond the required call to his boss about it.
  • Lemming Cops: A variation; a bunch of Lemming Yakuza are crashing their cars while in pursuit of the protagonists. On the upside, no tax money was wasted.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: It is revealed to the viewer via flashbacks that Ji-san is actually the father of Aniki (the older Yakuza) who went missing when his son was a boy after he got swallowed by the whale. None of any of the characters ever find out about this, at least in the movie.
    • It is also revealed via flashbacks that Aniki is actually the first boyfriend of the girls' mother, before she was seduced away from him by their father. Furthermore, it is shown that the mother is still alive and has apparently gotten back together with her ex-boyfriend after she left her husband, presumably for his philandering with Atsu's girlfriend
  • Male Gaze: Nishi, looking at Myon's boobs after exiting the subway.
  • Medium Blending: And how! The movie effortlessly shifts from hand-drawn animation to live-action to stopmotion to CGI within a matter of scenes.
  • Mind Screw: And goodly amounts of it. It's named "Mind Game" for a reason.
  • Missed the Bus: Atsu, the young Yakuza, missed the metro in the end when pursuing Myon. This scene plays out differently in the beginning where he actually manages to get onto the same train so that he can follow and find Myon at her sister's place.
  • Montages: Several.
    • Good-Times Montage: Extended montage of the four inside the whale, enjoying themselves with good food and water games.
    • Training Montage: Of them doing rowing practice for their big escape.
    • Time-Compression Montage: The movie's last act is a montage of key events in the lives of all characters.
  • Multiple Gunshot Death: The senior Yakuza empties his magazine into Atsu, who shot Nishi.
  • Nice Girl: Myon is very sweet, kind-hearted, and caring.
  • No Ending: The movie specifically ends with "This story has never ended."
  • Non-Human Sidekick: The Plesiosaurus.
  • Pastel-Chalked Freeze Frame: Parodied in Nishi's fantasy sequence in which he's a famous badass author.
  • Pooping Food: Nishi uses this trope in the middle of a story he's telling Myon that's about three astronauts seeking a new food source for Earth due to suffering from overpopulation and environmental destruction.
  • Relationship Upgrade: In a twist at the end of the movie, it is shown that Myon's mother and "Aniki" do get back together and board a train to get her away from the Yakuza. The details of their love story are not revealed until the montage that is shown right before the credits.
  • Serial Escalation: The entire whale escape sequence. Notably the obstacles that crop up.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Myon and Yan are on opposite ends of the spectrum, both in breast size and general femininity.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The movie starts more on the cynical end but by the end it becomes very idealistic, inspiring, and even wondrous.
  • Slow-Motion Fall: Of Myon diving into the subway car.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Played for laughs; in a car chase, Nishi has the bright idea of trying to tip the car in-between two trucks and slip between them in an effort to escape the yakuzas driving behind them. You can guess how that works out...
  • Swallowed Whole: Invokes the trope in classic fashion by using a gigantic whale.
    • Symbolic Hero Rebirth: Also invoked in the classic "Belly of the Whale" sense. Stuck inside the whale, every protagonist confronts that which they have been running from before their escape.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: God.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Nishi, after coming Back from the Dead.
  • Train Escape: In the opening sequence Myon tries to escape Atsu with a courageous jumps into the subway train. However, he manages to enter the next car unknowns to her. This scene plays out differently in the end, where Myon successfully shakes off Atsu. Right after that, Myon's mother flees with "Aniki" on a train.
  • Trash the Set: In a moment of frustration, Nishi trashes the old man's dwelling.
  • Villains Want Mercy: Atsu at the diner pleads for his life right after killing Nishi. Needless to say, it didn't work out so well for him.
  • Yakuza: The movie features two of them, Atsu and his senior partner known only as "Aniki".
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: God, whose appearance changes constantly—at least in Nishi's mind.
  • You Wake Up in a Room: Nishi wakes up in a dark room after being killed by the Yakuza. It turns out to be some kind of gateway to the The Nothing After Death.