This is based on a true story.
Kumiko is lonely.
Tokyo life is far and away, despite surrounding her. Her coworkers talk about banal things, like makeup and perms that she couldn't care less about, things she can't connect to. Her boss nags at her, her mother wants to know when she's moving back and nags her like her boss.
One day, Kumiko, following a map, finds an old and buried VHS copy of Fargo from a cave by the beach. It's her only solace from the humdrum of real life, focused on the scene where the character of Showalter buries a bag of hundreds. She's convinced it's real, and she's convinced it's her destiny to find it.
So she leaves everything behind - her pet rabbit, her angry boss, her mother, Japan - and flies to Minnesota, a new world of snow and treasure...
Compare This is a True Story, a similarly stylized film based on the same incident.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, searches for...
- Ambiguous Disorder: Something is clearly off about Kumiko, from her inability to separate fact from fiction to the way she occasionally misreads social cues. The film never particularly feels like explaining what it is, but it could be everything from a form of autism to simply extreme isolation and depression.
- Bad Boss: By Western standards, Kumiko's boss, who nags at her, has her do the most menial tasks, gets annoyed with her about not looking at him, and eventually threatens her with a replacement. By Japanese standards, however, he's going easy on her, and she has been late and is obviously lying to his face about being happy with her work.
- Bittersweet Ending/Downer Ending: Kumiko finds Showalter's stash, and is happily reunited with her pet rabbit in a white field... but her pet rabbit is far and away, the road looked nothing like it did in Fargo, and as anyone knows, the nights in Minnesota can get deadly. Anyone familiar with the original story knows the person Kumiko was based on died.
- Cringe Comedy: Whatever comedic bits in the movie there are can possibly be classified as this, such as the moment when Kumiko is detained by security for attempting to steal an atlas from the library, or when the state trooper fumbles with giving her napkins when she breaks down crying after calling her mother for the last time.
- Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Played with when the state trooper brings Kumiko to a Chinese restaurant, in the hopes that the owner can translate for her. The attempt goes as well as you'd expect.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Where did Kumiko get that map that lead to the Fargo tape in the first place? Was the Fargo VHS tape skipping to Showalter burying the money just from the damage of being somewhere wet and buried, or something else? Did Kumiko survive the night and really find Showalter's stash?
- Office Lady: Kumiko's profession. The high turnover rate for OLs is mentioned, as Kumiko is 29 and well beyond the average age for such a job.
- Shout-Out: But of course.
- The grainy zoom-in of "This is a true story" may reference a fellow retelling of Takako Konishi's story, also named "This is a true story", which is a highly stylized and similarly lonely account.
- The deaf taxi driver has "Thanks a bunch" written on his board, a common saying of Marge from Fargo. It's common enough parlance in Minnesota, but for a film free of the usual Minnesota-isms, it sticks out a bit.
- Many of the shots and set-ups seem to call to mind some Coen Brothers work, such as No Country for Old Men and Inside Llewyn Davis - especially the later, about urban alienation.
- "This is a true story", as with Fargo... and as with Fargo, is fiction, albeit less so than Fargo was, taking Fargo's word on changing all the names and situations of the characters involved.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story/Historical In-Joke: As Fargo says, the names and events have been changed to protect all those involved - in this case, Takako Konishi.
- Both Takako and Kumiko were extremely lonely women, living by themselves in a dingy flat, stuck as office ladies with a mother who wanted them to come home. But from This is a True Story's account, the relationship with Takako and her mother was much better than Kumiko's, who nags at her to get married and calls her a liar and dishonorable. Kumiko and Takako did call their mothers before dying, however.
- Takako lost her job and grew depressed (or at least more so) as a result, while Kumiko absolutely hates hers and runs from it, all the way to Minnesota.
- Takako knew Fargo was fictional, and headed there to kill herself, as her ex-lover was from there.
- The state trooper who tried to help Takako, the man who picked her up as she was hitchhiking, and Takako's ex-lover are spread out into two roles, a confused state trooper who does his best to help Kumiko, and who Kumiko falls in love with, and a deaf taxi driver who brings Kumiko to her point of death. Like Kumiko, Takako suddenly demanded the vehicle stop and leapt out.
- The state trooper with Takako really did seek help with Chinese restaurants, albeit via calling them. Takako had a pocket translator with her, but it served to make things even more confusing.
- Both women died in the night, but Takako sped it up by getting drunk with a bottle of vodka and some sedatives. In reference to this, Kumiko chugs from a bottle of the stuff as she checks into her hotel room.