Josee, the Tiger and the Fish Is a Beautiful, Heartfelt Summer Anime Romance That Encourages Reaching for the Seemingly Impossible
5/5 Clarion angelfish
Have you ever watched a trailer to an anime film and thought, “Wow, I’m going to end up crying a lot, aren’t I?” That’s how I felt when I saw the trailer to Josee, The Tiger and the Fish, and I’m happy(?) to report that I, most definitely, put my Kleenex to good use.
Josee, The Tiger and the Fish is the perfect summer anime romance. It’s a story that’s full of visually stunning animation, extremely likable characters, an engaging plot, and a lead couple that you’re rooting for from start to finish. Josee and Tsuneo are going to make your heart run through a wide array of emotions, some good, some painful, but at the end of the day, incredibly honest and beautiful.
Tsuneo, an ordinary college student, and avid diver, unexpectedly becomes the caretaker of a young woman in order to raise money for this dream to go diving in Mexico. This young woman, who calls herself Josee after her favorite book character, is sullen and demanding, but as Tsuneo helps Josee interact with the outside world and learns more about Josee’s unique perspective, their feelings grow into love. The two begin to support each other in ways beyond just romance.
I know I’ve already described this movie as beautiful, but when you get dream sequences where the city is turned into a breathtaking, swimmable ocean, there is no better word to describe what you’re watching.
It’s not just the visuals that make Josee, The Tiger and the Fish an awe-inspiring hour and a half, it’s the story and the characters who are living through it.
Josee and Tsuneo both have seemingly impossible goals they want to accomplish, both of those goals feeling unreachable for different reasons. Tsuneo is working multiple jobs in an attempt to afford his dream internship – diving in Mexico. Meanwhile, Josee wants to be able to see the world and create art based on how she envisions everything around her.
Initially, I was worried that Josee’s main hurdle would be her wheelchair, the story treating her disability as a barrier for her to overcome. That’s not the case at all. In fact, the thing that’s holding her back is her grandmother – but not for any over-the-top, villainous reasons. Her grandmother is concerned about the way the world will treat Josee, sheltering her to the point of Josee not being allowed to go outside during the day. However, throughout the movie, Josee shows her grandmother—and the viewer—that she is more than capable of taking care of herself even if the world isn’t always accessible to her needs.
Josee’s sullenness isn’t because she’s in a wheelchair, it’s because she isn’t allowed to go out and explore the world she longs to see. Once she gets outside, that despair begins to fade away. We get so maybe joyful Josee scenes in this movie. Her disability doesn’t prevent that joy, nor should it. She should be able to enjoy life the way the rest of us do.
What I especially like is that Josee’s attitude remains the same throughout the film. Her snippy remarks toward Tsuneo don’t go away as the two of them get closer. They get softer, of course, because they’re falling in love, but that same tsundere attitude stays intact because that’s just how Josee is. If Tsuneo says something that makes her blush, she’s gonna stutter and tell him to shut up.
Sometimes, crushes do be like that.
Speaking of crushes, Tsuneo is, undoubtedly, the sweetest bean in this movie. His relationship with Josee is an adorable slow burn where you are at the edge of your seat waiting for the “will they” to hit during the “will they, won’t they” going on between them. Their relationship starts out rocky, at best, but the movie has amazing pacing that shows how the two come to care for one another. What I really love about Josee’s relationship with Tsuneo is that he never assumes that Josee can’t do something. There are a lot of scenes of him standing back as she moves around her house and outside.
At no point does Tsuneo ever pity her, furthermore, Josee never pities herself.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been burned by Saved by the Bell style stories that go through great lengths to have characters FLOORED that someone in a wheelchair can take care of themselves, followed by them congratulating themselves for being nice to a disabled person. Tsuneo never does that, in fact, no one in this movie does that. There’s no overarching message of Tsuneo having to learn how to accept Josee, no dramatic backstory about how Josee ended up in a wheelchair, no moment where Josee is cursing her wheelchair to the heavens for ruining her life, instead, the focus is on the both of them working toward their dreams as they fall in love with each other.
Of course, there are all sorts of conflicts when it comes to achieving your dreams. Josee wanting to be an artist isn’t seen as a real job (ugh, always and forever my villain origin story) and something big happens that could threaten to slow Tsuneo’s progress toward interning in Mexico. There are also some conflicts in regards to Josee and Tsuneo’s love story (one of which is gonna make you REAL mad at one of the characters). You kinda expect this from a romance movie, but the characters are so loveable, and the voice actors do such a GOOD job, that a lot of weight is felt with each new problem that arises.
It makes it all the more rewarding when the characters find solutions to their problems, the bond between Josee and Tsuneo growing stronger along with the friendships they develop with the rest of the cast. Our two leads really do push each other to be better.
And not to spoil too much, but this movie has one of the best grand romantic gestures I’ve seen in a while. Every great romance movie has one, and phew, this one absolutely delivered.
If you get a chance to see Josee, The Tiger and the Fish in theaters this week, you are in for a treat. Otherwise, when it inevitably streams on Funimation, be sure to check it out!
(Image: Seiko Tanabe/KADOKAWA/Josee Project)
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