Featured Image courtesy of San Diego Asian Film Festival.

Fans of J-rocker GACKT got a chance to see the singer take the spotlight in Director Hideki Takeuchi’s 2019 film “Fly Me To The Saitama.” However, they found out the film brought much more than Japanese star power.

A family from Saitama heads over to the daughter’s engagement. While she (Haruka Shimazaki, AKB48, “Nisekoi: False Love”) talks about her dreams of living in Tokyo and her father (Brother Tom, “Be Nice to People”) argues about Saitama prefecture, the radio station starts talking about an urban legends of the area’s past.
According to the story, Tokyo was the pinnacle of wealth and luxury. In order to preserve their quality, the area only allows approved residents who met a certain class index number. The system excluded outside prefectures like Saitama which was in a state similar to the poor feudal countryside. For years, the Saitamaese tried many ways to gain recognition and riches but failed. Their latest came in the form of Rei Asami (GACKT) who infiltrated Tokyo’s most prestigious academy. Rei easily gained acceptance of his peers but things went awry when his identity is revealed. He must find a way to still help his countrymen but also to safety for both him and the governor’s son Momomi (Fumi Nikaido, “Future Diary”) .

Program Director of SDAFF Christina Ree said in her introduction for the first screening said the film was “one of the weirdest movies ever.” She also said to “relinquish any sense of logic” which truly is one thing anyone who wants to see “Fly Me To The Saitama” needs to do. The storytelling may remind some of the classic hit “The Princess Bride” however there were more interactions with the family of the framing device. It was just one of the many things that brought a lot of laughs as the legend kept bringing bizarre situations in outrageous fashion. It’s crazy to see it based off of shoujo and BL artist Mineo Maya’s 1982 one-shot manga. The film brought the extravagant details to life and even have the creator make a small cameo. Director Hideki Takeuchi was a perfect match for this film due to his past experience adapting manga to the screen including the live-action “Nodame Cantabile” series. SDAFF artistic director Brian Hu said in the second screening introduction that the movie was “everything in one” and “a nice tribute to underdogs”. While wacky and zany, almost to the level of last year’s showing of “The Legend of the Stardust Brothers”, there is a universal story of wanting to be treated as equals. Whether not they know much about the locations of and around Tokyo, any one would enjoy the adventure of “Fly Me To The Saitama”.

For more information on the film, check out SDAFF’s website.