Murakami Takashi is a popular Japanese visual artist known for his distinct “superflat” art style—a term that he himself coined to define a postmodernism art movement influenced by Japanese pop culture like anime and manga. The development of Mememe no Kurage started off ten years ago with Murakami writing all the screen play and designing all the characters for the sci-fi fantasy story by himself. At that time, Murakami intended to create a fully CGI-animated; even so, the project was not completed and subsequently dropped. But later on, an encounter with SFX make-up artist Nishimura Yoshihiro convinced him to change the direction of the project to a live-action film with CG animation. In this revived project, he took part as the producer, assistant director, and co-writer.
Though a children’s film that mixes live action with CG animated characters, Jellyfish Eyes is deeply personal to Takashi Murakami, and may serve as an introduction to his artwork. The movie tells the story of Masashi, a young boy living in a post-Fukushima world who moves to a mysterious town where children battle remote-controlled pets called “Friends.” Masashi develops a special connection to his own Friend, Kurage-bo, who has eyes like a jellyfish. True to Murakami’s style, the Friends come in all shapes and sizes from the giant gray bunny Luxor to an anime maid named Ko2. Unbeknown to them, the Friends are part of an alien plot to transform their negative, fighting energy into a super-monster, recalling 1960s Japanese monster films like Godzilla and elements of ET.
Like I stated above, the original daikaiju film, Ishiro Honda’s seminal Gojira, Jellyfish Eyes uses monsters as metaphors that focus on the consequences of disaster. Where Gojira was born from the trauma of the US nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Jellyfish Eyes draws upon the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which had its own nuclear aftermath.
Set after a devastating earthquake has struck Japan, Jellyfish Eyes follows a young boy who … has to move with his family to an ‘experimental city’ where each child is paired with a small monster. The ‘angry feeling’ of the children then gives these creatures great power, allowing them to grow from cuddly little companions to giant, omnivorous behemoths that tower over buildings and, in one especially gorgeous scene, tromp majestically through a misty forest. Havoc ensues.