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CGIFeature Film

Takashi Murakami’s Feature Film Debut “Jellyfish Eyes” Arrives in the U.S.

Jellyfish Eyes marks the feature film directing debut of Japanese superstar artist Takashi Murakami. Described as a post-Fukushima sci-fi fantasy, the $7 million live-action/CGI hybrid film incorporates Murakami’s goofily-styled creatures throughout, as well as an appearance by his fine art character Miss Ko2.

Murakami had intended the film to be the first in a trilogy, but he pissed off his animation crew so much that they refused to work on the follow-up films with him. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Murakami came up with an encyclopedia of animated characters—a froggy fighter that uses its long tongue like a weapon, a red-eyed monkey with a mean streak, a critter with a tin-can head and rocket thrusters—and sketched each one. He told his animators how the characters should move and then waited a month to see the results, which he rejected—again and again, over a year. “It’s not a really amicable process,” he said through a translator. “By the end of the film, the team was so fed up they didn’t want to work on the second film.”

Later in the same interview, Murakami alludes to a sequel, so perhaps additional films are still being planned. What we know for certain is that Jellyfish Eyes flopped when it opened in Japan last spring. The film is currently on an 8-city musuem tour in the U.S. with Murakami appearing in person at a number of the events:

Dallas, TX – May 1 (Dallas Museum of Art)
Boston, MA – May 1, 10, 11, 12, 25, and 26 (Institute of Contemporary Art)
Seattle, WA – May 2, 3, 4 (Henry Art Gallery)
Washington, DC – May 22 (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden)
Chicago, IL – May 25 (Museum of Contemporary Art)
Los Angeles, CA – May 30 (The Theatre at Ace Hotel)
New York, NY – June 1 (Film Society of Lincoln Center)
San Francisco, CA – June 5 (Asian Art Museum)

Visit the film’s website for ticket details.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    The creatures all look like Pokemon or Digimon.

    • Johnny

      You mean they look like monsters?

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Ha-ha! Also important in noticing the original names of those separate properties had “Monsters” in their titles before getting portmanteaus we come to know later on.

      • Andrew Kieswetter

        I mean they have the same cute looks & fighting abilities.

  • Brittany

    I like the monster designs, but they don’t really fit with the live action. From the trailer the plot looks like Digimon only more random. I understood when he worked with Mamoru Hosoda on Superflat Monogram and the entire concept was clearly animation redrawn right from the Digimon movie Our War Game, but this seems odd since Hosoda isn’t involved. I mean I love the concept of Digimon so maybe this would be fun to watch. But it seems awkward, corny, and cheap to me, especially with the cliche anime girl. I’m sure he had good intentions but it sounds like he has more to learn about feature directing. :

    • Richmond Lee

      The monsters are all matched to the kids. It’s actually really well thought out. For instance, the kid who uses the (very intentionally) cliché anime girl (who is based off of a statue that Murakami created early in his career) is basically a shut in who has stopped going to school. He’s on his way to becoming the ultimate withdrawn super otaku. When she appears on screen it’s shocking. She ends up having a showdown with one monster that’s more traditional Kaiju grotesque and another one that looks more like a modern digimon. The monsters represent different eras and types of fandom clashing.

      The animation itself is very well done, especially considering that it has a smaller budget than the average hollywood throwaway comedy. The action scenes are actually some of the best I’ve ever seen in 3d. The non action interactions probably won’t win over any fans of western animation, but the action animation is as good as anything Hollywood can do.

      Murakami has admited in interviews that he still has a ways to go as a director. In interviews he’s mentioned that he had to hire experts to assist with editing and reshooting the film to make it more coherent.

      I really liked it. It’s an awesome kids film, and if you feel like digging deeper it’s full of very rich, consistent, meaty imagery (as you’d expect from Murakami)

    • Richmond Lee

      If you like Digimon I recommend seeing this movie if you ever get a chance. It’s a perfectly good live action Digimon movie. It made me feel like a kid again (which is impressive cos most movies about kids these days just make me feel old haha)

      • Thanks for the review! I hope to check it out someday then! :)

  • Joseph Patrick

    For 7 million, they did pretty good seeing what was put on the trailer. Though as an animator working on a small budget, I can see how it could get frustrating to meet the demands.

  • B Movie

    From what I saw in the trailer it does have a B movie feel to it, with the only reason anyone’s even paying attention to it is because Takashi Murakami is involved.
    With that said since there is one playing in my town, and being one of the locations he’s making an appearance at, I’ll probably try to check it out.

  • I actually kind of like the more cartoony look of the monsters. Most movies that integrate and/or turn originally 2D characters into CG give them really realistic features and textures and I feel they loose a lot of their original 2D charm. But the movie its self doesn’t look too good.

  • IamMe

    7 Million? Wow this movie would have cost no less than 60 million in the US. How do the Japanese do this?

    • Tril

      By practically slaving their animators.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        How else do you think they can do it?