Fantasia 2021: The 12 Day Tale of the Monster that Died in 8

by Valerie Thompson

We live in a changed world, now connected via webcams and Zoom calls. A global pandemic is still raging as the space between us grows with each passing day. Filmmaker Shunji Iwai may not have been aware of where the world would be today but his film “The 12 Day Tale of the Monster that Died in 8” takes some ambitious steps towards understanding its moment. The writer/director was facing the task of creating through an uncertain period; he dabbled in the available mediums instead of giving in to the conceits of quitting and cutting down on basic artistic impulses. The results are a film that attempts experimental techniques while delving into an evolving Kaiju lore. 

The project focuses its attention on Takumi Saito, this fictitious version of the multi-hyphenate encounters a dilemma as opportunities cease due to COVID. He’s convinced to try raising monsters in capsule form. Along the way, he finds himself intent on the growth of other “pet” projects while grappling with the even deadlier prospects outside his door. More than just a metaphor for the virus, the story relies on a variety of creatures to propel its characters further through this growing wilderness of doubt. The addition of a seemingly invisible alien to the mix just picks up on the unknown as initial concerns grow. 

Shunji Iwai makes use of black and white instead of color to tell the story; it’s a skillful decision that removes some of the supposed reality that comes with Internet centered projects. There’s a classic quality that exists against the stark truths of a pandemic world. The artistic elements also help viewers through the magical qualities of these monsters without making them myths. In terms of the creations themselves, they are bare and without the familiar characteristics. As it relates to the real virus, these creations carry that harsh sterile nature that is welcomed by the copious amounts of hand sanitizer and plastic barriers now affixed to our own lives. 

Director: Shunji Iwai

Writer: Shunji Iwai

Cast: Shinji Higuchi, Moeka Hoshi, Non, Takumi Saito, So Takei

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