Stories about an angel of death or a grim reaper walking among mortals to learn about life’s significance isn’t at all original. Movies such as “Meet Joe Black” have delved into the idea that the grim reaper does sometimes take a vacation and are prone to certain curiosities. Japanese director and writer Masaya Kakei takes on the premise of a “Shinigami” or a death god as they are called in Japan. “ACCURACY OF DEATH” (aka. Sweet Rain, 2008) is a film that is based on the novel by Kotaro Isaka. It may not be wholly original and quite honestly, it feels very contrived. However, the film becomes quite affecting in the manner it develops the story and it sure helps when the lead is Takeshi Kaneshiro.
Chiba (Takeshi Kaneshiro, Red Cliff
) is a shinigami or a death god who works seven days prior to a person’s unnatural death (sickness, age or suicide are not included) to decide whether or not to stay the person’s demise. During those 7 days, Chiba shadows the person’s everyday routine and even makes contact with them to determine their potential. On occasion, he encounters another shinigami who is also on a job; seems like these death gods have a great fondness for music, and
some even have interests for mortal women. Chiba’s liaison to the heavenly authorities is a black dog seen only by himself, this dog communicates telepathically. Chiba is all business as a death god, it rains a lot when he works and he seemed to usually choose ‘proceed’. But lately, he has been real curious and seems to yearn for a little bit more.
Now when Chiba becomes more engrossed with his work than usual, he finds himself very interested in the lives of three individuals that have been marked for an unnatural demise. A young customer service rep named Kazue Fujiki (beauteous Manami Konishi) who is suffering from a lingering illness of heartache and may also be being stalked by a mysterious man on the phone. He interacts with her and may have developed a potential for romance. The second story occurs a decade later when a yakuza captain (Ken Mitsuishi) is double-crossed by his own men. Fast-forward for a few more decades and the final tale is of an elderly hair-dresser (Sumiko Fuji) whose death is supposed to be unnatural and yet, she is actually expecting death and asks Chiba for one final wish…
The three stories in “Accuracy of Death” are but small parts of a larger whole. The film would be incomplete without one or the other, all the three tales have a common denominator; the three individuals are marked for death and it is for the viewer to find out if they will be able to escape their fated demise. Sure, the film’s focus revolves around Chiba who is assigned to the tasks, he learns about these people and learns about himself, even without him knowing that he is learning about who he is. The tales develop Chiba’s character inside and out, and we get to know our ‘shinigami’. We also get to see his world as he travels around another reality (a place where doors can be opened to any destination) and his odd relationship with the black dog.
As I’ve said the three stories are part of a large whole and while that ‘whole’ is predictable and quite frankly carries the same formulas such as sentimentality, quirky humor and heart-warming comfort; yet the film makes things work. It does succeed in what it set out to do, and that is to make the viewer feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The three stories actually develop Chiba as a character, a grim reaper who begins to learn about life’s significance, but we are never told why he was assigned these three people to judge. I guess it would be safe to say that Chiba has always chosen to ‘proceed’ as hinted by the black dog. My only complaint besides its predictability is that the second story feels like a minor ‘filler’ in between the first and last story that it all comes into full circle. The second story is a little uninteresting and makes for a minor show to expose Chiba going about his business. Despite this flaw and its feeling of contrivances, the film does present its premise is a truly heart-warming manner. The film also has quite a few plot holes that requires a small suspension of disbelief; also, some devices leave a lot for the imagination to figure out.
True, the film isn’t perfect and the screenplay isn’t as polished as I hoped it would be. However, Takeshi Kaneshiro is around to save the film from becoming ordinary. He’s a great actor and has the charm to turn the simplest of roles into something more worthwhile; he has this uncanny ability to exhibit a certain clever innocence, that exudes an almost anime-like (if subdued) facial expressions. It was just really fun to see a grim reaper tilt his head while he listens to music and goes all googoogly-eyed when he hears a ‘figure of speech’ that he takes literally.
The fantasy world in “Accuracy” may come across as a little underdeveloped but the direction and cinematography were excellent that it helped cover up its flaws. Despite the fact that the predictability factor caused it to lose some needed emotional reaction, the film’s direction goes into a pleasant and agreeable pace that it made me look pass some of its missteps. The film does make ‘death’ as a likeable entity--that gives you a feeling that when you’re dead, you’re in good hands. Kaneshiro has the right skills for this role, and while “Accuracy of Death” may not prove to be an essential watch, it sure is a very entertaining, clever and fun cinematic experience.