Tony Takitani (2004) by Jun Ichikawa

A great adaptation of Haruki Murakami's work.


Adapting Haruki Murakami’s works in cinema is definitely an arduous task, chiefly due to the surrealism and minimalism that characterize his novels. However, this particular movie managed to capture the homonymous short story’s full essence.

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The story behind the film is a very interesting. One day, Murakami entered a small shop with second hand clothes in Maui, where he bought, for $1, a T-shirt with the name "Tony Takitani" written on it. Actual Tony had produced these T-shirts as part of his failed campaign for a state Senate Seat. Murakami, though, was truly inspired by the name. According to an interview he gave at The Daily Yumiuri, "Every time I put on the T-shirt, I felt like this Tony Takitani was begging me to write a story about him." And that he did, writing a short story that was included in the 2006 collection, "Blind Willow, Sleeping woman".

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Tony Takitani is Shozaburo’s son, a trombonist who spent a number of years in prison in China. When he returned to Japan in 1946, he married a distant cousin of his and had a son he named after an American soldier, who had treated him in a friendly fashion, thinking that the name would help the boy, since the American influence in Japan was increasing rapidly at the time. Nevertheless, despite his father’s kindhearted intentions, his name seems to be a continuing nuisance for Tony Takitani in school, since his classmates perceive him as shady and strange, thus resulting in his alienation. In combination with his mother’s death, when he was three years old, and his father constantly being away on tour, Tony becomes a loner, detached from social relationships of any sort. Through the years, he develops a large interest for painting, with his works being elaborate though void of sentiment. Eventually, he finishes his studies and starts working as a technical illustrator. While working, he meets a customer named Eiko who radically changes his life.


Jun Ichikawa presents a work that can be fully defined with three factors: dedication to Murakami’s writing style, and consequently, minimalism and surrealism. The minimalism is evident due to the usage of two actors in four roles, the slow pace implemented by Tomoh Sanjo's editing, and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s low-key music. At the same time, the character's analysis is quite thorough, particularly of Tony Takitani, whose feelings and thoughts are presented up to the smallest detail.

Taishi Hirokawa's cinematography and Sanjo's editing result in a sublime combination of artfulness and meaningfulness. This trait finds its apogee in two factors. The first one is the montage of images if Eiko's impressive legs, dressed in different shoes each time, in a tactic that highlights his obsession with consumerism. The second is the transition from sequence to sequence, which looks like an illustration, thus making a reference to the protagonist's profession.



Hidetoshi Nishijima's narrator serves of the purpose of the film staying close to the book, but has a very distinct trait: His phrases are frequently completed by the protagonists, in a technique that stresses the surrealistic element in the film, as the characters seem to acknowledge the narrator's presence.

Issei Ogata is magnificent in the role of Tony Takitani and his father. Ichikawa based the film upon him and he delivered in impressive fashion, communicating a plethora of sentiments and psychological statuses in a laconic fashion that fits the film's aesthetics perfectly. The fact that it is quite difficult that he is the one portraying both character's is another testament to the quality of his performance. The same, more or less, applies to Rie Miyazawa, in a less demanding role though, which also draws from her outer appearance.

Jun Ichikawa managed to capture the novel's essence in his film to an absolute degree, and in that fashion, presents a very impressive film. Particularly fans of Murakami will definitely enjoy it.


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Asian Film Vault: Tony Takitani (2004) by Jun Ichikawa
Tony Takitani (2004) by Jun Ichikawa
A great adaptation of Haruki Murakami's work.
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