After a period of growth and a wildly optimism economy in which people spent money freely and often, Japan is now amassing huge debt. Predicted to be bankrupt within two years. Major lending banks are beginning to fail. Debt collection is an urgent business. The failing economy threatens to bring Japan to its knees.
So to counteract the imminent disaster, boffins in the basement of the Ministry of Finance have found a way to travel back in time to warn officials seventeen years ago about the consequences of the over-strict housing regulations they were to push through the Diet, Japan’s parliament. (The regulations led to huge borrowing and the burst of the economic bubble.)
Their unlikely time machine? A Hitachi washing machine, developed by a domestic appliance engineer.
Mariko Tanaka, the slim inventor of the device travels back, appearing in newspaper clippings to let the modern day world know that she arrived safely. But contact is quickly lost. The washing machine is picky about the size of people it can send back in time. Well-built finance officials entering the machine end up with nothing more exciting than faded socks. But Mariko’s debt-ridden daughter Mayumi is persuaded to travel back.
At times, the plot feels like it has more holes than any string vest that would ever be washed in the machine, but the film has a certain charm.
Travelling back in time, the central character Mayumi endures the 1990 culture she had ignored while growing up (she was five in 1990), while her fashion style and dancing is unbelievable to the people she meets.
There are lots of comparisons of the changes that have occurred over the seventeen years. Mobile phones were brick-sized back in 1990. There’s a wonderful scene where the usefulness of being able to take a photo with your phone while holding it to your ear is questioned! Tiramisu was a novel trendy dessert back then. And low cut jeans just look like they’re falling down.
Intrigue, comedy, family angst, action (Geisha girls with a flair for waving hair pins) and a spot of conspiracy. The English subtitles seemed a little facile at times, and a lot of the humorous cultural references are lost in translation.
It’ll win no awards for screen-writing or plot (at least, not from me), but if you’re looking to expand your cinematic horizons and want something different to watch, give this frothy film a spin in your DVD player.
By the end, you’ll be able to pronounce time machine in Japanese: tahym muh-sheen.