FANTASIA FEST 2021: ‘Not Quite Dead Yet’ Is a Hilarious and Sweet Father-Daughter Story

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Not Quite Dead Yet

Shinji Hamasaki’s Not Quite Dead Yet is a buffet of rock music, death, laughs, ghosts, and science brought together by a charming father-daughter story. It might well be one of the most fun titles of Fantasia Fest 2021 (and that’s saying a lot!).

Nanase Nobata (Suzu Hirose) is the young singer of a death metal band whose songs include lyrics such as “Just once, drop dead” and ”Suffocating science.” She’s singing about her father Kei Nobata (Shin’ichi Tsutsumi), the workaholic president of a pharmaceutical corporation and a big science nerd. Nanase deeply hates him and constantly wishes for his death. Her father ruined her childhood due to his science obsession, and when her mother was on her death bed, he was absent because he wouldn’t stop working. But, her wish is about to be granted.

While Nanase is focused on her music, her father is experimenting with anti-aging drugs and dealing with possible espionage in his company, which leads him to take a drug that will simulate his death for only 48 hours. However, he doesn’t suspect it’s a big trap set by a rival pharmaceutical trying to cause his actual demise. The only one who knows the truth is Taku Matsuoka (Ryô Yoshizawa), a loyal employee who will team up with a surprised Nanase to stop them and try to revive Mr. Nobata.

This story might sound convoluted, but director Hamasaki weaves the threads together with ease. There’s goofy espionage, science, comedy, and music, but the director never loses focus on what makes his film special: the father-daughter relationship. 

Early on, it’s established that Nanase is very intelligent and has learned a lot about science from her dad, but she can only feel rejected by him due to their past. Singing makes her feel alive, which is a contrast to the robotic nature of her father. However, her music is described as soulless because the songs are just rebellious acts designed to create a barrier between Nanase and a possible connection with her father. Yet, ironically, they are also constant reminders about his importance in her life. There’s love hidden somewhere in her heart, and it only starts to come out when he’s gone—or better said, when she thinks he’s gone.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nobata is a terrible communicator. He doesn’t make an effort to understand Nanase’s passion for music and just wants her to get into the science business with him. But instead of trying to talk to her in a meaningful way, he sends Taku to track her and keep her safe. And, if he didn’t know how to communicate while living, it’s even worse when he’s dead. As a ghost, he struggles to send hints to Nanase about his predicament. Of course, this is all portrayed hilariously.

Yoshimitsu Sawamoto’s script is very smart. There are many hints throughout the first and second act that later come into focus either to land a fabulous joke or a truly heartfelt moment. You might even shed a tear when learning about the real reason behind Mr. Nobata’s work addiction. Not Quite Dead Yet is a movie with subtle and rewarding long-term storytelling. 

The humor is great. There’s a running gag involving Matsuoka—nicknamed Ghost because nobody notices him when he’s in a room—that had me in stitches, and the use of the song “Unchained Melody” in a romantic scene is just tremendous. The anime-like expressions and sound effects add a light cartoonish element that fits the irreverence of the plot. Plus, if you are a puroresu fan, the Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma cameos will surely put a big smile on your face.

Shinichi Tsutsumi is a total goof—despite playing a character who is a know-it-all to the point of frustration, he cannot help but charm his way into every scene. His facial expressions are very funny too. Suzu Hirose uses her contagious energy to excel during both the music performances and the comedic scenes but also manages to tone it down during the loving moments. 

Not Quite Dead Yet is a sweet tale about love. Besides providing a ton of laughs, it is a reminder of how important communication is to strengthen bonds. Always say goodbye, always show your love to those that matter to you because, in this life, there’s no 48-hour drug that will provide a second chance.

Not Quite Dead Yet screened On Demand at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.

Not Quite Dead Yet
  • 9.5/10
    Rating - 9.5/10
9.5/10

TL;DR

Not Quite Dead Yet is a sweet tale about love. Besides providing a ton of laughs, it is a reminder of how important communication is to strengthen bonds. Always say goodbye, always show your love to those that matter to you because, in this life, there’s no 48-hour drug that will provide a second chance.