Arrow Academy: The Grief of the Realm of Animals: The Mad Fox (1962)

The Mad Fox (1962) starts out on an apocalyptic note, washing the feudal Japan setting with a hellish blood red hue. A so-called "white rainbow" has appeared and the court astronomer sees it as a bad omen that could end in death and destruction for the realm. Upon learning of this prophecy, there is disorder in the court and two separate groups try to take over with everything riding on a sacred scroll known as the Golden Crow. Caught up in the fray is the astronomer's assistant Yasuna (Hashizo Okawa), and his lover Sakaki (Michiko Saga) who encounter torture and suffering of a magnitude that eventually drives Yasuna insane.

Director Tomu Uchida frames the film delicately in the beginning and outside of the intense red color grading of the opening sequence, sticks to rote costume drama formalism. However, about halfway through the film, Yasuna descends into grief and madness and at this point the aesthetic transforms into a fantastical stage play with purposefully artificial set-pieces similar to Kwaidan (1964) and The Ballad of Narayama (1958). As Yasuna himself loses touch with reality, so does the construction of the film, taking the viewers along for the ride. There are some truly breathtaking scenes, particularly one with Yasuna melodramatically mourning in a bright yellow field full of fake flowers and rotating floors. Uchida borrows from many mediums: kabuki theater, musicals, and even animation!

At its heart The Mad Fox is a love story, and watching Yasuna search for happiness with the love of his life is heartbreaking. The narrative leans heavily into kitsune mythology which are fox spirits who can take human form. They are often portrayed as tricksters, but in this piece they are more kind spirits who want to help people but also are afraid of being hurt or killed. These foxes can love just the same as any human, but unfortunately their very nature makes this love ultimately unsustainable. This dichotomy between a period piece and a fantastical surreal fantasy epic never feels like an uneasy union and the shift from the grounded to the whimsical is so gradual that one doesn't notice until the transformation is complete.

TRANSFER: The restoration by Toei as presented by Arrow is gorgeous and the highly saturated primary colors are represented perfectly. The English subtitles are well timed and easy to read.


Brand new restoration by Toei
High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed mono Japanese audio
Optional newly translated English subtitles
Brand new audio commentary by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp, recorded exclusively for this release
Original theatrical trailer
Image gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Ronald Cavaye and Hayley Scanlon

--Michelle Kisner