When a brilliant female researcher accidentally turns an ordinary washing machine into a time machine, the Japanese government convinces her to travel back to 1990 and prevent the announcement of landmark fiscal policy that triggered the nation's economic demise. But the mission hits a snag when the researcher disappears, forcing the government to send her estranged daughter, Mayumi - a debt-ridden bar hostess and the only other person the time machine will accept - back in time to find out what happened. Mayumi arrives at the peak of Japan's ''bubble'' economy and finds a society obsessed with material wealth and profligate spending. With her warnings of impending doom falling on deaf ears, Mayumi's frustrated efforts to find her mother suggest some kind of conspiracy at work at the highest levels of government. Her own future and that of Japan itself begins to hinge on her ability to recruit the help of one man: the same finance bureaucrat who sent her through time. The problem is, he's 17 years younger and completely unreliable.
Directed by: Yasuo Baba
. Starring: Hiroshi Abe
, Ryôko Hirosue
, Hiroko Yakushimaru
, Kazue Fukiishi
, Yûko Itô
, Gekidan Hitori
, Shigemitsu Ogi
, Hiroko Moriguchi
, Masatô Ibu
, Makoto Akita
, Troy Caspi
, Paul Dowson
, Yasushi Higuchi
. Music by: Yûsuke Honma
It's no coincidence that just as the perception of the breakdown of family and traditional roles led to nostalgia for Jidai-geki period costume dramas a few years earlier, the mid-to late 2000s similarly saw a surprising amount of time-travel films in Japanese cinema. It was as if the desire to escape from the current period of economic uncertainty and social upheaval was so strong that the only way to restore a sense of order and pride in the nation was to really literally go back in time.
Some of these films, like Katsuyuki Matohiro's Summer Time Machine Blues (2005) used the idea simply as an excuse for comic adventure, while others like Metro Ni Notte (2006) exhibited a disturbing escapist longing to not only turn back the clock and seek refuge in an idealised version of the past, but expressed an almost wish-fulfilment desire to trace the roots of the malaise and actually alter events - and even the outcome of the war - so that the crisis in the future might never happen. Yasuo Baba's 2007 timeline shifting comedy Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust, manages however to indulge a bit of nostalgia for the style, music and attitudes of the decadent profligacy of the 1990s boom period in a way that put the seismic cultural shift that has occurred in the intervening period into stark relief, while at the same time finding a very humorous way to point out exactly where it all went wrong.
Mayumi Tanaka, is a not terribly bright nightclub hostess who is in mourning for her recently deceased mother and in grave financial difficulties, her boyfriend having skipped town, leaving her with a huge debt to pay off the local criminal loan sharks. Mayumi is not the only person with financial problems in 2007 however. The whole Japanese nation is on the brink of complete economic meltdown and - strange as it may seem - Mr. Shimokawaji, an official from the Ministry of Finance believes that the debt and grief-stricken Mayumi could be the saviour of the nation. But what is it about a photo of her mother Mariko in an old newspaper from 1990 that interests the government official so greatly and leads him to put his faith in Mayumi? Well, it's just that her mother looks exactly the same in the 17 year old photograph as she did a week ago when she "died".
Mariko, it seems has stumbled upon a time machine while working on research and development of household appliances. Having converted a washing machine into a time machine, Mariko has taken it upon herself to skip back to 1990 to try to convince Mr Serizawa, a prominent minister in the Japanese government, not to make a crucial announcement about new property legislation and banking deregulation that will end up causing so much damage to the Japanese economy of the future. Mariko has disappeared however, clearly without having achieved her goal, and only her daughter has the necessary family connection and right shape and size, if not the brain cells and financial acumen, to go back and help complete the mission which will not only erase Japan's debt, but also the 2 million yen that the loan shark is pressuring her for. That's the kind of motivation Mariko understands.
The science of building a time machine then is a little bit fuzzy - detergent is added to the washing machine, just in case - but obviously, there's quite a bit of intentional humour in the treatment here that helps the rather more serious questions to come out in the wash, so to speak. With the impact of the economic crisis an unpleasant reality for many, there is certainly some amount of wishing to turn back the clock involved here, but the film is under no illusions about what really is the underlying cause of the banking meltdown. And, no, despite what we've been lead to believe, it's not all Gordon Brown's fault. While the film has considerable fun with 1990's styles, at the fashion and the thickness of women's eyebrows, glamorous discos and mobile phones the size of bricks, Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust's funny conspiracy theory action drama actually makes it quite clear who is to blame for spending us into a debt crisis. We all are.
Maybe I'm just getting older then, but when exactly did 1990 become a year to get all nostalgic about? Bubble Fiction does well however to capture the heady decadence of the time in the "period detail", with some cultural references that are specific to Japanese culture and celebrities, but with music, style and attitudes and extravagant spending that will be recognisable to everyone. But were men back in 1990 really such lecherous and sleazy operators as Shimokawaji, the official from the Ministry of Finance? Actually, don't answer that one...
Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust does inevitably stretch credibility as much as any film that meddles with time-travel high-jinks and alternative timeline paradoxes, throwing a good global conspiracy in there for good measure, and it does draw what seems to be a rather simplistic moral platitude out of the resolution (Work hard and look after your family), but in reality it actually has a good point to make, and it does so in a clever and often very funny way. And after all they've been through, who can deny them a little bit of wish fulfilment.
Review by nmegahey from the Internet Movie Database.