The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden ★★★★

A charmingly goofy tale of the money-obsessed Sakiko, who is trying to find a cache of stolen money hidden deep in the wilderness. Her early attempt to find this treasure goes horribly awry, leading her to spend most of the movie leveling up the various skills she needs to make her mission a success. One might expect that along the way she would learn there are more important things than money, but this movie refreshingly allows Sakiko to stay aggressively greedy. Not that there aren't things to be learned along the way.

This is my third Shinobu Yaguchi movie, and the earliest I've seen from his filmography. It's obvious that his cinematic ambitions are bigger than his budget, but he often finds hilarious and adorable ways to make the most of his resources. The breakneck opening of the film has one of the funnier uses of ragdoll dummies and miniature sets in recent memory, and one scene creatively lampoons the idea of reviewing security footage by having a character make a flipbook out of photos taken during a robbery.

Props to actress Naomi Nishida, who plays Sakiko with a delightful deadpan. Also to the unknown actress who plays the closest thing this movie has to an antagonist. Unknown to me anyway, as there are no English credits in the release I saw, and looking online hasn't confirmed anything. However, her performance as a psychotic mean girl who is jealous of Sakiko, is joyously over the top and endearing.

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