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  • Writer's pictureRiver Valley Student Editorial Club

To Be or Not To Be: Josee, the Tiger and the Fish

By Eric Lim Jing Rui (22J16)

Josee, the Tiger and the Fish (2020), is an anime movie set about the disabled and their struggles with society.

The movie follows the protagonist Josee, a disabled girl bound to a wheelchair, and her growth. The title is a strange one; a tiger and a fish, two animals worlds-apart but yet appear together. As I could not find an explanation for the reason behind the chosen animals on online sources, I will give my interpretation of it.

The tiger represents a suppressed fear hidden within the fish, which is Josee. Such fear stems from the hardship and attitude of indifference that she had been receiving from society, and for which she must now face. Now, let’s take a look at some of the takeaways from this theatrical film (some spoilers but nothing serious):

1. It portrays the underlying problems of the disabled

Throughout the story, we get glimpses of the mistreatment and apathetic nature towards the disabled, which can be seen from how Josee is constantly threatened due to her inherent disability. The disabled are the minority in our society and are treated with much disregard. This is probably a result of human nature associated with power, and such an effect has been long persistent throughout the ages, spanning across the globe, an aspect of which is racial segregation. The Apartheid of South Africa and the US with their Black Codes are some examples of this innate nature of subjugating the weak and empowering the strong.

Reflecting on Singapore, given how stressful and busy our lives can be, we tend to forget those who are ‘different’ or disadvantaged. Many of us take on VIAs to assist the elderly or children but outside of those, do we actually go out of our way to assist the disabled? How many of us actively seek out the disabled? More often than not, we are prone to what is known as the 'bystander effect'. When we see someone in trouble, disabled or abled, we contemplate on our immediate actions to assist, hoping another person will do it so as not to appear prideful in the eyes of others. In the end, I think we should keep an open-heart and be less hesitant when it comes to doing the right thing even when in public.

2. Always try even if it means rejection

The premise of the story is one of continuous effort. Tsuneo (male protagonist) works part-time as a caretaker for Josee. Despite repeated rejections towards Tsuneo, he does not shy away from her but still persists to take care of her needs. Similarly, Josee tries her hand at storytelling to children initially but fails, becoming dejected. Later on in the story, she tries again and manages to keep the attention of the children and succeeds.

Josee trying her hand at storytelling

I think this segment is rather relatable to the human experience. RV provides students with many opportunities to explore our interests or further our understanding but I feel that maybe some RVians may be afraid to take up these opportunities. For instance Y.LEAD or Orientation is a wonderful opportunity to have fun and learn new skills. I was reluctant to participate in the interviews for such events as I feared the worst but some encouragement from friends made me willing to take part in them [Friends are important]. Although I failed both interviews, I think the important thing is trying. Acquiring confidence and experience from the interviews is also a valuable reward.

3. Love knows no bounds

The relationship starts off as one of master-and-slave, where Tsuneo listens and complies with orders given by Josee against his will. But as the plot progresses, their relationship evolves into a friendship and eventually a romance. Even when two lovers are from different worlds, facing differing circumstances, they are still able to find common ground and reciprocate. Albeit cliché, it is still beautiful.


This is a lesson that if you love something, you should devote effort and resources to it. Be it love for a person, a waifu or even food, as long as you find joy and happiness from it, it is not wrong to pursue and commit to it.

Remember the tiger and the fish from earlier on? At the end of the story, the fish no longer fears the tiger and instead faces it head-on. This teaches us to face our fears, look it dead in the eye and punch it. We may be floppy tuna fishes but as we brave through 2023, we will emerge as salmon, capable of facing the tiger (A’ levels) with no fear.

If you like anime and romance, maybe give this movie a try. It is both a heartwarming and feel-good movie for the soul and mind. The artstyle is also quite unique compared to modern art styles adopted by today’s anime. The art is less defined and more fluid, a mix between the old art and new art.

It is available on Netflix and other streaming services so give it a watch during the March holidays if you would like to :).

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