The setting is July 2012. There is an unaccustomed state of unrest among the people of Sakane Village in the township of Ohshio, Miyazaki Prefecture. In a positive vein, you could call it a place blessed with a beautiful natural environment, but on the down side it is a remote and economically deprived village whose only assets are the sea and the mountains. Then the legged fish came. It happened just at the time when the Sakane Hometown Association had launched a “Blue Tourism” project to try to boost the local economy by luring tourists from the cities to experience life in a fishing village, with events like tours of the bay on the local fishermen’s boats, teaching city folk how to sun-dry fish or having them join in the big preparations for the local Sakane Shrine festival. But, with the disruption that these legged fish were causing, how could they pretend to be a tourist destination?
The villagers all agreed that they needed the advice of professionals, so they called on the wild animal research and survey company SEA and asked one of its researchers, the former veterinarian Nanao Sakata to conduct a survey. Nanao studied the fish carefully and insisted that they either be captured and protected or taken away to be released in another sea area. This proposal is met with opposition from many of the villagers. They insist that protecting the life and livelihoods of the villagers takes precedence over ecological or animal protection and that these mutated life forms should be exterminated. It is for the safety of the village and the success of the Blue Tourism project that the village has staked its economic future on. Should the fish be protected or annihilated? This question has the men of the village divided into two factions. As the issue is discussed, the speakers reveal their deeper thoughts about the village and about life. Also revealed are unresolved feuds handed down from the last generation or generations before, and it becomes clear that finding a consensus will be difficult. Having once failed as a veterinarian when a local livestock was hit by an epidemic of foot and mouth disease, Sakata is determined to find a solution to the fish problem. From what little evidence there is, he is able to find one of the fish’s weaknesses and erects electric fences to protect the villagers while seeking a way to deal with the fish themselves. In the meantime, however, the number of fish is growing and the villagers are complaining of more and more incidents of damage and attacks. There is no choice now but to begin killing the fish. Having made the tough decision, Sakata takes on the task by himself and sets about killing the big beautiful fish one after another. The annual appearance of schools of sea squirts in the waters off Sakane is replaced this year by flower-like formations that cover the entire surface of the sea. It is a scene of Apocalyptic dimensions.
Eventually, it becomes clear that the numbers and size of the fish continue to grow and they are now being seen all over the world. There is nothing to do but desert the village. Yet, all efforts by Sakata to convince them of this fail, as do the brave attempts of the National Defense Force to carry out rescue operations. The reason … the human beings of the village had begun to turn into fish. The human race is evolving into fish. In the village where most of the population has turned into fish, Sakata talks to the few surviving people. He says he doesn’t want to give up yet. He wants to struggle a little longer to find a way to stop the disaster. There has long been a myth in this area that the sacred kagura
shrine rituals attract fish to the waters of Sakane. There may be some secret answer to be found in the kagura
. Or, there may be something to be found in the DNA of the surviving people that can be the key to saving the human race. The people give Sakata a picture of human beings that they want him to keep in case he survives. In the Sakane dialect they tell him, “It will be proof that there was once a strange life form known as human beings in this world.
Profile: Born in Tokyo November 17, 1979. Yanai is a playwright and director. In 2001 he founded the theater production planning company Milkdera. Before dissolving the unit in 2009, Yanai produced 12 works, including Fusho no Shito-tachi, Utsukushii Shokutaku and Eien no Hana, as the unit’s leader, playwright and director. He debuted as a scriptwriter in 2010 with the eighth episode of the drama Azami-jo no Lullaby (Miss Azami’s Lullaby) (MBS) titled Tsuki no Hotaru (The Moon’s Firefly). In 2010 he founded the company Junanasenchi (17cm) with actor Yoshihiko Kitagawa. In 2011, the play Hana to Sakana (Flowers and Fish) written for the first Junanasenchi production won the 17th Japan Playwrights Association New Playwrights Award. This play uses devices from fantasy and science fiction and subject matter from history and folklore to depict people’s lives and conflicts. With conversation that carries the tension of a mystery and scenes that conjure up grand-scale images, it succeeds in constructing bordering worlds of reality and fantasy.