Places considered cool and uncool sometimes exist in uneasy proximity, like New York City and New Jersey — or Tokyo and Saitama. The prefecture adjacent to the Japanese capital has the image of being a land of boring commuter towns with no cultural attractions beyond shopping malls and family restaurants.
All this and more is grist for "Fly Me to the Saitama," a comedy by Hideki Takeuchi that takes this city-suburb clash to absurd and fantastic extremes. Based on a manga by Mineo Maya, the film is packed with spot-on observations and pointed jabs at the similarly disrespected prefectures of Chiba, Gunma, Tochigi and Ibaraki.
This could have been the definition of an only-for-Japan movie, but Takeuchi, director of the hit time-travel comedy "Thermae Romae" (2012), crosses cultures entertainingly, though his present-day characters journey through the more stupefying bits of the Saitama plain. For this native of Ohio — an American equivalent of Saitama — the gags really hit home. The snobberies and status anxieties behind many of them are hardly limited to Japan.