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Naomi, an attractive young cockroach, enjoys the easy life with her boyfriend, Ichiro, and other roaches in Mr. Saito's apartment. This is because the lazy Saito lets the roaches eat the scraps from his table and never tries to hurt them. Hans, a hard-bitten fighter-roach from the other side of the yard, is a rival for Naomi's affections, but he eventually returns to his own people. Naomi embarks on the long quest across the yard (50 human feet, an incredible distance) to find him. There, she discovers that Hans did not lie, and that other humans are engaged in an all-out war to exterminate the roaches; Hans and his people are fighting a suicidal battle they cannot win. The unthinkable happens when Momoko, the woman across the yard, moves in with Saito-a newly house-proud Saito kills off the roaches. Soon, only Ichiro and the pregnant Naomi are left, then he too is killed. Naomi escapes to give birth to a new litter, and a new generation of cockroaches, just that little bit more resistant to human poisons, is ready for a rematch.
A very Japanese insect movie that mixes a neighborly human romance with the anthropomorphized characters of Hoppity Goes to Town and the apocalyptic armageddon of WWII-A Bug's Death, if you will. Beginning with Naomi's first encounter with the human female, the film is chiefly told in flashback, lending it the weight of inevitable tragedy that also characterizes Grave of the Fireflies. Shot in a mixture of live action (the humans) and animation (the roaches) that is all the more impressive in these days of digital easy-fixes, it mixes the comic spectacle of humans battling their only serious rivals for planetary domination, with the heroic defensive actions of a tiny community facing impossible odds. The director reportedly thought of his cockroaches as a metaphor for the way the Japanese appear to the rest of the world-he meant as selfish, parasitical trading partners, though many foreign critics saw other parallels, particularly in TotC's glorification of fanatical suicide missions and its insect cast's self-assured belief that they will, eventually, become the masters of Earth. A fascinating and unexpectedly entertaining experiment, comparable in some regards with the U.S. movie Joe's Apartment (1996), which also featured a single guy who shared his apartment with roaches. V