The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill

The fabled assassin returns in this non-lethal but much-improved sequel.

“You call that under control?”

In 2019, director Ken Eguchi released The Fable, an adaptation of the action shonen manga of the same name. Having not read it, I was only able to judge the movie for what it was and the finished product was … mostly fine, if frequently awkward. It was never such a travesty as to make it unwatchable, but it oddly felt like a movie where people were somehow both trying too hard and not hard enough. I had an inkling that, since the clumsy introductions were over with, that the sequel would be better – and I’m pleased that this was proven largely true.

Released two years after its first outing, The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill continues the story of Fable (Junichi Okada), now committed to his alias Sato, as he spends one year as an everyman with his partner/ faux sister Yoko (Fumino Kimura), having promised to not kill for that time. He finds himself on the wrong side of Utsubo (Shinichi Tsutsumi), the head of a children’s charity who spends his spare time framing and extorting people. Utsubo also has a grudge against Fable and hires hitman Suzuki (Masanobu Ando) to take care of his problem. At the same time, Fable befriends Utsubo’s ward Hinako (Yurina Hirate).

Fable 2 as I’ll call it now for simplicity is a more sombre and serious movie than the first one, with many dramatic scenes played purely straight, and a plot that is for sure a touch more complicated (see above), but that works in its favour. This does mean that action is sacrificed for story, though the fights we get are pretty good and certainly entertaining enough. Fable 2 is able to juggle a few story threads, and this allows it to use its (admittedly still-bloated) 2 hour + runtime better than it did before. It even has something of a theme running through it, with forgiveness and vengeance playing major roles in character motivations.

These come together relatively nicely, as one of the strongest elements of the film is the way it treats it characters like people. Masanobu Ando could have easily played another Kazuo Kiriyama, but despite being little more than a collection of tropes, actually has a decent arc. Even Utsubo’s creepy villain contains multitudes, and even though this complexity is relatively barebones it’s leaps and bounds better than what we were given before.  At its best it’s a solid example of how a filmmaker can identify which elements of a movie didn’t work, and taking steps to fix them in the sequel.

While it is a lot more subdued with its over-the-top manga shenanigans, some of the less funny, oddball aspects of the first movie do pop up from time to time. Fable still can’t eat or drink anything too hot without screaming stupidly, and most of the characters laugh like they’ve just been injected with Joker serum. Fable 2 does retain its identity for better or worse, but at least it keeps some of the less enjoyable aspects to a minimum (and even kills off one or two obnoxious people).

Fable and Yoko’s relationship is also improved, and the two of them build on the good chemistry they shared in the previous film, even if they’re not together as often as before. Yoko gets a chance to do some bad ass stuff here too, though she does spend most of her screen time around the stove. But it’s scenes like that, the often touching moments of bonding between Fable and Hinako, and the attention put into making Utsubo a thoroughly revolting villain that Fable 2 can claim itself a satisfyingly superior sequel. I’m actually excited to see how the inevitable sequel turns out.

Verdict: A more confident second outing shows us that the Fable brand isn’t dead in the water. It just needed a bit of time.

Overall entertainment: 7-ish/10
Violence: 5/10
Sex: 1/10
Boobs: The same as arms, right?
Yoko: Can choke out a guy in 8 seconds. Not as good as it could be.
Fable’s identity: He is truly awful at keeping it a secret, huh?

The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill (2021)
Also known as: ザ・ファブル 殺さない殺し屋

Director: Kan Eguchi
Writers: Katsuhisa Minami (manga), Yusuke Watanabe

Junichi Okada – Fable
Fumino Kimura – Yoko
Shinichi Tsutsumi – Utsubo
Yurina Hirate – Hinako
Masanobu Ando – Suzuki
Mizuki Yamamoto – Misaki
Jiro Sato – Takoda
Ken Yasuda – Ebihara
Koichi Sato – Boss
Kai Inowaki – Kuro
Daisuke Miyagawa – Jackal Tomioka
Jun Kurose – Isaki
Masao Yoshii – Kainuma
Manami Hashimoto – Ai

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