To call something poetry in motion is a cliche, of course, but there are some things—an athlete or a dancer at peak performance come to mind—that truly earn that phrase and make it theirs. Coming in at three minutes and forty-nine seconds, “Tokyo Roar” is, quite simply, short verse in video.
One of the things that stands out about filmmaker Brandon Li’s piece is his sensitivity to smaller details: the twitch of the mouth of a very fresh fish, the smoke wafting up from a bundle of incense, the cell phone screen held up to record the steps of a wedding procession. You’ll have to see it for yourself.
Throughout the length of the video, a poem serves as the main part of the soundtrack, and there are many moments where words and image collide in subtle and clever ways. The full text of the poem—“Tiger,” written by the Australian poet A. D. Hope—can be found below, and you can listen to the recitation here:
The paper tigers roar at noon;
The sun is hot, the sun is high.
They roar in chorus, not in tune,
Their plaintive, savage hunting cry.
O, when you hear them, stop your ears
And clench your lids and bite your tongue.
The harmless paper tiger bears
Strong fascination for the young.
His forest is the busy street;
His dens the forum and the mart;
He drinks no blood, he tastes no meat:
He riddles and corrupts the heart.
But when the dusk begins to creep
From tree to tree, from door to door,
The jungle tiger wakes from sleep
And utters his authentic roar.
It bursts the night and shakes the stars
Till one breaks blazing from the sky;
Then listen! If to meet it soars
Your heart’s reverberating cry,
My child, then put aside your fear:
Unbar the door and walk outside!
The real tiger waits you there;
His golden eyes shall be your guide.
And, should he spare you in his wrath,
The world and all the worlds are yours;
And should he leap the jungle path
And clasp you with his bloody jaws,
Then say, as his divine embrace
Destroys the mortal parts of you:
I too am of that royal race
Who do what we are born to do.