An inspired parody of the gangster genre on the one hand and a virtuoso excercise in storytelling on the other, Postman Blues was the second film by former actor and singer Sabu (real name: Hiroki Tanaka).
Several subplots play side by side, all involving happily ignorant young mailman Sawaki (Sabu regular Tsutsumi, who has so far starred in all the director's films). When he delivers a letter to Noguchi, an old school friend-turned-yakuza, Noguchi's freshly chopped-off pinky rolls off the table and into Sawaki's mailbag. This lands Noguchi into trouble with his superiors, who want to see the pinky as proof of the young man's loyalty. Sawaki meanwhile unwittingly becomes the main suspect in a drug-trafficking case after the police see him leave Noguchi's apartment.
The police turn out to be incompetent idiots and they fail time after time to capture Sawaki, who is oblivious to all that's going on around him and continues to make his rounds. On one of these rounds he meets Hitman Joe, to whom Sawaki delivers an invitation to the National Hitman Contest. Joe, looking like the archetypal Japanese movie gangster - a cross between Ken Takakura and Jo Shishido, is a resident of the local hospital where he is being treated for a terminal disease. In this hospital Sawaki finds Sayoko, a young girl who asks him to deliver a letter she has written to herself. He complies and promptly falls in love with her.
Sawaki's appearance triggers a renewed lust for life in these two people. Joe starts training to compete in the suitably absurd National Hitman Contest (whose contestants should be very familiar to anyone with some knowlegde of the gangster films of the last decade or so), while Sayoko's medical condition improves by leaps and bounds as her relationship with Sawaki blossoms. In the meantime, the police are still after Sawaki (who looks even more suspicious in their eyes now that he hangs out with Hitman Joe) and the desperate Noguchi is being handed an ultimatum for returning his pinky.
Though director Sabu chooses a tone of broad comedy and downright parody, at times Postman Blues is a beautifully touching film. Unusual for a parody, there is life and personality to the main characters, and the scenes between Sawaki and Sayoko - which like their personalities are understated and quiet - are emotional and moving without sticking out from the rest of the film. Another example is the finale, which manages to be achingly funny and moving at the same time.
Different to what the title might lead one to believe, Postman Blues is a funny, inventive and winning charmer from start to finish.