If you’ve seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the beginning of the documentary Sushi: The Global Catch will seem very familiar. It’s got the musings about the craft of making sushi, the insight into the arduous apprenticeships, the footage of the Tokyo fish market, even the interstitial shots of busy city streets and glistening pieces of nigiri. But the cinematography is lacking compared to Jiro: The colors are flatter, the shots seem perfunctory instead of meditative. And there’s no Jiro Ono, the sushi master who is the font of wisdom and the source of fascination at the center of Jiro. One chef interviewed here sounds revelatory, talking over portentous background music, but the translation is: “Tuna is delicious for eating raw. It is popular to eat maguro raw. I think tuna is the king of raw fish in some sense. That’s why people love and eat it.”
This is followed by far too much footage about sushi’s rising popularity: Even people in Poland eat it! Even CHINESE people! And TEXANS!!! A sushi food truck exists! A man invented a sushi roll in a tube! Etc.! Then, at last, the music turns doomy and the subject matter turns to supply and ecosystem and sustainability. In case you’ve been living under a rock, people are eating too much sushi, especially bluefin tuna, and China is only making matters worse. It’s all true, and it’s vitally important—and notably lacking in Jiro—but the scattershot approach that Sushi: The Global Catch takes to the issues does a disservice to the viewer and the ocean. Short shrift is given to the complex realm of fish farming, ditto line-catching versus net. We’re told that regulations aren’t working (surprise). A couple sushi chefs who serve sustainable fish in the United States (which you can get here in Seattle at Mashiko and Sushi Kappo Tamura, by the way) get a little time on the soapbox. Then it’s go-download-the-Seafood-Watch-card (at seafoodwatch.org, and you should) and good day. The fish deserve better than this.