Wataru Tsurumi’s notorious book, The Complete Manual of Suicide has been blamed for helping people to commit suicide and improving the chances of death occurring. This is not the first time I have encountered Wataru Tsurumi since news organisations around the world carried reports on his work. What I did not know was that his book had inspired a film. The result is far less interesting than one might think.
Yuu (Mizuhashi) is a journalist/cameraman with AX TV, a local broadcaster. He has been tasked with investigating a recent spate of suicides by his boss Yashiro (Sakaki). He heads over to the scene of a group suicide with his assistant Rie (Morishita) where they encounter a survivor (Nagasawa) who puts them on the trail of a woman named Rikki (Nakamura) who organises group suicides through her suicide bulletin board and a DVD she sends to potential suicides. The DVD is called The Suicide Manual. Yuu finds himself haunted by the concept of suicide and becomes obsessed with contacting Rikki.
This V-cinema release was the second directorial effort of Osamu Fukutani, one of the writers from the low-budget horror films The Locker 1 and 2. The cast list for The Suicide Manual features actors from both of those films and even the director Kei Horie. While I was no fan of Osamu Fukutani’s writing in The Locker I am interested in seeing how he squares up as a director.
The film opens with the lines:
The purpose of this movie is to warn against suicide. Its intent is not to encourage people to commit suicide
When I heard news that the character designer for the anime Kino’s Journey was working on a a new project, an OVA named One Off, I was pretty excited. While I resisted the moé vibes given off by the first trailer I did enjoy the art. Now the Japanese movie studio Shochiku has started streaming a second trailer.
Synopsis The story focusses on Haruno Shiozaki, a second-year high school student who lives with her parents at their remote country boarding house in the highlands. She finds life boring and longs to live in the city. Her only joy is brought to her by her scooter, Honda’s Giorno. This will all change after a fateful meeting at the boarding house.
Haruno is voiced by Saori Goto (Kukura in Joshiraku). She will be joined by Saori Hayami (Miho in Bakuman, Saki in Eden of the East), Eri Kitamura (Karen Araragi in Bakemonogatari/Nisemonogatari), Yu Kobayashi (Nice Holystone in Bacanno!), and Sayuri Yahagi (Akechi in Oda Nobuna’s Ambition).
The director is Junichi Sato who has been involved with anime as diverse as Aria the Natural, Gegege no Kitarō, Princess Tutu and Slayers Premium. Shigeru Kimiya (Master Keaton) is acting as chief director. Original character designs come from Kouhaku Kuroboshi who designed Kino’s Journey and Sky Girls. His designs will be adapted for the OVA by Atsuko Watanabe (Acchi Kocchi, GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class). Masashi Suzuki (Tactics and Hell Girl) is writing scripts. Kenichi Tajiri (tsuritama, Aria the Origination) is the art director while music is provided by Takashi Harada (A Tree of Palme). The theme song which can be heard in the trailer comes from Nino and Round Table who worked together on the magnificent opening for Welcome to the NHK. Production is by TYO Animations (Tamayura).
The OVA will be released in two volumes. The first volume will be released on the 28th of November and the second will be released on the 21st of December. The two will be linked together in a theatrical screening at Osaka’s Namba Park Cinema on the 5th of August.
This week I got my Himizu poster from Adam over at Third Window Films and I wrote two reviews for the J-horror films Shibuya Kaidan 1 and 2 and a preview of Fuse: A Gun Girl’s Detective Story. Fuse is really capturing my imagination at the moment. I have been terribly busy this week what with work and life in general and so I found myself watching only a couple of Takeshi Kitano films and no anime (although I did watch the new trailer for One Offwhich still looks intriguing) and I pretty much stopped posting for AUKN (I wonder if anyone notices). I’m back on a somewhat even keel so I’ll resume my news duties and get back to watching more awesome Japanese films. Wasn’t the opening to the London 2012 Olympics spectacula?
Last week’s new entry The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki has taken second in the charts while Uzimaru holds onto the top and Helter Skelter holds on to fourth in its second week. Thermae Romae remains in the top ten. Interestingly it was announced for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival alongside Takeshi Kitano’s latest film Outrage Beyond.
Masahiro Kobayashi, writer and director of grim films like Bashing is back with Women on the Edge which stars Miho Fujima (Ju-On: The Grudge, Tajomaru), Yuko Nakamura (Blood and Bones), and Makiko Watanabe (Himizu, Love Exposure). Reviews aren’t kind.
The three Onodera sisters return to the home of their deceased parents’ in Kesennuma, Miyagi, a place affected by the Tohoku Earthquake. The house has survived the earthquake and tsunami and the three are looking to claim an inheritance. Nobuko (Nakamura) moved to Tokyo and is a divorcee, Takako (Watanabe) moved to New York and works as a butoh dancer. Third sister Satomi (Fujima) stayed behind. There are deep resentments and over the course of the film they will come out.
Yukihiko Tsutsumi went from box-office smash hit SPEC: Heaven to the more intimate and small-scale film My House. Now he is tackling a parody of super sentai shows as Eight Ranger shows. I really hate that type of show (Takeshi Kitano’s Getting Any? was going along perfectly until the final section with the Earth Defence Force…). It is based on some of the boy band Kanjani Eight’s live performance. Kanjani Eight take the lead roles but there other notable names including Renji Ishibashi (One Missed Call, Audition, Outrage), Hitomi Takahashi (The Sound of the Sea, Crime or Punishment?!?), and Misako Renbutsu (River, Quirk Guys & Gals).
The devastated city named Eight City is under attack from Dark Crusade and only the Eight Rangers can protect the inhabitants.
Naruto the Movie: Road to Ninja.
Sixteen years ago, a creature known as Kurama the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox was released from its jinchūriki (living prison) by a mysterious ninja and unleahed on the Hidden Leaf Village, leading to the death of many people. In order to stop this demon the Fourth Hokage Minato Namikaze, and his wife Kushia Uzumaki, who was the jinchūriki, sealed the demon inside their new born son, Naruto. With the beast sealed inside Naruto, things went back to being peaceful until a group of ninja known as Akatsuki attack the village. They are under the guidance of Tobi, the mysterious ninja who unleashed the demon the first time.
This is the sixth Naruto movie to be released thus far and it is set in an alternate timeline in which Naruto’s parents are still alive. People also have very different personalities as seen when Sasuke is hitting on Sakura and Hinata is much more aggressive. Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of Naruto, is handling the character designs and writing the script with Yuka Miyata (Naruto Shippūden) for the movie. The film is directed by Hayato Date who has handled countless Naruto TV episodes and movies like Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow. The franchise voice actors also return with Junko Takeuchi voicing Naruto, Nana Mizuki voicing Hinata, Noriaki Sugiyama voicing Sasuke and Chie Nakamura voicing Sakura. The awesome J-rock outfit Asian Kung-Fu generation are providing the film’s theme.
I found the first instalment of the Shibuya Kaidan franchise to be hampered by a disappointingly generic story with wafer thin characters while the low-budget effects offered mixed results. The Locker 2 improves greatly on the first film.
Ayano (Horikita) has been given a terrible gift from Rieka (Mizukawa) – a key to a coin-locker. Ayano tracks down the coin-locker but decides that she should leave it be. Unfortunately some students at her school have heard of the urban legend surrounding a coin-locker in Shibuya which grants wishes. Their interest in the coin-locker will release the curse again.
Following directly on from the last movie the world of Shibuya Kaidan has already been established and so the sequel has a lot of material to work from including characters. There is also a greater examination of the origins of the curse and more twists on the coin-locker legends. As a result of this there is more time spent massaging scenes and details to create a solid story and even tone. The quality of the script has improved. Nothing evolutionary or wholly original but enough to make the plot tighter and believable, improve the flow of the action, and add details to the characters.
The first full-length trailer for the anime movie adaptation of Kazuki Sakuraba’s novel Fuse: A Gun Girl’s Detective Story (Fuse Teppō Musume no Torimonochō) was released last week and I am even more excited at the prospect of this historical fantasy anime movie which reminds me of Duelist.
The story follows a teenage girl named Hamaji who joins her brother in hunting dog-human hybrids known as Fuse as part of a karmic cycle of retribution. The movie is based on the novel Fuse Gansaku: Satomi Hakkenden which was written by Kazuki Sakuraba, author of the Gosick light novels. She was inspired by a 19th century epic novel series named Nansō Satomi Hakkenden written by late Edo Period popular author Kyokutei Bakin. His tales dealt with themes based on Buddhist philosophy, Confucianism, and Bushido as it followed eight samurai serving the Satomi clan during the Sengoku (Warring States) period. These samurai are the reincarnations of the spirits that Princess Fuse mothered with a dog named Yatsufusa and they each represent a Confucianist virtue.
Although this isn’t the first time Kyokutei’s story has been adapted into modern mediums like anime – it had a 1999 sci-fi TV anime series named Shin Hakkenden and the story was adapted for the video game Okami – it is the first time it has been made into a movie. The film is directed by Masayuki Miyaji (Eureka Seven, Xam’d: Lost Memories). The script comes from Ichiro Okouchi who is the scriptwriter for episodes of Azumanga Daioh and the Berserk movie adaptations. Music comes from Michiru Oshima who has composed the music for Production I.G.s historial fantasy Le Chevalier D’Eon. Okama is in charge of design and he has worked on the recent Evangelion anime movies.
Hamaji is voiced by Minako Kotobuki (Yūko Nishi in A-Channel) and she is supported my Mamoru Miyano (Rintarō Okabe in Steins;Gate), Maaya Sakamoto (Hitomi in Escaflowne and Akashi in Tatami Galaxy), and Hiroshi Kamiya (Kou in Arakawa Under the Bridge).
I first heard of the director Kei Horie when I did one of my trailer round-ups a few months ago. His latest film, Sentimental Yasuko, sounded very interesting so I checked his filmography where I discovered that he had a number of J-horror titles early on in his career named The Locker 1 and 2 and he had starred in Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On: The Grudge 2. Both The Locker 1 and 2 are available as a set in the west. I am going to review them one at a time to find out what they are like.
Rieka (Morishita) and her friends Ai (Suzuki), and Akihiko (Wada), are on a group date with a bunch of guys. They travel to the countryside for a camping trip and end up in a field with a Jizo statue which indicates that the ground is sacred and looked after by the statue. Rieka hears a baby crying but none of the others do. Ai points out that “Rieka has always been the one who says strange stuff” but it is clear that the group are spooked and they soon head back to Shibuya where they have stored some of their stuff in a coin locker. When Ai and Akihiko disappear Rieka is concerned. A student Rieka is tutoring named Ayano (Horikita) tells her of a haunted coin locker in Shibuya that brings luck if you confess love in front of it but this does not seem to be the case and that coin locker may be much more deadly than first imagined.
The Locker is low-budget take on the urban legends which surround coin lockers. It attempts to weave together ideas surrounding love and responsibility and the disposable nature of such things in the modern world with a nice twist on the coin locker legend. It is these elements which are the strongest in the movie because every other element is under-written and its horror imagery is all too familiar but even within the clichés it has moments when it shows a degree of skill.
A Blu-Ray re-release of Love Exposure had to happen. At four hours the film has to be split up on to two discs when it is transferred onto DVD which means breaking the magic of a viewing experience by getting up and changing discs. Love Exposure is now on Blu-Ray (its release coincides with the DVD/Blu-ray release of Sion Sono’s newest film Himizu). You can hear what Goregirl and I thought about the film in our next Sono podcast next week. By the way, four hours was not the total running time of the film and a lot of it was cut but thanks to the storage capacity of Blu-Ray you get all of that cut footage amidst an awesome set of extras.
One of the most talked-about Japanese cult films of the last decade finally makes its way onto blu-ray featuring a new high definition transfer supervised by director Sion Sono along with brand new extra features!
Japan/2008 / 237 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / Colour / HD
DVD/BLU-RAY RELEASE DATE: 6th August 2012
1 hour long ‘Making Of’
Additional 30 minute ‘Making Of’ featuring interview with Sion Sono
Sakura Ando Deleted & Extended Scenes
Hikari Mitsushima Deleted & Extended Scenes
Zero Church Deleted Scene
Yu (Nishijima) lives the life of a devout Christian. After his mother dies his father Tetsu (Watabe) becomes a priest but is soon seduced by an emotionally volatile woman named Kaori (Watanabe) who then proceeds to leave him. A heart-broken Tetsu begins to torment the spiritually and morally innocent Yu by forcing him to confess sins on a daily basis. To appease his father Yu begins to sin and on the advice of delinquent friends he trains to become an expert in up-skirt photography and becomes a master at getting panty shots. One day, while dressed as a woman, he witnesses a beautiful man-hating girl named Yoko (Mitsushima) get into a street brawl. He instantly falls in love with her and decides to intervene. Little does he know that a cult leaderin the Zero Churchnamed Aya (Ando) is manipulating them for her own purposes.
This week I posted a review for the South Korean horror movie Bedevilled, a trailer for Ushijima the Loan Shark and a review of the French film Irma Vep. Irma Vep had been on my movie wish list for a long time and now it has left that and entered my favourite movies of all time.
The top 15 of the Japanese movie box-office charts this week are saturated with last week’s releases. Drudgery Train entered at thirteen, Nanoha at five, Helter Skelter at four, the latest Pokemon movie enters at two and Uzimaru 4 storms to the top. Gusko Budori falls out of the top ten in its second week and Thermae Romae still (still!) sticks in the top ten and has achieved $72, 844,388. It boggles my mind how a manga with such a strange premise could achieve so much. I’m assuming it’s a combination of Hiroshi Abe’s great looks and great comedy.
What Japanese films are released today?
What Japanese films are released today? Last week was very busy with new releases while this week is quiet with The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki being the only major release. It will be interesting to see where this stands next week.
Mamoru Hosoda is frequently called the next “Hayao Miyazaki” but despite similar styles of magical realism and the use of similar themes there is a certain restraint in the fantastical elements that Hayao revels in. My enthusiasm for Hosoda’s work is tempered by the fact that I loved The Girl who Leapt Through Time but was left unimpressed by Summer Wars (which everyone considers his best). As far as this film goes Hosoda is aided with scripting duties by Satoko Okudera who has worked on major anime movies like Summer Wars, Miyori’s Forest, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and The Princess and the Pilot. Legendary character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, FLCL, Evangelion) is acting as character designer here. Madhouse Studio (Paranoia Agent, Black Lagoon, Millennium Actress, Perfect Blue, Master Keaon, Dennō Coil) is co-producing the animation.
A story of love between parents and children that takes place over thirteen starts when a university student named Hana falls in love with Ōkami who is a “wolf man”. The two marry and have children named after the weather on the day they were born – Yuki (snow) the older sister and Ame (rain) the younger brother. The four live quietly in a city concealing the true existence of their relationship until Ōkami dies and Hana decides to move to the country.
The voice actors involved come from the world of live action movies. Hana is voiced by the actress Aoi Miyazaki who starred in Shinji Aoyama’s 2000 film Eureka (she does have experience in anime after voicing Tula in Origin: Spirits of the Past). Ōkami is voiced by Takao Osawa (All About Lily Chou-Chou), Yuki is voiced by Haru Kuroki, and Ame is voiced by Yukito Nishii (Confessions). Other notable names include Momoka Oona (Mitsuko Delivers) who plays an even younger version of Yuki, Amon Kabe(Tada’s Do-it-All House) who plays an even younger version of Ame, Shota Sometani (Himizu, Sadako 3D, Isn’t Anyone live?), Mitsuki Tanimura (13 Assassins), and Kumiko Aso (Pulse).
Irma Vep is a film about the magic of filmmaking, a comment about global film culture and a satirical look at the realities of the French film industry and it has a stellar performance from the incredibly beautiful Maggie Cheung.
Maggie Cheung (playing herself) has been cast by a once legendary director named René (Jean-Pierre Léaud) in the lead role of cat burglar Irma Vep in his remake of the classic silent film serial Les Vampires. From the moment Maggie arrives in Paris chaos ensues as the crew bicker amongst each other, a costumier named Zoe (Nathalie Richard) falls in love with her, and the director suffers a mental breakdown. Already an outsider in Paris she finds herself drawn to the character of Irma Vap and takes to wearing the spandex costume and prowling her hotel at night.
At its simplest the film can be seen as an outsider in Paris stumbling around the chaos of a film in crisis. There are big personalities and the film’s crew suffers internecine warfare, ignorant journalists giving their opinions in interviews, and Maggie left bewildered and amused by these aggressive and forward Europeans. She is frequently cut out of the conversations, only the odd person speaking English to her, and for the most part no one treats her like a star since they are unfamiliar with Hong Kong cinema. It is amusing and great at conveying the sense that she is an outsider which is a situation and sensation that allows Maggie to explore a different culture and her relation to films and the creative process which creates different layers of ideas.
I saw you in a very cheap movie theatre in Marrakech
The film shows how global film culture and creativity is through many details. Various characters have tales of working on Japanese/Chinese film sets and we witness life on a French one. There are clips from French political cinema from 40 years ago and Johnny To’s Heroic Trio.The soundtrack features West Africans melodies, Gainsbourg, and rock & roll, mixing alongside classics sung by chanteuses.
Another movie adaptation of a television series which was adapted from a manga. This time it is Ushijima the Loan Shark and the manga is highly regarded (it won the General category of the 56th Shogakukan Manga Awards last year and was nominated for the Osamu Tezuka Culture Prize in 2008 and 2010). The cast list is very interesting with Takayuki Yamada (13 Assassins, Milocrorze – A Love Story, The Cat Returns!!!) reprising his lead role of Kaoru Ushijima from the 2010 television series. He will be acting alongside AKB48 Team K member Yuko Oshima (The Suicide Song), Kento Hayashi (Girls for Keeps), Yoshinori Okada (Fine, Totally Fine, Kamikaze Girls), and Asuka Kurosawa (Cold Fish, Himizu, Dead Waves).
Kaoru Ushijima (Yamada) is a loan shark who operates out of a business called “Cow Cow Finance”. One of his ‘clients’ is Mirai Suzuki (Oshima) who has taken it upon herself to pay for her mother’s debts and started work in a “Paid date café”. Another client is Jun Ogawa (Hayashi), an ambitious president for an event group who decides to renege on his payment. When Ushijima wrecks Jun’s business, Jun goes all out for revenge.