New Year’s Resolutions For 2013 – Follow Your Dreams

Genki Jason Bids Goodbye to 2012 Banner

Welcome to my last post of the year.

2012 has been a very good year for me. My blog has grown in terms of views, recognition and content. It reflects the completion of the resolutions I made last year.

Here were my resolutions for 2012:

My resolutions for 2012

  • In 2012, I’ll watch Eiichi Kudo’s 13 Assassins! – as suggested by m from Wildgrounds in my last post,
  • In 2012, I’ll try and formalise my review structure – there have been different variations and my early reviews didn’t even have scores (gasp),
  • In 2012, I’ll start a chanbara season (a bit of a no-brainer and an excuse to watch my DVD of Gohatto more than once),
  • In 2012, I’ll spotlight directors, films and film distributors and try and bring a much more rigorous approach to reviews,
  • In 2012, I’ll get more involved with film culture by going to festivals,
  • In the first week of 2012, I will pick the Spring season anime I will watch and finish them quickly instead of dragging them out over a year,
  • In 2012, I’ll practice writing my Kanji every day and not once a week,
  • In 2012, I’ll try not to bore you… and I’ll try to get a handle on commas…

I got nearly all of them done!

This shows me that I am less lackadaisical and becoming much more organised much like Kondo from Key of Life!

I have organised a review format which I believe works well. I have focussed on directors and films with my seasons dedicated to Shinya Tsukamoto, and two for Sion Sono and a number for Korean films and Christmas. On top of covering film festivals I also went to the 56th BFI London Film Festival. All of these things have been fun to do and have allowed me to meet new people. I also practiced Kanji every day and the results showed in a test where I aced the Kanji section! Since change is always inevitable I have also done other things… While blogging I have got into the habit of updating quite a lot – adding extra trailers and pictures and making sure they are still there. I have updated various parts of the blog including my Top Ten FilmsNotable Director and Film Review Archives, but there are still some ancient areas such as my About page which may be changed.

I am happy with the progress that has been made, especially on the film front as I feel that I am watching great films and informing the world about them in my own little way. This has allowed me to meet all sorts of people and that has been a lot of fun.

That there are always changes that can be made goes without saying and they will be made. I really need to make something of my podcast and I should be a lot more adventurous with the way I present things. I may also drop the number of times I post a week. Towards the end of the year I found it a bit much having to write six times a week and I want to maintain quality.

I would like to thank everyone who has visited my blog and commented on it and I hope you continue to come back.

Mawaru Crusher 11

Anyway, part of 2013 will be continuing on past resolutions. Indeed, you could say that part of the battle will be just to continue that future.

Now we come to the most important bit:

My resolutions for 2013

  • In 2013, I will go to Japan and blog from there (like Sadako’s Movie Shack!),Ai to Makoto's Ai (Takei) Looking to the Future
  • In 2013, I will have a season dedicated to Hideo Nakata, Takashi Shimizu and Beat Takeshi,
  • In 2013, I will review some older Japanese films,
  • In 2013, I will write articles in different styles than the usual format,
  • In 2013, I will speak Japanese and write Japanese every day and try and hook up with more Japanese friends to practice my conversational skills,
  • In 2013, I will review more anime,
  • In 2013, I will submit more reviews to the Korean blogathon,
  • In 2013, I will attend more film festivals,
  • In 2013, I will try not to bore you.

Yotsuba Fireworks

 

Happy New Year!

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Genkina Hito Previews Japanese Film/Anime Releases in the UK in 2013 Part 1 Anime

Aiko Genki Jason 2013 Preview Banner

2012 was an extraordinarily great year for Japanese film fans in the UK what with the film festivals getting awesome titles like Ai to Makoto and Key of Life as well as Third Window Films releasing a plethora of classic and new titles like the Tetsuo boxed set and Kotoko (which turned out to be a group of very popular posts for this blog) and supporting Sion Sono’s latest releases. That was just on the live-action front because Kaze have shown some gumption in acquiring the rights to the Berserk movie trilogy and even going as far as giving them a theatrical release!

What are the films we should be looking forward to in the next year? Well this is hardly an exhaustive list but I hope to give a heads up as to when some great titles are about to drop!

 Manga Entertainment UK

Wolf Children TransformManga Entertainment UK announced a plethora of awesome titles back in October at the London MCM Expo with The Wolf Children being my highlight. Am I hyped for that? Damn straight because that is an awesome title and was even my film/anime of the year! A definite purchase. I cannot praise this film enough but I will hold back for now and maybe indulge the need when I get the DVD.

The Wolf Children

  

In a story that takes place over thirteen years the theme of love between parents and children is explored. It starts when a college student named Hana falls in love with a “wolf man” named Ō kami. The two marry and have children – 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 an incident happens and Hana decides to move to the country.

Next up in order of coolness is Blood-C.

I loved the original Blood: The Last Vampire and its sequel Blood+. Heck, I went to see the live-action movie and wore my Blood+ t-shirt to the screening, something I rarely do with anime merchandise but I was disappointed with Blood-C and wrote a dismissive review.

Blood-C's SayaIt turns out I was a bit too premature with my criticism but the first few episodes of the TV anime irritated me (and many others, it must be said) with its use of moé tropes/cuteness. Then something happened… The final episode saw enough blood and carnage raining down to make the red sea literal as it tore its face off and revealed a horrific visage of gore-streaked and flesh rending extreme violence.

Can you say “Wolf in sheep’s clothing”?

And yet I still have not watched the series but now I get a chance with the release of Blood-C and its movie sequel Blood-C: The Last Dark. 

 

Fumito Nanahara is an influential politician who rules Tokyo with an iron fist. He has introduced the Youth Ordinance Bill which enforces curfews for the young and regulates the internet. Despite this a group of young people have formed a group named SIRRUT and pan on attacking Fumito. In the course of their research they discover “Tower”, a secret organisation that is backing Fumito and conducts human experimentation. When Sirrut attempt to expose “Tower” in the Tokyo subway mysterious creatures appear. So too does Saya, a young girl who survived the horrific incident in Ukishima Province with a sword that can defeat the Old Ones.
Blood-C The Last Dark Movie PosterOld Ones? Sounds like a case of Lovecraftian horror! If so, I’m there! Blood-C: The Last Dark saw CLAMP (Cardcaptor Sakura) and Production I.G. (Patlabor) join forces with CLAMP handling the story and character designs and Production I.G. staff animating and directing. The cast includes Nana Mizuki (Fate Testarossa in Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha) reprising the role of Saya Kisaragi.

Staff from the TV series mostly made a return with Jun’ichi Fujisaku and CLAMP’s Nanase Ohkawa fulfilling writing duties however, the most defining change is that series director Tsutomu Mizushima (Another) is replaced by animator Naoyoshi Shiotani (Tokyo Marble Chocolate) as director.

They are not the only titles getting released by Manga UK. Also seeing a release is Jormungand and Guilty Crown in April, Cat Planet Cuties, Aria and Hellsing Ultimate parts 1 to 8 which Manga Entertainment will release in sets sometime ‘hopefully’ in May. Manga Entertainment are “still negotiating with Kadakowa over the series Steins;Gate, my runner-up anime of the year for 2011, and that it ‘might’ be ready by May or June 2013”.

Continue reading “Genkina Hito Previews Japanese Film/Anime Releases in the UK in 2013 Part 1 Anime”

Zombideo, I Don’t Want to Go to School, Blue Exorcist Trailer and the Japanese Movie Box Office Chart

old boy endChristmas came and went a little too quickly for my taste this year. The big day happened, I ate heartily gave out a lot of presents and received a lot and before I knew it I was back in work! Over the Christmas period I watched some low-budget J-horror films and a lot of giallo titles including the gloriously titled Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key. Seriously, that is an awesome title. I thought the movie was equally awesome. Anyway, it’s almost time to say goodbye to 2012 but this week I got a lot done including a review of The Voice and my Best Of string of posts including best video game, best film and best film/anime. Tomorrow I look forward to some of the far eastern titles getting a release in the UK next year and on New Year’s Eve I use my last post of the year to babble about stuff and thank people and other things. I promise plenty of great images! 

What does the Japanese box office look like today?

  1. One Piece Film Z
  2. Les Miserables
  3. Love for Beginners
  4. Skyfall
  5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  6. Kamen Rider X Kamen Rider Wizard & Fourze: Movie War Ultimatum
  7. Humanoid Monster Bem
  8. The Castle of Crossed Destinies
  9. Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo
  10. Frankenweenie
  11. The Floating Castle

One Piece still dominates the charts and only one of last week’s releases, The Castle of Crossed Destinies, breaks into the top ten. Skyfall climbs back up the chart and The Hobbit has a major fall.

What was released yesterday and what is released today in Japan?

Blue Exorcist                Blue Exorcist Film Poster

Japanese Title: 劇場版 青の祓魔師

Romaji:  Gekijouban Ao no Exorcist 

Release Date: 28th December 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Atsushi Takahashi

Writer: Reiko Yoshida (Screenplay), Kazue Katō (Original Creator

Starring: Nobuhiko Okamoto (Rin Okumura), Jun Fukuyama (Yukio Okumura), Tetsuya Kakihara (Amaimon), Rie Kugimiya (Usamaro) 

I cannot really drum up any enthusiasm for this because I have no watched the TV anime. I do know the staff and cast behind it. The movie is animated by A-1 Pictures who are behind one of my favourite anime shows of the summer season, Sword Art Online. The director is Atsushi Takahashi who was assistant director on Spirited Away, one of my all-time favourite cinema experiences. Reiko Yoshida is responsible for the screenplay and she wrote the screenplay for The Cat Return, an anime I really like. Music is provided by Hiroyuki Sawano (Guilty Crown), Shinji Kimura is art director and he has worked on a huge array of films including Akira, Project A-Ko, Spriggan, Steamboy, Tekkonkinkreet which all have distinctive and brilliant animation and art. Keigo Sasaki, who worked on the rather good Le Chevalier D’Eon, is providing the character designs.

 

 

Zombideo                                                      Zombideo Film Poster

Japanese Title: ゾンビデオ

Romaji: Zombideo

Release Date: 29th December 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Kenji Murakami

Writer: Katsuo Kawai (Screenplay),

Starring: Mami Yajima, Miyuki Torii, Takashi Nakajima, Jouichi Ohori

Ah… zombies. I have had my fill of zombies this year what with The Walking Dead. Originally made in 2011, this horror comedy stars Mami Yajima who is a member of the idol group “°C-ute”. There have been quite a few films like this made over the past year. This one looks like low-budget fun with plenty of fights, bizarre characters and cheap make-up. As it is the end of the year, I do not think I would go out my way to see this.

Aiko (Yajima) works for a TV production company and discovers a video called “Introduction to Science”, a “how to” video which features a guide on dealing with zombies. Good timing really because a zombie army floods Japan and it is up to Aiko to beat back the ravenous hoards.

 

I do not Want to Go to School – Chrysalis                   Sanagi Film Poster

Japanese Title: さなぎ 学校に行きたくない

Romaji: Sanagi Gakkou ni Ikitakunai

Release Date: 29th December 2012 (Japan)

Running Time:103 mins.

Director: Junko Miura

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

This documentary follows Ai Kinoshita, a school girl who lives in Ina Valley in Nagano Prefecture, a place full of beautiful nature. When Ai refuses to go to school, her family are upset and have to explore alternative forms of education and simply spending time with friends and family in order to get Ai back into school again.

Genkina hito’s Best Film (and Best Anime) of the Year Part 2 – The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki

Genki Best Of Banner

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012 was to tackle watching anime more Kill Me Baby's First Assassinationaggressively. I ended up watching and enjoying the rather light school assassin comedy Kill Me Baby, a series generally rubbished by critics and viewers alike. I then watched the supernatural school mystery Another, a series which I found to beAnother - Mei Misaki Up Close particularly involving due to its central mystery of figuring out who is the ghost (and I never saw the answer coming). It had a live-action movie released earlier this year and I ended up buying the light novels when I went to the BFI Film Festival. Among other titles that made an impact were Sword Art Online, Mysterious Girlfriend X, and the 1999 TV anime Berserk and its movie adaptation. As much as I liked them, they did not move me to the extent that my anime and film of the year moved me.

The Wolf Children

Genki Jason Anime and Film of the Year Wolf Children Banner

The Wolf Children was the first film I saw at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. The setting was good since I saw it at a wonderful cinema in Leicester Square, I had great company with a fellow cinephile and I was enjoying attending my first major film festival. I was uncertain though…

Not about writing about the film. I figured writing a review of The Wolf Children would be easy because I have been charting its progress since its inception thanks to my work as a journalist of Anime UK News. I can list the works of the script writer, character designer and music composer off the top of my head (because I am the sort of irritating person who can list filmographies and cast lists and bewilder people with them). My uncertainty stemmed from the fact that I am familiar with the director’s previous works…

Now I loved Hosoda’s first film The Girl Who Leapt through Time, which told a bitter-sweet teenage love tale but I was disappointed by Summer Wars which was pretty but felt all too familiar, simple and slight. Heck, I still have not written a review for it despite having made notes. Thankfully The Wolf Children, which tackles a coming of age tale,was complex and had detailed characters who grew and offered insights into existential changes of a family.

Wolf Children Height Check

What was spectacular was not the concept involving transforming children – Ghibli does magical realism all of the time – but the wit and intelligence used to serve it up in a coming of age tale and making something unique. That it observed the changes in the characters and family unit without the requirement of softening anything up was also welcome and added so much to the film.

The script gave granular details of life in the real world, an uncaring universe which forces people to find identities. From the believable start of the film to the enigmatic ending, I was gripped by the story and emotions it evoked. The film never offered trite answers to the challenges faced by the titular wolf children and that was an aspect that I enjoyed tremendously as it made the film gripping, so much so that during the film I (along with all of the audience) was sharing the surprise, joy and tears of the characters and willing the wolf children Ame and Yuki on to better futures. While the character arcs are not all that original the depth of detail and the unique deployment of the fantastical won me over. That it was the mother Hana, a person who is as normal as you or I, who has the most fulfilling arc came as a major surprise and became a major triumph.

This detail and rigorousness extended from the script to the animation and direction. The initial part of the film which roots the travails of the family in real, everyday problems is reflected in the use of close-ups and tight framing, cluttered sets and busy locations while believable and banal things that we tend to forget about pose obstacles and threats. That I felt a palpable relief when the film gave way to the openness of the country with visually stunning scenes of nature shows how much I had been affected and the fact that I actually thought about these things shows that the film succeeded in building a believable world.

This believability comes from the fact that every minute was packed full of detailed backgrounds and life. University noticeboards were packed with detailed leaflets and flyers, school corridors had the freshly clean sheen, raindrops plunged onto leaves and slid down. You can imagine people walking off screen and still existing including Ame and Yuki.

Wolf Children Snow Chase

I have to mention other names involved in the staff (because I am the sort of irritating person who can list filmographies and cast lists – seriously, why do people look bewildered when I do this?). The characters are designed by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto who has a knack of being able to create compelling looking leads. Witness the cast of Evangelion and Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise. It is no different here. The characters look both cute and relatable. Their changes are charted from the maturing of the children to the weight Hana puts on during pregnancy. They have stayed in my mind as vivid and real and life like when other, more stylised anime have fallen off the radar. The film’s soundtrack, composed by Joe Hisaishi who has created some of the best film scores ever, just listen to The Kids Return, Sonatine and Princess Mononoke. The scenes where Ame and Yuki tear around fields are exhilarating due, in part, to his music which, curiously, reminded me of pieces by Michael Nyman.

What also impressed was the big hearted embrace of traditional Japanese mores and ideals. It seemed a much fuller and more warmly crafted love-letter than the one in Summer Wars. A lot of anime is purely entertainment (and there is nothing wrong with that) but this felt like it was saying something and showing a familiar part of humanity but in a fresh way. It was definitely down to all of the details and the strong direction which is what made this my number one film and anime of the year.

Genkina hito’s Best Film of the Year Part 1 – Shame

Genki Best Of Banner

Sight and Sound Magazine January 2013I bought the January issue of Sight and Sound to read the critic’s film highlights of 2012. The titles that come up frequently are Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Master, Tabu, and Holy Motors. An eclectic mix but I have yet to see them. My blog represents my taste and it is also eclectic and rather idiosyncratic. Foremost is the fact that I love far eastern films regardless of genre – hell, even musicals these days. Indeed, no matter how much I may tease people who love slow-cinema, I still watch it. My Top Ten Films of the year is a diverse list with titles like the existential (or was I reading too much into it?) Goth – Love of Death at ten, the moving reflection on death that is Vital at nine, great genre stalwarts Skyfall and Prometheus both at six and the gloriously OTT musical Ai to Makoto at two. Japan features strongly but there is also a large British contingent which is best represented with my joint number one.

On a related note, I was at a party for the Japanese class when a friend mentioned how I had too many joint places in my Top Ten Films list. Half-jokingly… I think. Anyway the fact is that this year, more than any other previous year, I have fallen in love with so many films and wrote passionately about them. They moved me to feel something and I enjoyed researching and writing the reviews for them.

Next year I will be tougher.

Anyway my best film of 2012… let me rephrase, my best films is a joint entry for Shame and The Wolf Children which happened to be my best anime of 2012 as well (and will follow in another post)!

Two films which could not be more different from one another. Do I really want my number one films of 2012 to be about a sex addict with intimacy issues and a film about children that morph into wolves? What was so good about them?

What was so good was the fact that they both shone a light on aspects of humanity in such original ways.

Shame

Shame Fassbender and Mulligan Banner Genki Jason

Shame was the first film I went to see at a cinema this year. My expectations for it were quite non-existent since I knew little about the film other than it starred Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan and it was directed by Steve McQueen. I was familiar with the actors, having watched films like Jane Eyre and An Education in previous years but Steve McQueen was an unknown quantity. I knew that he and Fassbender had wowed the critics with their previous film Hunger but I ducked the opportunity to see it in a cinema because the subject matter did not interest me. I came to question my decision when I read all of the critical praise for Hunger. I decided to watch Shame to see if the hype was justified.

Continue reading “Genkina hito’s Best Film of the Year Part 1 – Shame”

Genkina hito’s Best Game of 2012 – The Walking Dead

Genki Best Of Banner

This post was longer than I expected but the game affected me that much and the writing just flowed. Despite playing and loving Chrono Trigger and Life Signs: Hospital Affairs, this title won me over. I played the final episode just before seeing Skyfall at a cinema and on the way I was writing a review for the game…

The Walking Dead was easily my game of 2012! MASSIVE SPOILERS

Genki Jason The Walking Dead Banner

I cried at the end. Even before the end, in the sequences leading up to it. So far, everybody I know who plays this ends up crying.

I had not expected to cry playing this game. As much as I like the graphic novel and the television series I had gone into this, rather foolishly, expecting it to be something of a zombie survival simulator where I could test my mettle and all of the knowledge I have accrued watching Dawn of the Dead and other zombie films.

What I got was a well-scripted and brilliantly acted drama which exposed what it truly means to be a survivor of a zombie apocalypse. It was tough, bloody and brutal and it put characters through hell.

Continue reading “Genkina hito’s Best Game of 2012 – The Walking Dead”

The Voice

Genki Jason The Voice Film Review Banner

The Voice                                                                             Voice Film Poster

Hangul: 여고괴담 4 : 목소리

Romanisation: Yeogo Goedam 4: Moksori

Release Date: 20th July 2005 (South Korea)

Running Time: 104 mins.

Director: Choi Ik-Hwan

Writer: Choi Ik-Hwan, Sul Joon-Suk

Starring: Kim Ok-Vin, Cha Ye-Ryun, Seo Ji-Hye, Kim Seo-Hyung, Lee Eun, Lim Hyun-Kyung, Jun Ji-Ae, Kim Sung-Tae, Nam Sang-Ran

This is the fourth instalment in the Whispering Corridors series and the directorial debut of Choi Ik-Hwan who was assistant director on the first film of the series, Whispering Ghost School Horror DVD CaseCorridors. The Voice is the final instalment in the Tartan Ghost School Quartet Box Set so I wanted it to be a really good film and it was, beating back any negative feelings invoked by Wishing Stairs and establishing itself as my third favourite Korean horror movie behind A Tale of Two Sisters and Memento Mori.

Sun-Min (Seo Ji-Hye) misses her friend Eun-Young (Kim Ok-Vin) after class and goes searching for her. She finds her singing in the school’s music room. Eun-Young wants to stay longer so she can practice but she is disturbed by another person singing and then a mysterious shadowy figure begins to torment her. She finds herself pursued and then killed, her body disappearing. The next day Sun-Min is concerned by her friend’s absence but when she starts hearing Eun-Young’s voice coming out of nowhere she is terrified. She quickly adapts to the situation and discovers that Eun-Young’s spirit is trapped in the school. Eun-Young makes the plea, “I can’t disappear without knowing why I died.” With the help of fellow student Cho-Ah (Cha Ye-Ryun), a girl once in a mental hospital, Sun-Min seeks to unravel a supernatural mystery which centres on the music teacher Hee-Yeon (Kim Seo-Hyung).

This is the fourth in the Whispering Corridors series and is about questioning whether we can truly ever know a person or even ourselves. It is done with a close up of three school girls and a brooding and probing use of the supernatural in a mystery narrative.

The Voice Sun-Min (Seo Ji-Hye) and Eun-Young (Kim Ok-Vin) Wander the Corridors

 

The twisting mystery takes place in a mostly linear manner (with a few flashbacks) over five days and mostly in the location of a modern school where students are told, “The purpose of life is achieving satisfaction. You have to work hard”.

Like in the previous films the school system is demanding but instead of being exploitative or authoritarian as in the previous films, it is a little laid back (only a little) and this time it is about the lengths people will go to achieve personal satisfaction. The key to mystery of why Eun-Young died is intrinsically linked to her behaviour in her past life, the degree of her search for satisfaction and those it hurt. Solving it reveals some insights for all involved with the characters and audience learning some things.

The Voice Cho-Ah (Cha Ye-Ryun) Offers a WarningThe film plays on the audience’s need to identify with the protagonist and plays with our perceptions of the characters and Sun-Min finds out some unpleasant truths about her friend. As Cho-Ah tells Sun-Min, “a ghost remembers only what it wants to” but is Cho-Ah to be trusted? Is Sun-Min as good a friend as we suppose? The script is good at planting doubts in our minds as we follow their investigation.

The girls are empathetic. This is not a case of character assassination as motivations are complex and even when callous behaviour is revealed they never totally lose sympathy. Part of our connection to them is because we get some really good takes on a supernatural haunting that Eun-Young undergoes. As a ghost, Eun-Young discovers the horror of being trapped in the school as real time unfolds. She is alone all night and is constantly awake, these scenes are unnerving because of some of the things that she sees and they help gain her sympathy. What happens is a stylish character piece which, while not as good a drama/film as Memento Mori, it is a far scarier prospect.

The Voice  Eun-Young (Kim Ok-Vin) In School at Night

The haunting starts straight away and is woven into the story alongside the drama which makes the use of the two seamless. Within the first few minutes Eun-Young is killed by a poltergeist which has a knack of causing excessively deadly paper cuts. It is done with a certain stylishness continues throughout the film. Mise-en-scene is perfect. There is a crisp look to the film, shot in a nostalgic amber hue where details are in focus and we can see everything including dust motes in the air and different shades of darkness. CGI is used tastefully as part of ambience of scenes or in conveying the exploration of the past as characters and external locations fade in and fade out of school corridors in stylish sequences that extend towards the horror.

The Voice uses well thought out sound and camera techniques and ideas to generate a horror atmosphere. When Eun-Young realises she is a ghost, the sound drops out and we see her looking bewildered. Her presence causes static in electronic devices (as supernatural presences are supposed to do) and the sound of her voice fluctuates as she tries to talk to Sun-Min. There are subtle things like shadow of a head will emerge from behind a person in medium shots, along with phantom hands and ghostly duets can be heard singing out. Unlike the previous films there are moments of outright terror in this that made me sit bolt-upright, heart hammering and head ringing. One scene takes place in an elevator, the doors opening to a corridor filled with shadows that are a devastating shade of black as a voice can be heard in the distance.

The Voice Sun-Min (Seo Ji-Hye) and Eun-Young (Kim Ok-Vin) In the Elevator of Death

 

The only problem with the film is an ending which reaches for shock and ruins the story that had been built up. Apart from the ending I liked the film a lot what with the good acting and excellent set design and direction.

I have come to realise that the strength of Korean ghost stories is not in making me jump up in fright but in creating a story dripping with atmosphere which leaves me choked up on emotions and gaining new insights into humanity. The Voice did not necessarily achieve these lofty goals but it was scary at points and it is an extremely well-crafted film and intriguing entry that examines the problems with persona, subjectivity and memory in an entertaining way. The film is beautiful and visually engaging and I never lost interest in it once.

4.5/5

The Castle of Crossed Destinies, Joker Game, Odayaka Trailers and the Japanese Movie Box Office Chart

It is almost Christmas!!! Ahem… Like last year, I am going to be wrapping presents upPersona Saturday Face while listening to awesome J-rock. I am looking forward to receiving my presents but I know few, if any, will be films. My tastes are too niche and I tend to buy a lot every month which puts people off buying them for me. To Teshigahara Setremedy this I bought myself a box set of Hiroshi Teshigahara films (Woman in the Dunes, Pitfall and The Face of Another) which was released by Criterion Collection (thanks go out to Goregirl for the tip!) and I bought a Haibane Renmei complete series box set. Anyway… this week I finished watching Le Chevalier D’Eon and I had a dinner date with a Japanese friend and a party at work and now I am on holiday for the next few days. In terms of films, for my Genki Haibane Renmei Box SetChristmas Season 2012, I reviewed Wishing Stairs, The Doll Master and Berserk Golden Age Arc I: Egg of the King. I have quite a few more films I want to review before the end of the year so stay tuned. I also watched I Saw the Devil and The Voice and I am going to watch Poetry (Dir. Lee Chang-Dong) tonight (thanks to the insistence of a Korean friend) so expect reviews for them next week apart from Poetry which isn’t K-horror but slow-cinema and will get reviewed next year when I finally stop reviewing horror films after nearly two years.

What do the Japanese charts look like today?

  1. One Piece Film Z
  2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  3. Humanoid Monster Bem
  4. Love for Beginners
  5. Kamen Rider X Kamen Rider Wizard & Fourze: Movie War Ultimatum
  6. Skyfall
  7. Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo
  8. Frankenweenie
  9. Inazuma Eleven The Movie 2012
  10. Lesson of the Evil
  11. The Floating Castle
  12. A Chorus of Angels
  13. Trouble with the Curve
  14. Crow’s Thumb

Well anyone even vaguely familiar with One Piece will have guessed that it would top the charts and it had a $16 million opening. Humanoid Monster Bem, another film released last week, comes in at number three with decent numbers. Takashi Miike’s latest film Lesson of the Evil hangs in the top ten at ten! Head over to Sadako’s Movie Shack for a great review!

What are some of the Japanese titles released In Japan today?

The Castle of Crossed DestiniesThe Castle of Crossed Destinies Film Poster

Japanese Title: 大奥 永遠

Romaji: Ohoku Eien

Release Date: 22nd December 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 124 mins.

Director: Shunsuke Kariyama

Writer: Osamu Suzuki (Script),Fumi Yoshinaga (original manga)

Starring: Masato Sakai, Miho Kanno, Machiko Ono, Jun Kaname, Emoto Tasuku

This is the film adaptation of Fumi Yoshinaga’s manga and it follows a television drama, The Lady Shogun and Her Men. It stars Masato Sakai (Key of Life) and Miho Kanno (Dolls).

It is 1716 and a mysterious epidemic has struck Japan slashing the number of men down to a quarter of their number. Now women are taking a dominant role in society and the inner chambers of the Shogun’s castle is a battlefield for 3,000 men who vie for the affection of a female shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (Kanno).


Joker Game                                                    Joker Game Film Poster

Japanese Title: ジョーカー ゲーム

Romaji: Jo-ka- Ge-mu

Release Date: 22nd December 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 99 mins.

Director: Takafumi Watanabe

Writer: Yu Takeuchi (Script),

Starring: Rie Kitahara, Sara Takatsuki, Yui Koike, Shotaro Okubo, Atsushi Shiramata, Manami Ikura, Madoka Yoshida, Takuya Mizoguchi, Takuya Negishi, Yukijiro Hotaru, Mika Akizuki, Tsutomu Nagai, Kanji Furutachi

Another AKB48 member (Kitahara), another teen horror movie. This is the debut movie for many of the cast apart from Takuya Mizoguchi who was in Sukiyaki Western Django and Ninja Kids!!!. He is supported by Yukijiro Hotaru (Mitsuko Deivers, A Man with Style) Kanji Furutachi (Dead Waves, The Woodsman and the Rain) and Mika Akizuki (Another). This looks like an extremely cheap Battle Royale

Chinatsu (Kitahara) is at a camp with other high school seniors when their homeroom teacher announces that they must all play a game of “Old Maid”. Sounds like old-fashioned fun until they realise that as part of a scheme to reverse declining academic standards, students who lose the game will die.

 

Odayaka                                                                      Odayaka Film Poster

Japanese Title: おだやか な 日常

Romaji: Odayaka na Nichijou

Release Date: 22nd December 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 102 mins.

Director: Nobuteru Uchida

Writer: Nobuteru Uchida (Script),

Starring: Kiki Sugino, Yukiko Shinohara, Takeshi Yamamoto, Ami Watanabe, Ami Watanabe, Yu Koyanagi, Makiko Watanabe, Maho Yamada, Susumu Terajima, Maki Nishiyama, Kotaro Shiga, Kanji Furutachi, Yuko Kibiki, Yuya Matsumura, Kan Takashima, Eriko Oguchi,

This is a film which covers the March 11th earthquakes. This is another fiction film addressing the March 11th Earthquake and Tsunami following Women on the Edge, The Ear Cleaner and The Land of Hope. It is written and directed by Nobuteru Uchida (Love Addiction).

Saeko (Sugino) and Yukako (Shinohara) are neighbours in a Tokyo apartment complex. Following the March 11th Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami both find their lives affected by newfound fears. Saeko is undergoing a divorce and fears her daughter may get radiation exposure. Yukako also fears the radiation and asks her husband to move. When Saeko saves Yukako from suicide, the two become close.

Berserk Anime Movie Guts Talking

Berserk: Golden Age Arc I: The Egg of the King ベルセルク黄金時代篇III:覇王の卵 (2012)

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Berserk: Golden Age Arc I: The Egg of the King        Berserk Film Poster                      

Japanese Title: Berserk Ōgon Jidai-Hen III: Haou no Tamago

Romaji: ベルセルク黄金時代篇III:覇王の卵

Release Date: 4th February 2012 (Japan)

UK Release Date: 2013

Running Time: 80 mins.

Director: Toshiyuki Kubooka

Writer: Ichiro Okouchi (Script),Kentarō Miura (original manga)

Starring: Hiroaki Iwanaga (Guts), Takahiro Sakurai (Griffith), Toa Yukinaru (Casca), Aki Toyosaki (Charlotte), Kenta Miyake (Nosferatu Zodd)

I find it hard to believe that I resisted Berserk until earlier this year. My first taste of it was an unpromising opening episode from the anime that was part of a cover-disc on Neo magazine and a Dreamcast game (Sword of the Berserk: Guts’ Rage) which convinced me that it was a simplistic medieval hack and slash title. Then I was inspired by fan fervour to watch the twenty-five episode TV series. At first bemused at the story of a guy with a huge sword in a love triangle with a bishōnen and tsundere I gradually lost my flippant attitude and got sucked into the saga of Guts.

How did I go from dismissal to full embrace?

I came to realise Berserk was a magnificent existential drama taking place in a medieval world laced with supernatural elements and populated by characters I came to care about. It also had awesome action, music and an ungodly amount of gore which also helped. When I watched the movie at a recent anime film festival it was with a sense of trepidation. If it was bad I would be pretty disappointed. Thankfully the movie proved to be a great adaptation.

Guts is a wandering mercenary who has a huge sword and few dreams or ambitions beyond surviving. All of that changes after he meets Griffith, leader of a group of mercenaries named Band of the Hawk who are working for the Kingdom of Midland in their war against Chuder. Guts decides to throw his lot in with them and develops a deep relationship with Griffith but also finds that Casca, a commander in the Band of the Hawk, is jealous that Griffith returns his feelings. Both Guts and Casca find themselves facing fierce battles and fierce emotions as they are swept along in Griffith’s rise to power.

BErserk Griffith Victorious

Berserk Golden Age Arc is the first of a trilogy of films that adapt Kentarō Miura’s much lauded manga which began all the way back in 1990 and was adapted into a twenty-five episode TV anime in 1997/98. The manga currently stands thirty-seven volumes and is still being printed. This trilogy of films focusses on the Golden Age Arc which ranges across volumes three to fourteen of the manga, the same story covered by the anime. That is a lot of ground to cover but this film sets everything up neatly.

Berserk GutsThe script does an excellent job compressing the story into eighty minutes and you do not need to know the original story to fully understand what happens.  The film charts the initial success of the Band of the Hawk and ends just after the assassination run with Griffith’s speech about dreams. While the TV anime had enough air time to give us a mixture of full blown battles with detailed tactics and the twisting court intrigue faced by Griffith in the kingdom of Midland, the film is more selective and the story is told elliptically.

Continue reading “Berserk: Golden Age Arc I: The Egg of the King ベルセルク黄金時代篇III:覇王の卵 (2012)”

The Doll Master

Genki Jason The Doll MAster Review Banner

The Doll Master                                The Doll Master Poster

Hangul: 인형사

Romanisation: Inhyeongsa

Release Date: 30th July 2004 (South Korea)

Running Time: 90 mins.

Director: Lee Myung-se

Writer: Lee Myung-se, Lee Hae-jyung

Starring: Ha Ji-won, Gang Dong-won, Ahn Sung-ki, Song Young-chang, Yun Ju-sang, Do Yong-gu

Writing a review for The Doll Master has been frustrating because I was so uninspired by the film. Despite the great looking DVD cover and poster and the fact that dolls are creepy (as seen in Three Crowns of the Sailor¹) I found it to be a dull experience.

A woman is travelling to a doll gallery deep in a forest. She is a sculptor named Park Hae-Mi (Kim Yu-Mi) and she finds herself among a group of people including Hong Jung-Ki (Lim Hyung-Joon) a photographer, and Jeong Yung-Ha (Ok Ji-Young) a novelist, who have been summoned by Choi Jin-Wann (Cheon Ho-Jin), director of the gallery and Im Jae–Won (Kim Bo-Young), the doll maker. Park Hae-Mi and the others are there for two days of photography which will be used as the basis to make new dolls. As they make themselves at home and wander the halls, they notice that there are dolls everywhere and they seem to be watching them. When Park Hae-Mi encounters a mysterious girl named Mi-Na (Lim Eun-Kyeong) who claims to have known her all her life, Park Hae-Mi finds herself embarking on a night of terror.

Or she would be embarking on a night of terror if the film was capable of finding an even tone.

The film is a mix of horror and mystery. As is becoming quite noticeable with K-horror, there is a mix of drama in every Korean horror film I have watched thus far. The weakest films tend to have the worst drama as is proven here. The Doll Master starts off confidently enough with a brief historical sequence in 1940’s Korea with a tragic love story between a doll maker and a woman in a kimono. It is here that we get an interesting bit of Asian folklore which shows how an inanimate object can get a soul if people show love and dedication and become attached to it. The inanimate object in this case is a life-size doll. The film then fast-forwards to the future where a diverse group of characters are invited to a cathedral-like doll museum which is where the mayhem involving murderous dolls takes place.

The Doll Master Yeong- Ha(Ok Ji-Young)

The idea is great. Shame the script is rather poor.

Continue reading “The Doll Master”