Shield of Straw, A Woman and War, Jellyfish Eyes, Library Wars, Monster and Other Japanese Film Trailers

Attack on Titan Mikasa PunchThis week started with a look at the Japanese films playing at the Cannes Film Festival 2013. There are two films from two great directors – Miike and Koreeda – and the trailer for Miike’s film gets me hyped up! I followed this with First Impressions of the Attack on Titan and My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected, two of the new titles from the Spring 2013 Season Anime. After three episodes from each I find these two of the best TV anime titles I have seen since Mawaru Penguindrum back in 2011. A bit quiet on the film front. A Japanese essay (finished at the last minute just before the lesson started!) took up most of my time but I did get Bakumatsu Taiyou-den in the post, a film that was shown at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival. I’m going to watch it tonight! Sooo excited!

What do the Japanese film charts look like this week (April 20th-21st)?

  1. Detective Conan Private Eye in the Distant Sea
  2. Crayon Shin Chan! Gourmet Food Survival
  3. Lincoln
  4. Dragon Ball Z Battle of the Gods
  5. Wreck-It Ralph
  6. Steins;Gate Fuka Ryoiki no Deja Vu
  7. The Great Passage
  8. Platina Data
  9. Chinese Zodiac
  10. Doraemon Nobita’s Dinosaur

Well the children’s anime Detective Conan and Crayon Shin-chan zoom out of their release slots last week to take the top two spots on the film chart. Another anime released last week, Steins;Gate, does good business on its opening weekend with $931,275 earned from just eighteen screens. The Great Passage remains in the top ten at seven and Platina Data takes eighth position. Definitely an interesting top ten!

What is released this weekend?

Shield of Straw                                         Shield of Straw Film Poster

Japanese Title: 藁 の 楯

Romaji: Wara no Tate

Release Date: April 26th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 124 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Kazuhiro Kiuchi (Original Novel), Tamio Hayashi (Screenplay),

Starring: Takao Osawa, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Nanako Matsushima, Kimiko Yo, Kento Nagayama, Goro Kishitani, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Hirotaro Honda, Masata Ibu

Takashi Miike is great. Fact. He is going to be at the Cannes Film Festival with his latest film Shield of Straw, an action title/crime-thriller based on a novel by Kazuhiro Kiuchi. The review at the Japan Times scores it as a 3 out of 5 which doesn’t sound spectacular but reviewer Mark Schilling describes it as

“A high-concept entertainment of a type beloved by the local industry, with a hyped-to-the-max plot that features death-defying heroics, the film pushes beyond its own cliches to an existential knife’s edge where the cop hero (Takao Osawa) is tested to the moral core of his being.”

Do we get a sense of that from the trailers?

Can we say f*ck yeah!?!?! TRAILER OF THE WEEK. This is what I want to see!

Kunihide Kiyomaru (Fujiwara) is a murderer. His victim is the granddaughter of a power-player in the political and financial world named Takaoki Ninagawa (Yamazaki).Three months elapse and Kiyomaru thinks he is in the clear until he sees that Ninagawa has placed full page ads in three of the biggest newspapers in Japan offering a 1 billion yen reward to the person who can kill Kiyomaru. Fearing for his life, he turns himself in to Fukuoka Prefectural Police.

This case is highly explosive so five elite detectives from the security section (SP) of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department travel to Fukuoka to escort Kiyomaru back. The distance between Fukuoka and Tokyo is 1,200 km and there are a lot of people who want to collect that reward including rogue police officers. The pressure is on and one of the SP officers, Mekari Kazuki (Takao) begins to show doubts about whether they should protect Kiyomaru but fellow officer Atsuko Shiraiwa (Matsushima) is determined to get the job done.

When I first started reviewing Japanese films properly Miike’s Audition was one of the first titles I looked to because it demonstrated that beyond the attention-grabbing shocks of extreme cinema there was a lot of technical skill on the screen. Little did I realise that I would be seeing most of his latest films in a cinema and heaping further high praise! The reviews range from his remake of the classic 13 Assassins, the amusing kids film Ninja Kids!!! and the cracked musical For Love’s Sake. I hope that Shield of Straw also gets a screening. It stars Takao Osawa (Aragami, Ichi), Nanako Matsushima (Reiko Asakawa in Ringu), Tatsuya Fujiwara (Battle Royale, Death Note), Tsutomu Yamazaki (The Woodsman & the Rain, Tampopo), Kento Nagayama (Crime or Punishment?!?), Kimiko Yo (Departures, For Love’s Sake) and Hirotaro Honda (Zero Focus).


Jellyfish Eyes                                         Jellyfish Eyes Film Poster

Japanese Title: めめめのくらげ

Romaji: Mememe no Kurage

Release Date: April 26th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Takashi Murakami

Writer: Takashi Murakami (Screenplay),

Starring: Takuto Sueoka, Himeka Asami, Masataka Kubota. Shota Sometani, Takumi Saito, Asuka Kurosawa, Kanji Tsuda, Mayu Tsuruta

Takashi Murakami is one of the biggest contemporary artists in the world with his “superflat” style which merges Japanese pop-culture (anime, J-pop) into a colourful representation of what Otaku adore about Japan. When he has exhibited his work in the UK he tends to get column inches in newspapers and some TV air time. He is bringing his unique vision to cinema screens in a film which mixes live-action and animation with magical creatures that look like Pokemon and some family drama. The film’s theme tune sounds awful but the trailer looks kind of good with a mix of comedy and angst and cute and a narrative that manages to weave in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (another film for the list). According to a feature on the Japan Times website it is also a bit of an existential tale and pretty damn awesome.

9-year-old Masashi (Sueoka) lost his father on March 11th and moves to a new town with his mother. He starts at a new school and is the target of bullies. He also gains a friend in his class, Saki (Asami). When unpacking things at home, Masashi finds a strange creature like a jellyfish appears from one of the boxes. He names the creature Kurage Bo and takes him to school where he discovers that everyone in his class have similar “friends” which only children can see and control by remote control. These creatures seem cute and adorable but there is a dark corporate entity controlling them so they can harvest negative energy.

The film stars Takuto Sueoka (Welcome Home, Hayabusa) in the lead role and Himeka Asami (Yellow Elephant) as his friend Saki. Masataka Kubota (13 Assassins, The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky), Shota Sometani (Himizu), Takumi Saito (For Love’s Sake, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl) and the spectacular Asuka Kurosawa (A Snake of June, Dead Waves, Cold Fish).

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