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).

Tabidachi no Shima Uta                                    Tabidachi no Shima Uta Film Poster

Japanese Title: 旅立ちの島唄 十五の春

Romaji: Tabidachi no Shima Uta – 15 no Aru

Release Date: April 27th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 114 mins.

Director: Yasuhiro Yoshida

Writer: Yasuhiro Yoshida (Screenplay),

Starring: Ayaka Miyoshi, Shinobu Otake, Karou Kobayashi, Saori Koide, Ryuya Wakaba, Jyo Hyuga,

Ayaka miyoshi, one of the stars of Good Morning Everyone, last year’s rock film which starred Kumiko Aso, takes the lead in this family drama which examines the lives of a family who are separated from each other due to geographical circumstances.  The trailer makes me think that this is not my sort of film.

Minamidaito Island does not have a high school and so when teenagers hit 15 they must head to mainland Japan. Yuna Nakazato (Miyoshi) is about to make the same trip as her two older siblings leaving her father Toshiharu (Kobayashi) behind. She worries about him being left alone but she will be joining her mother Akemi (Otake), sister Mina (Koide) and brother in Naha. With her date of departure looming Yuna feels unease about her future but also has a curiosity about the wider world.

A Woman and War                              The Woman and War Film Poster

Japanese Title: 争と一人の女

Romaji: Sensou to Hitori no Onna

Release Date: April 27th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 98 mins.

Director: Junichi Inoue

Writer: Ango Sakaguchi (Original Novel), Haruhiko Arai (Screenplay),

Starring: Noriko Eguchi, Masatoshi Nagase, Jun Murakami, Akira Emoto, Hako Oshima, Sakiko Takao

This second world war film sounds very, very good. It’s based on an Ango Sakaguchi novel and it has no battlefield antics, just a searing and ugly reveal of Japan and the darkness encountered by some of those left behind towards the end of the war. Indeed, it has earned a pretty good write-up on Midnight Eye which considers it as treading similar ground as Koji Wakamatsu’s work with its mix of sex, violence and similar political views, “this independently-produced scorcher hits the screen like a bomb blast of fresh, honest air”.

World War II is drawing to a close and a writer and war propagandist named Nomura (Nagase) is preparing for the Allied invasion and the rapine and pillaging that he thinks will follow. A former prostitute turned bar owner (Eguchi) declares that she is happy with the war because it has made everyone unhappy. When the bar owner declares she is selling the bar and will marry the first man who will have her, Nomura agrees and the two retreat from the world to his house and engage in carnal pleasures. Meanwhile, a war veteran named Ohira (Murakami) who lost his arm and his ability to have erections returns from China harbouring dark memories of his service. He is unable to fit back into civilian life and begins to murder women…

It certainly is different from what I usually write about. The film stars Noriko Eguchi (LoftOne Missed Call, Fine, Totally Fine), Masatoshi Nagase (Suicide CircleThe Hidden Blade), Jun Murakami (HimizuIsn’t Anyone Alive?, Vibrator) and Akira Emoto (UnforgivenIchiStarfish Hotel). The trailer isn’t as grim as the synopsis suggests it might be but that’s because of the music. I really like the look of this and I find that Masatoshi Nagase, Akira Emoto and Jun Murakami are quite a compelling actors to watch even when they do nothing on screen.

Library Wars                                        Library War Film Poster  

Japanese Title: 図書館戦争

Romaji: Toshokan Sensou

Release Date: April 27th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 128 mins.

Director: Shinsuke Sato

Writer: Hiro Arikawa (Original Light Novel), Akiko Nogi (Screenplay),

Starring: Nana Eikura, Junichi Okada, Kei Tanaka, Chiaki Kuriyama, Sota Fukushi, Kazuma Suzuki, Jun Hashimoto, Naomi Nishida, Kyusaku Shimada

Hiro Arikawa’s Library Wars light novel series has been a hit in Japan with Production I.G providing some TV anime adaptations. It has been about a year since the anime movie was released. I think I said I would watch the TV anime but I never did. Anyway, here’s the live-action movie. The director is Shinsuke Sato who strikes me as the perfect chap to direct this since he adapted the two Gantz movies and he also directed The Princess Blade. The film stars Nana Eikura (April Bride), Junichi Okada (Tokyo Tower),  Kei Tanaka (Tajomaru, Rent-a-Cat) Chiaki Kuriyama (Ju-on, Battle Royale, The Sky Crawlers, Exte: Hair Extensions, Shikoku), Kazuma Suzuki (Detroit Metal City), Naomi Nishida (Hana, The Happiness of the Katakuris, The Complex) and Kyusaku Shimada (The Woodsman & the Rain). To be honest I have never taken the concept seriously but viewing the trailer has left me interested if only to see Chiaki Kuriyama on the big screen again.

The year is 2019 and an authoritarian government runs Japan. It has passed a law banning free expression and so the government has created an armed force to find and destroy anything it deems as objectionable content like books. Enter the Library Force which aims to protect books. Can Atsushi Dojo (Okada) and Kasahara (Eikura) take down the government?

 Library War Film Image

Kamen Rider x Super Sentai x Space Sheriff Super Hero Wars Z         Kamen Rider and Super Sentai and Space Sheriff Gavan Film Poster

Japanese Title: 仮面ライダー x スーパー戦隊 x 宇宙刑事スーパーヒーロー大戦Z

Romaji: Kamen Raida- x Sūpā Sentai x Uchū Keiji Sūpahīrō Taisen Z

Release Date: April 27th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Osamu Kaneda

Writer: Shoji Yonemura (Screenplay),

Starring: Yuma Ishigaki, Junya Ikeda, Arisa Komiya, Shunya Shiraishi, Makoto Okunaka

Osamu Kaneda, director of numerous super sentai films reunites with Shoji Yonemura who, as a writer, has worked on a variety of titles and was involved with the recently released Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge film. Super Sentai? I don’t watch these films but the trailer looks okay. It stars Junya Ikeda (Love Gear), Yuma Ishigaki (Azumi), Shunya Shiraishi (Gantz, Signal), and Arisa Komiya.

When a magical phenomenon occurs in space it leads to a series of attacks on people that have been linked to organised crime, Space Sheriff Gavan investigates.

Monster                                        Monster Film Poster

Japanese Title: モンスター

Romaji: Monsuta-

Release Date: April 27th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 114 mins.

Director: Akiko Ohku

Writer: Naoki Hyakuta (Original Novel), Miyuki Takahashi (Screenplay),

Starring: Saki Takaoka, Masaya Kato, Jun Murakami, Ren Osugi

This one looks like it could be good. A revenge thriller that could go under the name Never Torture an Ugly Duckling? Or does the girl get the guy, live happily ever after and plastic surgery is seen as a saviour? The trailer started off strong enough with menacing music, sex, surveillance, drugs, some horrible physical situations and emotional torment but tapered off towards the end. This is based on Naoki Hyakuta’s 2010 novel “Monstery”. The cast and staff are pretty good. It is adapted from the page by Miyuki Takahashi (Bakamono) and directed by up and coming female director Akiko Ohku (Tadaima, Jaqueline, Tokyo Nameless Girl’s Story, Tokyo Serendipity). It stars Saki Takaoka (Lesson of the Evil) in the lead role as the monstrous looking woman of the title, Masaya Kato (Gozu) who is the monster’s object of desire, Jun Murakami (The Lightning Tree) who is the pimp of the monster and Ren Osugi (Nightmare Detective, Exte, The Twilight Samurai, Uzumaki) who looks perfect as the sinister plastic surgeon. Who is the real monster? Masako or society?

Masako Tabuchi (Takaoka) has always been an outsider due to her looks. Even her family disowned her. When she is forced out of her home town and heads to Tokyo she decides plastic surgery might help her in her plight and so she works as a prostitute until she has had her entire body remodelled. Then she heads back to her home town to chase the boy she once loved and opens a restaurant. Is she guaranteed happiness or is she a few plates short of a dining set?

Real Basho (Banana)                              Real Basho (Banana) Film Poster

Japanese Title: 実芭蕉 (バナナ)

Romaji: Mibashou (Banana)

Release Date: April 27th, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 84 mins.

Director: Eiji Muramatsu

Writer: Eiji Muramatsu (Screenplay),

Starring: Akiko Horiuchi, Ryusaburo Hattori, Mayumi Yokoyama, Daisuke Udagawa

This film comes out of nowhere… I’m totally unfamiliar with the staff and cast but Eiji Muramatsu has directed two other features before including Tokyo Shit (2011). This film is about the love between three immature adults who have emotional scars from childhood. Hana meets Minoru while travelling and the two decide to commit suicide together. They stop by a café where they witness a miserable chef who follows them on their journey. The three begin knocking around together with Minoru and Hana growing closer to each other.

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

  1. I think I’m only interested in Real Basho (Banana). Can’t tell with Tabidachi no Shima Uta, that trailer was 9 seconds!

    Shield of Straw – not really my kind of movie, I might watch it but it’s not on top of my list.

    1. The trailer for Tabidachi worked fine for me! I think you might like it a lot if you ever get to see the full trailer.

      Shield of Straw is totally my kind of movie! Everybody together, chant his name! Miike! Miike! Miike! 😀

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