This First Impression has been a very long time in coming. Indeed, I am up to episode 8 when I should have written this after episode 1 and chucked it out like a regular aniblogger. It’s not because the show is bad. I really, really like it and think it’s bloody funny.
We are in another dimension. One where magic and religion hold sway over the populace, beasts’ stalk the earth and Gods’ reside in the sky. In one corner of this world the Devil King Sadao is the lord of the underworld, he is dread and cruelty incarnate. He has declared war on humanity.
He is close to conquering the continent of Ente Isla.
His four demon generals and their armies of monsters and the undead have stormed across Ente Isla and razed entire villages, putting civilians to the sword and crushing armies raised up against them.
But when all seems lost Hero Emilia unites humanity and with her combined forces she kills three generals and pushes Sadao’s evil minions back to his castle and lays siege to it and battles him.
On the verge of being beaten by Hero Emilia, Sadao creates a portal to so that he and his last loyal general Ashiya may escape to another world.
He enters the portal and finds that this other world is in our reality. More specifically modern-day Tokyo.
Furthermore, he has lost his demon form and looks like a human! His first priority might be to gather his strength and plan his next attack on Hero Emilia and Ente Isla but he has lost most of his powers. In this world magic does not exist, science and technology provide the framework for life. Sadao has a human body and all of its attendant needs. He still has vestiges of the old world, his funny language and clothes but he is essentially a nobody.
This year marks the centenary of the founding of Nikkatsu Studio and because of this a lot of their old titles are getting restored and re-released. The BFI are joining in with the celebrations by screening a selection of works that came out of Nikkatsu Studio in the 50’s and 60’s with titles from important Japanese directors like Yuzo Kawashima, Shohei Imamura and Seijun Suzuki. The season runs from June 01st to June 30th at the BFI Southbank.
What this season looks good at doing is revealing the grittier edge of post-war Japanese cinema, the changes in sexual politics and just what the taiyozoku (sun tribe) strand of films was like with their focus on nihilistic affluent youth. A lot of the stories are adapted from the books of Shintaro Ishihara, the man who would later become Governor of Tokyo. As far as the actors go well there are some familiar names like Meiko Kaji (Lady Snowblood) and Jo Shishido (A Colt is My Passport) but most are unknown to me.
Here is the selection and the dates and info taken from the site (only a few comments from me edited in). Click on the titles for more information and to order tickets:
Seasons in the Sun: The Heyday of Nikkatsu Studios
Season Introduction: Seasons in the Sun: The Heyday of Nikkatsu Studios
June 03rd, 6:15 PM
Film critic Jaspar Sharp (author of Behind the Pink Curtain and The Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema) is the season curator for the season and he will provide a talk on the films guiding the audience through some of the films that best exemplify the studios output throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Director Yuzo Kawashima’s reputation is in the middle of a revival at the moment, starting with a retrospective of his films at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival and continuing with reissues of his titles like Bakumatsu Taiyo-den (courtesy of Masters of Cinema). This was one of the films screened at Berlin.
A newlywed couple drawn to the bright lights of Tokyo find their relationship in jeopardy when the pretty young wife Tsutae sees an easy escape route from poverty in the neighbouring red-light district.
The 66thCannes Film Festival came to an end today and the illustrious jury lead by Steven Spielberg had a tough time picking winners. Apart from Spielberg , the jury included interesting names like Japanese film maker Naomi Kawase (The Mourning Forest) who recently had some of her films screened at Rotterdam, Ang Lee (Eat Drink Man Woman), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained and, uh, Carnage), Nicole Kidman (Stoker) and the fantastic French actor Daniel Auteuil (La Reine Margot, Hidden).
This year’s Cannes film festival had a wide variety of films in the running for the Palme d’Or. There were a lot of American films getting excellent reviews like Alexander Payne’s Nebraska and the Coen Brothers Inside Llewyn Davis. Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra was also highly rated with Michael Douglas tipped to win the best actor award for his performance as Liberace. Then it seemed that their chances were eclipsed by a French film that was screened on Wednesday called Blue is the Warmest Colour. As a report on the BBC statedBlue is the Warmest Colour was tipped to win the Palme d’Or with many critics were singing its praises and so it proved to be the right tip since it did walk away with the Palme d’Or.
Last year brought us a few treats in terms of Japanese films but no titles in competition to win the coveted Cannes Palme d’Or but this year Japan has made a major impact with two films in competition from two very special directors, Koreeda and Miike. Review are in for their films and it has been a split between love and dismissal for each director respectively.
Starring: Takao Osawa, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Nanako Matsushima, Kimiko Yo, Kento Nagayama, Goro Kishitani, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Hirotaro Honda, Masata Ibu
Takashi Miike is no stranger to Cannes but the possibility that his latest film Shield of Straw would take the Palme d’Or looked highly unlikely before the critical reviews came in. Let’s be honest, action titles like this just don’t win festival awards regardless of their quality but the critical reaction from western critics has been surprisingly lukewarm and even dismissive.
Japanese reviewer Masaichiro Murayama of the Nihon Keizai Newspaper summed it up the way I figured the movie would perform overall, “Miike’s direction is straightforward, tailored create an enjoyable action movie.” That’s what the trailer promised. On sites like Pia there are a lot of user ratings hanging around 3/3.5 on average.
Then the Cannes reviews came in:
“Though shot in widescreen on a relatively hefty budget, the two-hour-plus thriller makes limited use of its resources, featuring far more talk than action.” Peter Debruge (Variety)
“Sleek and engrossing, though awfully drawn out and short on psychological complexity, this is a straight-up police action thriller that adheres to a very familiar Hollywood template. In fact, its chief enticement outside Japan may be as remake fodder.” David Rooney (Hollywood Reporter)
“It’s hard to immerse yourself in the film’s emotional fabric, however, when your attention is constantly being diverted by the furious pacing and glaring plot holes.” Adam Woodward (Little White Lies)
“It is put together with technical competence, but is entirely cliched and preposterous, and it implodes into its own fundamental narrative implausibility.” Peter Bradshaw (Guardian)
“The script alone could easily inspire a novella detailing all of the plot holes, gaps in logic and insanely repetitive exposition… but the real shame is that the man responsible for some of the smartest, most insane, exuberant, boundary-pushing Japanese movies of the past decade has brought the story to life with such flat, joyless direction…” Brian Clark (Twitch Film)
I wasn’t expecting it Shield of Straw get love at Cannes but I was expecting it to fare better than it did – the 1 star Guardian review is just totally outrageous and an example of what is striking about some of the reviews where more attention is focussed on the implausibility of the script – this is a high concept action film, just enjoy the ride! – but when the reviews do focus on the action it seems to be lacking.
Overall, it looks like one of Miike’s middling movies like Ninja Kids!!!. Not as extreme as his earlier stuff like his low-budget extreme films Visitor Q and Ichi the Killer and not as accomplished as something like his more recent big-budget mainstream films 13 Assassins or For Love’s Sake. I figure I’d like this film. I did like Ninja Kids!!! more than I thought I would. If it were to get screened in the UK I would head out to see it.
Now we come to the good news.
Like Father, Like Son
Japanese Title: そして 父 に なる
Romaji: Soshite Chichi ni Naru
Release Date: October 05th, 2013 (Japan)
Running Time: N/A
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Jun Fubuki, Keita Ninomiya, Lily Franky, Jun Kunimura, Kiki Kirin, Isao Natsuyagi
Like Father Like Son looked to be the favourite Japanese film to take the Palme d’Or before the explicit French lesbian relationship drama Blue is the Warmest Colour came onto the scene and wowed lots of people. Like Father Like Son ticked all of the boxes which could give it the win, great drama, great acting and it has a sentimental story which should appeal to Spielberg. Director Kore-eda is a modern day Ozu, able to capture the emotional geography of everyday Japanese people in all sorts of scenarios and Japanese family life.
The Japan Times beat me to the critical reactions round-up but here are some that stood out to me:
“It is a very decent piece of work, although not as distinctive as those two previous movies, not quite as finely observed and frankly a little schematic and formulaic, with life-lessons being learnt by the obvious people. It does however have charm and abundant human sympathy.” Peter Bradshaw (Guardian)
Not only is it the best picture to be shown in competition so far, it also prompted the loudest reactions yet from this habitually noisy crowd: rippling laughter throughout, sustained applause at the close, and a steady refrain of goosey honks as attendees cleared their tear-streaming noses. Robbie Collin (Telegraph)
Kore-eda’s “Like Father, Like Son” is a characteristically low-key but supple treatment of familial bonds, expectations and responsibilities that reverberates with heartrending impact. Maggie Lee (Variety)
With the same restraint and control over plot and the characters that he has always displayed, he leads the story carefully, avoiding unnecessary histrionics and managing to draw out of calm, carefully weighed reactions, much more than other directors would do by unchaining explosions of temper. But all these qualities are partially wasted on a plot that leaves too many issues unsolved. Dan Fainaru (Screen Daily)
A character study of a rare density and undeniable accuracy, not succumbing neither pathos nor the clinical severity, included in a spontaneous narrative, in which each player is shown a disturbing nature. Two hours, LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON leads the viewer to pests territories laughter the most outspoken of the most cathartic tears. Aurelien Allin (Cinema Teaser)
The reaction of the critic Robbie Collin is what I hoped the film would get. I have yet to review Kore-eda’s films on this blog but I have watched quite a few of them and I feel that each of them has been a carefully crafted drama with so much emotional resonance and humanity that it means so much. They have certainly evoked emotional reactions from me. Perhaps I’m much more sentimental than I’d like to admit but from the early reviews from critics I’m sure I would have been in floods of tears from another great drama. This one looks exactly like tear fuel to me as the trailer reveals.
Well Like Father Like Son didn’t win the Palme d’Or but it did win the Jury Prize! The success of a Japanese film at Cannes makes me happy especially when it’s by Kore-eda. This gets a release later in the year in Japan and with its subject matter and the critical reaction at Cannes it should do well and hopefully get released in the UK soon.
Congratulations go out to Hirokazu Kore-eda.
I would like to thank Bonjour Tristesse for doing a great job covering all of the films at the festival! I only focus on Japanese ones and so getting a round-up of what the rest of the world is doing is really great. Check out his full list of winners!
Only one post this week and that was for the Terracotta Far East Film Festival which I will be attending in just under two week’s time! I have watched plenty of anime including Attack on Titan (tears of bloody joy over Mikasa’s emotional journey!!!), Red Data Girl (I will get that First Impression done!!!) and Aku no Hana (episode 7 just broke my mind with its awesomeness!!!) and with my exams over I will get back to watching and reviewing films!!! Tonight I re-watch 2LDK and Aragami again. Right, now I’m going to head off to Japan Day at Cardiff Library!
What is released this week? I say this week because there is a film festival going on in Japan at the moment and they released some titles on the 20th. There are lots of cool trailers.
Peach Festival Films
Female filmmakers have been on the rise in Japan as well regarded films like Dreams for Sale, End of Puberty and Just Pretendedto Hear reveal. To get a better taste of what other young female directors are doing we get a whole festival dedicated to showing the freshest works coming from them. The theme for this year is ‘Tears’. Here are three short films that will be on the big screen for the Peach Film Festival (Momomatsuri).
Peach Festival Presents Tears “The Morning of the Funeral”
Mariya Nukazuka learned how to make films at the Tokyo National Universit of Fine Arts Graduate School of film. In her short film a woman named Hatsumi (Mitoko) who is back in her hometown to attend the funeral of her grandfather.
Peach Festival Presents Tears “Tokyo Halloween Night”
Mari Okada studied at the California Institute of the Arts and has had her work screened at the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival. Furthermore, she has contributed to the 3.11 film Tomorrow. In this film a female scarecrow (Kimura) who stands in a rice field all day long has one wish, to be human for the night of Halloween. Her wish comes true and so she finds herself on the streets of Tokyo surrounded by people. She meets a zombie (Shibaki) and follows him to a party where the two fall in love.
Maya Kato has appeared at a previous Peach Film Festival with the short film Falling. She reunites with two cast members from that film, Reina Haruyama and Yuri Yamada in a tale about a vampire named Abeko (Haruyama) and a wheel-chair bound virginal woman named Izumi who spend the night with two other people who don’t know that the two may have ulterior motives… like sex and blood! I like the look of the trailer. Very surreal.
Naoya Asanuma’s film Heart Beat played at last year’s Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival. It has an interesting cast made up of actors and actresses who have starred in cool indie films and major titles like Anna Ishibashi (My Back Page, MILOCRORZE – A Love Story), Yuki Kitagawa (Goth – Love of Death, Yo-Yo Girl Cop), and Yurei Yanagi (Kaidan, Ringu, The Complex, Cold Bloom).
Koji, Yuta and Kayo have been friends since childhood. The three play on the school basketball team but they keep on losing which makes their dream of playing in the national championships unlikely. Then Kayo quits without telling anyone why. The reason is because Kayo’s alcoholic mother is back home after drying out at a hospital and while she feels that she must look after her mother she want to re-join the team.
Japanese Title: くちづけ
Romaji: Momo Matsuri Presents Namida “Anemia”
Release Date: May 25th, 2013 (Japan)
Running Time: 123 mins.
Director: Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Writer: Takayuki Takuma (Screenplay)
Starring: Shihori Kanjiya, Naoto Takenaka, Takayuki Takuma, Tomoko Tabata, Ai Hashimoto, Yumi Asou, Mitsuru Hirata, Seiji Miyane, Rei Okamoto
Actor, writer, director Takayuki Takuma (For Love’s Sake) has joined forces with the extraordinarily cool director Yukihiko Tsutsumi (2LDK) is cool (great films, great raconteur). He has worked on big-budget films like SPEC: Heaven and low-budget passion projects like My House. This is a romantic/family story set in a group home for mentally underdeveloped adults … Could be tricky stuff but the trailer is pretty safe and even amusing and sentimental and it has some pedigree since it is based on a successful stage play that Takuma wrote. Mark Schilling’s review makes it sound decent.
The actors involved include Shihori Kanjiya (Survive Style 5+, Dead Waves), Naoto Takenaka (Ninja Kids!!!, Beck), the aforementioned Takayuki Takuma, Tomoko Tabata (The Hidden Blade), and Ai Hashimoto (Another, The Kirishima Thing).
The Sunflower House is a group home for mentally underdeveloped adults. When manga artist Itpon Aijo (Takenaka) and his mentally challenged daughter Mako (Kanjiya) take over the running of the house they encounter the residents including the lively Uyan (Takuma). When Mako and Uyan begin to fall in love it causes Itpon trouble.
Since 2005 Satoshi Miki has rapidly gained a rep for writing and directing great comedies. His reputation is such that Third Window Films has released a box set with three of his titles, Instant Swamp, Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers and Adrift in Tokyo. I have only reviewed the latter but I liked it a lot. This is Miki’s latest film and it had its world premiere at the Udine Far East Film Festival and Mark Schilling has given it an excellent review stating,
Miki, who also wrote the script, maintains the same fine, tight control over his mind-bending material as he did in “Adrift in Tokyo.” And as in the previous film, he weaves deeper themes, as well as a wealth of dryly funny sight gags, into his slight story, but with more abandon and ambition…”
The film stars Kat-Tun member Kazuya Kamenashi (Humanoid Monster Bem), Ryo Kase (Bright Future, Outrage, SPEC), Eri Fuse (Boiling Point) Yutaka Matsushige (The Guard From Underground) and Yuki Uchida (Glory to the Filmmaker!). Unfortunately I couldn’t find a decent trailer (lots of Kat-Tun videos instead). I’ll try and get one later.
Hitoshi Nagano (Kamenashi) is a failed photographer working a dead end job at an electrical store when he finds the mobile phone of an obnoxious customer who has left it behind. He phones the customer’s mother and pretends to be her son so she will transfer money into his bank account. He might have expected to have never met his victim but she turns up in his life alongside doppelgangers who, despite being different in terms of character, get along really well with him. Hitoshi takes advantage of this.
The film is by Ryūsuke Hamaguchi who has directed The Depths (2011) and Passion(2008). Ryo Sato has starred in the short Sunrise Sunset, part of the Cinema Impact movement, released back in January. Intimacy was shown at a retrospective for Hamaguchi last year but this film seems to be slightly different since it follows the rehearsals of the actors, the planning and recording of the film and then the film itself.
Taishibou kei Tanita no Shain Shokudou
Japanese Title: 体 脂肪計 タニタ の 社員 食堂
Romaji: Taishibou kei Tanita no Shain Shokudou
Release Date: May 25th, 2013 (Japan)
Running Time: 100 mins.
Director: Toshio Lee
Writer: Daisuke Tanaka(Screenplay)
Starring: Yuka, Kenta Hamano, Masao Kusakari, Kinako Kobayashi, Yo Yoshida, Mitsu Dan, Kumiko Watari
Toshio Lee is a good comedy director. His live-action adaptation of Detroit Metal City was genuinely funny. He is back with another comedy but this time instead of death metal bands he takes on the real life tale of Tanita Corporation, the company which developed the world’s first body fat measuring device but finds it hard to sell the device because of its overweight employees. In the film, company president Konosuke (Hamano) hire a nutritionist named Nanako (Yuka) to get the overweight employees onto a diet of special food served at the company restaurant.
The film stars Yuka, who appeared in Takashi Shimizu’s horror flick Reincarnation (awesome J-hora!!!) and A Letter to Momo, Kinako Kobayashi (It’s Me It’s Me) and Mitsu Dan (Be My Slave). A film about fat people losing weight… It looks potentially amusing with Nanako enforcing a strict regime and people breaking under the pressure but it’s not enough to draw me in. What about you?
Here we have an omnibus film made up of 6 episodes which run for around 20 minutes each. The stories take place in a different number of setting starting in Edo Period Japan at around 1848 and ending way in the future in the year 2495. The theme linking the stories together is reincarnation. I’m unfamiliar with nearly all of the names attached but during a look at the work of Hajime Ishide I found his 2012 film Karakuri which looks good. Ignore the crappy CGI and focus on the possibilities and it could be entertaining. I mean, that submarine fired torpedoes at two people in a bloody dinghy! How awesome is that!
Hiroshi Ozawa made an unforgettable appearance in Takeshi Kitano’s surreal gangster film Boiling Point and he has created a bit of an oeuvre playing tough guys in films like Score and Dead or Alive. He’s back in a film with an outrageous title that involves the disappeared son of a dead gangster reappearing in the criminal underworld in his new guise as a transsexual (Bell). The trailer doesn’t quite live up to my expectations because I was expecting something funny and not as serious as this. That written, it looks set to fall into competent low-budget action flick territory.
The Centenarian Clock
Japanese Title: 百年の時計
Romaji: Hyaku Nen no Tokei
Release Date: May 25th, 2013 (Japan)
Running Time: 205 mins.
Director: Maya Kato
Writer: Minato Takehiko (Screenplay)
Starring: Haruka Kinami, Mickey Curtis, Yuri Nakamura, Akiko Kiuchi, Hiroki Suzuki, Jun Inoue, Kai Shishido
Shusuke Kaneko is a director with a lot of films to his name. Most prominently for me are his Death Note adaptations and Azumi 2. He has two films getting a release this month. July sees the release of Ikenie no Jirenma (Dilemma of Sacrifice) where high school students on their graduation day are forced to find a sacrifice from among the student body or die. Before that we get this film which commemorates the centenary of the opening of a railway route in Kagawa Prefecture which is now known as the Takamatsu Kotohira electric railway. It is apparently famous in Japan. Anyway the film stars Haruka Kinami (The Samurai That Night), Mickey Curtis (Goodbye Debussy) an Yuri Nakamura (Fly with the Gold, The Grudge: Girl in Black).
Ryōka Kandaka (Kinami) is a curator for an art museum in Takamatsu City and she is organising a retrospective exhibition for an artist named Andō Yukito (Curtis). He is getting on in years and has lost his creative touch and so the prospect of a retrospective is not that attractive for him but an old pocket watch holding all sorts of memories of a girl he once knew could change his perspective.
Starring: Aya Saito, Kumiko Masuda, Atsushi Shinohara, Koji Yamashita, Koichi Ito, Noriko Iwasaki, Misa Namba, Satoko Okamoto, Kanae Uotani, Hitomi Ito, Gen Sato, Ken Nagano, Takao Mitsudomi, Takuya Nara
Ah, another omnibus film with three veteran directors from the low to mid-budget tier of Japanese films. Stories range from a squabbling couple and their journey to a camp on a mountain, two online lovers who meet for the first time offline.
Tickets are now on sale for the fifth edition of the annual Terracotta Far East Film Festival. Due to Japanese language studies this post is about two weeks late but there is still time to order tickets.
The festival this year looks genuinely impressive with many UK premieres and a selection of films that cover a wide variety of genres and countries. There is strength and depth in this selection and it is heartening to see that the UK is getting to see these films.
For my part I have got four tickets thanks to fellow blogger Alua. I’m pretty hyped up at the prospect of seeing three Japanese films (A Story of Yonosuke, See You Tomorrow, Everyone, Land of Hope) and one Korean one (The Berlin File). Without further ado here is a word from the organisers followed by the line-up with some comments on the films I am familiar with and a preview of the Japanese films I will watch. Click on the titles to head over to the festival site for more information on the film and to order tickets!
5TH ANNUAL TERRACOTTA FAR EAST FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FULL LINE-UP
Over the years the festival has seen the event go from strength to strength. This year is set to be the biggest yet, expanding to 27 films spread over 4 sections and 2 venues from 06 – 15 June 2013.
The core of the festival will remain a hand-picked selection of the best CURRENT ASIAN CINEMA at The Prince Charles Cinema. This all UK Premiere sectionreflects the vibrancy and energy in Asian filmmaking today. Ranging from realist dramas to romance, light comedies to spy action thrillers, swordfighting epics to gothic fairytales, the festival aims to balance the representation of Asian countries.
Terracotta Festival 2013 (TFEFF13) will open with Hong Kong action COLD WARon Thursday 06 June 2013.
This year’s edition will also see a return to last year’s Terror Cotta Horror night on Friday 07 June in association with Film 4 Frightfest. The triple bill has now extended to an all-night horror marathon.
The organisers also have added the “IN MEMORY OF” section to mark the tenth anniversary of two of Hong Kong’s best loved and most missed stars: Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui.
Terracotta Festival 2013 will close out at the ICA with “SPOTLIGHT ON: Indonesia”. 11 – 15 June will be an entire week dedicated to Indonesian cinema, from the country’s freshest emerging talent alongside work by established filmmakers. This new section will bring rare insight into one of Asia’s rising film powerhouses.
Terracotta Far East Film Festival full Programme: IN MEMORY OF: Leslie Cheung & Anita Mui
Both Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui were wonderful actors, two of the biggest stars in HK cinema, and they both died untimely deaths. It is pleasing to see that they will be remembered with this retrospective.
1994/ Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles/ 94 mins/ starring Leslie Cheung, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Days of Being Wild was one of Wong Kar Wai’s (WKW) earliest films and it contains all of WKW’s familiar from gorgeous cinematography to characters going trough deep existential self-questioning in a story about a man searching for his birth mother. It stars a whole gamut of HK stars.
ROUGE Dir: Stanley Kwan, Hong Kong – Thurs 06 June 2013, 17:50
1988/ Cantonese with English subtitles/ 96 mins/ starring Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung
Stanley Kwan’s film is described as Part Romeo & Juliet, part ghost story, an outstanding and timeless classic. It stars both Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung.
1997/ Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles/ 96 mins/ starring Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Chen Chang
I really like this film. I have watched it numerous times and I just love (and own) the soundtrack which is inspired by its Argentinian setting and don’t get me started about the ending.
The film follows the story of a gay love triangle slowly fragmenting and dislocating amidst the beautiful city of Buenos Aires.
CURRENT ASIAN CINEMA
COLD WAR by Sunny Luk, Longman Leung, Hong Kong – Opening Film Thurs 06 June 2013, 19:50
UK Premiere/ 2012/ Cantonese with English subtitles/ 102 mins/ starring Aaron Kwok, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Andy Lau
This is a police thriller which reminds me a lot of Infernal Affairs and it looks to have similar impressive production values. It won big at the recent Hong Kong Film awards and UK film fans get to see it on the big screen with its premiere at the festival.
When police deal with a sophisticated hijacking of a police van they are outwitted at every turn and all the while the guys leading the police investigation are battling each other for positions of power in a tale of police corruption and politics.
Aku no Hana/Flowers of Evil was the only post this week but I wanted to let this one have the spotlight for a couple of days because I think the anime is very, very brilliant. I also had to revise for my Japanese test on Wednesday. I think I passed this course but I’m not happy with the way my study habits floundered at points. There is definite room for improvement. No films watched but plenty of anime like Attack on Titan, My Youth Romcom, Aku no Hana and Red Data Girl. Next Saturday I will be attending a Japan Day Festival, which I posted on AUKN.
What does the Japanese Movie Box Office Chart look like for the weekend May 11th-12th?
Detective Conan Private Eye in the Distant Sea
Phone Call to the Bar 2
Iron Man 3
Prefecture’s Government Hospitality Division
Shield of Straw
Crayon Shin Chan! Gourmet Food Survival
Kamen Rider X Super Sentai X Space Sheriff: Super Hero Taisen Z
Saint Young Men
Steins;Gate: The Movie
Major changes in this week’s movie box office standings with three new entries in the top ten from last week’s crop. Saint Young Men comes in at nine, Prefecture’s Government Hospitality Division at four and Phone Call to the Bar 2 resting at two. Detective Conan continue to reign supreme at one for the fourth week in a row while Steins;Gate claws its way back into the top ten at ten.
What is released this week? I say this week because there is a film festival going on in Japan at the moment and they released some titles on the 16th and 18th. There are lots of cool trailers.
Peach Festival Films
Female filmmakers have been on the rise in Japan as well regarded films like Dreams for Sale, End of Puberty and Just Pretendedto Hear reveal. To get a better taste of what other young female directors are doing we get a whole festival dedicated to showing the freshest works coming from them. The theme for this year is ‘Tears’. Here are three short films that will be on the big screen.
Starring: Kazuha Komiya, Yuta Toda, Katsunori Teraoka, Minori Hagiwara
This is the debut of Ayaka Kato and it has a title which sounds like it could be strange. The trailer is intriguing. Two guys approach a mysterious woman previously seen on a beach. Is she a mermaid? Is she simply suicidal and disturbed? Guys, you better watch out! Mermaids can’t be trusted! Even foxy ones!
Actually this is a film where a woman named Sammy, who is attending a prep school, is in all sorts of relationships with instructors and fellow students and feels emptiness. We then follow a series of encounters with different people. Is this a riff on the Little Mermaid fairy tale and does she go through similar things? Well this short has 48 minutes to develop this story. If Ayaka Kato is skilled enough, it should be enough.
Peach Festival Presents Tears “Itai no Itai no Tonde Ike”
Japanese Title: 桃まつり presents “なみだ “いたいのいたいのとんでいけ”
Romaji: Matsuri Presents Namida “Itai no Itai no Tonde Ike”
Release Date: May 16th, 2013 (Japan)
Running Time: 30 mins.
Director: Miwa Paku
Starring: Haruna Okawa, Mari Hayashida, Shioi Kasahara
I am totally unsure about this title. It looks like Pain of the Pain Fly Away but it sounds totally wrong… Arrgh. Frustration. Anyway, this film comes from Park Miwa who worked on the 3.11 shot-film compilation Tomorrow which gathered together staff originating from the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The story follows Kana, a young girl who is trying to get her parents to reconcile their differences during a domestic conflict. The biggest name for me is Mari Hayashida who was in Cold Bloom. No trailer.
I listed this one with the incorrect release date of April 17th. Apologies. I was suspicious because the website I got the info from didn’t tally up with another, much more reliable one. Anyway the film trailer didn’t impress me that much on the first run but a review from the Japan Times film review site chalks this up as an impressive feature citing the fact that director, “Yoshida can universalize from the real without turning his people into case studies or stereotypes… Yoshida prefers to speak volumes with nonviolent, emotionally charged suggestion. That is, he brings an understated lyricism to what an ordinary documentary might have reduced to just-the-facts prose.” 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.
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.
Hideo Nakata, the director of J-horror classic Ringu and Dark Water returns with another urban supernatural chiller with The Complex which premiered at this year’s Rotterdam International Film Festival. Reviews suggest this is a return to horror form for the directorand the trailer strikes all the right notes for me! It stars the beautiful Atsuka Maeda who is a former member of AKB48 and starred in The Drudgery Train, one of the more interesting titles released in Japan last year. Hiroki Narimiya, Tooru in Mirror Hell part of Rampo Noir and the titular character in the Phoenix Wright movie Ace Attorney is her male co-star. The supporting cast include Naomi Nishida (Library Wars, Swing Girls) and Megumi Sato (Cyborg She, Exte). First trailer of the week! Go J-hora!
Asuka (Maeda) has moved into the Kuroyuri apartment complex. It is a place with a chequered history as mysterious deaths occurred there 13 years ago. It isn’t long before she starts hearing the sound “garigarigari” from the apartment next door where an old man lives and it isn’t long before he is found dead! This is the start of a series of horrifying events that strike the apartment. Asuka calls upon Sasahara (Narimiya), a man who cleans up the homes of the recently deceased, to help solve the mystery.
This one is my second trailer of the week. It premiered at the 15th Udine Far East Film Festival last month where it got this review and this more recent Japan Times review makes the film sound really, really funny. Hiraoka Takuma (The Wolf Children) takes the lead in this comedy with Yang Ik-June (Breathless, Our Homeland), Maki Sakai (Paris Tokyo Paysage, The Samurai That Night), You (Nobody Knows, Still Walking), Maho Nonami (2LDK), Tomorowo Taguchi (Tetsuo: The Iron Man) and Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, member of J-pop group SMAP and star of Beautiful World. It’s directed by Kankuro Kuda, actor in Memories of Matsuko and Instant Swamp. The trailer is short and reading my synopsis is long but I like the look of this one!
Katsuya Maruyama (Hiraoka) is 14, an age where a boys thoughts are consumed by carnal desires. Only his are strange. He wants to “to touch his own weeny with his tongue.” Perhaps his strangeness is a result of living a mundane life in a housing complex with his mother Mizuki (sakai)), a woman obsessed with Korean dramas, his fitness obsessed father Katsuyuki (Nakamura) and sharing his room with his sister Akane (Nabemoto). There are other, stranger characters around like Tatsuo Shimoi (Kusanagi), a single father who wheels his infant son in a buggy around everywhere and prying into his neighbours lives and irritating housewives and a Korean electrician named Park Hyeon-Hun (Yang Ik-June) who attracts the attention of Mizuki. When bodies start turning up in the apartment complex Maruyama begins to draw a manga about a superhero named Captain Fruit (based on his father) who comes to the rescue. He shares his crazy tales with Shimoi and the line between fantasy and reality become blurred.
Director: Hiroshi Nagahama, Assistant Director: Tetsuo Hirakawa, Original Creator: Shuuzou Oshimi, Series Composition: Aki Itami, Character Designer: Hidekazu Shimamura, Art Director: Kentaro Akiyama Voice Actors: Youko Hikasa, Shinichirou Ueda, Mariya Ise, Sayuri Hara Studio: Zexcs
This was not one of my picks from the Spring 2013 anime season. When I was writing the synopsis for it during the spring season guide for Anime UK News I was very uncertain about it. I mean, on the one hand it sounds initially unpromising, a middle school student named Takao Kasuga steals the gym clothes of the girl he has a crush on, Nanako Saeki. Great.
But things get really interesting when we find out that he was spied stealing the clothes by a fellow student, the strange, creepy and rebellious loner named Sawa Nakamura. The class is shocked and Saeki is upset so Sawa is sitting on explosive information. Instead of informing people about Kasuga’s indiscretion, Sawa uses this information as a way to control Kasuga and draw him into her own twisted world. Kasuga has a difficult choice: Play her game or be revealed to the class as a perv.
After the spring season started and I was disappointed with Devil Survivor 2, I was drawn to this because I kept reading about how viewer reactions were extreme.
The art style has proven controversial amongst fans of the manga and anime in general. It is very different to that of the original manga by Shuzo Oshimi due to its use of rotoscoping, a technique where animators trace over live-action scenes frame by frame.
There are real actors portraying the characters.
Some hate it for this change but there is an opposing camp who love it. I am in the latter camp and not because I like being different (which I do). I have thought about this deeply (for once) and I have come to the conclusion that Aku no Hana is one of the most intentionally disturbing anime I have seen¹ and it is thanks to its art style.
I like it a lot because it is different and it is very effective at delivering this twisted existential love (?) story which captures adolescent feelings in a unique way.
Anybody walking in expecting bishounen or wild hair styles will be shocked. The characters look much more like normal human beings than in most other shows.
Rotoscoping lends the features and movements of the characters an added weight to every scene. They constantly move and react to the world in real ways and while some of the detailing is off (faces can disappear), the visuals are never boring and always have an impact. Indeed, their faces are very expressive thanks to the technique. It feels like watching real people. It is perfect for conveying both huge and subtle changes in emotional tones, priceless for monitoring the reactions of certain disturbed characters and their tormented prey as well as the moments when the blossoming of love, hope and admiration appear.
What does the Japanese Movie Box Office Chart look like for the weekend May 04th-05th.
Detective Conan Private Eye in the Distant Sea
Iron Man 3
Shield of Straw
Crayon Shin Chan! Gourmet Food Survival
Kamen Rider X Super Sentai X Space Sheriff: Super Hero Taisen Z
Dragon Ball Z Battle of the Gods
The Great Passage
No new entries in the top ten but it is encouraging to see The Great Passage hanging in the top ten. Detective Conan retains the top spot for the third week in a row, Library Wars and Shield of Straw round out the top five in their second week out.
What is released this week? A lot more than the paltry two titles of last week!
Saint Young Men
Release Date: May 10th, 2013 (Japan)
Running Time: N/A
Director: Noriko Takao
Writer: Rika Nezu
Starring: Mirai Moriyama, Gen Hoshino, Reiko Suzuki, Ryoko Kinomiya
Imagine if Buddha and Jesus shared an apartment in the Tachikawa area of Tokyo and experienced life as humans in Japan. This is the concept of Hikaru Nakamura’s manga and it sounds amusing enough and it now has an anime film. The staff are experienced. Noriko Takao has worked as an episode director on gag anime K-ON! And Lucky Star. The screenplay comes from Rika Nezu who wrote for the live-action Kimi ni Todoke. There are great actors fulfilling the roles of seiyuu. Mirai Moriyama (The Drudgery Train) voices Jesus and Gen Hoshino (Why Don’t You Play in Hell?) voices Buddha. The animation is very gorgeous and detailed and the character designs are great, check out the trailer.
Masatoshi Akihara, director of the rather amusing looking Lupin no Kiganjo (2011) is directing an adaptation of Shimizaki Fujimura’s novel of the same name which charts the fortunes of members of two families in the Kiso area of Nagano prefecture, one of which runs a brewery which will pass to a daughter and the other which is more humble and consists of teachers. It stars Tomomi Matsuda (Life on the Longboard), Yoji Matsuda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, The Hidden Blade), and Anri Ban (Go, Tokyo Rhapsody). To be quite honest the trailer didn’t interest me in the least but I am thankful I did the research because that Lupin film (ルパンの奇巌城) looks very amusing!
Anime fans will know that prefectures in Japan are falling over themselves to use anime to promote their regions. Well here’s an example of a film doing it. The film trailer looks dull, like an advertisement for the locations (it was shot mostly in Koichi prefecture) with some light drama thrown in and so I was eager to get to the end of it and watch something else. Script comes courtesy of Yoshikazu Okada who wrote Space Travelers. The cast looks pretty, the ones of note for me are Mari Horikita who was one of the brighter aspects in the J-horror films The Locker 1 and 2 and One Missed Call Final, Kengo Kora who was in Norwegian Wood, The Woodsman & the Rain and The Drudgery Train and Megumi Seki (The Foreign Duck, Christmas in August). It’s nice to see Horikita moving on to better films with bigger bugets.
Koichi prefecture needs to promote itself for tourism purposes so who are they gonna call? The hospitality division, that’s who.
Or so you might think but there’s a strict rule banning advertisements so a popular writer from Koichi named Kyosuke Yoshikado (Kora) is appointed as the special envoy for tourism in the area and has the help of hospitality division employees Fumitaka (Nishikido) and Taki (Horikita).
So what’s the plan? Well Kyosuke is pointed in the direction of Seien, a former employee of Koichi Prefecture who was fired when his plan to import pandas fell apart. When Fumitaka and Taki visit Seien they get a frosty welcome (more like a bucket of water thrown at them) from Seien’s daughter Sawa (Seki). Can this group work together?
The sequel to the popular and, according to a friend who saw it on a flight from Japan, rather entertaining Phone Call to the Bar! This is based on Naomi Azuma’s 2001 novel and it has quite the cast. Yo Oizumi, Ratman in the Gegege no Kitaro films, the impossibly handsome Ryuhei Matsuda, star of The Foreign Duck and Nightmare Detective, Yutaka Matsushige, the scary killer in The Guard from the Underground, Mariko Tsutsui who was in One Missed Call, Atsuro Watabe who looked effortlessly cool in Heat After Dark, Machiko Ono who was in Eureka and Tomorowo Taguchi who was the eponymous protag in Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man. This trailer looks pretty damn awesome actually wth Ryuhei Matsuda mixing it up in the action department and Atsuro Watabe looking like a political slickster. Some pretty good humour emerges as well. Trailer of the week.
Masako (Gori) is a magician at a Japanese pub and s friends with a Private Detective (Oizumi). When Masako dies at a magic show convention, private detective and Takada (Matsuda) begins investigating and find that Gori may have been involved with political figures. As this rumbles on, a woman who has been following the private detective consults him with a mystery of her own.
Long time readers of the blog will remember that I attended last years BFI London Film Festival and saw For Love’s Sake. My review was positively overflowing with love, praise and fervour for the film and it landed at number 2 in my Top 10 Films of 2012. I can still remember whole swathes of the film and how I felt during the screening. When I found out that Third Window Films was releasing it I was rather pleased and I highly, highly (very, very highly) recommend it. Enough from me, here’s the details:
Japan / 2012 / 134 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / Colour
Out on Double-disc DVD & Blu-ray
June 10th, 2013
DVD and Blu-ray Special Features
Anamorphic Widescreen transfer with 5.1 Surround Sound
Making Of, Skip to a Song Selection, Theatrical Trailer
Takashi Miike, the director of ’13 Assassins’, ‘Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai’ and ‘Audition’ brings us as Bollywood-style musical action/comedy/love story! Not exactly a director that plays along with genre rules, the prolific Takashi Miike now takes his talent in genre bending to the pure romance world with For Love’s Sake (a.k.a. Ai to Makoto), based on Kajiwara Ikki’s 1973 manga series. An epic story of a rich high school girl who falls in love with a tough young gangster, Miike’s take on the story breaks all the rules with musical numbers (with music by popular music producer Kobayashi Takeshi), tongue-in-cheek humour, and in-your-face violence. Starring Satoshi Tsumabuki (Villain) and Emi Takei (Rurouni Kenshin) as the star-crossed lovers, For Love’s Sake is a unique and incredibly wild ride that will change your definition of what a pure romance can be.
The Terracotta Far East Film Festival is a month away and the line-up of films will be released tomorrow. I have been a bit tardy in posting this information on a short-film competition with the awesome prize of a trip to Hong Kong but there is still plenty of time left to enter.
Here are the details:
Terracotta Festival’s “Asia In London” Short-Film Competition, in association with Cathay Pacific
Terracotta Festival, in association with Cathay Pacific, present an exciting competition to win a trip to the vibrant city of Hong Kong.
Terracotta are partnering with Cathay Pacific to celebrate the launch of their 5th daily London Heathrow to Hong Kong flight. Accommodation is provided by the five star Design Hotels ™ member, The Mira Hong Kong.
To enter the competition, make and submit a short film on the theme: “Asia In London”. The film must last no more than 3 minutes in length.
Submissions are open from Tuesday 23April and close at 12 noon 20May.