The week has been busy in movie terms. I watched four films, three of them were on DVD and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (one more tonight) and I had a trip to the cinema to see Elysium which was a decent sci-fi action film. Then there was plenty of anime. In terms of this blog, the week started with a review of The Story of Yonosuke, a great film that broke into my Top Ten of the year. I saw it all the way back in June at the Terracotta Far East Film Festival. I followed that up with my anime picks from the autumn season (part two comes next month) and I also looked at the Japanese films at the Toronto International Film Festival which looks so damn awesome.
Sadako 3D: Zokuhen
Japanese Title: 貞子 3D2
Romaji: Sadako 3D: Dai-2-dan
Release Date: August 30th, 2013
Running Time: N/A
Director: Tsutumo Hanabusa
Writer: Koji Suzuki(Original Novel), Daisuke Hosaka, Noriaki Sugihara (Screenplay)
I have never been so angry with a film as I was with last year’s Sadako 3D. Within the first five minutes I was having melodramatic thoughts about how the franchise had been killed by the teen idol injection its makers had used to update it for a new audience. It looks like more of the same with this sequel. The film stars Miori Takimoto (Higanjima), Yusuke Yamamoto (Ninja Kids!!!) and Koji Seto (Ju-On: Girl in Black).
Fuko Ando (Takimoto) is a twenty-four-year-old graduate student in psychology who has to look after her four-year-old niece who has mysterious events occurring around her. It stems from an incident involving a cursed video and Fuko finds herself digging into the mystery.
This year’s festival looks to be better than last year’s one. There are so many of my favourite Japanese directors like Sion Sono, Hirokazu Koreeda and Kiyoshi Kurosawa (a season dedicated to him starts here next week!) getting their works screened and great films from around the world in general. As I looked at the list of titles I have never felt so bad about not being in Canada. This time next year I will be Canadian. I will live in Toronto and I will do Canadian things… I’m not sure what Canadians do exactly but Goregirl is cool and she’s Canadian and they have this awesome festival in Toronto where there are lots of great Japanese and South Korean films and I want to be there…
Here are the Japanese titles (click on the titles to go to the page for more info)!!!
Starring: Takeru Sato, Haruka Ayase, Jo Odagiri, Miki Nakatani, Shota Sometani, Keisuke Horibe, Kyoko Koizumi, Keisuke Horibe, Yuki Kan
I champion Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s films. Even the bad ones. Out of the ones I have seen, his best is Tokyo Sonata. I’ll admit, as much as I love his J-horror like Pulse,Cure and Retribution, his dramas and crime thrillers are pretty strong. I haven’t seen a science fiction film from him yet but he does have one. It’s this title, Real. I have heard mixed things about it but I’m staying hopeful. It reminds me a little of Inception but does it have the budget to make as much of an impact? What I do know is that it has a great cast of actors but with Takero Sato and Haruka Ayase taking the limelight, will they be up to the high standards set by Sometani, Koizumi, Odagiri, Nakatani and the rest of the supporting cast? Check the trailer!
Koichi (Sato) and Atsumi (Ayase) are childhood friends who have become lovers. Despite this closeness when Atsumi attempts suicide Koichi is at a loss as to what the reason that drove her to do such a thing could be. Now she is in a coma and Koichi needs to find out the reason. Since Koichi is a neurosurgeon he has access to the latest studies and so he takes part in a medical procedure that will allow him to enter Atsumi’s subconscious through her central nervous system.
When he arrives she asks him to find a picture of a plesiosaur she drew as a child. It is the key to a suppressed memory connected to a childhood trauma. Finding this picture will allow Koichi to truly get close to knowing his love.
Hitoshi Matsumoto is unknown to me but lots of people like his feature Big Man Japan. A lot of the cast are familiar to me. Nao Omori (Mushishi), Atsuro Watabe (Love Exposure, Heat After Dark), Shinobu Terajima (Kitaro and the Millennium Curse, Vibrator), Eriko Sato (Crime or Punishment?!?), You (Nobody Knows, Still Walking) are all great actors and I believe they can make this comedy work. The concept is hilarious – a guy into a bit of S&M is hounded by dominatrixes in public.
Takafumi Katayama (Omori) is a mild-mannered father who escapes the pressures of everyday life by joining a mysterious S&M club where the dominatrix will visit the client in real life settings. At first the pinch and tickle treatment he receives from these girls in leather is fun but t becomes relentless. He is now at the mercy of a gang of dominatrixes who torment him!
Can I just say that while I’m not into S&M, Eriko Sato looks so good that I’d let her harass me at work or in public.
If I had to describe anime in one word it would be diverse. The large numbers of titles released every season contain a highly varied number of concepts. Some of them may be sequels or plumb familiar themes and settings but there is usually something to set them apart and make them unique. It’s all down to the efficient production model the Japanese entertainment industry uses where any manga/light novels gets treated to a multi-format adaptation. In recent years we have slowly edged out of a trough of moe into some more sophisticated titles that can be described as post-modern or meta-narratives with interesting characters. Compared to anime alone (not including films or dorama), western television is absolutely unimaginative. Diversity best sums up what’s on offer with the Autumn 2013 Season.
I finished the Anime UK News Autumn 2013 Anime Guide last week Tuesday while listening to the soundtrack to Hana and Alice non-stop. It took a while (hours) what with checking the autumn 2013 anime season guide (on the right) and looking up things on Anime News Network/MAL and news reports I do for AUKN. The spring and summer seasons had a large number of titles but the autumn one blows them all away with over forty. There are some sequels and a lot of manga/LN adaptations but after a disappointing summer season (the only stand-out anime was the incredible Watamote) I felt energised by the variety and imagination on offer with the autumn season which starts September/October. Here are my selections:
Essentials (I’ll see it through to the bitter end!):
Original Manga Creator: Tomonori Inoue, Director: N/A, Series Composition: N/A, Scripts: N/A, Character Designer: N/A, Chief Animation Director: N/A
It is the year 2036 and a nuclear accident has caused Tokyo to suffer radioactive contamination which has resulted in the city being put under a blockade. Three high school girls have been sent to the city. These girls aren’t normal, though since they have been selected for this deadly mission because they are the results of genetic engineering which has made them impervious to radioactivity. They are a special forces unit codenamed “Coppelion,” in the 3rd Division of Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Force and they know how to use guns!
This was the first title to get my attention thanks to the detailed key visuals and a quick read of the manga which is by Tomonori Inoue which is full of girls and guns and…, yes, pantsu. It was originally going to be adapted a few years ago but was put on hold after the Tohoku Earthquake and Tusnami which hit Japan on March 11th, 2011 and all of the subsequent problems with Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant. The nuclear problems haven’t gone away as news reports and films reveal (Land of Hope review last week) but inappropriate or not, I think this manga is definitely due an adaptation because it’s pretty action-packed and a lot of fun.
The trailer is full of great animation and music. Three girls taking out giant robots and stealth bombers with rocket launchers? I totally want to see this now!
There are no details of the staff list at the time of writing but it will be updated when that info comes to light. The Japanese vocal cast has been announced with industry vets Maaya Sakamoto (beautiful but tough Funamushi in Fuse: A Gun Girl’s Detective Story), Haruka Tomatsu (the big existentialist speech giver Older Sister Maid in Maouyu), Yui Horie (the sexy and deadly Masako Natsume in Mawaru Penguindrum) and Kana Hanazawa (the so cute I’d die for her Mayuri Shiina in Steins;Gate) filling the lead roles.
Writer: Shiro Maeda (Screenplay),Shuichi Yoshida (Original Novel)
Starring: Kengo Kora, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Sosuke Ikematsu, Ayumi Ito, Gou Ayano, Arata, Kimiko Yo, Aki Asakura, Mei Kurokawa, Tasuku Emoto, Aimi Satsukawa, Keiko Horiuchi, Noriko Eguchi,
I was made a fan of Shuichi Okita after watching The Woodsman & the Rain, a film which is a wonderfully observed and rather touching comedy about the art of filmmaking and human bonds. Despite potentially weighty subjects I found it was an amusing and gratifying film that worked through its great characters and well-observed dry comedy. Okita is back a year after that film with a more complex one as he directs Shiro (Isn’t Anyone Alive?) Maeda’s adaptation of Shuichi’s Yoshida’s novel which flits between different time periods with a large cast of characters stretching between the ’80s and now.
Tokyo 1987, Yonosuke Yokomichi (Kora) has left a small port city and lumbers into Tokyo to attend university. It blows his mind. There are huge buildings covered with ads for Sony and Kiss Mint gum, he sees amateur idol groups performing J-pop on the street and fashionable people everywhere.
This week I thought I’d be a hero and try and get lots of reviews done as well as the Anime UK News Autumn Anime Preview Guide. I actually did achieve quite a bit of it by finishing the guide and most of the reviews. I finally finished up my Terracotta Far East Film Festival reviews with The Land of Hope and See You Tomorrow, Everyone. The Story of Yonosuke gets released tomorrow. I also posted about all of the Japanese films taking part in the Venice Film Festival this year. I’ll post about the autumn anime I’ll be watching next week and take the rest of the week off to get some more reviews finished before starting a mini Kiyoshi Kurosawa season and following that up with a Takashi Ishii season.
What’s released in Japan today? A lot of HK films including Vulgaria.
Masato Harada… That name rings a bell… Bounce KO Gals and Kamikaze Taxi, two films from the 90’s I vaguely remember watching parts of. Action-packed dirty films in complete contrast to the high class drama Chronicle of My Mother which was Harada’s last film just released last year. He’s back with a film about a businessman named Kitahara (Kippei) who fled to Argentina after killing some crime bosses and returns ten years later facing all sorts of crazy people out for revenge including the Midonogawa sisters who want revenge for their brothers he originally killed. It looks like a nice bit of gangster action harking back to some of the 90’s stuff I’ve been watching recently plus it stars a bunch of great actors who are clearly having fun.
Starring: Gaku Hamada, Kana Kurashina, Kento Nagayama, Kei Tanaka, Nene Otsuka, Bengal, Haru
Satoru Watari (Hamada) lives in a danchi. Danchi’s are a large cluster of public buildings thrown up from the 50’s to the 70’s to address the housing demands of the post-war baby-boomers. These places are like a little world unto themselves with their own shops that serve the attendant community.
After graduating from elementary school Satoru tells his mother Hinagu (Otsuka) that he has decided to stay in the danchi for the rest of his life.
When Sion Sono’s last film Himizu came to its stunning open ending it was clear that he was far from finished addressing the issues surrounding the Tōhoku Earthquake and Tusnami. The Land of Hope is the powerful and important follow-up which is epic in scale and drama. For daring to take on such a taboo subject in Japan, Sono had to go to foreign investors but what has resulted is a film that is a key way of seeing the effects of a disaster. At two hours it captures all sorts of aspects about the disaster but remains incredibly humane as it centres on the travails of two families.
An old couple named Yasuhiko and Chieko Ono (Natsuyagi and Otani) live on a farm with their son Yoichi (Murakami) and his wife Izumi (Kagurazaka) nearOhara town in Nagashima prefecture.
It is a peaceful place whose only claim to fame is the nearby Nagashima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Yasuhiko’s days are spent farming land owned by his family for generations, taking care of Chieko who suffers dementia and talking with the neighbouring Suzuki family made up of father Ken (Denden), mother Meiko (Tsutsui), son Mitsuru (Shimizu) and his girlfriend Yoko (Kajiwara).
This has been a long time in coming. I attended the festival a couple of months ago and in the meantime I have only published a review for one of the four films I saw, The Berlin File. Now’s the time to get the three other films I watched. Here are previews:
These were the main reasons I was attending the festival. All three are Japanese and come from directors whose films I have reviewed before. Two of the three were also released in Japan earlier this year, one last year, so this is a great slice of what Japanese film culture can produce. Furthermore, all three will be released by Third Window Films during the rest of this year.
First up is THE LAND OF HOPEisfrom Sion Sono, one of my all-time favourite directors who I frequently post about. Released last year, this is his follow-up to the mighty drama Himizu. Like that film, The Land of Hope also deals with the after-effects of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami that occurred on March 11th back in 2011 but it’s more of a disaster epic as it pretty much covers what happened to a larger number of people in the areas affected by the tsunami and nuclear power plant explosion. After I first watched it I was bewildered and I did not like it at all but I put that down to the fact that I was tired after a day packed full of tourist activities so I was in no condition to absorb what was going on. A second viewing has proven vital in improving my understanding and I think the film is a pretty staggering achievement. The DVD is released at the beginning of next week by Third Window Films. The review is published on Wednesday.
Next is Yoshihiro Nakamura’s SEE YOU TOMORROW, EVERYONE which was released in Japan in January.This one stars Gaku Hamada who has appeared in a number of his previous titles like Fish Story and The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck & God in a Coin Locker, I was very impressed by the latter title and placed it near the top of my Top Ten for 2013 (there’s going to be a major shake-up of that soon) and it received great review from Mark Schilling over at The Japan Times so I was confident that I would enjoy it and discussed the films merits (director/actors) with other festival attendees I had never met before. Would I walk out feeling the same things? Review on Friday.
The final title I’ll review is THE STORY OF YONOSUKE which comes from Shuichi Okita who really (really!) impressed me with his title The Woodsman & the Rain, a film which contained a wonderfully observed and rather touching comedy about filmmaking and human bonds where he got great performances from his actors including the two lead stars, Koji Yakusho and Shun Oguri. The Story of Yonosuke was released in Japan back in February. Out of the films I saw in the festival this was easily my favourite because Okita once again brought all of the warmth, quirks and humanity out of his characters and created wonderful comedic scenes. Review on Sunday.
There’s a lot of nostalgia, love and drama over the next week on the cards but that’s okay because the rest of August and September sees an upsurge in dark yakuza tales due to a Takashi Ishii and a Kiyoshi Kurosawa season.
The 70th Venice Film Festival is due to take place at the end of this month (August 28th – September 07th). Last year saw a neat but small selection of Japanese films and a drama. This year there seem to be even more on offer but they include some of the latest titles. Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises gets its world premiere and as a result is in competition at the festival. Out of competition we see the likes of Kim Ki-Duk returning after his win last year. He has stiff competition from Lee Sang-il who brings his Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and Shinji Aramaki’s rather nice looking Captain Harlock movie. Here’s the line-up:
The Wind Rises
Japanese Title: 風立ちぬ
Romaji: Kaze Tachi Nu
Running Time: 126 mins.
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki (Screenplay)
Starring: Hideaki Anno, Miori Takimoto, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Masahiko Nishimura, Steven Alpert, Morio Kazama, Keiko Takeshita,
Miyazaki’s latest film was recently released in Japan where it has done good numbers at the box office. It has been five years since Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. Since then he has written scripts and manga. He’s back with a new film which tells the story of Jirou Horikoshi, the designer of Japan’s famous Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane of World War II. We witness his upbringing and his struggles with poverty, an earthquake and war and his relationship with a woman named Naoko Satomi who is suffering from tuberculosis. Jirou Horikoshi is voiced by Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno. The mecha anime maestro is surrounded by live-action film actors like Hidetoshi Nishijima (Zero Focus) amd co-star Miori Takimoto (Sadako 3D 2, Rinco’s Restaurant).
This week I posted a Gif version of the trailer for Why Don’t You Play in Hell? because the trailer was so damn awesome. I also posted a review of A Woman Called Abe Sadawhich was so damn erotic. I needed a break from work and took it which meant that my hours were spent day-tripping, watching films and anime and writing (and trying to complete Etrian Odyssey/Sigma Harmonics before I start going through my PSP games next month). I watched a whole range of films like The Conjuring and The Lone Ranger as well as plenty of Japanese titles. I’m almost finished writing up my Autumn 2013 Anime Guide for Anime UK News which was an epic undertaking that left me numb and disillusioned… Only joking.
What’s released this week in Japan? Lots of Korean films but there are also some films about World War II because last week was the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The week starts off with a Koji Wakamatsu film about victims of Hiroshima called Osorubeki isan Hadaka no Kage. Finding information on this one was a bit of a hunt because the IMDB listing is Hadaka no Kage but part of the reason why it was so hard to find is becayse it was only recently rediscovered! This is a long lost film! Along the way I found this cool Japanese film website which makes my wild ramblings look really inept and its article about Koji Wakamatsu was really insightful. The film is about a girl named Noriko who lost her parents to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and was exposed to radiation.
This is a direct sequel to last year’s Joker Game film. It’s actually set seven days after the story of the last one ended and it follows seven girls who lost the previous game and are locked up in a correctional facility where they must participate in “Escape Game of Death”. They are locked in a room and have to cooperate with one another to find a way to escape but judging from the trailer it doesn’t quite go smoothly.
This is one of those death game films packed to the rafters with idols and fresh new faces although some of these girls have worked in v-cinema J-horror before like Rina Matsuno (Apartment 1303) and Fumina Hara (The Locker 1 and 2). Mio Miyatake also starred in Tajomaru. Rather interestingly, Sara Takatsuki will be seen in the live-action adaptation of I Don’t Have Many Friends, a trashy light-novel/anime I kind of enjoyed.