Summer Anime Season 2013 Round-Up Part 1

The autumn anime are about to start in a fortnight’s time so now is a good chance to give my thoughts about some of the summer season titles I watched.

How was the summer season this year?

Nothing spectacular. The spring season featured a lot more better titles that I liked a lot more. Danganronpa was quickly dropped when I purchased the PSP game it is based upon (I want to own more visual novels!).

Dog and Dominatrix, or Dog and Scissors as everyone else calls it, had a scatter-shot and surreal approach to comedy similar to Excel Saga and it was entertaining enough. The relationship between Harumi and Natsuno (who I fell in love with) was endearing without being pervy, the voice acting was good and the way all of the gags were linked to literature and blown way out of proportion really made the show. SHINING!  3.5/5

 Dog and Scissors Diva

Continue reading “Summer Anime Season 2013 Round-Up Part 1”

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East Winds Film Festival 2013 Information

The East Winds Film Festival is just over a month away and information is being released about its line-up. The website gives a glimpse of what films are on offer and so far from a Japanese film fan’s perspective there is a notable J-horror title in the form of Koji Shiraishi’s film CULT:

CULT                                        CULT Film Poster

Japanese Title: カルト

Romaji: Karuto

Running Time: 84 mins.

Director: Koji Shiraishi

Writer: Koji Shiraishi (Screenplay)

Starring: Mayuko Iwasa, Yu Abiru, Mari Iriki, Natsumi Okamoto, Mari Hayashida, Hajime Inoue, Ryosuke Miura,

Koji Shiraishi loves scaring idols in his horror films. Noroi the Curse featured idols, White Eyes featured idols and the Ada Senritsu hen/Ada Zetsubou hen films released last week featured idols. Seeing pretty girls get chased by ghosts can be pretty fun. In this film  Mayuko Iwasa and her idol girlfriends are taking part in a paranormal television show covering the exorcism of the mother and daughter of the Kaneda family. A mysterious shaman/demon hunter seems to be the only hope to save everyone involved! This is the UK premiere and it takes place on Halloween!

The film was released back in July and was one of a trio of J-horror titles released over three weeks. The film was directed by Koji Shiraishi (Noroi: The Curse) and starred a set of idol girls getting tormented by spooks. This is one of the titles on offer and as the days go on more will be revealed. To go back to Japanese films, if the two other films released in this trilogy and another J-horror released recently, The Seeds of Anxiety, get a screening I reckon this will be a pretty good line-up of recent J-horror.

 Here’s a press release with more details:

Continue reading “East Winds Film Festival 2013 Information”

Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, Like Father, Like Son, The King of Apology, Flying Goldfish & the Secret of the World, House of the Rising Sun, I’m Home, The Road Less Travelled and Other Japanese Film Trailers

Galilei Donna ImageThe Raindance Film Festival is less than a week away. Japanese film goodness will soon be mine… Actually, I watch lots of Japanese films most weeks. For example, I watched Shinji Aoyama’s Tokyo Koen which I liked quite a lot. I watch lots of films generally like Citizen Kane which was on BBC Four last week Sunday. Anime is always on my viewing list and the last episodes of Dog and Scissors, Gatchaman Crowds, Watamote, Sunday Without God and Attack on Titan have/played out this week. This week I posted about License to Live, the last film in my Kiyoshi Kurosawa Season, more of my Autumn 2013 Anime Selection, and a review for The Drudgery Train which stars Mirai Moriyama, Kengo Kora and Atsuko Maeda.

Why Don’t You Play in Hell?           Why Don't You Play In Hell Film Poster

Japanese Title: 地獄 で なぜ 悪い Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Romaji: Jigoku de Naze Warui Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Running Time: 126 mins

Release Date: September 28th, 2013

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay),

Starring: Jun Kunimura, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Fumi Nikaido, Tomochika, Hiroki Hasegawa, Kotou Lorena, Gen Hoshino, Tak Sakaguchi 

Why Don’t You Play in Hell? gets its Japanese release today. I’ve blogged about it so much and replayed the trailer so many times that to repeat myself further would be wrong and probably bore the few dedicated reads I have. For those who are new but wary of all my babble, let us just say this is the most dangerous and awesome film of the year and I get to see it at the BFI London Film Festival. YERSH!

Muto (Kunimura) and Ikegami (Tsutsumi) are rival gangsters who despise each other especially since Muto’s wife Shizue (Tomochika) butchered a boss in Ikegami’s gang. She gets sent to prison and jeopardises her daughter’s acting career. Ten years later and days before Shizue is due to be released, Muto is desperate to make his daughter a big-screen star and recruits Koji (Hoshino), a timid passer-by who is mistaken for being a film director.

When dealing with gangsters you don’t mess about so Koji gets a cinephile friend named Hirata (Hasegawa) who dreams of being a movie director and has a ragtag film crew named The Fuck Bombers. Hirata seizes his chance and loses his mind as he casts Mitsuko in a fictional gang war but it soon goes wrong when it turns real.

 Genki-Why-Don't-You-Play-in-Hell-Blood-Slide-with-Mitsuko-(Nikaidou)

BLOOOOD SLIIIIIIIIDE!!!

Website

Like Father, Like Son                          Like Father Like Son Cannes Poster

Japanese Title: そして 父 に なる

Romaji: Soshite Chichi ni Naru

Running Time: 120 mins.

Release Date: September 28th, 2013

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda (Screenplay)

Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Jun Fubuki, Keita Ninomiya, Lily Franky, Jun Kunimura, Kiki Kirin, Isao Natsuyagi

This is another film I’m going to see at the BFI London Film Festival. It has appeared at Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival. Koreeda is a great filmmaker as a run of films like After LifeStill Walking, and Nobody Knows prove. The film stars Masaharu Fukuyama (Suspect X), Machiko Ono (EurekaThe Floating Castle), Yoko Maki (InfectionThe Grudge), Lily Franky (Afro Tanaka), Jun Fubuki (SéanceRebirth) Kirin Kiki (Kiseki) and Jun Kunimura (OutrageVital) and Isao Natsuyagi (The Land of HopeWarm Water Under a Red Bridge).

Successful architect Ryota (Fukuyama) and his wife Midori (Ono) have a happy family life with their six-year-old son Keita (Nonomiya) but a phone call from the hospital informing them of the fact that their child was mixed up with another at birth shatters their happiness. Their birth-son Ryusei has been raised by a poorer but more easy-going family run by Yudai (Franky) and Yukari (Maki) Saiki. Ryota and Midori must decide whether to hand over the son they have carefully raised for the last six years and take back their biological son or not.

 

Website

 

The King of Apology                               The Apology King Film Poster

Japanese Title:  謝罪 の 王様

Romaji: Shazai no Ousama

Release Date: September 28th, 2013

Running Time: 128 mins.

Director: Nobuo Mizuta

Writer: Kankuro Kudo (Screenplay),

Starring: Sadao Abe, Mao Inoue, Masak Okada, Katsumi Takahashi, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Yutala Takenouchi, YosiYosi Arakawa, Gaku Hamada, Takehiko Ono, Mari Hamada, Suzu Hirose

That poster is awful… Initial fears that this wold be rubbish were allayed by the trailer which is full of exaggerated physical comedy. The cast list is also full of great performers who have provided great comedic and dramatic performances– Sadao Abe (Dreams for Sale, Kamikaze Girls), Mao Inoue (Kaidan, Rebirth), Machiko Ono (Eureka), Yasuko Matsuyuki (Drive, Monday, Detroit Metal City), YosiYosi Arakawa (Survive Style 5+, Fine, Totally Fine). All great actors who have been in films I have enjoyed. Then I got to Gaku Hamada (See You Tomorrow, Everyone) who I have developed an aversion to… Still, I’m watching Sake-Bomb tonight, my opinion could change. The writer is Kankuro Kudo and he has penned films like Go, Ping Pong and Drugstore Girl.

 

Ryoro Kurojima (Abe) runs a Tokyo apology centre where he teaches others to apologise. He can teach students how to apologise for minor misdemeanours all the way through to national crises.

 Website

Continue reading “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, Like Father, Like Son, The King of Apology, Flying Goldfish & the Secret of the World, House of the Rising Sun, I’m Home, The Road Less Travelled and Other Japanese Film Trailers”

The Drudgery Train 苦役列車 (2012)

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The Drudgery Train               Drudgery Train Movie Poster

Japanese Title:  苦役 列車

Romaji: Kueki Ressha

Release Date: July 14th, 2012

Running Time: 114 mins.

Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita

Writer: Shinji Imaoka (Screenplay), Kenta Nishimura (Original Work)

Starring: Mirai Moriyama, Kengo Kora, Atsuko Maeda, Makita Sports, Tomorowo Taguchi, Mamiko Ito, Miwako Wagatsuma, Shohei Uno, Hiroshi Sato, Asuka Ishii, Kouji Tsujimoto

 “Come in. Take a peek. Big boobs. Lots of nice girls here.”

The film starts in a grimy trash strewn back street. We are looking at a club named Peep Show Locker Room and the doorman for the club shouts out what is on offer. Out of the club saunters Kanta Kitamichi (Moriyama), who grimaces and lights a cigarette. Freeze frame, a voice over accompanied by on-screen text introduces us to Kitamichi, his father committed a sex crime that tore up his family in 5th grade. He has worked as a day labourer since graduating junior high. His only hobby is reading books.

Genki-Drudgery-Train-Kengo-Kora-Walk

It isn’t the most promising introduction to a main character, an aimless young man in 80’s Japan, the age of wealth and opportunity, and as we watch the film his behaviour is pretty awful.

Continue reading “The Drudgery Train 苦役列車 (2012)”

Genkina hito’s Autumn 2013 Anime Picks Part 2 – Indulge Me

Genki Wanna be the Strongest in the World Anime Selection Banner

The spring anime had a good selection of titles, the summer anime selection was not bad (only one stand-out) but the sheer number of awesome looking titles for the autumn 2013 (see my Anime UK News article for a list of new shows airing in Japan) means I’ll be picking up more shows than ever before. Here is my first list of definite picks which I’ll watch through to the end. This is another list featuring some more that I’ll be watching, the only difference from the last one is that I’m more likely to drop these but:

I’ll give it a shot (two episodes to impress, no more)

Continue reading “Genkina hito’s Autumn 2013 Anime Picks Part 2 – Indulge Me”

License to Live ニンゲン合格 (1999)

Genki License to Live Film Review Header

License to Live                                     License to Live Film Poster Slightly Bigger

Japanese Title: ニンゲン 合格

Romaji: Ningen Goukaku

Release Date: January 23rdt, 1999

Running Time: 109 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Starring: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Koji Yakusho, Kumiko Aso, Sho Aikawa, Lily, Shun Sugata, Ren Osugi, Yoriko Douguchi, Masahiro Toda, Hajime Inoue

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is better known in the west for his horror films thanks to titles like Cure, Pulse, and Retribution being more available than his dramas and crime thrillers. In fact he is adept at working in other genres and there is a large body of work from his v-cinema days during the 90’s missing to those of us outside Japan. Overall his best film is the drama Tokyo Sonata, a masterful portrait of the breakdown of a modern family. License to Live is another drama film with similar themes to Tokyo Sonata but from 1999, ten years prior, and with a lighter comic touch.

Yutaka Yoshii (Nishijima) has just awoken from a ten year coma caused when he was knocked off his bicycle by a man named Murota (Osugi). It comes as a shock to the hospital staff and Murota who can’t forget the story and paid for Yutaka’s medical bills but Yutaka is conscious and so Murota gives him 500,000 yen to put an end to it.

Yutaka’s family might be glad of his recovery but they have all separated having accepted the possibility he might never wake up. His parents are divorced and his sister is supposedly in America. The only person willing to take Yutaka in is Fujimori (Yakusho), an old college friend of his father who raises carp in a fish farm on the Yoshii’s family property.

License to Live Yutaka (Nishijima) and Fujimori (Yakusho)

 

With Fujimori’s help Yutaka begins to grow up but soon his family hear about his recovery. First to appear is his father Shinichiro (Sugata) who travels the globe and has consigned Yutaka to the past. Next is Yutaka’s sister Chizuru (Aso) who shows up on the fish farm with her fiancé Kasaki (Aikawa) but she doesn’t want to stick around. Finally Yutaka finds out about mother Sachiko (Lily) who is the only one to stick by him.

“Your new life is what counts,” others tell him but Yutaka wants to bring his family back together again, even if only for a moment.

Continue reading “License to Live ニンゲン合格 (1999)”

Sweet Whip, The Devil’s Path, Precious Stone, White Witch School: Innocent Lilies, Last Days of Summer, Tomorrow we’ll be Angels and Other Japanese Film Trailers

Bad EducationIt’s the countdown to the Raindance Film Festival and London Film Festival! Okay, it may sound like I’m jumping the gun but the festival is only two weeks away and I have been scheduling things like interviews!!! As I wait I watched lots of British television like the BBC mini-series Peaky Blinders (take a look at the review by Novroz) and the trashy comedy Bad Education. I’m surprised at how funny I am finding Bad Education this because it’s full of jokes I’d normally find dull, cheeky and cheap jokes and dodgy slapstick. Perhaps it reminds me of my school days in an comprehensive full of crazy people who weren’t all that witty either…

The week began with a post about the Japanese films at the Vancouver International FilmJacopetti Festival. That was quickly followed up (literally the next day!) by a review for Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s existential yakuza comedy Eyes of the Spider. The Kurosawa season continued with a review for a slasher film from 1992, The Guard From the Underground. The season will conclude next week with a review of License to Live. Now… If only I could find a reasonable affordable version of Charisma!

Sweet Whip                                   Sweet Whip Film Poster

Japanese Title:  甘い 鞭

Romaji: Amai Muchi

Release Date: September 21st, 2013

Running Time: 118 mins.

Director: Takashi Ishii

Writer: Takashi Ishii (Screenplay), Kei Oishi (Original Work)

Starring: Mitsu Dan, Yuki Mamiya, Tsuyoshi Nakano, Takashi Nakayama, Taro Suwa, Naoto Takenaka, Hiroko Nakajima

I’m here for the drama, not the whip wielding leather-clad Mitsu Dan, honest. Takashi Ishii (The Black Angel, Flower and Snake, Gonin) adapts Kei Oishi’s original novel for the big screen and casts gravure idol Mitsu Dan (Be My Slave – actual film title, not some perverted wish of mine) in a sexy role oozing with trauma.

Seventeen-year-old Naoko (Mamiya) was kidnapped when she as a freshman in high school. The kidnapper was her neighbour and she was tortured and abused for an entire month before she killed him and escaped. Thirty-one-year-old Naoko (Dan) has seemingly overcome her trauma and is now a fertility expert but she has a darker side… she is part of an S&M club…

  Continue reading “Sweet Whip, The Devil’s Path, Precious Stone, White Witch School: Innocent Lilies, Last Days of Summer, Tomorrow we’ll be Angels and Other Japanese Film Trailers”

The Guard From Underground 地獄の警備員 (1992)

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The Guard From Underground  The Guard From Underground Film Poster

Japanese Title: 地獄の警備員

Romaji: Jigoku no Keibin

Release Date: 1992

Running Time: 97 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Kunihiko Tomioka (Screenplay),

Starring: Makiko Kuno, Yutaka Matsushige, Hatsunori Hasegawa, Ren Osugi, Taro Suwa

Akebono Corporation is a major business and Akiko Narushima (Kuno) is on her way to a new job. She used to be a curator at a gallery and is now the new adviser for the purchases of paintings for the corporation. Akebono are also hiring a new security guard in the rather tall and solidly built shape of former sumo wrestler Fujimaru (Matsushige), a man who is wanted by the police investigating the case of the murder of his lover and her lover, another sumo wrestler…  He was released due to being insane but the police are looking to prosecute again. Akiko starts her first day brightly and meets her new colleagues, the flighty Hanae Takeda, the rather useless Ken Nomura, and anonymous bald dude Minoru Yoshioka (Suwa). Her workmates are great… apart from her lecherous manager Kurume (Osugi), a carefree head of human resources named Hyodo (Hasegawa) and the mighty Fujimaru who takes a liking to her.

The Guard From Underground Security Booth

Continue reading “The Guard From Underground 地獄の警備員 (1992)”

Eyes of the Spider 蜘蛛の瞳 (1998)

Genki Eyes of the Spider Film Review Banner

I’m a big Kiyoshi Kurosawa fan but when Third Window Films announced they had two Japanese films made by Kurosawa in the 90’s I had no idea what they could be and I had little to guide me but posters and a brief plot synopsis. Less than a year on from that announcement and Third Window Films has released the two films in a set. I have watched them and I have to admit that these are two of the finest crime films I have seen.

The films originate from a single offer. Kurosawa was offered the chance to make two low-budget V-cinema films in two weeks with the same cast and so he came up with Eyes of the Spider and Serpent’s Path. Both have many similarities not least the cast and story about a about a man seeking revenge for the murder of his daughter but the similarities end there as Kurosawa’s execution of both films differ. This review covers Eyes of the Spider.

Eyes of the Spider                              Eyes of the Spider Poster

Japanese Title: 蜘蛛 の 瞳

Romaji: Kumo no Hitomi

Release Date:  February 21st, 1998 (Japan)

Running Time: 83 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Starring: Sho Aikawa, Dankan, Ren Osugi, Sadao Abe, Susumu Terajima, Moe Sakura, Kumi Nakamura, Satoshi Kajiwara, Shun Sugata

When we first see Nijima (Aikawa) we find him in the process of taking vengeance.

Eyes of the Spider Nijima (Aikawa) and the Murderer

He has kidnapped the person who murdered his daughter Mitsuko six years ago. After taking revenge. Nijima cannot adjust to normal life with his wife Noriko and is unsettled, life has lost its meaning and he’s haunted by his actions. Then he runs into Iwamatsu (Dankan), an old friend from high school.

 Eyes of the Spider Nijima (Aikawa) and Iwamatsu (Dankan) Meet

Iwamatsu offers Nijima a job. Iwamatsu runs what he calls an “import and export” business from a warehouse stacked with empty boxes and toys. This is a front for a kidnapping business overseen by a larger yakuza clan, where he and his three employees kidnap and murder to order.  

It’s an intriguing job offer for Nijima who finds that he has a talent for the job and enjoys exercising it. But when he is approached by Naomi (Osugi), the gangster who oversees his small band of kidnappers, he finds out that he may be being double-crossed. 

Continue reading “Eyes of the Spider 蜘蛛の瞳 (1998)”

Japanese Films at the Vancouver International Film Festival 2013

Genki Vancouver International Film Festival 2013 Banner

Canada has two awesome film festivals at this time of year. The first is the Toronto International Film Festival and the second is the Vancouver International Film Festival. The line-up for Vancouver looks pretty good although a lot of the films have already been screened at events like London. I didn’t cover the Japanese films at Vancouver last year but I did follow the coverage (Amusing! Insightful!) from great cinebloggers Goregirl and Bonjour Tristesse so check in on them every day of the festival to see what they thought. There are some little gems here in terms of the Japanese line-up so let’s take a look.

Like Father, Like Son                          Like Father Like Son Cannes Poster

Japanese Title: そして 父 に なる

Romaji: Soshite Chichi ni Naru

Running Time: 119 mins.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda (Screenplay)

Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Jun Fubuki, Keita Ninomiya, Lily Franky, Jun Kunimura, Kiki Kirin, Isao Natsuyagi

Hirokazu Koreeda’s Like Father Like Son won an award for Cannes and was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival will be screened at the BFI London Film Festival. Awesome. It’s worth making a trip out not just because of the awards buzz but the fact that Koreeda is a great filmmaker. A modern-day Ozu with his interest in family life. The film stars Masaharu Fukuyama (Suspect X), Machiko Ono (EurekaThe Floating Castle), Yoko Maki (InfectionThe Grudge), Lily Franky (Afro Tanaka), Jun Fubuki (SéanceRebirth) Kirin Kiki (Kiseki) and Jun Kunimura (OutrageVital) and Isao Natsuyagi (The Land of HopeWarm Water Under a Red Bridge).

 

Successful architect Ryota (Fukuyama) and his wife Midori (Ono) have a happy family life with their six-year-old son Keita (Nonomiya) but a phone call from the hospital informing them of the fact that their child was mixed up with another at birth shatters their happiness. Their birth-son Ryusei has been raised by a poorer but more easy-going family run by Yudai (Franky) and Yukari (Maki) Saiki. Ryota and Midori must decide whether to hand over the son they have carefully raised for the last six years and take back their biological son or not.

  Continue reading “Japanese Films at the Vancouver International Film Festival 2013”