Many people will be aware of the glitzy and glamorous world of idols which is slowly but surely encroaching on mainstream life due to its increasing ubiquity thanks to the money it makes and the fact the culture is cultivated and energised online. There are many opinions on how innocent it is as unbelievably cute females have their innocence and erotic potential fetishised for profits by record labels but what is the reality?
Rage is about the desperate need for human connections and the difficulties in maintaining trust when paranoia grips people. It takes place in four different communities in three separate regions of Japan following a grisly crime and the ambitious story allows a star-packed ensemble cast to go for glory in its bid for human drama but not everything resonates.
I hope everyone has had a good week. I’ve been busy everyday with work and studying Japanese. I managed to practice speaking and writing both in and out of work. The good thing about my job is encountering Japanese tourists and I met a family from Nagoya. When not speaking directly to Japanese people, I’m speaking to myself, haha! Film-wise, I wrote about the release of Tag (2015) and published a review of A Normal Life: Chronicle of a Sumo Wrestler (2009).
“A Normal Life: Chronicle of a Sumo Wrestler (辛抱)” is a documentary that was produced for Japanese TV corporation NHK in 2009 as part of its “Tokyo Modern” series.
When you think of sumo wrestling, you might think of two big men explosively launching themselves at each other as they try and quickly push their opponent out of the ring. This seemingly speedy spectacle of power belies the amount of eating, effort, and training that goes into moulding the wrestlers, something indicated by the kanji in the title which means endurance. Sumo is a test of endurance for the participants and also a comment on how this sport has maintained a central place in Japanese culture since the 08th Century. Both are demonstrated in a film that reveals a fascinating world of ancient traditions and physical dedication in a behind-the-scenes look at the early phase of one sumo wrestler’s career.
Eureka have scored a coup by getting Tag as part of their catalogue following on from Tokyo Tribe. The release will be on dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition on November 20th 2017 after getting shown at festivals around the UK.
I remember when this came out and I felt rather down because it was based on a long-running series of death-game movies and it featured schoolgirls and disturbing imagery. I was quite negative about it but that was premature. It turns out the film was pro-feminist and pretty fun (that’ll teach me about assumptions…).
“High levels of upskirt photography and grisly dismemberment notwithstanding, it’s perfectly legitimate to read “Tag” as a girl-power “Alice in Wonderland” variant in which three versions of Japanese womanhood find the means to kick against a male-controlled system that would seek to assign them positions of subservience and/or victimhood. Though action and excitement are clearly Sono’s primary concerns, viewers searching for deeper meaning to all this mayhem will certainly find plenty to think about along the way.” Richard Kuipers Variety
Sion Sono is one of my favourite directors (I have dedicated twoseasons to the man’s work) and in recent years he has brought in a more feminist take on Japanese media. This film is based on a 2001 novel by Yusuke Yamada where people get involved in a “real hide-and-seek game” involving people with the family name Sato and a killer ghost. Five films were made and Tag is the latest one. For this film, schoolgirls replace people with the Sato family name.
Happy weekend, people. I hope everyone is doing well! I have been a bit quiet this week, working away on a video game and practising Japanese. I managed to put out two posts, one about the London International Animation Festival and the other about the films BAMY and Tokyo Vampire Hotel getting screened at the Torino Film Festival in Italy. I’ll get back on track with film reviews next week. Expect one about a documentary soon.
The 35th Torino Film Festival will take place from November 24th to December 02nd and there are a lot of interesting Asian films. I want to focus on Japanese titles and there are two on the programme, one of which is a super special supernatural romance tale that left me grinning with glee and the other a super fun-looking vampire tale from Japanese cinema legend Sion Sono. Here are the details:
The 14th London International Animation Festival (LIAF 17) returns to the Barbican from 1st-10th December and there are 200 animated shorts and features slated to appear as well as a lot of guests who will take part in Q&As and presentations. There is a focus on the on-screen representation of women and the usual high-quality and diverse selection of films which show the various media used in making the many different films.
As the organisers have written on their site,
This year’s uncompromising programme promises to inspire, delight and challenge the notion that animation is merely for the 3D-CGI blockbuster genre or cute cartoons for kids. Independent animation is an art form that continues to thrive and develop as a breathtaking medley of styles, materials, techniques and production – including hand drawn, paint on glass, collage, sculpture, cut outs, puppets, abstract, sand/salt, the interesting developments in CGI – all of which can be seen at LIAF 2017.
I hope everyone had a good week. It was a bit of a quiet one for me. I finished off a big writing project and sent it back to the company, attended a funding meeting for a festival, and started practising Japanese for around five hours a day. I was inspired by an American lady I met in Japan who said she studied for around six hours a day before making the move and permanently being based out there. Guts and dedication!
According to IMDB “This remake of the 1970s TV series “Silver Mask” and “Super Robot Red Baron” pits two families (one with an armored bionic superhero, and the other a red giant robot) against evil aliens to save Earth and prevent the extinction of mankind.”
Synopsis: It is the year 2050 and mankind has almost become extinct on Earth thanks to an alien invader known as Killgis and his giant robot,Black Baron. The last survivors, five Kasuga brothers, plan to use a time machine and their three powers: a device for identifying aliens, psychic powers, and powered suits to head to the past and contact roboticist Kenichiro Kurenai and start to build a giant robot, Red Baron. Things get confused as Kenichiro’s younger brother and aliens get drawn into the conflect. Can Kenichiro, the Kasuga brothers and their friends and family cooperate and save the Earth from aliens, giant robots, and more? Find out asa fierce battle is about to start in Tokyo.
Synopsis: An Kishimoto (Elaiza Ikeda) is a high school girl who has been practicing kyudo (archery) for the past 6 years. She is the outgoing president of her school’s archery club and faces her last tournament but feels unfulfilled by her results and full of regrets. She appoints Yota Mikami (Masaki Nakao) as the next head of the kyudo team, someone doesn’t practice much but wins competitions. He has a crush on her and she has feelings for him. Just as she is about to finish as president he stops her...
Synopsis: Tsuchida (Asami Usuda) lives with her boyfriend Seiichi (Taiga). He is an aspiring musician but he has no job and is struggling to write new songs. Tsuchida decides to work at a hostess club to support them both but doesn’t inform Seiichi. Things blow up when she gets herself involved with her customer Yasuhara (Ken Mitsuishi) and Seiichi finds out. Arguments ensue and he decides to get a job but around this time, Tsuchida runs into her ex-boyfriend Hagio (Joe Odagiri)…
Synopsis:This is the theatrical adaptation of a television series tie-in for Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Before We Vanish (2017), a take on the Invasion of the Body Snatchers story. The story concerns Etsuko Yamagiwa (Kaho) who gets involved with a crisis faced by co-worker Miyuki Asakawa (Yukino Kishii) who tells her that she has a ghost in her home. What should be a ghost turns out to be Miyuki’s father there and Miyuki is sent to the psychiatric hospital where her husband Tatsuo (Shota Sometani) works. There, Miyuki receives a diagnosis that she lacks the concept of “family.” It is also there that Miyuki becomes disturbed by the presence of Dr. Jiro Makabe (Masahiro Higashide). She may not be mad because, one day, Etsuko hears Dr. Jiro Makabe state “I came to Earth to invade.”
Synopsis: A play by Kazuhiro Kato, the director of the theatre company Tokyo Dry Battery, serves as the basis for a film which is chamber-piece, a conversation between two friends, Mikami and Nagata, who spend a few hours together in a room late at night somewhere in downtown Tokyo.
Fukushima: A Record of Living Things Episode Five – Follow Up –
Synopsis: Director Masanori Iwasaki has kept track of the impact of the radiation from the Fukushma Daiichi meltdown on the local ecosystem for a number of years. This is the fifth work in a series of documentariesand in this one he takes up the theme of marine pollution and follows up a survey conducted by the National Institute for Environmental Studies which took place 1 km offshore from the nuclear power plant. He also looks at the child of a monkey born around the time of the accident and exposed to radiation. Scientists are interviewed and the impact of the radiation is assessed.
Synopsis: The Yellow Monkey reformed after a 15-year hiatus and went on tour in 2016. Director Daishi Matsunaga captures them on and off stage and finds out what went on during their 15 years off and what they plan to do next.
Sorosoro Ongaku wo yameyou to omou
そろそろ音楽をやめようと思う 「Sorosoro Ongaku wo yameyou to omou」
Synopsis:This indie film is the debut of director Shinichi Ono and he shows the difficulties and joys of pursuing a career as a musician. Dynamite ☆ Naoki takes the lead role of a man named Kenichi. He dreams of becoming a professional musician and performs live shows while supporting himself with a part-time job. His wife Akiko stands by him but he’s in his forties and makes the decision to give up until, one day, Kenichi receives an invitation from former music collaborator. His life takes an unexpected turn in a new direction.…
Synopsis:Nine people wake up in a locked room. They don’t know each other, they don’t remember how they got there. All they know is that everyone is that everyone is being forced to participate by a man dressed in a strange costume: he is the host of a series of games. In the first, they have to eat a piece of sushi: one of them is poisoned and the one who eats it will die. Things get worse from there…
Synopsis:Daniel López, a Spanish-Swiss filmmaker and photographer was travelling the world when he visited Okinawa and was moved by the place. He moved to Okinawa in 2003 and has made this documentary exploring his reasons why. He looks at the history of the islands, the traditions, music, sports and martial-arts, Ryukyu culture and more as he seeks an answer to the question “Why are you attracted to Okinawa?”
Here’s an excerpt from the English-language website:
Nevertheless, in this archipelago filled with contrasts in its unique set-up, I gradually discover that a deep-rooted spirit of resistance does prevail. A strength, which intrigues me and I find hard to fathom. It seems really quite exceptional to me that this “spirit of Okinawa”, where values of mutual aid and tolerance, inspired by ancient traditions survive, within a contemporary society driven by profit and efficiency.
Synopsis:Kanagawa University of Fine Arts, Office of Film Research (2013)was directed by Yuichiro Sakashita and impressed a number of critics. He’s back with another story about filmmakers and this time they are doing bad things as they tap into the enthusiasm of regions wanting to promote themselves. A producer manages to make a movie by skilfully deceiving the people of Enoki city who wish to boost the local in film production with a small film. Initially the citizens are cowed by this brash outsider and his crew but they soon work out he’s using them. Will the people of Enoki city be able to get justice and a film to boot?
Is the order a rabbit?? Dear My Sister
ご注文はうさぎですか?? ～Dear My Sister～「Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka??: Dear My Sister」
Synopsis from ANN:In Koi’s original four-panel manga, the main character Cocoa (a pun of “hot cocoa”) arrives at the café Rabbit House one day, excited for rabbits. She actually all but lives in that café. She meets lots of different girls there, including a tiny and cool girl named Chino (from “cappucino”), a tough and soldier-esque girl named Rize (“Thé des Alizés” tea), a spacey and quintessentially Japanese girl named Chiya (“Uji matcha” tea), and the ordinary but dignified Sharo (“Kilimanjaro” coffee). This story takes place in the summer so expect fireworks displays.
Gekijouban Haikara-san ga Touru Zenpen – Benio, Hana no 17-sai
劇場版 はいからさんが通る 前編 ～紅緒、花の17歳～「Gekijouban Haikara-san ga Touru Zenpen – Benio, Hana no 17-sai」
I went to a funding meeting for the anime festival I work at earlier this week. One of the points made in the meeting by me was that it would be great to screen anime that rarely leaves Japan. Things like this.
Synopsis from ANN:Benio Hanamura lost her mother when she was very young and has been raised by her father, a high-ranking official in the Japanese army. As a result, she has grown into a tomboy — contrary to traditional Japanese notions of femininity, she studies kendo, drinks sake, dresses in often outlandish-looking Western fashions instead of the traditional kimono, and isn’t as interested in housework as she is in literature. She also rejects the idea of arranged marriages and believes in a woman’s right to a career and to marry for love. Benio’s best friends are the beautiful Tamaki, who is much more feminine than Benio but equally interested in women’s rights, and Ranmaru, a young man who was raised to play female roles in the kabuki theater and as a result has acquired very effeminate mannerisms.
Taking place in Yurakucho as Yurakacho Asahi Hall, Tokyo FILMeX offers English-subtitled films from across Asia. It runs from November 18th to the 26th and during that time, filmmakers will appear to show off their latest works and take part in industry events aimed at strengthening Asian cinema. Some of these titles have already hit the festival circuit and won awards. There are three Japanese films due to be screened and they all look special as do all the other films from various parts of Asia.
Here is the trailer for the festival and the films will follow. Click on a title to be taken to the festival page: