White Day in Japan

Today is White Day in Japan. After the disaster I doubt anybody is thinking much about chocolate but hopefully Japan can recover quickly.

To aid in the rebuilding effort, you can donate to the red cross here.


The 14th of February was Valentine’s Day which was a day for women to buy men chocolate (scandalous). Well the 14th of March is White Day and is considered a day that men are supposed to return favours received from women on Valentine’s Day. It is believed to have been introduced by a marshmallow manufacturing company in the 1960’s hence the name but men tend to buy other sorts of gifts, not just marshmallows.


Here’s a video which explains it.

Genkina hito predicts the 2011 BAFTA Awards

With the BAFTA’s (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) due to take place on the 13th February, the British film industry gets a chance to wave the flag for British talent and reward films from the rest of the world. The issue of what is or isn’t a British film depends upon the amount of British involvement but it is safe to say that Britain had a good year (apart from the UK Film Council getting axed).

Anyway, here’s what I think should win. When the results are read out on BBC One I’ll be able to compare and contrast. In the meantime I’ll probably change my mind after watching a few more films but first… 

Continue reading “Genkina hito predicts the 2011 BAFTA Awards”

Scary Manga for Christmas

Christmas is coming and along with the festive cheer it is also a time for ghost stories. At least in Britain it is. Usually this means short stories by Charles Dickens and M.R. James. This got me thinking… When was the last time you were scared by a short story… or more specifically, manga?

Me? Never. I tend to read manga for humour – Welcome to the NHK/Excel Saga – or sci-fi action – Pluto/King of Thorns. I have read a lot of supernatural manga such as Claymore, Buso Renkin and Tsukihime and found them bland (apologies to anyone offended) so I have come to dismiss the medium in terms of scares… which is why I have been caught off guard by two recent reads – Biomega and Zashiki Onna. I just have to recommend them.

Biomega – Tsutomu Nihei

The N5S virus has swept across the Earth turning people into Zombies. Zoichi Kanoe is a synthetic human and agent of Toa Heavy Industries looking for a girl with the power to alter the virus. He rides into the city of 9JO on a motorcycle with built in AI named Fuyu only to encounter zombies and rivals also looking for the girl.

A Picture from the Manga, Biomega.

This is a bleak look at the future. The city and its architecture are very disturbing and labyrinthine. There is a lack of symmetry in the buildings and the spaces are all cramped and dark, cluttered with detritus and shadows. When spaces do open up, when you can see into the distance, what you get are post-industrial Escher nightmares stretching off into infinity – humanity created a hellish modernity for itself before the zombies showed up.

Tsutomu Nihei uses dense and dark imagery that imbues the settings with a disturbing quality which reflects upon the zombies. These walkers are genuinely chilling to look at, the human form bearing enough history from their past lives to make them individual but the disease distorting them physically. Seeing them in groups is just as unsettling.

The plot doesn’t give much away until it’s ready. Like Zoichi, we are venturing into this hell and discovering things at his pace. I found it very atmospheric and chilling. Reading this at night by the light of a small lamp across the room I felt a chilling physical and emotional response.

Zashiki Onna – Minetaro Mochizuki

Picture from the manga Zashiki Onna

College kid Hiroshi is living a relatively normal life, working a part time job, romancing a high-school girl and living alone in an apartment. One night he hears somebody banging a neighbour’s door and shouting. The knocking continues for a while but the neighbour isn’t in and Hiroshi wants to get some sleep so he goes outside. What greets him is a thin, tall bedraggled woman with torn, dirty clothes, messy hair. Bottom line: she’s disturbing. She sees him. So starts their ‘relationship’.

The manga goes from normal to chilling to absolutely deranged. What at first seems like a very realistic portrayal of stalking goes seriously off the rails into the psychological horror alley and then into the realm of the urban legend.

Japanese horror films have long since me primed for suspicion whenever a girl with Zashiki Onnaloooong hair pops up but at points I felt sorry for the poor woman. I believed in the characters and even if their actions weren’t totally believable I still found myself gritting my teeth at the creepiness, grinning with glee at the lunacy and crying out: 



All without feeling the slightest bit of self-consciousness. Hell, I’m not embarrassed to admit it because I enjoyed the manga. Track it down if you can!

Chico & Rita

A love letter to the Jazz age. A tale of thwarted love and ambition. A Spanish/UK co-production that manages to capture the big emotions and themes of the post-war era in a sumptuous animated and scored film. It should, if there is any justice, do well in the box-office. Certainly there was a sizeable audience when I saw this bitter-sweet romance.

Havana, present day, Chico works as a shoe-shiner for a living. After work he goes home and turns on the radio to hear an old song he composed. This sparks off a series of memories from his youth in Havana in 1948 and his subsequent travels, tours and the tragic romantic and career situations that have lead him to his present fortunes.

(Warning: This trailer gives away WAAAAY too much but shows off the animation.).

Continue reading “Chico & Rita”

My New Favourite Website

I’m busy waiting for Inception this week but to pass the time I’ve found my new favourite website:

Indiemovies Online


This isn’t a puff-piece. I’ve known about this UK based website for a few months thanks to an advert in Sight and Sound but it was only on Wednesday 7th July that I actually looked at it in depth. I’m glad I did.

This is a well made, well stocked movie website and I’ve already spent a fair few hours watching films. It was advertised in Sight and Sound so it must be high quality.

Let me give you the highlights:

  • legitimate free movies from many genres from sci-fi to family to thriller and animation;
  • a plethora of films from around the world – from America to France to Japan;
  • up to date news, reviews, features and a forum to sound-off in.

 The selection of films is excellent. These are titles that Sight and Sound examine in their DVD reviews which might catch my interest but not get purchased or left on a ever-expanding, never-decreasing ‘to-get’ list. Let me give you a selection of films that caught my eye:

  • Sally Potter’s Rage
  • I Served the King of England
  • The Dream Life of Angels
  • Funny Ha Ha
  • Distant Voices Still Lives
  • King of New York
  • Rembrandt’s J’accuse

They even have a J-Horror season(!!!) which includes:

Ju-On Black/White Ghost, Tokyo Gore Police, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl

It sounds too good to be true. As far as I can tell there is no charge and there are no surveys. You don’t have to sign up to watch the films either. There are adverts but the quality of the films are excellent and these films are the real deal so the makers must be seeing money back which is always a good thing.

I’ve already watched most of this week’s J-horror and intend to watch more so I must dash!

I highly recommend this website!