Best Anime of 2013

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One of my new year’s resolutions for 2013 was to review more anime and I have done that. By combining my writing for Anime UK News with my blog and by carving out 30 minutes a day for viewing titles I have upped my anime output. As a result of these efforts I have lot of titles to choose from for my Best Anime of 2013. I’ll split this into the two categories of film and TV simply because I have seen some great films and TV. When I originally wrote this Spirited Away was on Film4 so it continues!

My top ten anime of 2013 is below followed by my final choices for my favourites of the year.

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47 Ronin (2013)

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47 Ronin                                 47 Ronin Film Poster                            

UK Release Date: December 26th, 2013 (UK)

Running Time: 119 mins.

Director: Carl Erik Rinsch

Writer: Chris Morgan, Hossein Amini

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kou Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Jin Akanishi, Min Tanaka, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa,

47 Ronin is the Hollywood adaptation of a real incident from Japan’s samurai past during the Tokugawa era where 47 masterless samurai seek revenge over the death of their Lord through the assassination of another even though it means certain death. It is a celebrated tale that has been turned into multiple films because it typifies the bravery and loyalty of the samurai at a time when they were losing their place in the country. Instead of sticking firmly to the facts the writers of this version favour have endeavoured to make a fantasy epic close to The Lord of the Rings (perhaps to make it more palatable to a mainstream audience?) but in doing so they make a vapid and dull action film.

Ancient feudal Japan. A group of magical islands full of witches and demons. Peace is kept by samurai. The story of 47 Ronin is the story of all Japan.

The first character we meet is a boy named Kai, the illegitimate son of a British sailor and a Japanese peasant woman who was abandoned in a forest raised by Tengu. He is fleeing the forest in which they live so he can experience a life amongst humans. During his escape he runs into Lord Asano (Tanaka) and his entourage. Asano takes pity on the boy and takes him in. Asano’s samurai are displeased, not least his loyal general Oishi (Sanada), but his daughter Mika takes a liking to Kai.

Fast forward to the future and Kai (Reeves) is an outcast in Asano’s kingdom. He is held in contempt by the haughty samurai, usually referred to as half-breed and treated like a dog, but the love of Mika (Sibasaki) is enough joy for him to remain in the service of her father. This loyalty is called upon when the evil Lord Kira (Asano) and a witch named Mizuki (Kikuchi) use magic to destroy Asano and steal his lands. Oishi, banished with the rest of Asano’s samurai plot their revenge and it is Kai with his mysterious past who will play a pivotal role.

47 Ronin Keanu Reeves in Samurai Armour

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Films I Wish I Had Seen in 2013 and will Hopefully see in 2014

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2013 has ended and I haven’t published my best ofs yet. I better start now. I have to admit that 2013 year has been rather excellent in terms of my experience with Japanese films considering I saw so many in their year of release, played a small part in helping bring one over to the UK and interviewed a few directors and yet, and yet… There were a few releases that I wish I had seen. Every trailer post always brings up a few titles I wish I could see in a cinema and so here’s a list of 14 Japanese films released in 2013 I hope I get to see in 2014!

Shin Shin Shin                               Shin Shin Shin Film Poster

Japanese Title: しんしんしん

Romaji: Shin Shin Shin

Running Time: 135 mins.

Release Date: January 12th 2013 (Japan)

Director: Kouhei Sanada

Writer: Kouhei Sanada

Starring: Ikeda Houshi, Miwako Wagatsuma, Kazuhiro Sano, Yuya Okutsu. Megumi Kagurazaka

Shin Shing Shin is a film which was directed by Kouhei Sanada who was mentored by Kiyoshi Kurosawa at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. That same university played a massive part in another title below, Fairy Tale. The film’s title comes from a song of the same name by the folk rock band Happy End who hail from the 70’s. Is this it and it is a road movie which stars Miwako Wagatsuma who was in Sentimental Yasuko and End of Puberty and Megumi Kagurazaka who was in Cold Fish and The Land of Hope.

 

Tomoyuki (Ishida) is a high school student who lives with the Tekiya family, a group of strangers with no other place to go. A girl named named Yuki (Wagatsuma) joins the group but when their home is demolished they head off on a journey that leads them from town to town with no particular destination in mind.

Website

 

A Fairy Tale        Yuki Sasaki Film Poster

Japanese Title: あるいは佐々木ユキ

Romaji: Aruiwa Sasaki Yuki

Running Time: 79 mins.

Release Date: January 12th 2013 (Japan)

Director: Kenji Fukuma

Writer: Keiko Fukuma (Screenplay),

Starring: Saori Kohara, Akira Yoshino, Hideyo Sengoku, Makiko Kawano, Yumi Fuzuki

This was a victim of my bad translation skills… The first in a long line of victims… Anyway this is written and directed by the poet Kenji Fukuma, a man with two other directorial efforts to his name – Summer for the Living (2011), which starred Saori Kohara, and My Dear Daughter of Okayama (2008). He reunites with the actress Kohara for this fantasy drama about the emotions of a 20-year-old Tokyoite which interweaves interviews, poetry and dances so that the film blurs dreams and reality.

 

Watashi wa Sasaki Yuki. Hatachi desu. 

20-year-old Yuki Sasaki who lives by herself in Tokyo. One day she chances upon a poetry reading by poetess Yumi Fuzuki and the experiences makes her lose sight of her purpose in life. In the process, another Yuki (Kawano) appears before her. We see her reality and dreams in a series of interviews and performances like dancing and poetry that are captured on film. 

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Genkina hito Says Goodbye to 2013 and Hello to 2014 – New Year’s Resolutions

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Welcome to my last post of the year.

As 2013 draws to an end I see that I have made major steps in my personal and public life. I have had promotions at work, improved my Japanese language skills and met lots of Japanese people and attended lots of film festivals and watched lots of films and even achieved most of my resolutions.

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The Conjuring

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The Conjuring                                                The Conjuring Film Poster

UK Release Date: August 02nd, 2013 (UK)

Running Time: 112 mins.

Director: James Wan

Writer: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lilie Taylor, Ron Livingston, Joey King, Stanley Casewell, Hayley McFarland, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Sterling Jerins,

Apparently, just like Amityville Horror, this is based on a true story about a real life Perron family who endured the haunting until the Warrens, a real life paranormal investigators intervened which I guess makes it even more scary because this stuff actually happened. Really? Whatever the case, The Conjuring is a pretty interesting choice of title. Conjuring is a word that may make one think of summoning demons or of magicians fooling audiences into believing in magic with sleights of hand. A curse and ghosts are conjured up but the performance aspect of the word is pretty apt here since Wan tells the story with grotesque glee proving that he is one of the best modern horror directors working.

The Conjuring The Warrens (Wilson and Farmiga)

Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine (Farmiga) Warren are paranormal investigators based in New England. In the basement of their house in Monroe Connecticut they keep cursed objects like samurai armour and a haunted doll named Annabelle locked up. Over the course of their career they have investigated many different cases and gained much arcade knowledge but after a traumatic exorcism that leaves Lorraine debilitated they shelve their careers in favour of academic tours and raising their daughter.

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Insidious Chapter 2

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Insidious Chapter 2                                               Insidious 2 Film Poster

UK Release Date: September 13th, 2013 (UK)

Running Time: 105 mins.

Director: James Wan

Writer: Leigh Wannell, James Wan

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Leigh Whannell, Andrew Astor, Angus Sampson, Jocelin Donahue, Danielle Bisutti, Lindsay Seim, Steve Coulter

1986, psychic mediums Carl (Coulter) and Elise Reiner (Seim) are helping Lorrain Lambert’s (Donahue) son Josh suppress his astral projection abilities to keep him safe from the evil spirit of a woman in white who stalks him…

 Insidious 2 A Young and Haunted Josh Lambert

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Genki Christmas Season 2013

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This is my annual Christmas season post but I should be honest and call it the catch-up season. Last year I was able to watch lots of Korean horror films  but this year I will be posting lots of reviews from the film festivals I attended back in October. Due to the autumn anime schedule and changes in my work schedules I pretty much ran out of time and into chaos when scheduling posts. So there will be reviews for Sake-Bomb, Our Shunhi, Gravity, You’re Next,  Insidious 2, The Conjuring, Rurouni Kenshin, The Flu, The Ravine of Goodbye, Shady, Remiges, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, Galileo Donna, Beyond the Boundary. Gosh. There will also be director interviews which I got from the Raindance Film Festival – Sake-Bomb Interview.

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