New Year’s Resolutions For 2013 – Follow Your Dreams

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Welcome to my last post of the year.

2012 has been a very good year for me. My blog has grown in terms of views, recognition and content. It reflects the completion of the resolutions I made last year.

Here were my resolutions for 2012:

My resolutions for 2012

  • In 2012, I’ll watch Eiichi Kudo’s 13 Assassins! – as suggested by m from Wildgrounds in my last post,
  • In 2012, I’ll try and formalise my review structure – there have been different variations and my early reviews didn’t even have scores (gasp),
  • In 2012, I’ll start a chanbara season (a bit of a no-brainer and an excuse to watch my DVD of Gohatto more than once),
  • In 2012, I’ll spotlight directors, films and film distributors and try and bring a much more rigorous approach to reviews,
  • In 2012, I’ll get more involved with film culture by going to festivals,
  • In the first week of 2012, I will pick the Spring season anime I will watch and finish them quickly instead of dragging them out over a year,
  • In 2012, I’ll practice writing my Kanji every day and not once a week,
  • In 2012, I’ll try not to bore you… and I’ll try to get a handle on commas…

I got nearly all of them done!

This shows me that I am less lackadaisical and becoming much more organised much like Kondo from Key of Life!

I have organised a review format which I believe works well. I have focussed on directors and films with my seasons dedicated to Shinya Tsukamoto, and two for Sion Sono and a number for Korean films and Christmas. On top of covering film festivals I also went to the 56th BFI London Film Festival. All of these things have been fun to do and have allowed me to meet new people. I also practiced Kanji every day and the results showed in a test where I aced the Kanji section! Since change is always inevitable I have also done other things… While blogging I have got into the habit of updating quite a lot – adding extra trailers and pictures and making sure they are still there. I have updated various parts of the blog including my Top Ten FilmsNotable Director and Film Review Archives, but there are still some ancient areas such as my About page which may be changed.

I am happy with the progress that has been made, especially on the film front as I feel that I am watching great films and informing the world about them in my own little way. This has allowed me to meet all sorts of people and that has been a lot of fun.

That there are always changes that can be made goes without saying and they will be made. I really need to make something of my podcast and I should be a lot more adventurous with the way I present things. I may also drop the number of times I post a week. Towards the end of the year I found it a bit much having to write six times a week and I want to maintain quality.

I would like to thank everyone who has visited my blog and commented on it and I hope you continue to come back.

Mawaru Crusher 11

Anyway, part of 2013 will be continuing on past resolutions. Indeed, you could say that part of the battle will be just to continue that future.

Now we come to the most important bit:

My resolutions for 2013

  • In 2013, I will go to Japan and blog from there (like Sadako’s Movie Shack!),Ai to Makoto's Ai (Takei) Looking to the Future
  • In 2013, I will have a season dedicated to Hideo Nakata, Takashi Shimizu and Beat Takeshi,
  • In 2013, I will review some older Japanese films,
  • In 2013, I will write articles in different styles than the usual format,
  • In 2013, I will speak Japanese and write Japanese every day and try and hook up with more Japanese friends to practice my conversational skills,
  • In 2013, I will review more anime,
  • In 2013, I will submit more reviews to the Korean blogathon,
  • In 2013, I will attend more film festivals,
  • In 2013, I will try not to bore you.

Yotsuba Fireworks

 

Happy New Year!

Genkina hito’s Best Film (and Best Anime) of the Year Part 2 – The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki

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One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012 was to tackle watching anime more Kill Me Baby's First Assassinationaggressively. I ended up watching and enjoying the rather light school assassin comedy Kill Me Baby, a series generally rubbished by critics and viewers alike. I then watched the supernatural school mystery Another, a series which I found to beAnother - Mei Misaki Up Close particularly involving due to its central mystery of figuring out who is the ghost (and I never saw the answer coming). It had a live-action movie released earlier this year and I ended up buying the light novels when I went to the BFI Film Festival. Among other titles that made an impact were Sword Art Online, Mysterious Girlfriend X, and the 1999 TV anime Berserk and its movie adaptation. As much as I liked them, they did not move me to the extent that my anime and film of the year moved me.

The Wolf Children

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The Wolf Children was the first film I saw at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. The setting was good since I saw it at a wonderful cinema in Leicester Square, I had great company with a fellow cinephile and I was enjoying attending my first major film festival. I was uncertain though…

Not about writing about the film. I figured writing a review of The Wolf Children would be easy because I have been charting its progress since its inception thanks to my work as a journalist of Anime UK News. I can list the works of the script writer, character designer and music composer off the top of my head (because I am the sort of irritating person who can list filmographies and cast lists and bewilder people with them). My uncertainty stemmed from the fact that I am familiar with the director’s previous works…

Now I loved Hosoda’s first film The Girl Who Leapt through Time, which told a bitter-sweet teenage love tale but I was disappointed by Summer Wars which was pretty but felt all too familiar, simple and slight. Heck, I still have not written a review for it despite having made notes. Thankfully The Wolf Children, which tackles a coming of age tale,was complex and had detailed characters who grew and offered insights into existential changes of a family.

Wolf Children Height Check

What was spectacular was not the concept involving transforming children – Ghibli does magical realism all of the time – but the wit and intelligence used to serve it up in a coming of age tale and making something unique. That it observed the changes in the characters and family unit without the requirement of softening anything up was also welcome and added so much to the film.

The script gave granular details of life in the real world, an uncaring universe which forces people to find identities. From the believable start of the film to the enigmatic ending, I was gripped by the story and emotions it evoked. The film never offered trite answers to the challenges faced by the titular wolf children and that was an aspect that I enjoyed tremendously as it made the film gripping, so much so that during the film I (along with all of the audience) was sharing the surprise, joy and tears of the characters and willing the wolf children Ame and Yuki on to better futures. While the character arcs are not all that original the depth of detail and the unique deployment of the fantastical won me over. That it was the mother Hana, a person who is as normal as you or I, who has the most fulfilling arc came as a major surprise and became a major triumph.

This detail and rigorousness extended from the script to the animation and direction. The initial part of the film which roots the travails of the family in real, everyday problems is reflected in the use of close-ups and tight framing, cluttered sets and busy locations while believable and banal things that we tend to forget about pose obstacles and threats. That I felt a palpable relief when the film gave way to the openness of the country with visually stunning scenes of nature shows how much I had been affected and the fact that I actually thought about these things shows that the film succeeded in building a believable world.

This believability comes from the fact that every minute was packed full of detailed backgrounds and life. University noticeboards were packed with detailed leaflets and flyers, school corridors had the freshly clean sheen, raindrops plunged onto leaves and slid down. You can imagine people walking off screen and still existing including Ame and Yuki.

Wolf Children Snow Chase

I have to mention other names involved in the staff (because I am the sort of irritating person who can list filmographies and cast lists – seriously, why do people look bewildered when I do this?). The characters are designed by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto who has a knack of being able to create compelling looking leads. Witness the cast of Evangelion and Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise. It is no different here. The characters look both cute and relatable. Their changes are charted from the maturing of the children to the weight Hana puts on during pregnancy. They have stayed in my mind as vivid and real and life like when other, more stylised anime have fallen off the radar. The film’s soundtrack, composed by Joe Hisaishi who has created some of the best film scores ever, just listen to The Kids Return, Sonatine and Princess Mononoke. The scenes where Ame and Yuki tear around fields are exhilarating due, in part, to his music which, curiously, reminded me of pieces by Michael Nyman.

What also impressed was the big hearted embrace of traditional Japanese mores and ideals. It seemed a much fuller and more warmly crafted love-letter than the one in Summer Wars. A lot of anime is purely entertainment (and there is nothing wrong with that) but this felt like it was saying something and showing a familiar part of humanity but in a fresh way. It was definitely down to all of the details and the strong direction which is what made this my number one film and anime of the year.

Genkina hito’s Best Film of the Year Part 1 – Shame

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Sight and Sound Magazine January 2013I bought the January issue of Sight and Sound to read the critic’s film highlights of 2012. The titles that come up frequently are Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Master, Tabu, and Holy Motors. An eclectic mix but I have yet to see them. My blog represents my taste and it is also eclectic and rather idiosyncratic. Foremost is the fact that I love far eastern films regardless of genre – hell, even musicals these days. Indeed, no matter how much I may tease people who love slow-cinema, I still watch it. My Top Ten Films of the year is a diverse list with titles like the existential (or was I reading too much into it?) Goth – Love of Death at ten, the moving reflection on death that is Vital at nine, great genre stalwarts Skyfall and Prometheus both at six and the gloriously OTT musical Ai to Makoto at two. Japan features strongly but there is also a large British contingent which is best represented with my joint number one.

On a related note, I was at a party for the Japanese class when a friend mentioned how I had too many joint places in my Top Ten Films list. Half-jokingly… I think. Anyway the fact is that this year, more than any other previous year, I have fallen in love with so many films and wrote passionately about them. They moved me to feel something and I enjoyed researching and writing the reviews for them.

Next year I will be tougher.

Anyway my best film of 2012… let me rephrase, my best films is a joint entry for Shame and The Wolf Children which happened to be my best anime of 2012 as well (and will follow in another post)!

Two films which could not be more different from one another. Do I really want my number one films of 2012 to be about a sex addict with intimacy issues and a film about children that morph into wolves? What was so good about them?

What was so good was the fact that they both shone a light on aspects of humanity in such original ways.

Shame

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Shame was the first film I went to see at a cinema this year. My expectations for it were quite non-existent since I knew little about the film other than it starred Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan and it was directed by Steve McQueen. I was familiar with the actors, having watched films like Jane Eyre and An Education in previous years but Steve McQueen was an unknown quantity. I knew that he and Fassbender had wowed the critics with their previous film Hunger but I ducked the opportunity to see it in a cinema because the subject matter did not interest me. I came to question my decision when I read all of the critical praise for Hunger. I decided to watch Shame to see if the hype was justified.

Continue reading “Genkina hito’s Best Film of the Year Part 1 – Shame”

Genkina hito’s Best Game of 2012 – The Walking Dead

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This post was longer than I expected but the game affected me that much and the writing just flowed. Despite playing and loving Chrono Trigger and Life Signs: Hospital Affairs, this title won me over. I played the final episode just before seeing Skyfall at a cinema and on the way I was writing a review for the game…

The Walking Dead was easily my game of 2012! MASSIVE SPOILERS

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I cried at the end. Even before the end, in the sequences leading up to it. So far, everybody I know who plays this ends up crying.

I had not expected to cry playing this game. As much as I like the graphic novel and the television series I had gone into this, rather foolishly, expecting it to be something of a zombie survival simulator where I could test my mettle and all of the knowledge I have accrued watching Dawn of the Dead and other zombie films.

What I got was a well-scripted and brilliantly acted drama which exposed what it truly means to be a survivor of a zombie apocalypse. It was tough, bloody and brutal and it put characters through hell.

Continue reading “Genkina hito’s Best Game of 2012 – The Walking Dead”