Hanagatami 花筐 Dir: Nobuhiko Obayashi (2017)

Hanagatami    Hanagatami Film Poster

花筐 「Hanagatami

Running Time: 169 mins.

Release Date: December 16th, 2017

Director:  Nobuhiko Obayashi

Writer: Nobuhiko Obayashi, Chiho Katsura(Screenplay), Kazuo Dan (Original Novel)

Starring: Shunsuke Kubozuka, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Keishi Nagatsuka, Tokio Emoto, Mugi Kadowaki, Tetsuya Takeda, Takako Tokiwa, Hirona Yamazaki,

IMDB Website

Is there subject-matter that film as a medium is better than others at capturing? Perhaps it is emotions. Or maybe memories. Filmmakers can examine them in many expressive ways and with an incredible arsenal of technical tools open to the cast and crew, imagination really is the limit. Enter the adventurous Nobuhiko Obayashi, a man not shy of being creative as proven in his career which stretches back to the 1950s and features a long filmography that trades in fantasy, experimentalism, and surrealism. He is best known for the haunted-house musical House (1977) but nothing will prepare those familiar solely with that fun film for Hanagatami! Obayashi’s limiters are off in this deep-dive into the precious memories of a man who lived through an age of emotional turbulence as Japan hurtled headlong into the chaos of World War II.

Hanagatami Image 4

It is the summer of 1941 in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture. 17-year-old Toshihiko Sakakiyama (Shunsuke Kubozuka) has just travelled from his parents’ home in Amsterdam to stay with his wealthy aunt Keiko Ema (Takako Tokiwa) in her large manor. He will share it with his sickly cousin Mina (Honoka Yahagi) who suffers from tuberculosis. While there, he is attending a school where falls under the influence of the grim and philosophical Kira (Keishi Nagatsuka) who is physically infirm, and Ukai (Shinnosuke Mitsushima), a boy both strong in body and mind and with a pure soul that attracts Toshihiko. There are girls his age, too. Kira’s cousin, the melancholy Chitose (Mugi Kadowaki) who carries a camera she loves to use to capture people’s existence and the more playful and positive Akine (Hirona Yamazaki) whose mischievous grin and compassion for others lights up all occasions.

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As the Gods Will 神さまの言うとおり Kami-sama no Iutoori (2014)

As the Gods Will      

As the Gods Will Film Poster 1
As the Gods Will Film Poster 1

Japanese: 神さまの言うとお

Romaji: Kami-sama no Iutoori

Release Date: November 15th, 2014 (Japan)

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Hiroyuki Yatsu (Screenplay), Muneyuki Kaneshiro, Akeji Fujimura (Original Manga)

Starring: Sota Fukushi, Hirona Yamazaki, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mio Yuki, Shota Sometani, Nao Omori, Lily Franky


As the Gods Will is the big-budget adaptation of a horror-survival manga series written by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and illustrated by Akeji Fujimura. I picked up on it at the end of last year because it looked great and was directed by Takashi Miike who has gone back to his V-cinema horror/action roots as of late. The DVD/blu-ray was released at the end of May and I’m happy to report that this film doesn’t disappoint fans of Miike. The film is a star-studded affair with talented actors like Ryunosuke Kamiki, Shota Sometani, Lily Franky being led by Sota Fukushi in a tale about a bored schoolboy who wants a bit of excitement in his life and gets more than he bargained for.

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Lesson of the Evil, CM Time, Missing Trailers and the Japanese Movie Box Office Chart

Biomega (3)This week has been one about trailers and news which I find easier to write than reviews. The reason why? I needed to buy time to review the films I saw at the 56th BFI London Film Festival (more on that tomorrow). So what does buying time mean? On Sunday I organised a new page which lists reviews by directors. On Monday I posted news about the acquisition of Kurosawa’s V-cinema films Eyes of the Spider and Serpent’s Path by Third Window Films. This was followed with a trailer for Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmasters, a film that is God-tier. I have not seen it but based on the trailer and the director, that’s the only way I can see it. I then followed that on Friday with a trailer for the latest instalment of the Hunter x Hunter franchise, Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge. 

What do the Japanese charts look like this week? 

  1. The Floating Castle
  2. A Chorus of Angels
  3. Smile Precure!
  4. Fly with the Gold
  5. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
  6. Paranormal Activity 4
  7. The Expendables 2
  8. Tsunagu
  9. Bayside Shakedown 4: The Final New Hope
  10. Outrage Beyond

A lot of the films released last week have entered the charts… as well as some Hollywood fluff. The historical fantasy epic The Floating Castle takes the top spot while the drama  A Chorus of Angels sneaks in at number two. The bank heist thriller Fly with the Gold is at number four.

What is released today?

Lesson of the Evil                           Lesson of the Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 悪 の 

Romaji: Aku no Kyoten

Release Date:  10th November 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer:  Yusuke Kishi

Starring: Hideaki Ito, Fumi Nikaidou, Shota Sometani, Kento Hayashi, Hirona Yamazaki, Kento Hayashi

What an incredible director!

Miike has made so many movies these past two years and I have had the pleasure of actually seeing one on the big screen during the year of its Japanese release. That film was the incredible Ai to Makoto which is my third cinema experience with Miike (Gozu and Thirteen Assassins are the other two). The guy can be hit or miss but when he hits… it is amazing.

What an incredible cast list!

Shota Sometani and Fumi Nikaidou blew me away in Himizu and are reunited for this slick looking horror tale. Sometani in particular has been carving an impressive niche for himself with titles ranging from the likes big budget fluff Sadako 3D to the more indie Isn’t Anyone Alive? They are joined by veteran Hideaki Ito (The Princess Blade, Sukiyaki Western Django), Kento Hayashi (Arakawa Under the Bridge) and Takayuki Yamada who was particularly cool in Thirteen Assassins and… THE CAT RETURNS!!!

What an incredible story???

The film is based on a novel written by Yusuke Kishi who has twice won the Japan Horror Associated Award but while the synopsis sounds awesome, the trailer is lacking. That said, Miike is helming this so it should be awesome.

Seiji Hasumi (Ito) is a popular teacher at a high school. His attractive smile and friendly demeanour masks the beating heart of a psychopath. A psychopath who will stop at nothing to make his school perfect including killing his students.

CM Time                                    CM Time Movie Poster

Japanese Title: CM タイム

Romaji: CM Taimu

Release Date:  10th November 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 96 mins.

Director: Seiji Kubota

Writer:  N/A

Starring: Hitomi Kuroki, Katsuo Nakamura, Kazuki Kato, Kosuke Toyohara, Yuika Motokariya, Fuyuki Moto, Satoshi Judai, Ranran Suzuki, Kenji Matsuda, Takamasa Suga

CM Time… CM? Anybody who reports on Japanese media will be familiar with the abbreviation CM as it means commercial message. This comedy sends up the world of advertising by putting three totally different characters together in what should be a simple commercial. It stars veteran actors Hitomi Kuroki (who starred in the so-so Kaidan), Katsuo Nakamura (who starred in the wonderful Warm Water Under a Red Bridge) and new guys Kazuki Kato (Kamisama Help!), Kosuke Toyohara (Licence to Live) and Yukia Motokariya (Swing Girls, We Were There).

When a beverage company ask an advertising company to make a CM (Commercial Message), what they don’t expect is chaos but that is what they get as the ad agency hires a manic depressive rapper (Kato), a fading actor (Nakamura) and the queen of enka (Kuroki). Let the hilarity begin.

Missing             Missing Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 行方不明

Romaji: Yukuefumei

Release Date:  10th November 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Koji Kawano

Writer:  Toshikazu Nagae

Starring: Riho Takagi, Minehiro Kinomoto, Takeshi Nadagi

This is clearly one of those low-budget found-footage horror flicks which cares not for originality. It looks a lot like The Blair Witch Project. It stars Riho Takagi who has starred in numerous Kamen Rider films and, most notably, alongside Hiroshi Abe in the emotional school drama The Blue Bird. The director is Koji Kawano who is familiar with this low-budget horror territory having directed Undead Pool. It is written by Toshikazu Nagae who was behind Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night.

Riho Takagi… playing herself… is a young actress… Quite. Anyway, she visits an uninhabited island with university students who are part of a film club to shoot a film. All seems okay after the shoot until they realise that the boat taking them back to the mainland isn’t going to be showing up and (wouldn’t you know it!) their mobile phones do not work.  After six days the group are at breaking point. Then a person is found dead.