Jigoku no Hanazono: Office Royale 地獄の花園 Director: Kazuaki Seki (2021) [New York Asian Film Festival 2021]

Jigoku no Hanazono: Office Royale   Hell’s Garden Film Poster

地獄の花園  Jigoku no Hanazono

Release Date: May 21st, 2021

Duration: 102 mins.

Director: Kazuaki Seki

Writer: Bakarhythm (Screenplay), 

Starring: Mei Nagano, Alice Hirose, Rina Kawaei, Nanao, Miyuki Oshima, Eiko Koike, Masanobu Katsumura, Tomomi Maruyama, Kenichi Endo, Satoru Matsuo, Win Morisaki, 

Website IMDB

” In every world there exists factions. Female office workers are no different.”

And so begins Jigoku no Hanazono: Office Royale, one of the most fun cinematic experiences of the year. Imagine transposing the world of yankees and sukeban onto that of office ladies (OL) and you get this fourth-wall breaking film as it draws directly from and playfully critiques the delinquent manga genre that have proven so popular that many a film franchise has been built off them.

So, even if the fights lack grit, the film adds more colour, comedy and gusto to its good-natured tongue-in-cheek references to Terrifying Girl’s High School where female brawlers who display the guts of Gachiban characters get caught in epic conflicts akin to Crows, and the hot-headed ladies do hand-to-hand like High and Low, before everything ends in an epic beat down like Bebop High School. Forgive that last paragraph, I just wanted to get the references in there!

As awesome as all of this sounds, our main character, and the films narrator, Naoko Tanaka (Mei Nagano), is not one for fisticuffs. If you had to categorise her, it would be a “normal” girl who likes to go to cafes and watch dramas and just do a good job. And maybe catch a boyfriend, but she’d only tell her best friends that! What about the not-so-normal girls?

Naoko’s workplace is divided between factions run by fighters like Andoh the Demon (Nanao) who dominates R&D, Mad Dog Shiori (Rina Kawaei) who reps Sales, and Etsuko the Beast (Miyuki Oshima) in Manufacturing. This fearsome trio and their mobs are regularly rumbling UNTIL(!) a new OL named Ran (Alice Hirose perfectly  embodying a cocky lone hero) enters town and she proves to be the baddest battler on the block as she beats the aforementioned characters and the factions all come under her influence.

©2021 “Jigoku-No-Hanazono”Film Partners

In a strange turn of events, the ultra-charismatic Ran becomes Naoko’s best friend and they do things normal OL in order to get to know each other. They visit cafes together to eat the newest cakes on the menu, go shopping, and chat during their free time but what Naoko doesn’t realise is that Ran’s presence makes their company a prime target for various gangs of office ladies from all over Japan, some of whom intend to use Naoko as a way to get at Ran which sets up a high stakes battle. However, more twists are in store!

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Parks Film Review パークス Dir: Natsuki Seta (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017 Review



パークス Pa-kusu

Running Time: 118 mins.

Director:  Natsuki Seta

Writer: Natsuki Seta (Screenplay),

Starring: Ai Hashimoto, Mei Nagano, Shota Sometani, Shiro Sano, Reiya Masaki, Ryu Morioka, Shizuka Ishibashi,

Website IMDB

Tokyo is home to many world famous parks such as Yoyogi and Ueno but when I lived in the mega-metropolis I developed a soft spot for Inokashira Park out in the fashionable area of Kichijoji. It may not be as big as the others but I found it an equally wonderful serene green space with lots of interesting features. It recently reached its 100th anniversary and the film “Parks” was commissioned to commemorate the special occasion. Since parks are public spaces that invite a multitude of visitors who form their own stories and memories, the challenge of making a film about the park would be paring down a huge number of ideas and interpretations of the area into a coherent narrative but writer/director Natsuki Seta and her team have managed it by creating an off-beat and charming drama with music at its heart that spans the decades and fully encompasses why parks are treasured by so many people.

Continue reading “Parks Film Review パークス Dir: Natsuki Seta (2017) Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017 Review”