Penguin Highway  ペンギン・ハイウェイ Dir: Hiroyasu Ishida (2018) [Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2019]

Penguin Highway      Penguin Highway Film Poster

ペンギン・ハイウェイ 「Pengin Haiuei

Release Date: August 17th, 2018

Running Time: 119 mins.

Director: Hiroyasu Ishida

Writer: Makoto Ueda (Screenplay), Tomihiko Morimi (Original Script)

Starring: Kana Kita (Aoyama), Yuu Aoi (Mysterious Lady), Hidetoshi Nishijima (Aoyama’s Father), Megumi Han (Hamamoto), Naoto Takenaka (Hamamoto’s Father),

Animation Production: Studio Colorido

Website  ANN  MAL

Ten years since his three-minute student short film Fumiko’s Confession brought him to worldwide attention, Hiroyasu Ishida has taken the helm of his first feature, Penguin Highway, for Studio Colorido. A little more calm and controlled than his manic and comedic debut, what remains the same is his knack for telling a tale from a kid’s perspective and with a lot of heart.

Based on a same-named book by Tomihiko Morimi, the story takes a child’s-eye view of the world by following the adventures of Aoyama and his coterie of friends who live in a quiet suburban town. These bright and bubbly kids are charmers as they all display cute foibles while getting lost in their everyday squabbles and learning more about their world in a laid-back summertime atmosphere. Things take a turn for the fantastical as penguins start popping up everywhere without warning.

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Samurai Marathon  サムライマラソン Dir: Bernard Rose (2019) [New York Asian Film Festival 2019]

Samurai Marathon 

サムライマラソン Samurai MarasonSamurai Marathon Film Poster

Duration: 104 mins.

Release Date: February 22nd, 2019

Director:  Bernard Rose

Writer: Hiroshi Saito, Kikumi Yamagishi Bernard Rose (Screenplay), Akihiro Dobashi (Original Novel)

Starring: Takeru Satoh, Shota Sometani, Mirai Moriyama, Nana Komatsu, Munetaka Aoki, Hiroki Hasegawa, Etsushi Toyokawa, Naoto Takenaka, Danny Huston, Junko Abe, Mugi Kadowaki, Mariko Tsutsui,

Website IMDB

Every May in Annaka city, Gunma Prefecture, a marathon is held that claims to be the oldest in Japan. Its origins can be traced back to when Commodore Perry arrived off the coast of the country in 1854 with his black ships and, through threat of aggression, ended 260 years of Japan’s self-imposed isolation. Leaders across the land reacted differently to his arrival. One cautious feudal lord, Katsuaki Itakura of the Annaka clan, tested the abilities of his samurai by holding a marathon. This story is brought to life by British director Bernard Rose – famous for Candyman (1992) – who worked from the novel “The Marathon Samurai: Five Tales of Japan’s First Marathon” by Akihiro Dobashi. The resulting film, Samurai Marathon will sweep audiences away in its neatly executed adventure that, once it gets running, provides plenty of action and amusement.

The film’s set-up is a sprint to get everyone to the starting line. Opening with the arrival of Commodore Perry (Danny Huston) and his treaty demands it dashes into Katsuaki Itakura’s (Hiroki Hasegawa) organising a marathon 36 miles long to toughen up his warriors in mind and body for potential attacks from foreigners. The promise of a wish being granted to the winner is the motivation for the ensemble of runners which consists of fighting men of all stripes from lower-class spear-men like Hironoshi Uesugi (Shota Sometani), who dreams of being raised to the status of a higher-class samurai, an aged samurai recently put out to pasture named Mataemon Kurita (Naoto Takenaka), to the chief retainer’s son, Heikuro Tsujimura (Mirai Moriyama) who wants to marry Itakura’s daughter Princess Yuki (Nana Komatsu). All are vying to win and all are introduced quickly as are the people connected to them such as wives and children. By the time we get to the starting line at the 40-minute mark we get a vertical view of samurai society and become connected to characters who are all distinctly sketched.

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xxxHOLiC First Impression

xxxHOLiC Dorama Image

xxxHOLiC

Japanese Title: ホリック xxxHOLiC

Romaji: Horikku xxxHOLiC

Duration: 8 Episodes

Director: Keisuke Toyoshima

Writer: Jun Tsugita (Screenplay), CLAMP (Original Manga)

Starring: Anne Watanabe, Shota Sometani, Karen Miyazaki, Masahiro Higashide, Naoto Takenaka, Yumi Adachi,

xxxHOLiC is the TV adaptation of a popular manga by CLAMP, a quartet of artists who have a huge back-catalogue of supernatural tales all with their distinctive designs which features impossibly long-limbed and waifish characters.

ホリック xxxHOLiC Anime

They are so influential they are called in by various production studios to provide character designs and stories – witness Blood-C, the latest entry in the Blood franchise.

Despite their fame and prowess the only CLAMP franchise I have watched is Cardcaptor Sakura back when I was back in high school. Even that I dropped after the first series because, let’s face it, it’s aimed at girls. xxxHOLiC is a title I know of but have missed. I have not read the manga or watched the anime so I am going into this eight part TV adaptation as a complete novice which is pretty exciting because it is virgin territory and I can form an unbiased opinion. After three episodes I can safely say that I like it. Part of the reason I like it is because it feels familiar thanks to the staff and the atmosphere and the other part I like it is the great acting.

ホリック xxxHOLiC WatanukiThe story begins with Kimihiro Watanuki (Sometani) who is a high school boy who can see Ayakashi (spirits). These spirits take on all manner of forms like shades and disembodied body parts and they pop up at the most unexpected points which, when you think about it, is pretty irritating since ghosts seem to haunt everywhere. Even school, is haunted by these supernatural presences. Furthermore, some seem to be aggressive.

XXXHOLiC Watanuki Sees Ghost Arms

His ability to see the supernatural also opens up possibilities. On his way to school he finds himself witnessing a woman pass by with a dark mist emanating from her ‘pinkie finger’. It turns out he will meet said woman later but let us continue with the setup for now… he continues walking down an alley into what looks like a gorgeous magical grove. Seriously, XXXHOLiC (8) Magic Grovethis is ‘take-a-picture and admire the light emanating from the sun’ gorgeous. Watanuki’s about to see more gorgeous things when he steps in a puddle. The scene cuts to a mysterious woman who seems to summon him by taking control of his body and dragging him to her house. Watanuki is stunned at the sudden change of location which is gorgeous but not as gorgeous as what comes next…

Watanuki is seized by a supernatural force and taken to a house where he is met by two cute girls named Maru and Moro who drag him into what can only be described as a mystical chamber where he finds himself in the presence of a (seriously) gorgeous woman named Yūko Ichihara (Watanabe).

ホリック xxxHOLiC Anne Watanabe

Who is she to have these mystical powers? What is her plan in hooking Watanuki? Will the camera lovingly hug her body at every moment?

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