If Cats Disappeared From the World  世界から猫が消えたなら Dir: Akira Nagai (2016)

If Cats Disappeared From the World 

If Cats Disappeared From the World Film Poster
If Cats Disappeared From the World Film Poster

世界から猫が消えたなら 「Sekai kara Neko ga Kieta nara」 

Release Date: May 14th, 2016

Duration: 118 mins.

Director: Akira Nagai

Writer: Ryoichi Okada (Screenplay), Genki Kawamura (Original Novel)

Starring: Takeru Satoh, Aoi Miyazaki, Mieko Harada, Eiji Okuda, Anna Ishii, Gaku Hamada, Eita Okuno

Website   IMDB

“If I were to disappear from this world, who would miss me?” Characters in movies usually think this while contemplating death. Of course, every person matters and our lives are connected with each other and the environment so something or someone disappearing has a big impact, but that is not always clear to people as we get swept up in dramatic circumstances and tumultuous emotions. There are tried and tested cinematic journeys used to lead a character to that epiphany of interconnection, either a path defined by hijinks or a contemplative trip down memory lane to show how important we all are, the latter of which happens in this gently powerful and moving film where the main character finds out he will die within days.

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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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Hard-core ハード・コア Dir: Nobuhiro Yamashita (2018) [New York Asian Film Festival 2019]

Hard-core    Hardcore Film Poster

ハード・コア Ha-do Koa

Release Date: November 23rd, 2018

Duration: 124 mins.

Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita

Writer: Kosuke Mukai (Screenplay), Marley Carib Takashi Imashiro (Original Manga),

Starring: Takayuki Yamada, Takeru Satoh, YosiYosi Arakawa, Kei Ishibashi, Suon Kan, Takako Matsu, Kisetsu Fujiwara,

Website IMDB

Nobuhiro Yamashita is a director who has a particular forte for downbeat stories, whether they are slacker comedies or dramas, most of which contain misanthropic and misaligned characters who make for uncomfortable yet interesting leads (think The Drudgery Train). Here, he adapts an obscure manga from the early 90s by writer Marley Carib and illustrator Takashi Imashiro where the characters and the story are sometimes bizarre, sometimes sorrowful but secretly gentle, all of which plays out in a slow and uneven story.

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Inuyashiki いぬやしき Dir: Shinsuke Sato (2018)

Inuyashiki         Inuyashiki Film Poster

いぬやしき Inuyashiki

Running Time: 127 mins.

Release Date: April 20th, 2018

Director: Shinsuke Sato

Writer: Hiroshi Hashimoto (Screenplay), Hiroya Oku (Original Manga)

Starring: Noritake Kinashi, Takeru Satoh, Kanata Hongo, Fumi Nikaido, Yuki Saito, Yusuke Iseya, Mari Hamada, Ayaka Miyoshi, Nayuta Fukuzaki,

Website IMDB

Ever since his debut The Princess Blade (2001), director Shinsuke Sato has helmed action-packed films with a particular focus on live-action adaptations of manga. Titles in his filmography include Death Note: Light Up the New World, Library Wars, and I Am a Hero. He also sat in the directors chair for the two adaptations of Hiroya Oku’s manga Gantz which were released in the early 00s. Most are slick and solid and his style is improving all the time with Inuyashiki, which is based on another of Oku’s works, being his best yet. This is like a coherent, sanitised, high-budget take on Tetsuo The Iron Man.

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