Puzzle パズル (2014)


Puzzle Film Poster
Puzzle Film Poster

Japanese: パズル

Romaji: Pazuru

Running Time: 85 mins.

Release Date: March 08th, 2014 (Japan)

Director: Eisuke Naito

Writer: Eisuke Naito, Makoto Sasaki (Screenplay), Yusuke Yamada (Original Novel),

Starring: Kaho, Shuhei Nomura, Kazuya Takahashi, Saori Yagi, Kokone Sasaki, Ryuzo Tanaka

Puzzle is based on a book by Yusuke Yamada, a popular writer of teen horror stories who has had many novels adapted into films. Despite this he is relatively unknown in the West but I think that Puzzle is a good introduction to his work with its twisting and twisted narrative that sucks teens into a vicious vortex of violence.

Puzzle Cute Torture Device 2

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Bingo, The King and I, End of the Night Trailers and the Japanese Movie Box Office Chart

Haizai CharactersThe week that has passed has been pretty mixed for me thanks to time constraints but at least I have a new television to enjoy watching Japanese films on and just in time for Shinya Tsukamoto Season which is entering its final phase. This week saw four new entries including the release details for Kotoko, a review of Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (classic!) and the extras on the Tetsuo release (which had the awesome and bizarre short film The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy!) as well as Tokyo Fist (incredible!). Look out for Vital, Snake of June and Kotoko next week!

What does the Japanese box-office chart look like?

  1. Resident Evil: Retribution
  2. Bayside Shakedown 4: The Final New Hope
  3. Rurouni Kenshin
  4. Insight into the Universe
  5. Dear
  6. The Avengers
  7. Key of Life
  8. Mirror Mirror
  9. Intouchables
  10. Akko-chan: The Movie

Two of last week’s releases, Key of Life and Insight into the Universe, enter the chart at number seven and four. I am going to see Key of Life at the BFI London Film Festival (I am so hype for this) and it is great to see that there is at least one country on this planet where a film mostly about science and a historical figure can break into the top ten. Rurouni Kenshin hangs in the top three in third position and The Wolf Children Rain and Snow drops to fourteenth (another film I am hype for).

What Japanese films are getting released today? Two films full of teen talent and one genuinely interesting noir title!


Bingo                                              Bingo Movie Poster

Japanese Title: ビンゴ

Romaji: Bingo

Release Date:  22nd September 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 99 mins.

Director: Yohei Fukuda

Writer: Yusuke Yamada (Original Story), Yohei Fukuda (Screenplay)

Starring: Kazuki Shimizu, Sakiko Matsui

Yusuke Yamada is back with another of his fiendish short stories getting adapted for the big screen. Out of all the ones I have covered this year, this one is probably the most ridiculous. It stars Sakiko Matsui (a member of AKB48) in her first motion picture role abd is directed by Yohei Fukuda who directed Chanbara Beauty and X Game.


Set some time in the distant future, the death penalty in Japan has been altered. Now a death sentence is decided by game of bingo played by the victim’s family. Masaya (Shimizu) is a prisoner who will find out if he will be given the death sentence. Mayumi (Matsui) is part of the staff who monitor the game.


The King and I                                   King and I Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 王様 と ボク

Romaji: Osama to Boku

Release Date:  22nd September 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 84 mins.

Director: Tetsu Maeda

Writer: Yamada Naito (Original Manga), Tetsu Maeda (Screenplay)

Starring: Tori Matsuzaka, Masaki Suda, Hiroki Aiba, Fumi Nikado, Masataka Nakaguchi, Miyuki Matsuda

A manga adaptation which stars a bunch of pretty boys in the shape of Tori Matsuzaka and Masaki Suda (The Wings of the Kirin) and the brilliant actresses Miyuki Matsuda who I can remember from Audition and Fumi Nikaido who made me cry in Himizu.


It is Mikihiko’s (Matsuzaka) 18th birthday and he thinks of his friend Morio (Suda) who has been in a vegetative state since being involved in an accident at the age of 6. Almost as if on cue, Morio wakes up but he still has his 6-year-old mentality. This reappearance causes Mikihiko to question the direction his life is about to take


End of the Night                                               The End of the Night Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 夜 が 終る 場所

Romaji: Yoru ga Owaru  Basho

Release Date:  22nd September 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 79 mins.

Director: Daisuke Miyazaki

Writer: Daisuke Miyazaki (Script/Original Story)

Starring: Kuniaki Nakamura, Masayuki Shionoya, Nami Komiyama

This is the debut feature of Daisuke Miyazaki who was an assistant director to Kiyoshi Kurosawa and has won many prizes for his short films. Of all the films released today, this is the one that interests me most and no, not because it is violent but because it is grounded in every day mundanity and feature black humour found in Kitano films. It stars Kuniaki Nakamura, Masayuki Shionoya who starred in Kiyoshi Kurosawa;’s horror film Charisma and Sogo Ishii’s Angel Dust and Nami Komiyama.

Akira’s (Nakamura) parents died shortly after his birth and so he has been raised by Tamegoro (Shionoya), the man who killed said parents. Tamegoro runs a futon store as a front but has been training Akira to be a hitman. After Akira’s first hit he finds himself troubled but a cosplay club/sex-worker named Yukine draws out his more human side. Still, the police are on Akira’s trail and this places Yukine in the firing line.

Girls for Keeps, Kotsutsubo, My House, Still Human Beings Trailers and Japanese box-office Charts

The Cannes film festival is winding down and critical responses have been mixed for Japanese films. Abbas Kiarostami’s latest film, Like Someone in Love, has had prLike Someone in Love Posteraise for the performances of the actors (particularly the gorgeous Rin Takanashi) but the story with its ambiguous ending has upset many. Thankfully Takashi Miike rescued proceedings with Ai to Makoto. Also flying the flag for Japan was Koji Wakamatsu with his Mishima biopic which has garnered a good review (more on that tomorrow).  I also had the pleasure of seeing the Olympic Flame pass by and managed to get a picture of the young lady carrying it. And all of the sponsors. And the Metropolitan Police Escort.

What is dominating the Japanese movie box-office charts?

  1.  Dark Shadows
  2.  Thermae Romae
  3.  Sadako 3D
  4.  Space Brothers
  5.  Detective Conan: The Mystery of the Eleventh Striker

Tim Burton storms to the top of the charts of the charts as the newest entry at number one while familiar franchise entries make up the rest of the top ten. Thermae Romae is doing excellent business as it remains in the top three  for the fourth week in a row. Enough of that… what Japanese films get released today?

Girls for Keeps                                             Girls for Keeps Movie Poster

Japanese Title: ガールGaru

Release Date: 26th May 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 124 mins.

Director: Yoshihiro Fukagawa

Writer: Hideo Okuda (Novel)  

Starring: Kumiko Aso, Karina, Yuka Itaya, Rei Dan, Rosa Kato, Michiko Kichise, Osamu Mukai, Yusuke Kamiji, Jun Kaname, Kento Hayashi, Eriko Hatsune, Mei Kurokawa, Kenichi Yajima

Based on the 2006 anthology novel Girl, the movie adapts a number of short stories that follow women in their romantic lives and so on. Obviously I’m not the target audience but I recognise a lot of the names involved: Kumiko Aso (Pulse), Yuka Itaya (Suvive Style 5+, Apartment 1303). Eriko Hatsune (Norwegian Wood, Spiral) head the list of beautiful ladies while the handsome men include Kento Hayashi (Arakawa Under the Bridge), Jun Kaname (Casshern), and Kenichi Yajia (Sonatine, Kamikaze Taxi).


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Kotsutsubo                                                         Kotsutsubo Poster

Release Date: 26th May 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Jiro Nagae

Writer:  Yoshimasa Akamatsu (screenplay), Yusuke Yamada (short story)

Starring: Natsumi Matsubara, Ai Shinozaki, Rurika Yokoyama, Aika Ohta, Ai Hashimoto, Kazuhiko Kanayama, Mamoru Tsubouchi

I had never heard of the author Yusuke Yamada until I watched Oyayubi Sagashi. I didn’t really like that one but I saw his stories were getting adapted rather frequently (X-Game 2 which was recently released in cinemas is based on one of his stories). Anyway Kotsutsubo is based on another of his works and it is directed by Jiro Nagae and stars a number of J-pop idols. Nagae is developing a habit of putting idols in horror settings after his last film, Kokkuri-san Gekijuoban, starred Mariya Suzuki from AKB48. This film stars four different idols from four different groups. Natsumi Matsubara (AKB48), Rina Miyazaki (Super GiRlS), Rurika Yokoyama (Idoling!!!), and Ai Shinozaki (AeLL) – be very careful when you type Ai Shinozaki into YouTube. It looks awful. Not even the prospect of seeing idols bumped off gets me interested in this. Norio Tsuruta tends to do these things better.

Eri (Matsubara) is a high school student who is anonymous unlike her friend Mitsuko (Yokoyama) who is the target of amorous advances from their teacher, Ichida (Tsubouchi). Eri comes across a novel way to protect Mitsuko: find a cursed funerary urn that contains ashes reputed to cause death and give said ashes to teacher.

Oyayubi Sagashi 親指さがし (2007)

Oyayubi Review Banner

Yusuke Yamada’s horror novel gets the film treatment but it is a bland retelling.

Takeshi (Miyake) is haunted by a troubling memory. When he was a child he and his friends played a “game” which, legend has it, can transport a person to a room with a ghost missing a thumb. If you find the thumb you can have a wish granted. If someone taps you on the shoulder you must not turn around or you will be trapped in that room forever. Takeshi’s friend Yumiko (Ono) who was unhappy at home and never returned from the game. At an elementary school reunion Takeshi is reunited with his friends Chie (Ito), Tomohiko (Matsuyama), Aya (Nagai), and Nobuhisa (Onoue). They too are troubled with guilt like Takeshi but for different reasons because Takeshi believes the game actually worked and he was transported to the room and heard Yumiko scream and did nothing to save her whereas his friends believe that Yumiko merely ran away from home. In order to soothe Takeshi’s troubled mind the friends replay the game. But nothing happens. Not that this convinces Takeshi and he continues to investigate the game just as his friends start to disappear.

Ken Miyake, Kenichi Matsuyama, Runa Nagai, Ayumi Ito, and Hiroyuki Onoue

Oyayubi Sagashi – a rough translation might be search for the thumb. Uninspiring, right? Well everything about this film struck me as bland and inoffensive due to lacklustre delivery.

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