Pictures from Shiodome

Sorry for the late post, I’ve been busy these days. These pictures were taken whilst I was at Shiodome last week. The 3rd and final ’20th Century Boys’ movie is going to be released at the end of the month and they had some pretty cool posters up for publicity. I’ve seen the first 2 movies and I can’t wait to see the final one!! Have any of you seen 20th Century Boys? What did you think? I haven’t read the original manga so I don’t really know how faithful the movie adaptations really are.

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This really reminds me of something you'd find in a Ghibli movie! Unfortunately the picture didn't come out as well as I hoped... I have one taken of it during the day but I don't think that is on the blog...

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Yet another awesome movie – About Love

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3 directors, 3 stories, 1 movie- that sums up About Love in a nutshell and if I had watched it earlier it would have made my previous movie list! The 3 stories in the movie are set in Tokyo, Taipei and Shanghai respectively and each focus on love between a Japanese person and a Chinese/Taiwanese person. My favourite story was the Tokyo one (pretty much all of it was filmed in the Shibuya/Omotesando area which was really neat!). The casting for the movie was absolutely perfect, all of the actors do a fantastic job with their roles and what I loved was none of it came across as wishy-washy or whimsical. The soundtrack for the film is also really awesome. I did try to see if it was available to buy but I don’t think it is, which is a genuine shame. Anyway, I would definitely recommend this film, I don’t watch many romance movies but I really loved this one (probably as much as I enjoyed the first Nana film!) The director of the Shanghai story has also directed a movie called The Longest Night in Shanghai which is a joint Japanese/Chinese production – definitely on my to-watch list! Here’s to hoping it’ll be as good as About Love!!

Some of my favourite Japanese films – 2nd Edition!

Oh goodness me, this post has been long over-due.  It has been absolutely ages since I wrote the original list of Japanese films that are really worth checking out. I’ve seen a shitload of other Japanese films since then, most of em good, some of them dire and some of them in the realms of mediocre! Well, in any case the movies in this list are some of my favourites. I have completely gone off Hollywood, there is just no creativity nor originallity in Hollywood anymore, ok it’s a bad generalisation to make but bloody hell is it true! Well, I won’t waste anymore time, here they are, some of the finest gems that Japanese cinema has to offer!!

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Choshu Five

Based on true events, the story of this film is set during the last few years of the Tokugawa bakufu and the plot revolves around 5 samurai who travel to England illegally to study western military techniques and acquire knowledge of skills such as ship building. Essentially the ‘Choshu Five’ were part of an imperial loyalist movement that initially desired primarily to expel the ‘barbarian’ foreigners who were now present in Japan by modernising Japan’s military, and the Choshu five themselves were quite successful as they all went on to hold important positions in the new Meiji government after the Tokugawa fell. The film seems to be quite accurate historically, only toward the end does it become slightly melodramatic but overall its a very good job, and there’s some odd moments of comedy thrown in there for good measure. Well worth a watch if you’re interested in learning more about a critical moment of Japanese history.

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Bubble E Go!!

The title of this film means Go to the Bubble, and as you can probably guess, it’s referring to the bubble years when the Japanese economy was booming. Essentially this is a bog-standard feel good comedy movie and its quite entertaining, especially for you oldies out there as it’ll probably strike a sentimental chord! The storyline is about a young woman who travels back to the bubble period using a time travel machine which is actually a washing machine!! Throughout the movie there are a ton of early 90s references, from the huge gravity defying hair-styles to the cringingly horrible shoulder-pad outfits, and even the groovy discos. A lot of it is pretty exagerrated but this is just one of those movies which you’re not supposed to take seriously, top quality entertainment and, as usual, Abe Hiroshi does a bloody brilliant job with his role! Hirosue Ryoko deserves credit too, by the way, she was one of the stars in the Japanese movie which just won an oscar (Departures).

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Adrift in Tokyo

This is a beautiful movie… it really is. It’s a subtle comedy about a university student who is knee deep in crippling debts, a role brilliantly executed by Odagiri Joe. As it would turn out though, his debt collector surprisingly offers him the money under one condition- that he has to accompany the debt collector on a walk throughout Tokyo. I really was moved after watching this movie. Gradually throughout the movie we learn more about these 2 on their journey throughout the sprawling metropolis. I dont know how to describe it, but by the end of the film I really felt for both of the characters, you have to really watch the film to see what I mean, otherwise I’d be spoiling the story by explaining what actually happens. This movie is just brilliant, watch it now!!

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Fine, Totally Fine

Much like Adrift in Tokyo, I’d describe this film as a subtle comedy although there are probably more laugh-out-loud moments in this one. The story is about 2 friends who unfortunately end up falling for the same girl and as a result a really amusing rivalry is formed as they both vye for her attention. Really funny movie and its got a nice feel good factor to it also, yeah, I’m a fan of these types of movies, most of the time I HATE depressing films!

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Tokyo Sonata

Out of all of the films in the list this is the one I’ve seen most recently. Yeah, I said I mostly don’t like depressing films and I was a bit worried about watching this because at first it just appeared to be really depressing. Well, the movie actually mixes comedy really well with drama, I was surprised, the tone of the film changes so quickly. The film revolves around a typical disfunctional family in Tokyo. Things aren’t peachy as the husband loses his job (and tries to hide it from his family), the older son wants to join the American army and the wife just doesn’t get the attention she desires as a lady, rather than just a mother.  I could actually see identify myself with the younger son character, who wants to get piano lessons, regardless of the father’s disapproval.  Anyway, it’s really worth checking out.

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I had heard about Water Boys a while back but I didn’t have much interest in it… I mean afterall, from a guy’s point of view, why the hell would I want to see a bunch of half naked guys swimming around in a pool?!! Well, I found a cheap copy of the movie on video in Japan, bought it, watched it and instantly became a fan. I have now also seen all of the dramas that were made afterwards. Water Boys is a hilarious story about a group of 5 boys who develop an affinity for synchro swimming and decide to put on a synchro performance. The director actually wrote the script after being inspired by a real all-guys synchro team. Essentially, yeah, I could see what all the fuss was about, this is a brilliant movie, possibly one of the funniest Japanese films I have seen.

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Swing Girls

The last film is Swing Girls, and surprise surprise, it’s directed by the same guy who directed Water Boys (Shinobu Yaguchi). If we’re being really cynical then we could say that this is just using exactly the same formula as Water Boys, only this time round the boys are obviously girls, and instead of synchro we have jazz. The movie does have a charm of its own though and is equally as entertaining as Water Boys. It’s also worth pointing out that the guys in Water Boys went through pretty intensive training to actually perform the synchro performance featured in the film. In Swing Girls, all of the actresses (and the one actor) who make up the swing band actually learned to play their instruments and even toured around Japan!! They even played a gig in New York which is pretty sweet, I only wish I could have gone to one of their shows.

There you have it, Japanese cinema really is amazing. I might well write up a 3rd list if I see enough movies that are really worth mentioning. You have any movies you recommend? Please be sure to let me know if you do!  I have seen a hell of a lot more drama since the last drama post so I will write up a drama list later. That’s all for now though, hope you enjoy the movies!

Cool parody – can you guess the original anime?

The picture above is a pretty cool advertisement for a Lucky Star video game (Lucky Star is a lighthearted comedy which has been a huge hit here in Japan) Anime fans should be able to notice that the poster is a parody of an anime film which was a huge hit in Japan also… can you guess what film it is?…. well too late, I’m gonna tell ya! 😛 The original movie is called Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is the English title I believe) The movie is based on a novel by a very famous Japanese writer but I can never remember his name (he was the same person who wrote Paprika). Anyway I don’t think Toki wo kakeru shoujo has been released outside of Japan which is a genuine shame because it’s one hell of a good film, I really recommend it!

EDIT: Ok, I just checked, looks like it now has been released outside of Japan…. watch this film now!! You won’t be disappointed!!

Best of Japan – feature length anime edition

Well, here it is, my list of the best feature length anime that Japan has to offer. Be sure to check out any titles you haven’t seen if you’re an anime fan 😉

 

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Ghost in the Shell

Well, the list starts off with a rather obvious title, Ghost in the Shell – it’s been hugely influential in the west, the Matrix probably wouldn’t have been made if it wasn’t for this!! Based on Masamune Shirow’s manga about a cyber punk future in which cyborgs are the norm, the movie was quite different in style to the original manga, partly due to Mamoru Oshii’s involvement in the project. I won’t ramble on, but I am quite an Oshii fan, and it’s also worth checking out Patlabor 1 and 2 because they’re awesome movies too. Anyway, GITS is an essential film to watch!

 

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Macross Plus – Movie Edition

Ok, I’ve already explained a little bit about this one earlier. Macross Plus was originally an OVA, but it was supposed to be a movie in the planning stages of the project. After the OVA was released the production team made a movie using significant scenes from the original OVA and also introduced new footage which wasn’t in the OVA. As a result the feel of the movie is slightly different to that of the OVA – it’s really worth watching both in order to see the differences for yourself. Essentially the story revolves around 3 friends who went their seperate ways a long time ago, however their paths in life meet again in a rather bitter way!! 2 of them turn out to be rival test-pilots, each trying to prove that their representative mecha is the best for the military to use, and the last friend turns out to be the true ‘voice’ behind Sharon Apple, a digital ‘Madonna’ of the Macross world!! Shinichiro Watanabe worked on Macross Plus – he would eventually gain more success after working on Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. With one of the best soundtracks to be produced for any anime as well as top quality animation, Macross Plus is definitely worth watching!

 

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My Neighbour Totoro

This one is a family friendly movie! My Neighbour Totoro was the first Ghibli film I saw and I must have been about 12 years old when I originally saw it… still the charm doesn’t wear off!! These days the cuddly dude has become a mascot for Studio Ghibli and for good reason too, out of all of Ghibli’s creations he’s definitely one of the most memorable! The story revolves around 2 sisters who move to the countryside with their father, whilst their mother is staying in hospital with an illness. Upon moving into the new house they soon discover the world of spirits and the supernatural (for example their primary discovery of ‘dustbunnies’) I love this film because it just goes to show that you don’t need action, violence or sex to sell a movie, ok sure, that stuff helps, but it’s not always necessary! Easily watchable by both adults and kids alike, My Neighbour Totoro, great film!

 

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Royal Space Force (Wings of Honneamise)

Known as Wings of Honneamise in the west, this was the first film to be developed by studio Gainax. Unfortunately I think it’s hard to find in the west these days, however in Japan it was recently released on Blue Ray format. The storyline is based entirely in a fictitious world in which a space-force is plagued with slackers and no motivation, ironically no one has been to space before. However the main character Lhadatt gains inspiration after befriending a young religious woman and he decides to participate in the space-force’s new space exploration program. It should also be noted that Hideaki Anno worked on this film; he would eventually go on to bigger and better things when his creation, Evangelion, was released. Those who are expecting an action packed feature will be disappointed, however I found this film thoroughly entertaining. It’s a film about human endurance, about hope and about determination. The soundtrack is also fantastic, however I think it’s sadly harder to find than Macross Plus’s OST. Anyway, it’s a bit of an obscure title, but worth checking out!

 

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Tokyo Godfathers

Tokyo Godfathers is one film with some pretty unusual subject matter! The film is about 3 homeless friends in Tokyo, who discover an abandoned baby – although one of them wants to keep the baby they eventually set out to return the baby to it’s parents but run into a lot of trouble on the way. The film does a great job of conveying an insightful message on a very serious problem that exists today; the truth is that there is a significant level of homelessness in Tokyo. Satoshi Kon (of Perfect Blue fame) wrote and directed the film, and I have to say I am a BIG fan of his! The movie has a very different feel to Perfect Blue altogether – whilst Perfect Blue was a disturbing and claustrophobic thriller, Tokyo Godfathers has many lighthearted comedic moments. Without a doubt this is one of the most realistic anime movies you will ever see, it could have been made as a normal film, but I’m glad it was presented in the form of anime.

 

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Paprika

Yep, that’s right, Paprika is another one of Satoshi Kon’s works! Based on an early 90’s novel, the story focuses on a new invention called the DC Mini which allows the user to actually view another person’s dreams. I saw this film at a cinema in London and I’m glad I was able to have the big screen experience – the animation is quite simply out of this world. Satoshi Kon’s team did a fantastic job in creating vivid and lush dream sequences and luckily the film contains some of Kon’s good sense of humour. Paprika is one of the most refreshing, creative and entertaining anime films I have seen in a long time; it’s left me with a strong urge to read the novel… and I will eventually get myself a copy of it!

 

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Project A-ko

Project A-ko was actually one of the first anime I ever saw and it is still one of my all time favourites. The film is an action packed comedy about 3 girls, A-ko, B-ko and C-ko. One of the more wacky animes you’ll encounter, it turns out that A-ko has super strength, B-ko is a spoilt rich bitch and C-ko is actually an alien princess!! The film was originally planned to be a hentai title and some of the adult references stayed within the film, even though the project was changed to make Project A-ko more accessible in the mainstream market. As a result B-ko’s attitude toward C-ko is very… ok ok, I won’t try to explain it, you’ll have to see it for yourself to see what I mean!! 😛 The film was also famous for its parodies of other anime and cultural icons (for example there is an awesome parody of Fist of the North Star and the KFC’s Colonel even makes an appearance!) Overall, a very entertaining movie, it’s still hilarious as ever.

And now time for my all time favourite anime movie…

 

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Hokuto no Ken – Fist of the North Star

Well, this is it… Fist of the North Star is my favourite anime film… hands down! The film is actually a very condensed version of the series and the manga. Whilst certain original characters are non existent, it was supposed to be more violent than the TV series. Based in a post apocalyptic future, humanity has not been wiped from existence, however only the strongest survive and people are hunted down and killed, not for their money, but for their food and water. Kenshiro is the main character, the successor of a martial art known as hokuto shin ken, he is the fist of the north star, however his brothers Jaggie and Raoh desire absolute power and control and wish to be the fist of the north star. The movie is only based on the beginning of the manga, whereby Kenshiro’s girlfriend, Julia, is taken by Shin, once Kenshiro’s best friend. Anyway, yeah, I’m rambling too much but this is one hell of an awesome film. Hokuto no ken does owe a lot to Mad Max, I don’t think it would have the same feel if it wasn’t for Mad Max, however the story and mythology behind Fist of the North Star is so detailed and is truly one of the most engrossing in the world of anime and manga. Fist of the North Star is definitely one of the most famous anime of all time, having been parodied on numerous occassions (already mentioned Project A-ko but there is also a hilarious parody in Excel Saga) and a new project 5 part anime project is underway (2 films and 1 OVA have already been released, an OVA about Toki will be released soon, and the last movie focusing on Kenshiro is due out next year). If you want to see what all the fuss is about, be sure to check out the film for yourself!

 

 

Some of my favourite Japanese films

Well, since I had written about some of the best musical talent from the land of the rising sun, I thought why not force my very biased opinion on the world of cinema on to you guys?!! So here it is, the list of films that I consider to be the best achievements in the world of Japanese film-making. If you’re interested in finding out about some seriously awesome films, read on!!

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Zatoichi

We start off with Zatoichi, Beat Takeshi’s take on the original story of a blind swordsman. Now I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen the original films so I have no idea how the compare to the new one, but what I do know is that the new one is totally awesome, Takeshi has definitely succeeded in making a very creative and engaging film 😉

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Azumi

This fuedal Japan action flick certainly isn’t Ryuhei Kitamura’s finest achievement but it is a pretty damn entertaining film – the storyline is anything but original, involving a group of young assassins who have been trained to kill warlords who plot to plague the land with war however you get to see one very hot Aya Ueto running around killing ninjas and fighting demented psychopaths… thats good enough for me! But I would say avoid the second film, it’s shite compared to the first one!

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Nana

Nana has been hugely popular in Japan, originally a manga, which paved the way for an anime and finally 2 films were made. I haven’t seen the second one but the first one was thoroughly entertaining I thought. Essentially, and I do hate to admit it,  it’s a chick flick and I think Nana was originally made for girls but anyway, I thought the movie was awesome. It’s about 2 women, that share the same name Nana, who randomly meet each other but end up becoming good friends, and also about their experiences both past and present when it comes to love life and such like, anyway, if you’re expecting action or stupid humour, this probably isn’t the film for you 😛

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Versus

Versus… one of the most stylish action/horror films you will ever set your eyes upon.. fact! This, in my opinion, is Ryuhei Kitamura’s finest achievement so far, and its the movie that sent his career rocketing sky high when it was released. It’s apparently a low budget movie but you wouldn’t believe it if you see it because Kitamura has crafted such a tight and professional piece of work. Expect a lot of blood and gore and a hint of comedy thrown in for good measure! A second film has been rumoured to be in the works, but I doubt it will be able to surpass the awesomeness of the first one, this is one of my all time favourite movies and if you watch it you will see why!!

 

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Survive Style 5+

‘Survive Style… what?!!’ is what you’re probably saying to yourself, right? In fact I tire of all the times when I tell people one of my favourite Japanese films is Survive Style 5+ and they have no idea what I’m going on about!! Well, this is one of the most entertaining films I have seen in a long time and I consider this THE most entertaining film of Japan right now. Well, what do you get when you mix a disturbed guy whose girlfriend keeps rising from the grave, a group of juvenile immature young adults, a father who has been hypnotised and eternally fooled into thinking he is a bird, an eccentric advertising director and an even more eccentric British hitman-for-hire who just happens to be played by Vinnie Jones?!!! Well, you get total frantic chaos!! You shouldn’t take this movie so seriously, its wacky, its weird and thats why its so damn good. Highly highly recommended, my top film of Japan!

Last word, also worth checking out are Tsubaki Sanjuro (I think it was originally a Kurosawa film but I haven’t seen that version) and Jigyaku no Uta. I saw these 2 films recently at the cinema and thought they were pretty good, but I guess it’ll be a while before they’re available in English, all films listed above except Nana are available in England 😉

Ok ok, this is the last note, I’ll be writing up a list of the best anime films to check out later, so be sure to check back for that if you’re interested 😉