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Your Name (2016)

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Stunning skyscapes. The beauty in everyday things and moments. Close ups of mobile phones. The contrast between light and shade. Separation, longing, regret. Yep, it’s a Makoto Shinkai movie.

Your Name concerns the growing relationship between high schoolers Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi), a girl from a lakeside township and Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki), a boy from bustling Tokyo. The catch is, they have never met. Each has what they first believe is a dream, walking a mile in the other’s shoes — … (read more)

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Downrange (2017)

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Like so many Asian directorial superstars before him (mostly in genre films), Kitamura Ryuhei has kind of gone Hollywood — or at he’s least tried to. In his defence, he’s doing better than most. Not quite as well as Oscar-winner Ang Lee, but not yet reduced to hired gun on B-grade schlock à la Ringo Lam (sad trombone sound). Still best known for Versus and Godzilla: Final Wars, Kitamura’s third English-language film (after Midnight Meat Train and No One (read more)

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Mumon Land of Stealth (2017)

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Mumon Land of Stealth

Call it a coming of age story if you want. The Peter Pan of ninjas can play all day and never take things too seriously. Until he has to. Call it a round-about revenge tale, or even a moral play. It is a little Shakespearean in its developments, and its style of humour (and a brilliant momentary break in the fourth wall) certainly does justice to the Bard. Or call it, perhaps most importantly, a serious Japanese contender for Guy … (read more)

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A Silent Voice (2016)

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A Silent Voice poster

Two thirds psychological study on bullying and disability, one third first love romance (and I’ll use that term very lightly here), A Silent Voice, based on the highly-acclaimed manga by Yoshitoki Oima, plots the unexpected turn that lives can take on, if not the simplest then at least the most uninformed of choices. To its great credit, however, it doesn’t in any way sugar coat the fact that some of those turns can get ugly, can have consequences we … (read more)

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Harmony (2015)

Better living through technology. But at what price? In the best tradition of classic speculative science fiction, Studio 4°C’s animated film Harmony, based on the novel by Project Itoh, examines this question through a mirror darkly. In the future, the world has been reduced by nuclear war and illness into sterile country states complete with regulated borders. Inside those borders, the Admedistration (not a typo) and a militarised version of the World Health Organisation ensure that all good citizens … (read more)

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Creepy (2016)

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It’s not that I live on a diet of serial killer movies and thriller novels. I did read Silence of the Lambs once, so I would never consider myself an expert, but for some reason – maybe the title, or maybe the fact that plenty of other Kiyoshi Kurosawa films (like Retribution and Real to name just a couple) have been fairly hair-raising – I did in all honesty expect this 2016 murder thriller Creepy to be far creepier. … (read more)

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Empire of Corpses (2015)

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So, I’ve discovered a concept more disturbing than a zombie apocalypse, and of course it’s all thanks to anime. Well, anime and maybe Mary Shelley, and at a guess, cancer. Empire of Corpses was science and speculative fiction author Project Itoh’s (aka Satoshi Itoh) last, unfinished novel. He died of cancer in 2009 at the very young age of 34, and it’s perhaps no surprise that what he was writing immediately before his death was a somewhat hauntingly desperate, slightly … (read more)

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Six Four (2016)

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For those who mark time in the West, 1989 was a common year, 365 days long. For Japan however, it was two years in one. The Japanese calendar is based on periods or eras, marked for every year of an emperor. 1989 was the year that Emperor Hirohito, the ruler that had seen the nation both into and out of the Second World War and beyond, died at the age of 87. He passed away on January 7, one week … (read more)

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