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Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno & The Legend Ends (2014)

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I’ll be upfront with you; I’m not going to review Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno and Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends separately. Considering how close together their theatrical releases in Japan were, it could be argued they’re just one film with about a month long intermission (if you’re old enough to remember those). Also considering the cliff-hanger Kyoto Inferno ends on ­Empire Strikes Back style I’d also run a much bigger risk of spoiling far too many things if I … (read more)

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Short Peace (2013)

Although the theme for the Sunrise/Shochiku multimedia project Short Peace was apparently “Japan” it seems to me that the ‘peace’ part of the title is far more telling, because in one way or another each short in this 4-film anthology is about conflict. Not only that, but unless I’m reading far too much into it, there is something to be learned from each of these battles.

The first cab off the rank after the energetically ethereal opening title sequence is … (read more)

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Thermae Romae 2 (2014)

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I’ll admit, I decided to go to see the sequel to the surprisingly entertaining Thermae Romae with some trepidation. Basically I’m not a fan of comedies in general, so that I enjoyed the first film made a few of my friends check to make sure I was still the same person. I’m seriously considering not telling them that I enjoyed the sequel almost as much.

Although, perhaps that was a no-brainer. There’s no surprises in this follow up — it’s … (read more)

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All-Round Appraiser Q: The Eyes of Mona Lisa (2014)

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One of the joys of the Japanese Film Festival every year for me is discovering the unexpected gem. Film festivals are of course great for those films that you’ve heard about and been dying to see that will likely never make it to your local cinema, but I always make a point of picking a few random films as well — films that I’ve heard nothing about; often films that I don’t even bother to read the synopsis for. Without … (read more)

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Kiki’s Delivery Service (2014)

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We’ve probably had this conversation before — the pros and cons of the Live Action Film. When they’re done well, they enhance the source and become another aspect of effective cross-stream marketing that people are happy to pay to see. They win new fans and invigorate the existing ones. But let’s not kid ourselves thinking that any company sinks millions of dollars (or yen in this case) into a film better known in anime or manga out of their sense … (read more)

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The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)

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The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a vision. It might not seem a conventional vision but don’t doubt that’s what it is. Director Isao Takahata, the other genius behind Studio Ghibli, responsible for the delightful My Neighbours the Yamadas (1999) and the gutting Grave of the Fireflies (1988), has done something that perhaps no other major animation director has achieved in recent memory — a complete reinvention of the technique of animation.

If you’ve already seen the documentary Madman have … (read more)

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Lady Maiko (2014)

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Unless you’re also into the many, varied, and sometimes odd-to-outsiders forms of all singing, all dancing, live on stage entertainment that have in recent years been spinning off from anime and manga franchises, you might find yourself surprised to realise that Japan doesn’t mind the odd Western style musical or two.

Musical theatre is not terribly rare in Japan of course — kabuki has been around since at least the early 1600’s, and the famous all-female Takarazuka Theatre troupe has … (read more)

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The Tale of Studio Ghibli

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Perhaps you’ve never thought about what you’re watching in those two hours in the cinema when Studio Ghibli, arguably the most renowned Japanese animation studio on the planet, is working its narrative and visual magic on you. After all, it’s easy to be caught up in a Ghibli film, transported. It’s what they do, what they’ve always done, and it’s easy to forget the hundreds of people and the thousands (and thousands) of work hours that go into making a … (read more)

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