Train Man / 電車男 [Densha Otoko] (2005)
[11 episodes, approx. 45 mins each + 2 post-series special episodes]
Directors: Takeuchi Hideki, Kobayashi Kazuhiro, Nishiura Masaki
Writer: Muto Shogo
Cast: Ito Atsushi, Ito Misaki
Japanese w/ English subtitles
This a pretty well known drama that is supposedly based on real events where an otaku rescued a beautiful woman from being harassed on the train. This lead to them dating with the Train Man asking for advice on an internet message board due to his lack of experience with women. There’s also a book, multiple manga adaptations and a live action movie. But I will say right off the bat that if you’ve never watched a Japanese TV drama before that this is absolutely not the one you should start with. It’s extremely exaggerated in a way that feels quite Japanese. It’s also a far-fetched fairy tale romance and while these stories can definitely work, this one is full of overblown, cloying moments and an annoying main character. No matter how fictional, a romance story only works if the couple feels somewhat believable.
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Diner / ダイナー (2019)
Director Mika Ninagawa
Screenplay Hirohito Goto, Yoshikazu Sugiyama, Mika Ninagawa
Producer Takuya Ito, Morio Amagi
Cast Tatsuya Fujiwara, Tina Tamashiro, Shun Oguri
An abandoned young woman, Kanako, with no aim in life has the bad luck of becoming a waitress in a restaurant for assassins (because it ran out of waitresses who were killed for various service-related mistakes). This is based on a book and possibly the manga adaptation.
A kooky but mostly derivative movie. While it looks nice and has some stylized combat there are signs of a low budget here. The first sign is that the majority of the movie takes place in a single location, which is the restaurant. It is seen mostly empty with only Kanako & her harsh boss and head chef, Bombero. Despite there being multiple gang bosses, you only actually see the gang of one of the bosses. Two appear to have nobody and one only seems to have the one assassin. Because of this, the world of movie feels very small.
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Children of the Sea / 海獣の子供 [Kaijū no kodomo] (2019)
Director Ayumu Watanabe
Screenplay Daisuke Igarashi
Producer Eiko Tanaka
Cast Mana Ashida, Gorô Inagaki, Hiiro Ishibashi, Seishû Uragami
This is based on a manga. It is about a young girl with an innate connection to ocean animals. Thinking she’s alone, she meets a couple of boys who were raised in the ocean by dugongs. Besides that unconventional upbringing there is are other odd things about he boys and the mystery related to them goes far beyond their upbringing.
Visually and aurally the movie is quite amazing. With music composed by Joe Hisaishi, that also signals that the soundtrack will be excellent. Scenes of all the variety of sea creatures in the ocean to lush greenery and vibrant flower above ground, there’s no shortage of incredible art. There’s also fair amount of zoom effects and camera shifts which appear to be computer aided. The animation is very high quality overall.
Continue reading “Children of the Sea – film review – Nouveau cinema 2019”
Tokyo Ghoul ‘S’ / 東京喰種 トーキョーグール S [Tokyo Guru S ] (2019)
Director: Kazuhiko Hiramaki, Takuya Kawasaki
Writer: Chuji Mikasano
Cast: Masataka Kubota, Shota Matsuda, Maika Yamamoto
This sequel (although I doubt that’s what ‘S’ stands for) has Kaneki facing off against an uber foodie ghoul, Tsukiyama, nicknamed the “Gourmet” who becomes obsessed with Kaneki due to him being a hybrid of ghoul and human. Tsukiyama wants to eat Kaneki. Obviously Kaneki does not want to be eaten.
While I’m tempted to say the ‘S’ stands for stupid, I don’t think this sequel is all bad but it is a step backwards. Before getting to why that is, this sequel makes several references to the first movie. The main plot is simple enough that it could be understood without watching the first movie but a lot of background will be lost on those who didn’t watch the first movie or don’t remember it. I strongly suggest that you watch the first movie before this one. The first movie establishes the world and characters and the sequel assumes you’re already aware of all that.
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Kingdom / キングダム [Kingudamu] (2019)
Director: Shinsuke Sato
Writer: Tsutomu Kuroiwa, Shinsuke Sato, Yasuhisa Hara
Cast: Kento Yamazaki, Ryo Yoshizawa, Masami Nagasawa, Kanna Hashimoto, Kanata Hongo
Two slave orphans, Shin aka Xin (Kento Yamazaki) and Hyou aka Piao (Ryo Yoshizawa) and grow up and practice sword fighting because they believe this will help them escape the slave class. One day a nobleman picks Hyou to work for the emperor while leaving the other one behind. But when a gravely injured Hyou comes back to Shin, he asks Shin to protect the emperor.
This live action movie is based on a manga/anime that itself takes inspiration from real Chinese history, namely the Warring States period. I am unfamiliar with the manga/anime or the real history.
Although this is a live action, the way the characters act made it quite obvious that this is a manga/anime adaptation. It’s exaggerated in a way that tells you this isn’t meant to be taken completely seriously. In this sense, those expecting a serious movie will not find it here. The king’s plan in the end is also kind of dumb and gets resolved by a deus ex machina character. The use of flashbacks is kind of annoying and I think largely unnecessary. In fact, I find the use of flashbacks to rouse or inspire a character to be a cheap trick to elicit audience feelings. The repeated talk of dreams is meant to inspire but becomes insipid after seemingly the umpteenth time it’s mentioned.
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Fly Me to Saitama / 翔んで埼玉 [Tonde Saitama] (2019)
Director: Hideki Takeuchi
Writer: Yuichi Tokunaga
Cast: Fumi Nikaido, Gackt, Yusuke Iseya, Masaki Kyomoto
Producer: Hiroki Wakamatsu
Two parents are driving their daughter to her engagement ceremony. She’s looking forward to moving to Tokyo and is ashamed of growing up in Saitama. They listen to a radio drama (or urban myth as the daughter calls it) about how Tokyo oppressed and persecuted people from Saitama, who then rebelled in a revolution.
This is a tongue in cheek comedy that doesn’t merely skewer but viciously makes fun of Saitama as a place with nothing interesting. There are some jabs directed at other prefectures including their rival Chiba, Gunma and Tokyo but make no mistake target #1 is Saitama. The jokes are also varied. There are sight gags like less desirable prefectures looking like desolate areas or wild untamed jungles. The high class Tokyo people wear ridiculously garish, bourgeois outfits. They stutter out of disgust and fear when merely attempting to say the name of an undesirable prefecture. The actors completely chew the scenery and are as pompous as possible. One joke is so funny because it puts the character in the ridiculous situation of a smelling test. I won’t say more about it because it would spoil the joke but that got huge laughs from the audience.
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Brave Father Online – Our Story of Final Fantasy XIV /
劇場版ファイナルファンタジーXIV 光のお父さん (2019)
Director: Teruo Noguchi, Kiyoshi Yamamoto
Writer: Kota Fukihara
Cast: Kentaro Sakaguchi, Kotaro Yoshida
Cinematographer: Hikaru Yasuda
Adapted from the TV series Final Fantasy XIV Dad of Light, which itself is based on a true story of a son who secretly becomes friends with his father in Final Fantasy 14, an MMORPG video game, in order to get to know him better.
I initially had zero interest in watching this. The title and premise sounded cheesy to me. The idea that a significant part of the movie (apparently around 40%) is told with video game scenes sounded like an awful narrative device. However, on the other hand, it’s intriguing that these video game scenes required a separate director to direct real video game players to play the game in a way that would work to tell the story in a film. I’m pretty sure this is innovative (well besides the TV show version that did it already). At least, I certainly cannot think of a movie that has used an actual video game world to tell part of its story.
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It Comes / 来る [Kuru] (2018)
Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
Writer: Tetsuya Nakashima, Hideto Iwai, Nobuhiro Kadoma
Cast: Junichi Okada, Haru Kuroki, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Takako Matsu, Nana Komatsu
A man with a disturbing childhood memory of an unseen monster puts it behind him and grows up to become a seemingly well-adjusted man. He gets married and eventually has a child. But this is when strange things begin to happen again and he begins to believe the monster from his childhood is now after his family. He enlists the help of a couple of people who are familiar with the occult but it seems nobody can be trusted.
It’s best to not know anything before going into this horror movie. It’s quite bombastic at times and unlike some Japanese horror, it is quite the opposite of a slow burn. One thing that some may not like is that there’s a lack of build-up or suspense. It’s not really a jump scare type of horror but there are gory moments and graphic scenes that feel like more of a quick gut punch that you don’t expect. Brief bits of sensory overload before going back to the more grounded questions that center on family and kids that almost every character struggles with in their own way. The story actually spends a fair bit of time on these themes which ties into the horror aspect.
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