My Love Story!! / 俺物語!! / Ore Monogatari!! (2015)
Directed by Hayato Kawai
Screenplay by Akiko Nogi
Starring Ryohei Suzuki, Mei Nagano, Kentarō Sakaguchi
Review: The main character Takeo (Ryohei Suzuki) is a teenager but looks like an older, burly man. People are often scared of him because of his looks but he’s actually a kind, helpful person. His best friend, Suna (Kentaro Sakaguchi), looks like a pretty boy and attracts a lot of girls including the ones that Takeo likes. No girls have ever liked Takeo but one day while walking with Suna he saves a girl named Rinko (Mei Nagano) from a harasser. When she thanks him he instantly falls for her. The next day she finds Takeo with Suna near their school. She wants to show her appreciation further by sharing a cake with them.
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Fantasia 2017, total films seen: 22
This was an okay year overall. Last year wasn’t necessarily that much better but it had some super memorable screenings while this year there weren’t any films that wowed me or had the audience go super crazy. Granted, I missed some South Korean movies I really wanted to watch like A Taxi Driver and A Day. Only three films were labeled recommended this year. This isn’t the worst year as far as outright disliking films but the number of films that I enjoyed or liked a lot this year was lower than previous years. I am starting to wonder if my interest in East Asian cinema is waning.
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Mini reviews of Free and Easy, The House of the Disappeared, Shock Wave, The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue, Napping Princess, Love and Other Cults, Rage, Extraordinary Mission, Night is Short Walk On Girl.
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Blade of the Immortal / 無限の住人 / Mugen no jūnin (2017)
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Written by: Tetsuya Oishi
Cast: Takuya Kimura, Hanna Sugisaki, Sota Fukushi, Ebizo Ichikawa, Erika Toda
Review: This jidaigeki film was a last minute addition to the festival but what an addition it was being the director’s 100th film. As a result the theater was packed with his enthusiastic fans. It’s an adaptation of the hugely popular manga of the same name. Manji (Takuya Kimura, ex-leader of the recently disbanded boy band SMAP) is a samurai cursed with immortality after killing a hundred men. Fifty years later a young girl named Rin (Hann Sugisaki) seeks out Manji. She wants to hire him to avenge the death of her parents at the hands of Anotsu Kagehisa (Sota Fukushi) and his fellow master fighters.
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Mumon: The Land of Stealth / 忍びの国 / Shinobi no Kuni (2017)
Directed by: Yoshihiro Nakamura
Written by: Ryo Wada
Cast: Satoshi Ohno, Satomi Ishihara, Yuri Chinen, Yûsuke Iseya, Jun Kunimura
Review: I’ve liked a lot of the films by this director as he’s often managed to successfully combine serious moments with comedy. This movie is mainly a historical action comedy that falls in the Jidaigeki genre. Mumon is the best ninja in a region called Iga where ninja clans reside. Mumon (Satoshi Ohno, leader of super popular boy band Arashi) like many of his fellow ninjas only fights if the price is right. In one battle, Mumon kills a ninja of a rival clan for a reward. The dead ninja’s brother, Heibi (Ryohei Suzuki), is deeply saddened and seeks revenge only to be met with indifference by his clan’s leader and the rest of the clan. This leads to a chain of events that culminate in a battle between the ninjas of Iga and the armies of Nobukatsu Oda (Yuri Chinen), the second son of Nobunaga Oda.
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Junk Head (2017)
Directed by: Takahide Hori
Written by: Takahide Hori
Review: This is a dystopian stop-motion animated film from Japan. There is a short by the same name that was finished in 2013 and took the creator 4 years to make in his spare time. I haven’t watched the short but I believe this is a full length extended version of it. Humans have achieved longevity at the price of losing their ability to reproduce. Clones were created to solve this problem but they rebelled and now live in the depths of what appears to be an underground industrial facility while the humans live above. A human decides to travel to the lower levels for reasons that are revealed later in the movie. The human (whose name we don’t know) actually loses his memory upon arriving in the lower levels and is found by a resident who reassembles him with “junk” robotic parts. The characters speak in an imaginary language that is subtitled in the movie.
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Tokyo Ghoul / 東京喰種 / Tokyo Guru (2017)
Directed by: Kentaro Hagiwara
Written by: Ichiro Kusuno
Cast: Masataka Kubota, Fumika Shimizu, Nobuyuki Suzuki, Yu Aoi, Yo Oizumi
Review: This is an adaptation of the manga of the same name. I have not read the manga or seen the anime. In fact, I barely even researched the premise so when the film began I was in for a scary and gory surprise. The film centers on a young man, Ken Kaneki (Masataka Kubota), who gets transformed into a half ghoul after a particularly nasty encounter with one named Rize (Yu Aoi). Ghouls look like humans but they also have a scary looking form where they can form extra appendages. They also can only survive by eating human flesh. You would think this would cast ghouls as the obvious villains but in reality not all of them are bad. There are some humans in a special department (referred to as “doves” by Ghouls) who are tasked with hunting and killing the ghouls but they aren’t necessarily the good guys.
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Japanese Girls Never Die / アズミハルコは行方不明 / Azumi Haruko wa Yukuefumei (2016)
Directed by: Daigo Matsui
Written by: Misaki Setoyama
Cast: Yû Aoi, Mitsuki Takahata, Shôno Hayama, Taiga
Review: The literal translation of the Japanese title is actually, ‘Haruko Azumi is missing’ so it’s interesting when a completely different English title is chosen. I suspect in this case one of the reasons for the change is that the literal translation sounds uninteresting. The main female characters are Haruko (Yu Aoi) and Aina (Mitsuki Takahata), both of whom experience sexism and also try to seek happiness in relationships. They aren’t linked at all in the beginning although Aina joins a couple of other guys who spray graffiti of a missing person poster of Haruko. Meanwhile, there are reports of a gang of school girls beating up men walking alone at night.
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