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Documentary of AKB48: No flower without rain June 16, 2013

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No flower without rain cover

The Documentary of AKB48 films are really special to me. Bearing the production backing of indie director Shinji Iwai and given unparallelled access behind-the-scenes of the AKB machine, it’s fascinating and gripping stuff for anyone intrigued by the circus. Given that these films are also somewhat responsible for me becoming an AKB fan, I’ve been looking forward to this latest one for months. So was it worth the wait? Hell yeah. (more…)

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2012 anime retrospective December 30, 2012

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Drama, Film, Manga.
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Hyoka
Another year, another great batch of anime watching. Despite my ‘cutting down’ due to time constraints, I still ended up watching over 20 shows this year, not to mention the odd OAV, movie, drama, live-action adaptation etc. etc. As I rarely get a chance to blog on a series’ end, I thought it might be fun to follow many other blogs’ lead and gather my thoughts in retrospect. (more…)

Japanese film at #LFF 2012 October 21, 2012

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The 2012 BFI London Film Festival is nearly over and as usual there were more interesting films than one could possibly see/afford. So as usual, I made an effort for the Asian ones. Because of scheduling and budget, I ended up picking 4 Japanese films, but was overall very pleased with my choices.

Helter Skelter

A thought-provoking and incredibly well acted, if deeply deeply disturbing (in a very Sono Sion way), take on the Japanese model industry and the lengths to which people go for fame and  beauty. I hadn’t realised Helter Skelter was based on a manga, though that partly explains why it interested me. Overly stylish, though not as much as Director Mika Ninagawa’s earlier feature Sakuran, and suffering from Lord-of-the-Rings-style over-endings syndrome, but absorbing nonetheless. Erika Sawajiri gives an absolute knockout performance in the lead role.

Wolf Children (Okami Kodomo Ame to Yuki)

Mamoru Hosoda‘s latest effort and the sole anime offering in the LFF this year. I have to admit, I was a little underwhelmed by Summer Wars and when I first heard the story of Okami Kodomo it sounded a bit meh. I was pleasantly proved wrong. From the stunningly animated opening this is captivating from start to finish. As with all Hosoda’s previous films, the fantasy element is almost totally irrelevant; the real focus is the very human drama – in this case the perils of growing up and single parenthood. As always, Hosoda, as writer and director,  captures this, particularly the little life moments, so very very well. Yet what impressed me most is the character development – every character goes through a genuine arc of transformation leaving you with a lump in your throat as you follow them through hardship and relief along their life journey.

I have a feeling the ending isn’t going to stay with me as much as Toki wo Kakeru Shojo, but the film certainly will.

For Love’s Sake (Ai to Makoto)

Takashi Miike, you’ve done it again. Another (slightly baffling) cult classic with plenty of charm. This is the tale of two high school kids literally from opposite ends of the social spectrum, and what all of us will do ‘for love’s sake’. I love musicals, manga adaptations, Japanese music and weird Japanese humour (especially ones bookended by anime scenes), so I was guaranteed to love this, though I didn’t expect to be moved by it.

It’s not perfect by any stretch, mind. It’s based on a slightly off the cuff manga so the characters are pretty one-dimensional (though in a comedy, and one with so many characters, this works in its favour). Moreover, you can’t shake the impression that the film has cut the story a little short from the original manga. It’s a shame characters like Gumko never get fully realised, but there’s surely more to Makoto’s story than just ‘he wanted to save his Mum’. His father isn’t mentioned much and we never really know why his family fell into such disarray – I can only conclude that ‘the person he wants revenge on’ is actually his father, and he would have done so had he not [SPOILER]… you know. There’s also the puzzling role of the teacher, who only has a couple of scenes prior to his [SPOILER] surprising appearance at the end – why would he do that?? The opening also talks about the 70s, the start of the bubble economy and how not everyone felt the riches even when the country had its rise – hints of a larger theme probably explored in the manga but not one ably touched on in a musical movie adaptation.

Nevertheless, Ai to Makoto = great fun and with an ending that gives it poignance. More than the throwaway entertainment I was ready to brand it as.

Key of Life

Unexpectedly, the highlight of my LFF films (and that’s saying something considering how much I enjoyed the others). Key of Life (Kagi Dorobo no Method) is an outrageously good tale of swapped lives and the search for love and purpose in life. It’s a classic example of the off-kilter, slice-of-life comedy featuring an unbelievable, yet believable plot and weird but loveable characters that Japan does so well. Slickly plotted, brilliantly acted (particularly the ever-reliable Teriyuki Kagawa and Ryoko Hirosue, who I’ve had a soft spot for since Yasuko to Kenji) and so full of heart you’ll be smiling your face off, it was a wonderful way to finish off my LFF run. I defy you not to love the doki-doki car alarm bit at the end.

Confessions of an AKB48 fan July 29, 2012

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Film, Music, Rave.
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AKB48

I love AKB48. This might not seem surprising for a self-confessed otaku and firm pop fan, but for the longest time I was dismissive of huge synthetic supergroups.

In my years of fandom, I was surprisingly unenamoured with the likes of Morning Musume, an odd mix of loli idols with constantly rotating members  — the extremity of what many dislike about the Japanese pop industry. When AKB48 came along, I thought, “Jeez, a group with 48 members — that really takes the biscuit”, then got on with my life.

What changed? (more…)

Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below (Hoshi wo ou kodomo) (2011) June 30, 2012

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Hoshi wo ou kodomoI finally saw Makoto Shinkai’s latest at the BFI’s biennial anime season. It’s breathtaking enough to make me thankful to have caught it on the big screen, yet in its quest to deal with weighty issues it just misses perfection, and perhaps even some of the director’s usual heart. (more…)

Terracotta Film Festival 2012 April 22, 2012

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Terracotta banner

Another year, another excellent Terracotta Film Festival. This year’s line-up had a nice blend of relatively unknown gems, while still featuring the popular blockbusters and well-known filmmakers. I only saw four of the films, but what I saw, I liked. (more…)

Hyper Japan 2012 February 26, 2012

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Fusion HAH!World Cosplay Summit tryoutsWorld Cosplay Summit tryoutsWorld Cosplay Summit tryoutsWorld Cosplay Summit tryoutsIron Man
World Cosplay Summit tryoutsWorld Cosplay Summit JudgesNichijouPERSONA!Enka singerEnka singer
DrummerHibiki Ichikawa shamisen playersHibiki Ichikawa shamisen playersGokuChopperGiant Chopper!
Satoshi Miki and Eri FuseMike SatoshiMiki Satoshi and Eri Fuse Q&ANatsuko AsoNatsuko AsoNatsuko Aso

keatl’s photostream on Flickr.

I spent my Saturday at the Hyper Japan event, which came a little early this year.

Slightly bigger, but still with the distinct smell of slight disorganisation, it was a lot of fun. Not so many bargains (though I did end up spending more than last year, mostly on DVDs >_<), and missing some folks from previous Hyper Japan’s like Good Smile Company, Hobby Japan, Square-Enix and the maid cafe, but nevertheless there were a good range of stalls and some excellent shows. (more…)

Karigurashi Arietty August 1, 2011

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Arrietty Poster

Ghibli’s latest is an entertaining, if not entirely captivating, tale. Many have said the same thing, but it does say something about Ghibli’s calibre that a film that is merely ‘solid’ seems something of a disappointment.

SPOILER WARNING (more…)

Evangelion 2.22 blu ray June 23, 2011

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My pre-ordered blu ray of Rebuild of Evangelion 2.22 arrived! Funny how long it’s taken to get this – I first saw this in a Japanese cinema over 2 years ago!
The pack is nice though. Booklet seems small but is 20 packed pages of interesting info. Bonus features DVD looks good too. Can’t wait to watch it all.

The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker (2007) May 14, 2011

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the-foreign-duck,-the-native-duck-and-god-in-a-coin-locker-poster
With a title like that, you can’t really go wrong.

Director Yoshihiro Nakamura has a reputation for comedy dramas with seemingly random plots that make sense right at the end (see also the fabulous Fish Story). This little gem, which I was fortunate enough to see at a random movie meet up in a London bar, is much the same.

For what it’s worth, the story follows Shiina, a freshman law student who’s encounter with a next door neighbour embroils him in a convoluted affair involving three friends, foreign exchange students, love, death and Bob Dylan.

To say any more would ruin the plot, and, to be honest, require more words than I care to spare in this post! But I assure you it all makes sense. Every cog in this tightly directed piece does its part in servicing a fantastically well-written plot, which comes to a very satisfying end.

And that, I believe, is where the magic lies. A friend once explained to me the importance of the ending to any story – it leaves you, the viewer/reader, with a final feeling to go way with, whatever has gone before it. Nakamura has mastered this, along with the handy knack of actually mopping up his many clues and tying up his plot threads, ducks and all. And with so many seemingly random ones, it’s no wonder he ends up with titles like this.