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'Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex': Twenty Minutes Into The Future

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When so much cyberpunk dates badly, the futurology of the first 'Ghost In The Shell' TV series remains thrillingly relevant almost twenty years later

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Akira Kurosawa's 'RAN': Omnia Vanitas

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Akira Kurosawa's samurai revision of 'King Lear', among the very greatest films ever made, returns to glory in a new 4K remaster

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'SK8 The Infinity': No Wheels, No Life

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One of the smash hit shows of the year that's both fun to watch and touches on deeper things without getting lost in the weeds

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'The Sea And Poison': The Cure That Kills

Kei Kumai's chilling film version of Shūsaku Endō's equally grim novel remains all but unseen outside of Japan, but deserves a wider audience despite its queasy subject of wartime culpability

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Years after the end of WWII, the first literary works appeared in Japan that confronted the moral complexities of that country's wartime experiences. Many of them have been filmed: Taijun Takeda's Luminous Moss; Junpei Gomikawa's The Human Condition; and Shūsaku Endō's The Sea And Poison. This last one confronted (if only at some distance) easily the thorniest and grimmest topic in that category: the unethical medical experimentation performed by Japanese military men on POWs. Kei Kumai's 1986 film only reproduces some of the book's layered fictional structure, but stays resolutely true to its real subject -- how politics comes before human lives, and how ordinary people, even people of principle and education, take incremental steps towards committing the greatest of human sins.

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'Memories': Three By Otomo & Co.

Katsuhiro Otomo's anthology project dazzlingly animates three of his stories, showing more sides to the man most only know through 'AKIRA'

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When most people think of Katsuhiro Otomo, they think of AKIRA, and the outsized influence of that project obscures many of the other things in his roster, like the fact that he was a prolific manga creator entirely apart from AKIRA and its Otomo-directed film adaptation. Memories, his 1995 anthology project, renders three of Otomo's manga stories as short films, each with a different director realizing. It remains one of the best projects of its kind, both for its animation artistry and the quality of the storytelling -- well, two times out of three for the latter, anyway.

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'Arion': Whom The Gods Would Destroy ...

Calling it an anime 'Clash Of The Titans' falls far short; this staggeringly ambitious respinning of Greek mythic adventure is a must-see

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Mythology inspires two kinds of creativity: retelling, and reinvention. The former is just taking a story we know and bringing it to life for a modern audience. The latter is taking the pieces of the story, or even other stories, and making something entirely new from them. Of the first we have countless examples in anime, many of such artistry and inspiration that those aspects alone make them special (e.g. Princess Kaguya). Arion is of the second kind; it reworks a grab bag of Greek myth into a new adventure, an epic of such ferocious energy and narrative fearlessness it beggars belief.

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