Two short films from Shinya Tsukamoto, now anthologized in the Arrow box set for the director, show off his cheeky-humored and bending-sinister sides
Blackly funny, rollicking, and spectacularly animated, the adaptation of Q Hayashida's equally off-the-wall manga is another high point for Netflix's anime coproductions
All but unknown outside of Japan, this prodigy jazzman is enjoying a renaissance thanks to reissues of his few albums, including this, his striking first
Belgian author Georges Simenon wrote what came to be called romans durs, "hard stories," noir novellas of little people succumbing to vice and falling headfirst into the abyss. The best Japanese crime and thriller fiction I've encountered fit the same template: they're less about people solving crimes and restoring order (even if dark lessons come along the way), and more about how the criminal impulse is everyone's to know and succumb to. Deep Red (Shinku), the first of screenwriter and thriller novelist Hisashi Nozawa's works to find its way into English, starts with the violent death of a family and then burrows deeper. It follows the daughter who survived, surveys her welter of conflicting emotions, and watches as her fixation on the daughter of the killer grows to blot out everything else in her life.
For most of its first season, Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 ranks so far below the previous GITS installments it borders on self-parody. Almost nowhere in it can be found traces of the work I knew and loved, one that had many prescient things to say about the irreducible complexity of modern life and about how cyberpunk dystopia was already all around us. Shell, nothing; withered husk was more like it. Doubly inexplicable given how Kenji Kamiyama and Shinji Aramaki were co-directors.
Then over the second half, and especially over the last three or so episodes, it improves so much that it finally seems worthy of the name. Only the second season of the show, whenever it drops, will bear out whether or not it truly is. But if you can slog through some of the worst material associated with this franchise, you'll be rewarded with something that feels halfway like it at its best. Up to you if you think that's worth it. I'm still on the fence.
Sometimes a work is not important solely for its artistic merit but because it opens a door. Shōson Nagahara is one of a kind that went missing from history: first-generation Japanese immigrants to the United States, issei, who created for their fellow Japanese, and who are all but forgotten now even amongst Japanese-Americans. He wrote the novella Lament In The Night and the serialized novel The Tale Of Osato, collected together in English for the first time anywhere in this volume, along with a smattering of other works in the 1920s. Then he apparently returned to Japan, leaving only his written works in Japanese as his legacy; not even the date of his death is known. But what we do have thanks to him is a glimpse of a time and a place and a population — the Japanese-American world of Los Angeles, before and during Prohibition — that has for too long existed mostly as statistics and mute figures in photos.