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© Kana Akatsuki · Kyoto Animation / Violet Evergarden Production Committee violet-evergarden-00.jpg

'Violet Evergarden': Words From The Heart

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Netflix's coproduction with Kyoto Animation is gorgeous and has a story worth telling, but maybe melodrama wasn't the right mode for it

© Jun Mayuzuki, Shogakukan / After The Rain Animation Committee after-the-rain-02.jpg

'After The Rain': Two (Broken) Hearts Beat As One

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What starts as an unlikely (and potentially squicky) romance becomes a more ambitious story about kinship between those with buried dreams

© 2012 "A Biography Of Gusuko Budori" The Movie Production Committee / Hiroshi Masumara budori-gusuko-00.jpg

'The Life Of Budori Gusuko': One Against Nature

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Kenji Miyazawa's fantasy about human beings at the mercy of the natural world receives a flawed but still immensely impressive adaptation, by way of a director who did great justice to his 'Night On The Galactic Railroad'

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© 1962 Daiei Co., Ltd. actors-revenge-00.jpg

'An Actor's Revenge': Improvised, And Served Cold

It's normally bad to call a movie 'stagy', but Kon Ichikawa's kabuki tragedy revels in it to great effect

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Some artists, you know it's them from the first bar, the first sentence, the first shot. Nobody else sounds like Eminem or Björk; nobody else reads like Hemingway or Pynchon; nobody assembles a scene like Kubrick. And then there are artists who aren't as immediately distinctive, but they're large and they contain multitudes. What Kon Ichikawa didn't have in absolute idiosyncracy, he more than made up for in versatility and ingenuity. After the straight-up-and-down-the-middle excellence of his adaptation of Kokoro, An Actor's Revenge (directed seven years later) feels like something from his more flamboyant cousin — all heightened theatricality and fourth-wall deconstruction, all centered around a character who made his whole life into a performance of the same stripe.

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'Ichi The Killer': The (Sado)Masochism Tango

Nearly twenty years later, this remains Takashi Miike's most notorious film, but notoriety is about all it has left going for it

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I approach Ichi The Killer in the way I would a friend who once did some pretty stupid things in high school. Takashi Miike is as skilled, important, and eye-opening a director as there is, but it seems inevitable that a guy with a hundred-plus feature films under his belt would turn out some clinkers. I disliked Ichi when it first came out in 2001, and I like it even less now, in big part because Miike — and most everyone else in the cast, too — have demonstrated time and again since how they are so much better than this. Like Ninja Scroll or Legend Of The Overfiend, Ichi is mostly important because of its notoriety and its nerve, not its actual accomplishments. The fawning praise that has been thrown around for the film (because it's "transgressive") is only slightly less noxious than the film itself.

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© 2001 Hideo Yamamoto / Shogakukan / "Ichi The Killer" Production Committee ichi-1-00.jpg
© Hideaki Sorachi/SHUEISHA © 2017 'GINTAMA' Film Partners gintama-2018-00.jpg

'Gintama' (2017): The Fact That Elizabeth Is Played By A Guy In A Suit Is A Feature, Not A Bug

Fans, this is about as on-target an adaptation of 'Gintama' to a live-action production as you're going to get -- but everyone else, don't walk in cold

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The live-action adaptation of Gintama exists to fulfill one purpose only: to bring to Japanese audiences, and fans overseas, a live-action incarnation of a beloved property. Everything outside of that is all but irrelevant. And the shock of it is how the movie does indeed reproduce, with startling fidelity, the off-the-wall, silly-then-sincere flavor of the original material. But don't even think about making this your first Gintama outing.

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