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'Mind Game': You Can Live ... Or You Can Live It Up

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Masaaki Yuasa's psychedelic masterwork is the 'Joe Vs. The Volcano' of animated films, about daring to snatch life from the jaws of the world

© 1971 Hyogensha/Mako International. © 2016 FM Films, LLC silence-00.jpg

The 'Silence' Of Shusaku Endō, Masahiro Shinoda, And Martin Scorsese

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On two film adaptations, entirely dissimilar but equally fascinating, of a Japanese novel about the persecution of Christians in Tokugawa-era Japan

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'Shin Gojira': Bureauocalypse Now

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Hideaki Anno's 'reboot' of the Godzilla franchise focuses on teamwork, bureaucracy, and dogged persistence rather than individual heroics

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© 2008 Masaaki Yuasa · MADHOUSE/KAIBA Partners kaiba-00.jpg

'Kaiba': This Body Holding Me

Masaaki Yuasa's psychedelic exploration of the mutability of bodies and memories, in the form of a child's tale, is a one-of-a-kind masterwork

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There are two instances when anime is, for me, at its greatest. Instance 1 is when it embodies itself successfully, when it takes all that we associate with the label and fulfills the inherent promises found there. The original AKIRA did that; so did projects as disparate as Giant Robo, [C] - CONTROL, and Hyōka.

Instance 2 is when anime draws on things entirely outside the label: Spring And Chaos, Belladonna Of Sadness, The Tatami Galaxy, Mind Game. Those last two were directed by Masaaki Yuasa, as was Kaiba, yet another candidate for the Instance 2 category. Kaiba owes more to experimental Western and European animation than it does anything from anime generally — not just in its look but in its attitude, its mindset, its goals. Normally it's a cliché to say something is "like nothing you've ever seen", but here the label is very much earned.

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Natsume Ono's 'not simple': Human Ruins

The creator of 'ACCA: 13' and 'House Of Five Leaves' also gave us this haunting story of a young man thrown onto life's scrap heap

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An earlier version of this essay appeared at Genji Press.

Natsume Ono has any number of fine works to her name: the samurai drama that's not a samurai drama House Of Five Leaves (a personal favorite); the sly and endearing Ristorante Paradiso; the recently animated ACCA: 13 Territory Inspection Department. But it was not simple that left the greatest impact on me and still does, and which compels me to recommend it as a starting point for her work. It also embodies its title, as it starts by presenting what seems like the plainest and most uncomplicated of stories, and then shows how nothing — not good and bad people, not good and bad behavior — fit into the little cubbies we carve out and label for them.

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© 1989 Shochiku Co., Ltd. / Bandai Visual Co., Ltd. violent-cop-00.jpg

Takeshi Kitano's 'Violent Cop': Contents Under Pressure

'Beat' Takeshi Kitano's first outing as director remains among his best movies -- and also among his most nihilistic and unforgiving

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A different version of this essay appeared at Genji Press.

The key to Violent Cop is not in the violent moments, but the moments where Detective Azuma (Takeshi Kitano, a/k/a Beat Takeshi) just stands there. Late in the movie, after he has been thrown off the police force and his only friend has been killed, he stands in the office of his commander, unflinching, unblinking, unmoving. This is a man whose reaction to all of life has been distilled down to exactly two stances: indifference or violence. There is nothing else there.

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