The first of Osamu Tezuka's experimental trilogy of animated films for adults is a fascinating time capsule that swerves between visionary and puerile
Buddhist lore, supernatural slapstick action, and domestic drama all combine to make this idiosyncractic instant classic
A gorgeous adaptation of the acclaimed manga, and a story with a hard moral question: Who gets to be redeemed?
Comedy's hard. Not just because getting laughs naturally is a skill few people develop well, but because the best comedies look at our condition (boy, is it screwed up) and have something to say about it (laugh, 'cause you might as well). That's hard enough to do with a straight face; to do it with a grin is an order of magnitude tougher. Yūzō Kawashima's Bakumatsu Taiyōden starts and ends as effortless entertainment, a breezy and bracing comedy exuding endless energy. It's also a cross-section of Japanese society in the years before the Meiji Restoration, and ultimately the kind of social commentary by proxy that all the best comedies manage to have in their blood. But it never forces the points it's trying to make. It slips all it wisdom in under the door and between the laughs.
Now here's a delight: a made-for-TV feature film from 1990, unlicensed officially outside of Japan until now, that plays like a forgotten earlier Studio Ghibli project. It isn't one, although it does employ a couple of Ghibli personnel — and its irrepressible heroine Ginga feels like a nod towards the plucky Ghibli girls we all know. But there's more to Like The Clouds, Like The Wind than nostalgia or cross-references; it's a fine project in its own right.
When Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb appeared in theaters, there were more than a few critics who hated the movie on principle; after all, nuclear war was nothing any sane person could laugh at. Except, of course, that black humor and comedy are precisely how people have always dealt with the cruelest and most horrible of subjects. Today, complaining about Dr. Strangelove seems almost quaint—perhaps not so much a sign that we are desensitized to the whole apocalypse thing (when does the end of the world ever really stop being scary?) as that we have stopped wasting time with silly grousing about art being in bad taste.