Twenty years later, Gakuryū Ishii's revisionist samurai legend still dazzles and jolts like few other movies of its kind
Why transmute Ozamu Dazai's 'No Longer Human' into medico-punk science fiction? Good question
Shinya Tsukamoto's seething, psychedelic adaptation of Edogawa Rampo's work remains one of his best films
A virus, I imagine, feels no sense of animosity; it's just trying to fulfill its biological mission, as recent events would attest. A white blood cell feels no patriotism to the body it defends, either -- well, Cells At Work! argued otherwise, but you get the idea. Each only arises because the other exists, and outside of that they are selfless. In the words of William S. Burroughs's Nova Police, "We do our work and go." Nothing personal. The best way I can describe the Boogiepop franchise is that it's the adventures of such an emergent phenomenon. If the karmic forces of the universe had a face and a voice, what would they look and sound like? And would they ever come to think of the rest of us as anything worth bothering with?
Stories about obsessions are often hard to watch, and not only because many obsessions are destructive. Seen only from the outside, any obsession becomes silly: instead of sharing a mindset, we're just watching behavior. Shinya Tsukamoto's Bullet Ballet tries to get us into the head of someone obsessed with either revenge or suicide (or both at the same time), but it's constructed in a way that doesn't really pay off -- or, if the lack of payoff is the point, it's not delivered well. It's still ambitious and seething with energy in the way all Tsukamoto films are, and that alone makes it worth watching, if not re-watching. But once it's over, it doesn't leave much behind.
Let's face it: there's no way to talk about BNA: Brand New Animal without also talking about Beastars. Both came out in the U.S. within months of each other; both deal with anthropomorphic animals attempting to live in harmony and not always succeeding. But the two shows are only alike in the way a Mazda resembles an Aston Mini; they tell entirely different kinds of stories and to markedly different ends. Beastars had no humans, only animals, and so its story was one giant multifaceted allegory about race, power, sexuality, gender, conformism, and so much more. It was large, it contained multitudes. With BNA, there's not much of an allegorical aspect; what you see is pretty much what you get. But what you get is still pretty watchable.