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'Tomie': The Infinite Bad Penny

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Like all great horror, Junji Ito's now-classic series about an undying supernatural siren has something to say other than "boo!"

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'Princess Jellyfish': Girls, Be Ambitious!

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A sly treatise on gender roles and presentation, wrapped in a screwball romantic farce and delivered with great affection

DOMU © Katsuhiro Ōtomo domu-00.jpg

Katsuhiro Ōtomo's 'Domu': A Child's Book Of Nightmares

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A shame that any of Katsuhiro Ōtomo's work should still be out of print, especially this precusor to 'AKIRA' that pits psionic warriors against each other in a high-rise apartment complex

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'No-No Boy': John Okada's First, Last, And Only

The first major piece of fiction by an Asian-American originally vanished from sight, and seemed all but gone after the death of its author, but found new life in reissues across the decades

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An earlier version of this review was published at Genji Press in 2006.

This is the first, last and only novel you will ever find by John Okada, and that fact makes me seethe with sadness. There was another John Okada book, almost finished when he died of heart failure in 1971 at the far-too-young age of forty-seven, but his wife could find no one to take an interest in it, and when she moved from Seattle she burned that second manuscript along with all of Okada’s other personal effects. Those who encountered No-No Boy decades after its original publication—it was picked up by none other than Charles Tuttle, and promptly sank from sight after one printing—took an interest in its unknown author, and when they found that one book was all that was to be found, better than one book than nothing. This holds as true even more so today as it did then, as does everything about No-No Boy itself.

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'Unforgiven'/'Yurusarezarumono': From The Wild West To The Deep North

Sang-Il Lee's Meiji-era remake of Clint Eastwood's now-classic Western doesn't quite eclipse its predecessor, but it doesn't need to; it stands very nicely on its own

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Usually, remakes work the other way 'round: a Western company buys the rights to some Japanese property and remakes it with an English-speaking cast. The results span the gamut from good to godawful: Battle Angel Alita, The Ring, Ghost In The Shell, Dragonball: Evolution. This time, Japanese companies — Nikkatsu and Warner Entertainment Japan — obtained the rights to a Western property (in more than one sense of that word) and localized it. It would be tempting to say the results turned out as good as they did chiefly because director and screenwriter Sang-Il Lee stood on the shoulders of giants, but his adaptation does more than just port the action one-for-one to a new locale. It uses its localization to say things the original did not, in ways the original could not. That it has not been released for English-speaking audiences anywhere outside the UK, and then only in an edition now difficult to find, is an inexplicable oversight.

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© Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. / © Warner Entertainment Japan Inc. unforgiven-00.jpg
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'Steins;Gate': Stand Back, We're Going To Try Weird Science

How comedic banter, science-fiction mind-bending, and an irresistible cast of characters combined alchemically to make one of anime's best moments in recent years

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If I had to explain the difference between the things I respect and the things I love, it's that the things I respect leverage ideas and concepts that appeal to my intellect and my sense of curiosity, while the things I love use characters and situations that appeal to my emotions and my beliefs. One lights up my brain; the other warms my heart. Rare is the production that combines the two. Steins;Gate one-ups that achievement by letting each of those halves enrich the other. It's great fun in many different ways — as a character-driven comedy, as a psychologically rich drama, as a science-fiction thriller, as an envelope-pushing fantasy — but without ever feeling like all those different flavors have been forced to share a roof. You can enter from any one of those doors, but they all lead to a common room, one where the real story is how a man learns to put down his mask and be only his own vulnerable self.

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