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Gakuryū Ishii's 'Punk Samurai Slash Down': Anarchy In The JP

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Gakuryū Ishii's wild adaptation of the equally wild cult novel is one part 'Gojoe', one part 'Burst City' and two parts Coen Brothers

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Barbet Schroeder's 'Inju': Rampo Wept

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An attempt to both modernize and partly Westernize Edogawa Rampo's thriller falls flat on both counts

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'Yasuke': Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos

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A wildly stylized project that bodes well for future trans-Pacific productions -- but which might have been just as good without being wildly stylized

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Izumi Suzuki's 'Terminal Boredom': She Saw The Future And It Didn't Work

The first volume in English of this avant-garde feminist figure's work shows her approach to SF and fantasy as personal cultural commentary

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There always seemed a massive gap between the things science fiction and fantasy promised they could do, and the things they actually did for the most part. I was weaned on some of SF's most maverick and outré minds -- Philip K. Dick, Stanisław Lem, "James Tiptree Jr." (Alice Sheldon), Doris Lessing, Theodore Sturgeon, Ursula K. LeGuin, Samuel R. Delaney -- and if they set such a high bar, it was only because all of us would be better off for it. When I found out too much of the rest of SF didn't come anywhere near that level, I lost interest in the genre for a long time. Call it a prejudice on my part, but there it was.

If Izumi Suzuki's work had been published in English in my youth, I would have added her name to that short list. Terminal Boredom is the first volume of her work to appear in English, and I can only hope it isn't the last, because Suzuki's legacy as a person and a writer is too fascinating to be lost in the language gap. Her work will have little to offer for those who are interested in SF from what I guess could be called the "mechanical" perspective, where the author comes up with some gizmo or discovery, and either tries to spin a plot around it or investigate its social impact. Suzuki was more interested in the personal side.

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'Serial Experiments Lain': The Wired And The Weird

Now that we're all wired, whether we like it or not, this cyberpunk urban legend and vaporwave precursor is even creepier and more prescient

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Most of what we call cyberpunk is about the gritty details, emphasis on "gritty": information warriors this, dystopian digital landscape that. Serial Experiments Lain is less about such things than it's about a state of mind -- about the way it feels to discover your world is not made of atoms but information, yourself included. Assuming, that is, you had a self to begin with, and were not just also the manifestation of an information process.

Heady stuff, to be sure, and Lain is one of the headiest of all anime -- one of a smattering of them produced by Geneon in a bid for late-night broadcasting slots, like Ergo Proxy and Texhnolyze. It also plays far better than it has any right to, since any "cyberpunk" work old enough to drink should be obsolete. But now we live what amounts to a dystopian post-cyberpunk lifestyle, and all the things about Lain that seemed like druggy rambling then, now seem barely ahead of the facts.

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'ID': Beastly Flesh

Kei Fujiwara's sequel to 'Organ' ends up being more merely unpleasant than unsettling

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Thus far Kei Fujiwara has only made two films in her lifetime. Organ, an outgrowth of her work with Shinya Tsukamoto on Tetsuo: The Iron Man, melded Cronenberg body horror with grimy underworld intrigue and messy family tragedy. Not easy to watch, but a remarkable indie project in a country hostile to such filmmaking, and in the end it had a power I couldn't dismiss. I wish I had better things to say about the follow-up, ID (a/k/a Idō), which also seethes with ambition and makes the improvised most of a tiny budget, but is mostly just grimy and messy.

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