Article Archives

2019


'Promare': The Burning World 
Studio Trigger's first theatrical film is so dazzling it threatens to melt the eyes right out of the head, but suffers from feeling like a TV series truncated into a two-hour slot
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Akio Jissōji's 'The Buddhist Trilogy' 
Almost totally unseen outside Japan, these three art projects by a director best known for his 'Ultraman' work are anything but easy viewing, but also seething with vision and ambition
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Tomihiko Morimi's 'The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl': How One Thing Leads To Another 
This newly translated novel, the basis for Masaaki Yuasa's madcap movie, is just as wild as its successor, with the advantage of slightly more insight into its female protagonist
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'Tomie': The Infinite Bad Penny  
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! 
A sly treatise on gender roles and presentation, wrapped in a screwball romantic farce and delivered with great affection
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Katsuhiro Ōtomo's 'Domu': A Child's Book Of Nightmares 
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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'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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'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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'The Face Of Another': Confessions Of A Mask 
Kōbō Abe's novel, and Hiroshi Teshigahara's film adaptation, explore an extreme case: a disfigured man given a new face to present to the world, and thus all the perils of existential absolute freedom
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'Black Lagoon': Boiled Harder 
The animated adaptation of Rei Hiroe's ferocious homage to '80s action and Hong Kong cinema has all the attitude and muscle of its source, and also all its soul and insight
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'Samurai Champloo': The Mix 
At the Venn intersection of '47 Ronin' and 'Cash Rules Everything Around Me' is this glorious jumble of period samurai adventure, road movie, anti-romantic triangle, comedy, drama, and stone cold classic
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'Tetsuo II: Body Hammer': Metamorphoses 
Shinya Tsukamoto's follow-up (side-quel?) to his immortal debut is not quite as arresting or inspired, but it has many fascinating aspects all the same
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'Tetsuo: The Iron Man': Full Metal Mutation 
Thirty years later, Shinya Tsukamoto's frenzied masterwork of cyberpunk body horror still seethes like nothing else on film
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'Punk Samurai Slash Down': Pulp Fiction 
Kō Machida's cult novel about a ronin grifter whose latest grift goes horribly wrong is one strange mash-up of conceits, even for those who like strange mash-ups
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'Cure': The Hollow(ed) Men 
Two decades on, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's mutant serial-killer thriller remains among his very best films, and one of Japan's finest from the 1990s generally
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Bonten Taro's 'Badass Babe! Sex & Fury & Other Stories': The Girl With The Hanafuda Tattoo 
An eclectic collection of manga work from a tattoo artist, folk singer, and quasi-underworld figure until now only marginally known in the West
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'The Five Star Stories': In The Year 7575 ... 
This late-1980s anime time capsule is daft but fascinating, if only because it hints at how a new re-adaptation of the same material might really go places
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'Katanagatari': The Amazing Adventures Of Sword(less) Boy And Strategy Girl 
From the pen of Nisioisin came this genre-bending and -busting samurai-era fantasy, adapted into a festive eyeful of an anime where there's as much wordplay as swordplay
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'One Cut Of The Dead / Kamera o tomeru na!': This Camera Cannot Be Stopped, Ever! 
Not just a love letter to the cinematic underdogs who pull off amazing things with sheer sweat, it is one of those amazing things pulled off with sheer sweat
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'Twilight Of The Cockroaches': The Bugs Shall Inherit The Earth 
Despite the wretched condition of the current reissue, this idiosyncratic and allegorical fusion of live action and animation has black comedy and deeper meanings alike
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'Alita: Battle Angel': She, The Ultimate Weapon 
A prime case study for how a film can be an fine adaptation of beloved source material, while also being breathless, overcrowded, and tangled as a story
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'Dororo': Take (Back) Another Little Piece Of My Heart 
Osamu Tezuka's feudal-era supernatural epic manga gives us two antiheroes, mutilated in body and spirit alike, both seeking wholeness
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'Once and Forever: The Tales of Kenji Miyazawa' 
Out of print, but reissued thanks to New York Review Books, this collection of shorter works serves as a fine point of entry to a visionary author now getting his due in the West
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'Kamui Gaiden': Uncanny Valley Of The Ninja 
Get past the often terrible CGI, and you'll find a reasonably faithful movie adaptation of Sanpei Shirato's manga masterpiece
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'Hells': Infernal Affairs 
Visually and stylistically uninhibited, but a narrative and logistical jumble, this afterlife fantasy is as divisive as it is inventive
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2018


'An Invitation From A Crab': Dreamland Hyperspace 
panpanya's English-language debut rubs shoulders comfortably with the likes of 'Nichijou' for slice-of-life strangeness, but swathed in a far darker atmosphere
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Sōseki Natsume's 'Kokoro': One Classic, Three Translations 
The great masterwork of modern Japanese fiction, by one of its all-time luminaries, has been translated multiple times, each version its own testament to the complexities of translation as an art
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'The Legend Of Kamui': A Nearly Lost Ninja Scroll 
With only two volumes in English, and those out of print, Sanpei Shirato's ragged and earthy ninja epic needs as much of a reissue in full as can be had
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Tsutomu Nihei's 'Abara': A Dead-Tech Sampler 
This one-shot story from the creator of 'BLAME!' and 'Knights Of Sidonia' serves as a useful entry point to the man's carbon-black universe of Giger-goth techno-body-horror
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'The Ghost In The Shell: Global Neural Network': Four Ways Into The Shell 
Four teams of writers and artists from Western comics deep-dive into the 'Ghost In The Shell'-verse, and arise with four divergent and arresting visions
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'A Shameful Life': Osamu Dazai's 'No Longer Human', All Over Again 
An all-new translation of Osamu Dazai's bleak masterwork brings fresh clarity and immediacy to a staple of modern Japanese literature
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'Illang: The Wolf Brigade': Defanged 
Jee-woon Kim's live-action adaptation of Mamoru Oshii's 'Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade' is passable on its own, but doesn't come close to the primal shadow-play sorcery of the original
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Natsuo Kirino's 'Out': The Katori Corpse Disposal Service 
Natsuo Kirino's nervy thriller pits four working-class women against Japanese society -- not just its seedy underbelly, but its whole stacked deck of capital, class, and sex
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'Yoshitaka Amano: The Illustrated Biography' 
The man who gave us the visuals for 'Vampire Hunter D', 'Final Fantasy', 'Angel's Egg', and much more, finally has his own story in print for English-speaking audiences
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'AKIRA' At 30-Something: The Manga At The End Of The World 
On having a reckoning with the god-emperor of modern manga, in a restored English-language edition at last
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'Bleach' (2018): Kid Janitor Of The Spirit World 
A dialed-down take on elements from the first major story arc of Tite Kubo's long-running shōnen actioner, it's no classic but no disaster either
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Let's Film This Again: 'Vampire Hunter D' 
Yes, it's been done before, but the possibilities of all-new adaptations of Hideyuki Kikuchi's long-running gothic-Western-punk light novel series are wider than ever
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'Un-Go': The Truth Will Out 
These cyberpunk/SF mysteries drawn from the works of Ango Sakaguchi are intriguing for how they adapt a classic author, but grow far too gimmicky for their own good
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'The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl': To The Break Of Dawn 
Masaaki Yuasa's dizzying mini-epic begins as boy-seeks-girl and ends by circumnavigating entire universes of possibility
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'The Book Of The Dead': Illusions Of Life 
A classic historical novel, in English for the first time, has a dazzling stop-motion animated adaptation to go with it from one of Japan's masters of that art
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'Maborosi': The Unanswerable Question 
Hirokazu Kore-eda's debut feature, twenty years on, remains an ominous and poignant masterwork
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Patreon 'Animerama: Cleopatra': God Of Manga Meets Queen Of Nile 
The second of Tezuka's 'Animerama' productions for adults works best as a showcase for Tezuka's imaginative visuals, less so as a story or even as a spoof of Hollywood excess
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Patreon 'Animerama: A Thousand And One Nights': Tezuka's Erotic Follies 
The first of Osamu Tezuka's experimental trilogy of animated films for adults is a fascinating time capsule that swerves between visionary and puerile
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'Kyōsōgiga': And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird? 
Buddhist lore, supernatural slapstick action, and domestic drama all combine to make this idiosyncractic instant classic
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Patreon 'A Silent Voice': Children Of Lesser Gods 
A gorgeous adaptation of the acclaimed manga, and a story with a hard moral question: Who gets to be redeemed?
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Patreon 'Bakumatsu Taiyōden'/'Sun In The Last Days Of The Shogunate': Grifter's Paradise 
All but unseen by Western audiences, this breezy, bracing 1957 comedy cross-sections Japanese society at a turning point, for both fast laughs and wise insights
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'Like The Clouds, Like The Wind': From Country Girl To First Concubine 
A real treat: a made-for-TV historical fantasy, by way of some Studio Ghibli regulars, that starts lighthearted and in time becomes genuinely ambitious
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'The Man Who Stole The Sun': I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. Now What? 
Almost forty years later, this jet-black comedy about a one-man nuclear terrorist ring remains an absurdist masterwork
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'Mishima': The Art Of His Life 
Maybe it could only take someone from outside Japan, like director Paul Schrader, to make an insightful movie about one of Japan's most divisive and fascinating figures
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Continue reading archives from 2018