Article Archives

2019


'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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'Mary And The Witch's Flower': From Neo-Ghibli, A Quasi-Kiki 
The freshman effort from ex-Ghibli creators Studio Ponoc at first seems like a riff on 'Kiki's Delivery Service' or 'Harry Potter' territory, but has morality rather than magic on its mind
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The Edition Omega Point Chronicles: Jōji Yuasa's 'Aoi no Ue' and 'My Blue Sky No.1' 
The first in a series of releases documenting the experimental works of Japanese composers brings us two electronic works from a regular presence in Japan's musical avant-garde
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'Spring And Chaos': The Man With The Child In His Eyes 
The life story of Japan's Whitman or Thoreau, as directed by one of the lead designers behind the 'Macross' franchise, is both appropriately stylized and spiritually true to the story it wants to tell
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'Violet Evergarden': Words From The Heart 
Netflix's coproduction with Kyoto Animation is gorgeous and has a story worth telling, but maybe melodrama wasn't the right mode for it
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'After The Rain': Two (Broken) Hearts Beat As One 
What starts as an unlikely (and potentially squicky) romance becomes a more ambitious story about kinship between those with buried dreams
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'The Life Of Budori Gusuko': One Against Nature 
Kenji Miyazawa's fantasy about human beings at the mercy of the natural world receives a flawed but still immensely impressive adaptation, by way of a director who did great justice to his 'Night On The Galactic Railroad'
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'An Actor's Revenge': Improvised, And Served Cold 
It's normally bad to call a movie 'stagy', but Kon Ichikawa's kabuki tragedy revels in it to great effect
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'Ichi The Killer': The (Sado)Masochism Tango 
Nearly twenty years later, this remains Takashi Miike's most notorious film, but notoriety is about all it has left going for it
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'Gintama' (2017): The Fact That Elizabeth Is Played By A Guy In A Suit Is A Feature, Not A Bug 
Fans, this is about as on-target an adaptation of 'Gintama' to a live-action production as you're going to get -- but everyone else, don't walk in cold
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Patreon Kon Ichikawa's 'Kokoro': The Wretched Hearts Of Men 
Kon Ichikawa's 1955 film version of Sōseki Natsume's classic novel adapts it with fidelity, intelligence, and just enough changes to be stimulating
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'Blade Of The Immortal': Die Another Day 
A great manga-to-screen adaptation, a good-to-great Takashi Miike picture, and a slightly overlong and ragged samurai flick, in roughly that order
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'Fullmetal Alchemist' (2017): Ed And Al, In Miniature 
Further proof that some anime-to-live-action adaptations need to either be done at the right scale or not done at all
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Patreon 'Perfect Blue': Even Better Than The Real Thing 
Satoshi Kon's hallucinatory, jolting feature film debut still electrifies -- all the more so in light of how its recently translated source novel was a sub-'Silence Of The Lambs' stalk-and-slash thriller
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'Napping Princess': Slumberland Blues 
The one great idea to be found in Kenji Kamiyama's new film is stranded in a mishmash of a story that tries to do too many things and accomplishes almost none of them
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'Land Of The Lustrous': The Crystal Method 
The glimmering surfaces of this endearing microcosmic fantasy-adventure hide great depths that promise to only get greater with time
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'your name.': If A Body Meet A Body ... 
Makoto Shinkai's blockbuster is an eyeful and a heartful, but look closely and you'll see the seams
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'Devilman Crybaby': Sympathy From The Devil 
Maverick director Masaaki Yuasa retells one of Gō Nagai's infamous operas of ultraviolence, with Yuasa adding both his trademark psychedelic visuals and a story that ultimately aims to break your heart, not just turn your stomach
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'Genocidal Organ': Death Sentences 
The third and final movie adapted from Project Itoh's novels retains the timely and unsettling ideas from its source material, but also its dramatic awkwardness
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2017


'Funeral Parade Of Roses': Party Like It's 1969 
More than forty years later, Toshio Matsumoto's psychedelic whirlpool of counterculture sexuality and continuity-shattering New Wave filmmaking remains a one-of-a-kind blast of cinematic fresh air
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