Recent and not so recent Japanese dramas

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Tenchu1998
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Re: Recent and not so recent Japanese dramas

Unread post by Tenchu1998 » 23 Mar 2015, 00:42

Finally got to watch My Man and Au Revoir L'été this weekend. It made for an interesting viewing contrast, since both movies feature Nikaido Fumi in the starring role.

I thought My Man was alright. It does have beautiful visuals and it is slow-moving and manages to create an atmospheric tone, as far as the environment of where the characters live goes. Hokkaido looks indeed like a wonderful, yet chilly and snowy place - the atmosphere is really felt through the movie. The acting is very good, and Nikaido Fumi really becomes this morbidly eccentric, adolescent girl who develops this obsessive love for her caretaker. There are good scenes in the movie where the movie takes its time and lets the characters interact and walk around in this snowy town. However, I think the movie lacks in depth when it comes to the depiction of the characters in relation to the story - I feel that the movie lacks a complex insight into the psyche of these people and generally feels rushed. There is no real depiction of a deeper bound between Jungo and Hana that made me care about their relationship and its taboo-laden nature. The main characters just become these outside weirdos whom we watch from a distance, and this just made me care less about them. Much of the story unfolds through the dramatic dialog, rather than being expressed through the interaction of the main characters. It just feels rushed and incoherent, to me.

Now, I understand that Japanese people understand what all of these things can mean, and that My Man is specifically made for a Japanese domestic audience who would probably understand the sentiments of the characters and all the prohibitions of it. You could say that the movie just very straightforward depicts something people are partly familiar with just in general moral sentiments. And I suspect that the reason it does feel rushed is because of the reason that the filmmakers didn't have very much time to develop this complex picture of the relationship and these characters. Or maybe it just wasn't desirable for them, in the first place.

Either way, the movie is what it is. I think it's alright, but it could've been a lot better for me had it been deeper. Nikaido Fumi is incredible, though.

Which brings me to Au Revoir L'été, where Nikaido Fumi depicts a completely different character and looks different too. Compared to My Man, Au Revoir L'été actually goes deeper into its characters, as the movie is pretty much all about them. Au Revoir L'été is of course much more light-hearted than My Man in its depiction of a Japanese rural town during the end of summer, and Nikaido Fumi plays a girl in her late teens who has just finished high school and is coming of age, and that's pretty much it. And it's 2 hours of a few days in the life of this girl. It's a cute little movie with very simple, minimalistic HD-DV visuals that does make it look like a movie made for television, or something.

But, what's interesting about these 2 movies is that they are in contrast to one another in their strengths and weaknesses - My Man would benefit more from going deeper into its characters, while Au Revoir L'été would shine stronger had there been more attention to a more atmospheric visual style.

That's just my opinion, though.

Tenchu1998
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Re: Recent and not so recent Japanese dramas

Unread post by Tenchu1998 » 23 Mar 2015, 01:03

I also recently watched Still the Water, which I thought was a nice little movie, as well. It has been talked about that the movie was directed by a female director, Naomi Kawase; although I don't know how relevant this is to the movie itself. I personally don't lay much emphasis on the gender of the director if the movies are good, although I guess I understand the social and political reasons to why it does get mentioned.

But Still the Water I think is a wonderful movie about the beauty of life and the importance of family, love and regional culture. It has nice landscape photography, and it shows very well what Kawase wanted to depict with the bound of the family and their culture - I really like the scenes where the girl plays the Japanese lute and sings the regional songs in company of her parents. The movie deals with drama, conflict and death; but the message that is given is life-affirming and hopeful towards the future.

Nice movie.

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Re: Recent and not so recent Japanese dramas

Unread post by HungFist » 01 Apr 2015, 09:30

wow, I was browsing through my mini review files and realized I never posted some of this stuff... here's one review from the 2013 Yubari fest:

Fuck Me to the Moon (2013)

The best Japanese slacker comedy since Nobuhiro Yamashita’s early 2000’s masterpieces? Probably yes!

Fuck Me to the Moon follows two dumbass slackers and part time musicians whose work finds little success among club audiences. “Mass audiences don’t understand art”, they tell themselves. Then one night they stumble across a sexy lady “Princess Kaguya” who, to their surprise, wants to move in with them. The guys think they're gonna score, but as it turns out, everyone except them seems to be scoring with her. The poor guys eventually make a deal with her: they'll get their share if they can compose music that will make her come.

It was stated in the film’s official promotional materials that the film will make the audience laugh, cry, and give them an erection. I'm not sure about crying, but the other two would be quite accurate. However, the film is far less coarse than you might expect. With its lovable antiheroes and all-around romantics it’s quite sweet, in fact.

Fuck Me to the Moon premiered in Moosic Lab, which is an interesting project focusing on young filmmakers who believe in the power of cinema as well as that of music. Moosic Lab is basically a film festival that tours Japan, starting from Tokyo and then progressing to other cities like Osaka. It's been held since 2012 and was originally inspired by the films of Yi Irie. Fuck Me to the Moon, too, is packed with great music by the band Mikeneko Homeless.

The storyline– two guys and a girl – is hardly original, though. The genre conventions, however, only distract towards the end, and even then the final few scenes are excellent. And for those were wondering, “Princess Kaguya” is indeed a reference to the old fairytale of a princess who gives impossible tasks for men who fall for her.

Female lead Shoko Akiyama deserves an extra mention. She is, in fact, an AV actress. Nevertheless, her performance is quite charming. She was the third AV performer in 2013 whose mainstream film (either as actress or as director) was nominated for the Grand Prix at the Yubari Film Fest (the other two were the Gun Woman actress Asami, and Kept director Maki Mizui).

It’s interesting how mainstream AV stars have become in Japan, being a rather common sight in indie dramas, splatter films, late night TV dramas, and as media personalities. Sora Aoi (whose Hong Kong thriller Revenge: A Love Story played quite widely around the world), Mihiro (who acted in Yu Irie’s Saitama Rappers) and Aino Kishi (who was charming in the romantic comedy Rubbers) are just a few further examples.

Because of some storyline clichés Fuck Me to the Moon isn’t quite on par with Nobuhiro Yamashita’s early minimalist masterworks, but it’s certainly in the same alley. It's a very enjoyable romantic slacker comedy with great soundtrack and good charcatres, and should appeal to relatively wide audience as well. Begs for a DVD release.

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(screencaps from the trailer)

trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiFWLf5c4l4

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Re: Recent and not so recent Japanese dramas

Unread post by HungFist » 26 Apr 2015, 11:42

After Watashitachi no haa haa I naturally rushed to see Matsui's earlier film Wonderful World End as soon as it opened here. Comment's below:

Wonderful World End (Japan, 2015)

A quiet 13 year old runaway goth-loli girl (Jun Aonami) falls in love with her idol, a 19 year old schoolgirl model / small time idol (Ai Hashimoto) who is running her own webcast from home. After a slight misunderstanding her boyfriend invites the young fan to their home to stay, which starts eating out their relationship.

This film somewhat resembles another similarly themed - and also music driven - movie: The End of the World and the Cat's Disappearance. Wonderful World End, however, is a more intimate, quiet and realistic film, minus the ending which goes to Takashi Miike territory.

Ai Hashimoto is pretty good in the lead as a girl who is mainly interested in her own looks, and the film makes some good points about youth, social media and idol culture, despite not being quite exceptional in any way. Director Daigo Matsui made himself an interesting name with the excellent schoolgirl drama Luv Ya Hun (to be released later in 2015). This one isn't as good, but it's still decent.

The film is based on two highly cinematic music videos by Seiko Ohmori, both directed by Matsui, both starring the film's cast, and both released in 2013. Some of that that footage is also used in the film, plus Ohmori appears in the film as herself in a concert scene.

Music Video 1: Kimi to eiga:
https://youtu.be/-mvVmOdRlIY

Music Video 2: Midnight Seijun Isei Kouyuu
https://youtu.be/WdQ6wmap8U4

Some screencaps from the trailer:

The film is a bit uneven visually, but at times it looks very nice
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Seiko Ohmori
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I loved this scene. Reminded me of Jun Ichikawa's How to Become Myself
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HungFist wrote: Wonderful World End

Directed by Daigo Matsui (Sweet Poolside) and starring Ai Hashimoto. Opens in January.

Site:
http://ww-end.com/

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwQFwStJJ0w

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Re: Recent and not so recent Japanese dramas

Unread post by HungFist » 09 May 2015, 06:11

Trailer for Kono kuni no sora, written and directed by Haruhiko Arai and starring Fumi Nikaido:
http://youtu.be/Jk5Eg56OMZc
http://www.kuni-sora.com/

Arai really deserves more attention. Easily on of the most interesting writers in Japanese cinema. Just look at his screenwriter filmography: The Woman with Red Hair (1979), Rape Ceremony (1980), Distant Thunder (1981), Oh Women! A Dirty Song (1981), Tragedy of W (1984), Vibrator (2003), It's Only Talk (2005), and Kabukichô Love Hotel (2014) just to mention a few.

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Re: Recent and not so recent Japanese dramas

Unread post by HungFist » 05 Jun 2015, 16:03

Sayonara Kabukicho JP DVD and BD coming September 3, 2015

This also played in cinemas in Hong Kong, so there's probably gonna be a subbed HK DVD at some point.

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Re: Recent and not so recent Japanese dramas

Unread post by HungFist » 29 Jul 2015, 11:41

HungFist wrote:Daigo Matsui's latest film Watashitachi no haa haa (私たちのハァハァ) (Luv Ya Hun!) (2015) was the best movie in Yubari this year! A wonderful youth film following 4 high school girls who run from home in Kitakyushu to attend a concert on the other side of the country in Tokyo. They actually try to ride bicycle to Tokyo but they only manage to get till Hiroshima; then they have to start thinking how to manage and finance the remaining 800 kilometres. They film everything on video camera, too, so about half of the film is POV.

It's a wonderful film with terrific young actresses and shot from the youth's point of view. That's something you don't really see in Western youth movies. Western youth movies tend to be somewhat conservative, even the great ones like Boyhood or Blue is the Warmest Colour, in that they feel like a grown up director looking back at childhood and telling a tale that has some kind of lesson to teach. At the end of the film the characters have always grown up and learned from their mistakes. Both the positives and the negatives of youth are shown. Watashitachi no haa haa, and some other Asian films, dare to take the opposite approach. They're basically coming of age films without the coming of age part. You might consider them a bit dangerous in that sense, e.g. Watashitachi no haa haa doesn't really judge its protagonists who run from home and try a ridiculous stunt but instead shares their excitement with the viewer. It leaves most of the moral judgement for the viewer.

You could compare Watashitachi no haa haa to Schoolgirl's Gestation (2014), which was in Yubari last year, and which was about a group of high school girls deciding to get pregnant together. However, Watashitachi no haa haa is better acted, more exciting and the cinematography is much better. Other, though more distant, comparison points would be All About Lily Chou Chou and Love & Pop. If you liked About Lily Chou Chou and Love & Pop (two of the three best Japanese youth films ever made) you should love Watashitachi no haa haa. My friend also brought up Taifu Club (the third of the three best Japanese youth films) but I didn't really see much similarity.

Site (empty): http://haa-haa.jp/

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Set for Summer 2015 release.
And here we go: full trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8vli77NbZQ

That's a pretty good trailer, especially the first 50 seconds until the CreepHyp song kicks in. If you like what you're seeing, you'll love the movie.

It's been a highly disappointing year for Japanese cinema so far. This is the only film that premered this year that I feel confident to call excellent. Some others were pretty good but had their flaws (Makeup Room, Love & Peace), or they actually premiered last year (e.g. Sayonara Kabukicho). Then there's been a long line of not-bad but still more or less underwhelming films like Yakuza Apocalypse, Real onigokko (Tag), That's It, Torakage etc. and a few truly bad ones (e.g. Shinjuku Swan).

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Re: Recent and not so recent Japanese dramas

Unread post by HungFist » 28 Aug 2015, 14:37

Sayonara Kabukicho HK DVD coming Sept. 10

I don't know which version it's going to be. The Japanese theatrical version actually had some mosaic added to it because Lee Eun-woo's body movement was apparently a bit too convincing for R15+. I assume the JP BD features this same version. I don't quite understand what good mosaic does when you don't see any naughty bits in the first place, but they, that's Japan for you. They did the same for Spring Breakers. Anyway, I believe the international festival print was uncensored. I'm not 100% sure, though.

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Re: Recent and not so recent Japanese dramas

Unread post by HungFist » 11 Sep 2015, 05:35

Schilling's somewhat conservative take on Watashitachi no haa haa, which now seems to have a new silly English title Our Huff and Puff Journey
- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/201 ... f-journey/

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Re: Recent and not so recent Japanese dramas

Unread post by HungFist » 06 Feb 2016, 07:31

HungFist wrote: Remembering Jun Ichikawa box set

Limited to 2000 copies. The films included are Bu su, Kaisha monogatari: Memories of You, Tsugumi, Tokyo Lullaby, and Buy a Suit. The set also includes a 48 page booklet and bonus disc containing a documentary and tons of TV CM’s directed by Ichikawa. The release date is Oct 28, but the films will also be available separately from Dec 23.

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Bu su (1987)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0204926/
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Kaisha monogatari: Memories of You (1988)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0203608/
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Tsugumi (1990)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100820/
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Tokyo Lullaby (1997)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120346/
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Buy a Suit (2008)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1313102/
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It only took me 6 years to actually open the set and watch the movies.

To be honest, I didn't care for most of them.

Busu is a decent slice of life youth drama with a fantastic street montage in the middle of the film. Slow paced, but interesting enough.

Memories of You I expected to dislike. I'm not too interested in the mindscape of 60 year old Japanese company workers who decide to start a jazz band. But I ended up kind of liking the film. It's well acted and a bit more entertaining that you'd expect.

Tsugumi was a pretty frustrating drama about a girl who is selfish and all, but in the end the filmmakers make a cliché point about how she's also an interesting human being. A good example of late 80s / early 90s Japanese "quality drama" that I really don't like.

Tokyo Lullaby I frankly couldn't even get through. Ultra slow paced domestic drama. This may be one of those films why Ichikawa gets compared to Ozu, but frankly I've never cared for Ozu either.

Buy a Suit... dear god. This was made in a time when Japanese filmmakers would make zero budget films that looked like someone's home video, and frankly weren't much better, and still got praised. I admit I was also guilty praising some of those works. Here Ichikawa is just filming three actors in Tokyo discussing something about society and values. I wonder if I could have sit through this one back then. Now this was just terrible.

Keep in mind that these comments come from someone who thinks How to Become Myself is a very good movie, and Tony Takitani is absolutely fantastic.

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Re: Recent and not so recent Japanese dramas

Unread post by HungFist » 08 Mar 2018, 14:09

His Motorbike, Her Island (彼のオートバイ彼女の島) (1986)

A lesser known, romantic Nobuhiko Obayashi film about a young biker chap on the road searching for himself after breaking up with a girlfriend (Noriko Watanabe). He then runs into another girl (Kiwako Harada) who shares his love for bikes. "All my dreams play in black and white" he says, and consequently half of the film is painted in black & white or a blend of muted colours and grainy black & white film, seamlessly shifting from one to another throughout the film. While there are some cliché parts, it's really quite a charming tale with some truly cinematic audio-visual sequences. Performances are all good, especially Harada who is charming despite occasionally overdoing her cuteness/cheeriness act, and has a wonderfully funny and cute hot spring scene with nudity. And balance the eye candy, there's is plenty of rear nudity by the male protagonist, played by none other than the 22 year old fluffy haired Riki Takeuchi, almost unrecognizable in his debut role!

Screencaps from a VoD version. R2J DVD is also available. Really needs a BD release.

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Kiwako Harada
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Noriko Watanabe
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Yes, that is Riki Takeuchi
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Re: Recent and not so recent Japanese dramas

Unread post by HungFist » 18 Mar 2018, 10:56

HungFist wrote: Lost Paradise in Tokyo (ロストパラダイス・イン・トーキョー, 2009, Kazuya Shiraishi).
This one looks rather great. Hoping for and looking forward to dvd release.
http://lostparadise.seesaa.net/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4IVarl2TcU
Coming out on DVD 2018/04/25. It only took 9 years!
http://klockworx.com/bluraydvd/p-406341/

Not sure I can stand behind the "looks rather great" anymore... I saw cinema a bit differently when I wrote that in 2011...

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