Japanese movies to watch (July)

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Tag (リアル鬼ごっこ) ( 11 July, 2015, director: Sion Sono).

Sion Sono forced him once again into the list of movies to watch. As he’s in the list for the third month in a row, this means that, besides being active, he also keeps on producing cinematographical narratives worth watching.

This time Sion Sono presents, while returning to his surreal and violent roots, his own take, his own vision on the 2001 novel Riaru Onigokko by Yamada Yusuke. Sion Sono’s tag is an original work;  it has not nothing to do with the 2008 hit movie adaption, the four sequels that followed and the TV Mini-series. It even has nothing to do with the novel, except for the title of course.

The movie introduction goes as follows: “No men in sight, only women…and something unthinkable is girls killing girls! This is Sion Sono at his best and craziest! A film that depicts young women’s fragile and sometimes dangerous emotional turbulence and their fear of being chased by the unknown”.

If this little appetizer wasn’t enough to whet your appetite to see bloody imagery and to hear a symphony of screaming girls, then maybe the cast will, as the three main protagonist are played by half Japanese/half Austrian Reina Triendl (Gomen ne Seishun!), the ex-AKB 48 member Mariko Shinoda, and the lovely Erina Mano (Minna! Esper Dayo!, Shinjuku Swan).

Official Japanese website: http://realonigokko.com/#intro

Dictator, Koga ( July 18 2015, director: Toshimitsu Iizuka)

One may ask how the first full-length movie of Toshimitsu Iizuka immediately secured its place in the July movie list. Well, let us explain it to you. The cinematography presented in the trailer implies a rather ‘slow’ and ‘static’ framing of the bullying, thus creating room to focus on the emotional impact of the ‘speech’ of the bully/bullies and to allow the viewer to connect with the Koga, the one who gets bullied. Furthermore the trailer in itself already proves to be able to connect with the viewer on an emotional and imaginary dimension.

To be clear, the main focus of the narrative isn’t the bullying per se, but the fact that the bullying allows for two characters, Koga and Soejima, to ‘meet’ each other.  But what is the reason for their ‘meeting’: Are they drawn to each other purely because of love or because they feel sorry for each other? And if it’s love that engenders their meeting, than the following question arises: Will Koga be able to change himself to prove his feelings for Soejima?

In a way it’s thus only on the basis of the trailer of Dictator, Koga, that we included this cinematographic narrative. Furthermore, we expect a bright future for this director. So adding this movie to the list is thus nothing other than a form of publicity, a way to support new and upcoming directors.

Official Japanese website: http://www.dictatorkoga.net/

Umi no Futa ( July 18 2015,  Director: Keisuke Toyoshima)

Umi no Futa is a narrative based on the novel of the same name written by Banana Yoshimoto – Yoshimoto chose ‘Banana’ as pseudonym for two reasons: her love for Banana flowers and because she considered the signifier to be cute as well as androgynous. The novel Umi no Futa first appeared in the Yomiuri shinbun from November 2003 to May 2004 and became officially published in 2006.

The narrative concerns Mari (Akiko Kikuchi), a stage designer in Tokyo, who decides, grown tired of living in Tokyo and thus of her urban existence, to return to her hometown on the western side of the Izu peninsula in Shizuoka prefecture. She then decides to follow her dream and opens a small store to sell her favourite childhood treat: kakigōri (shaved ice with flavored syrup). Mari’s supportive mother (Orime Amagi) introduces her to Hajime-chan (Azusa Mine), a girl with a large burn scar on her face.

The reason why we added this movie, concerns the following question: has Keisuke Toyoshima, the director, engaged with the underlying themes – the exhaustion of young Japanese in contemporary Japan and the way in which terrible experiences shape a person’s life – of Banana Yoshimoto’s novels as to be able portray these themes in the cinematographic product. If he fails to structure the cinematographic narrative on the themes which guide the narrative of the novel, he fauls to understand the narrative he wishes to portray.

With the release of Umi no futa, it’ll be the third narrative of Banana Yoshimoto that gets imagined on the screen; the two previous novels who were made into cinematographic products were Kitchen and Goodbye Tsugumi.

Official website Banana Yoshimoto: http://www.yoshimotobanana.com/index_e.html

Official website Umi ni futa: http://uminofuta.com/

Nowhere Girl (July 25, 2015, director: Mamoru Oshii)

Mamoru Oshii, one of the three anime masters – the other two being Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, is ready to unleash his thirteenth live-action cinematographic narrative unto the world. With Nowhere Girl Oshii, who is mostly known for Urusei Yatsuri 2: beautiful Dreamer (1984), the philosophically and existentially reimaging of Japanese mythology, which marked his critical and commercial breakthrough, and his technically groundbreaking adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell (1995), a narrative concerning a female cyborg searching for the meaning of her existence – a narrative underpinned by philosophical themes of sex/gender identity and self-identity, delves into the possible effects that a mental breakdown can cause.

The narrative concerns Ai (Nana Seino [Tokyo Tribe]), an extremely gifted arts student at an all-girls’ high school. Because of her natural creative talent she becomes subject of the fury and envy of her classmates and the adults. With nowhere to run, she endures the bullying, mockery and cruelty stoically. But eventually the mental torture starts to cause her to slowly collapse mentally.

The reason why we added this movie to the list is not so much because it’s directed by Mamoru Oshii, even though this is an added bonus, but the fact that the narrative aims to stage a psychological evolution, focusing on the effects of bullying on the mental health of the main character and which effects such breakdown could have on that character.

Official Twitter account of Nana Seino: https://twitter.com/nana_seino

Official Website Nowhere Girl: http://mukokuseki-movie.com/

Nou Shou Sakuretsu Girl (July 25 2015, director: Yuuichi Abe).

Based on the immensely popular vocaloid based song by Rerulili, which already gave rise to an equally popular novel adaptation by Erika Yoshida in 2013, Nou Shou Sakuretsu Girl is finally coming to the big screen. We used the word ‘finally’ consciously, because who doesn’t want to see a death game that features cute high school girls?

You don’t want to see cute high school girls shooting each other? Well, let the trailer change your disinterest.  First of all, the trailer shows male ‘dominance’ instigating a death game between high school girls. It will thus be interesting to see if this ‘gender’ related juxtaposition will undergo changes in the narrative. Not that this juxtaposition necessarily has to evolve, but it would be a pity if the narrative doesn’t develop this juxtaposition, that constitute the relational structures, further.  Secondly, the trailer forebodes an emotive story about the changing relation between two girls without the confines of the Death Game. At some moments in trailer, one can already genuinely feel an imaginary emotive bond with the heroines.

And did we say it featured cute Japanese high school girls? And Guns? For who’s interested: the actresses who’re portraying the cute high school heroines are Hinata Kashiwagi and Seika Taketomi.

Official website: http://noushou.jp/

The vocaloid song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybb9oDbyucI

Bakemono no Ko – The Boy and the Beast (11 July, 2015, director: Mamoru Hosoda).

Mamoru Hosoda could have been the first outsider to ever direct a Studio Ghibli movie, i.e. Howl’s Moving Castle, but due to – as the rumours are to believed – creative differences between Hosoda and Katsuta Kondo, the animation director – Katsuta Kondo found Hosoda’s style to diverge too much from the style Studio Ghibli is known for – Hosoda eventually quitted and returned to Toei Animation.

This, luckily, hasn’t stopped Mamoru Hosoda in making a name for himself in the anime scene and creating prize winning anime narratives like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006), Summer Wars ( 2009), and Wolf Children ( 2012). And so it comes as no surprise that we add his new narrative to the July list of movies to watch.

The narrative follows the adventures of Kyuta, a boy living in Shibuya, Tokyo. After his mother dies, Kyuta sees no other option than to run away from his relatives. One day he follows Kumatetsu, a lonesome beast, and arrives at the world of beasts. Kumatetsu, a very strong fighter, decides to take Kyuta as his apprentice, even though he’s human. When Kyuta is a young adult he returns to the human world and encounters a woman, Kaede.

Official website: http://www.bakemono-no-ko.jp/index.html

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