Monday, August 29, 2011

Back to (entries on) Tokyo

This week I have an entry on a famous, though not in the West, Tokyo temple. Those of you who know the Tora-san movies will have seen this location in several of those films.

This week I have an entry for Kyōei-zan Daikyōji 経栄山 題経寺

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chasin' the thief

My recommended title for this week is also a live action film. In fact I'll focus on live action for the next few months in order to build up that new page.

This week I have one for fans of the Lupin III stories, actually a very early Lupin III adaptation. At the time it had been made only the first TV series had been broadcast with Goemon as a very minor character and none of the animated features existed. Speaking of the first series Discotek, has announced they will release the first season of the Lupin III TV series in 2012 in the US. Up to now all we had was a few episodes on VHS and re-dubbed only.

In any case this week I recommend:
Lupin The Third: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy
Director: Tsuboshima Takashi
Screenplay: Nagano Hiroshi
Based on a work by: Monkey Punch
The only live action adaptation of the original famous Lupin III crime stories that ran from 1967 - 1972. This film is very different from what fans of the Lupin III anime may expect as Goemon does not play a role in the movie. One major reason for this is that the film was released in 1974 when the Lupin stories were still relatively new, the characters in the animated adaptations of the manga had not settled into the form we are familiar with today. For example the first Lupin TV series (1971-1972) had Goemon as an occasional character and none of the animated features had been released. In any case there is much to enjoy in this tale which is actually about how Lupin, Jigen, Fujiko and Zenigata first met. The film shows its age, however this is a major advantage: with all the excessive super thief/James Bond silliness this movie is excellent entertainment for fans of the original manga series. Order Lupin The Third: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy from The Right Stuf

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hookin' Up

This week I add another entry on the Japanese sex trade. Specifically a type of business that takes the pick-up aspect of bars and mediates it for a fee.

This weeks new entry is:

omiai pub (matchmaking pub) お見合パブ

For readers who are interested in the sex trade in Japan I highly recommend Joan Sinclair's excellent book Pink Box: Inside Japan's Sex Clubs.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Lovable Loser

One meets many fools in a lifetime. Some are memorable and stories of their exploits are told.

In the realm of fiction fools have played a role since ancient times, and as technology advanced so did the ways to spread such stories. A major classic series of films in Japan about a fool were the Tora-san films. The first box set from Animeigo is this week's title recommendation which I have just added to my Recommended Japanese Live Action Cinema web page.
Tora-san: Collectors Set 1 (films 1-4)
Director: Yamada Yōji (1-2) Morisaki Azuma (3) Kobayashi Shun-ichi (4)
Screenplay: Yamada Yōji and Morisaki Azuma (1) Yamada Yōji, Morisaki Azuma and Kobayashi Shun-ichi (2) Yamada Yōji, Kobayashi Shun-ichi and Miyazaki Akira (3) Yamada Yōji and Miyazaki Akira (4)
The Tora-san movies, original title: Otoko wa tsurai yo (男はつらいよ, "It's tough being a man"), were a major institution with 48 films made between 1969 and 1995. This box set is the first four films, two made in 1969 and two in 1970. Each film involves Tora-san's old neighborhood of Shibamata in eastern Tokyo where he returns to at some point in the film. In the first film it is after 20 years, having run away as a child. Each visit has Tora-san causing some sort of a problem, usually due to his good intentions, for his family and neighbors. Tora-san causes problems for them, but great amusement for us. The problems often result in him hitting the road; he makes a living selling shoddy goods, doing fortune telling and any other petty scam that comes his way. The films are great lowbrow comedy with a delightful loser making his way in the world. The series ended in 1995 when Atsumi Kiyoshi, who played Tora-san in all of the pictures, passed away.
Order Tora-san: Collectors Set 1 from The Right Stuf

Monday, August 15, 2011

Flowin' on

This week I give you an entry for another major river that flows through, or rather alongside Tokyo.

This weeks new entry is:

Edogawa 江戸川

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Boys growin' up

This week was nuts at work. I have been tired enough I almost forgot to add my weekly recommendation.

So here we are:
20th Century Boys 1-3
Director: Tsutsumi Yukihiko
Screenplay: film 1: Fukuda Yasushi, Nagasaki Takashi, Watanabe Yûsuke, Urasawa Naoki film 2: Nagasaki Takashi, Watanabe Yûsuke film 3: Nagasaki Takashi, Urasawa Naoki
Based on a work by: Urasawa Naoki
Not so much a whodunit but more of a whodoin'it. The story involves a group of adults who as children spent a memorial summer playing together and hanging out in their 'secret base' - a hut built of very tall weeds tied together at the tops in a large empty lot. One of the things they did was put together a draft of a story involving an evil organization out to destroy the world. Decades later a charismatic cult leader has arisen and he may be connected to a series of events linked to story the kids made up. Then people start dying, some of a strange disease, in the same places as in the story. Kenji, the main author of the story starts to gather his friends to attempt to find who is doing this and to stop him.
This film, based on a 22-volume manga, is a suspense story that hops from the events of the story to the past of the children showing how their actions then influenced the later events. It is also a mystery in that we don't know the actual identity of the leader who is controlling what is happening. The original story is so complex that it was decided to tell the story over three films with a total running time of something like seven hours. The events of the story start in 1999, with flashbacks to the past, but finish around 2017. As the story continues you see characters age, you learn more about their pasts, and find that much is not what it seems on the surface. Serious fans of Japanese cinema will be pleased to see cameo appearances of many well-known actors, some without speaking parts.
Order 20th Century Boys 1: Beginning of the End from The Right Stuf
Order 20th Century Boys 2: The Last Hope from The Right Stuf
Order 20th Century Boys 3: Redemption from The Right Stuf

Monday, August 8, 2011

Over the river

It took some time to write up this one. All the information I had was scattered here and there in various books.

But it is done, I present to you another entry related to Edo and Tokyo:

Honjo 本所

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Easy to stay awake

This week I've added another live action film to my recommended titles web pages, this one has death but no killings and humor, plenty of humor and not for the easily offended, but great for the rest of us.

This week I add:

Wakeful Nights
Director: Makino Masahiko
Screenplay: Omori Sumio
Based on a work by: Nakajima Ramo

The film centers around a group of Rakugo (traditional Japanese storytelling) performers and their teacher's family. This group has been together for years in the traditional master apprentice relationship one still finds in some occupations. However several members of the group are elderly and a great deal of the story involves wakes, wakes with drunken storytellers have got to be interesting. But then the disclaimer on the box says: "Warning: Contains Adult Situations and Language, Disgusting Puns, Sick Jokes, Filthy Karaoke, and a Traumatized Manta Ray."

This is also an instructional film, I learned more Japanese terms for female genitailia from this DVD than from all the books on my walls.

There are also tea spewingly funny extras on the disc, including a dirty song contest and off color lyrics set to old children's tunes and spoofing patriotic songs.

Order Wakeful Nights from The Right Stuf

Monday, August 1, 2011

A long long river

This week I continue with my posting Tokyo related entries with a river that was so powerful the Japanese government spent 10 years splitting it into two as part of a major flood control project.

This week we have the:
Arakawa 荒川