Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dragon of the streets

This week I am recommending yet another live action title.

This one from Miike Takashi. Some of the fans of his films don't like his recent work. I wonder how many of those simply like him for the shock value of his early works. I find his recent works highly enjoyable and this one falls into that category.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Director: Miike Takashi
Screenplay: Togawa Seiji
Films based on video games are usually avoidable; their quality as films is often dismal. Then there are a few that shine, this is one of them. Based on the Sony video game and directed by Miike Takashi Yakuza: Like a Dragon is actually an interesting and amusing action film. Kiryu has just been released from prison and is looking for his boss who has gone missing. He finds himself helping a girl who has run away from an orphanage look for her mother. He also ends up coping with other yakuza that assume he has something do to with the sudden disappearance of 10 billion yen from the gang's various bank accounts, and wanting to settle old scores. Then there is a stoic, and wounded, guest of a host club, inept bank robbers in knit masks in the middle of a heat wave, lovers turned stick up artists, a baseball bat armed gang and other fun. Fans of Miike know to expect over the top elements in the film as well as his dark humor, both are delightfully in evidence here.
Order Yakuza: Like a Dragon from The Right Stuf

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Edo ditch

This week I have an entry on an Edo landmark that no longer exists.

The rather un appetizingly named:

Ohaguro-dobu (Ditch of Black Teeth)

The ditch was filled in long ago, in fact I've walked over it while visiting the neighborhood.

Expect more Edo/Tokyo entries as I'm planning to focus on that interesting city for the next few months in my reading and writing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Edo Killing

This week I am recommending another live action title, this time a TV series. Somehow this one has been below the radar of many fans of Japanese cinema. I hope more people pick it up especially since the series is available at such a low price.

Baian The Assassin - TV Series

Director: Yoshida Keiichiro (ep.1), Sugimura Rokuro (ep.2-3), Ogasawara Yoshifumi (ep.4), Mimura Haruhiko (ep.5-7)
Screenplay: Abe Tetsuro (ep.1-2, 7), Shimoiizaka Kikuma (ep.3), Nogami Tatsuo (ep.4), Furuta Motomu (ep.5-6),
Based on a work by: Ikenami Shōtarō

Watanabe Ken stars as Baian, a doctor who moonlights as an assassin in Tokugawa Period Edo. Baian has a code of honor and will accept only assignments that target the wicked and those deserving of death. Don't expect a fast paced swashbuckling action show with big fights. Baian carefully stalks his targets looking for the right moment to strike. He works through an agent who acts as an interdiary between him and the clients, after all keeping his identity secret is crucial to his survival. His weapon, large needles which combined with his medical skills are deadly.

Order Baian The Assassin from The Right Stuf

Monday, July 18, 2011

Another from history

This week I bring you an entry for a historical personage who is best known as a villain in popular lore, fiction, and theater.

This is :

Kira Yoshinaka 吉良義央

who was the target of the loyal samurai in the Akō Jiken.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sweet Flashy Honey

I have added a new page to my web site. This one for Japanese Live Action Cinema. At present the page is sparse, with only one entry.

The first title I am listing is Cutie Honey. I had the pleasure of introducing this film at the Asian American Film Festival at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. The audience loved it, it was fun to see well dressed adults stomping their feet at the opening animation.

Here is the entry from my new page:

Cutie Honey
Director: Anno Hideaki
Screenplay: Anno Hideaki, Takahashi Rumi
Based on a work by: Nagai Go
Kisaragi Honey, Cutie Honey, is an android created by the late Dr. Kisaragi. Honey's special ability is that she can transform to meet the challenges she faces. Now the original story ran in a boy's manga magazine and the creator is known for pushing the limits of respectability. This means he gets more than a bit naughty at times and in the Cutie Honey series this included Honey's clothes vanishing during her transformation sequences, something you also see in the later Sailor Moon girl's TV show, not that you see much in either. Also expect outrageous villains, exaggerated situations and fights, lots of fights as Honey takes on the villains and their minions. This adaptation of the original is extremely well done with stylistic use of computer special effects and great costumes. The director is best known for his science fiction anime work such as GunBuster and Neon Genesis Evangelion as well as directing serious live action cinema. Nagai Go has a camio as the driver of a car Honey falls onto.
Order Cutie Honey from The Right Stuf
Order Cutie Honey LiveAction Limited Edition w/Lunchbox from The Right Stuf

Monday, July 11, 2011

Handy for writin'

This week I cover an object you rarely see in use today, in fact I've only seen one person pull one out and use it, and that person was an artist from Japan.

This week I bring you information on the:

yatate (portable Ink and brush kit) 矢立

These days with such modern implements as cartridge filled brushes and even that thing called the ball point pen we don't see too many yatate in use.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A suit and fists

I have added another new title to my list of anime recommendations:

Here is the text from the web site:

Salaryman Kintaro - TV series - 20 episodes

Kintaro is the new hire at Yamato Construction. He is a mid term hire, unusual in Japan here most new white collar workers start work as a group in the spring. More unusual is he has not gone to college, in fact dropped out of night school as a teen, and once led a motorcycle gang. But he has been hired as a favor given to him by the chairman who expects him to not last long. However his willingness to work, persistence, openness to others and his occasional use of fists pay off and before long he is given other assignments. Workplace stories are not unusual in Japan but titles about white-collar workers, no matter how unconventional, rarely come out in English.

Note: The chapter breaks are unusual in this one, you cannot skip the opening without being tossed into the middle of the episode.

Cultural Details: Office work, construction industry, nightlife.

Cautions: Made for adults, sex and one rape mentioned, both are not shown.

Order Salaryman Kintaro disc 1 on DVD from The Right Stuf

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ring Time

This week I have an entry suggested by Dan Snyder who recently spotted one of these in Japan.

This will be of interest to those of you who are curious about religious objects and practices in Japan.

This week I bring you the:

chi no wa (large standing ring) 茅輪

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer Wars

I've added Summer Wars to my recommended anime list.

It is available on DVD and also on Blu-Ray

Here is the description I gave it in the list.

Kenji almost made it into a major math competition and instead expects to spend his summer break just doing his part time job as a low level administrator for the massive international network OZ. Then Natsuki talks him into working for her during the break at her grandmother's house for a few days. But things get complicated and Kenji is not only caught up in a small scheme of Natsuki's but ends up being suspected of being the hacker who cracked the security of OZ. Now things are really getting messed up and lots of people may end up dying.