K-Animation Review: 돼지의 왕 (Daegieui wang/The King of Pigs)

King of pigs

Year: 2011
Country: South Korea
Language: Korean
Director: Yeun Sang-Ho
Studio Dadashow, KT&G Sangsangmadang
Screenplay: Yeun Sang-Ho
Art Direction: N/A
Animation Direction: N/A
Soundscore: Eom Been
Voice Cast: Yang Ik-joon, Oh Jung-se, Kim Hye-na, Kim Kkobbi, Park Hee-von
Runtime: 97 min
Terracotta (UK)
Trailer (subtitled):

Seen at the Terracotta on Tour screening at the Genesis Cinema thanks to winning tickets from Eastern Kicks. Special thanks also go to the Korean Film Council, which provided me with online access to the film. The King of Pigs will screen in London on March 8, 2013 as part of the Pan-Asia Film Festival and will be released on DVD by Terracotta on March 11, 2013.

This review is part of the K-Animation Season on Otherwhere.

Dark Themes:
Dark themes in Hakkyo 2013: Best enemies (top row); parental neglect & abuse (bottom left); driven to suicide (bottom right).

학교 2013 (Hakkyo 2013/School 2013, South Korea, 2013), a television drama that recently aired on KBS2, explores the life and struggles of high school students on a number of levels, tackling issues such as the pressure of academic achievement, strained relationships with parents and suicide, but also the hierarchical structures of classrooms and bullying, breaking with the silence that still surrounds many of these problems in Korean society. Hakkyo 2013 deserves praise for the candid as well as sensitive portrayal of these issues, but it does not go all the way, for although the picture it presents is surprisingly dark, it is not one entirely without hope. Indeed, as television productions face the judgment of a media regulation agency and weekly viewing figures from an audience that remains hesitant about open conversations on such issues, it is left to a few, audacious films to play out the worst scenarios imaginable until the very end. One of these films – in animated form – is 돼지의 왕 (Daegieui wang/The King of Pigs, 2011).

Continue reading “K-Animation Review: 돼지의 왕 (Daegieui wang/The King of Pigs)”

Review:「ゼロの焦点」(Zero no Shōten/Zero Focus) and Q&A

Zero Focus 1

Year: 2009
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Director: Inudo Isshin
Adaptation from:
Matsumoto Seicho’s bestselling novel of the same title (1959)
Screenplay:  Inudo Isshin, Nakazono Kenji
Cinematography: Takahiro Tsutai
Soundscore: Ueno Koji (Theme song:Nakajima Miyuki)
Cast: Hirosue Ryoko, Nakatani Miki, Kimura Tae, Nishijima Hidetoshi, Kaga Takeshi, Nomaguchi Tori, Sugimoto Tetta, Kuroda Fukumi, Honda Hirotarō
Runtime: 131 min
Toho (Japan)


Seen at the ICA as part of the Japan Foundation’s 10th Touring Film Programme “Once Upon a Time in Japan”. The film screened February 3 (sold out) and 5 (nearly sold out), with a Q&A with the director following on both days. The JPF also organised a Director’s Talk with Inudo on February 6. For further screenings in the UK see Bonus Bits below.

To make an author’s most popular bestseller into a successful film can never be easy, but imagine the challenge if that the story has already been told on the screen multiple times – once as a film (1961, dir. by Nomura Yoshitaru), sixfold as a TV dorama (1961, Fuji TV; 1971, NKH; 1976, Nippon Television; 1983, TBS; 1991, again Nippon Television and 1994, NKH Nagoya). It also doesn’t help if the tale in question is a mystery drama and everyone, thanks to the original’s and the numerous screen adaptations’ popularity, already knows whodunnit. Yet this is the challenge that Inudo Isshin, commissioned by the production studio, took on when setting out to make another Zero no Shōten film in time for the 100th anniversary of the novelist’s birthdate. Continue reading “Review:「ゼロの焦点」(Zero no Shōten/Zero Focus) and Q&A”

Review: 「ライアーゲーム -再生-」 (Raia Gemu – Saisei /Liar Game – Reborn)

Year: 2012
Language: Japanese
Director: Matsuyama Hiroaki
Adaptation from:
Shinobu Kaitani’s manga「ライアーゲーム」(Raia Gemu/Liar Game)
Screenplay: not credited
Cinematography: Miyata Nobu
Soundscore: not credited
Cast: Matsuda Shota, Tabe Mikako
Runtime: 131 min
Trailer: on YouTube
Film’s official website: in Japanese only
Seen on a British Airways flight from London to New Delhi (August 2012). The theatrical and/or DVD versions may differ slightly.
As you might guess from a title like Raia Gemu – Saisei, there is a lot that precedes this film. It all starts with a manga,「ライアーゲーム」(Raia Gemu/Liar Game, 2005 – ongoing), which went on to inspire two seasons of a TV drama (2007, 2009), a first film (「ライアーゲーム ザ・ファイナルステージ」/Raia Gemu za Fainaru Suteji/Liar Game – The Final Stage, 2010), a spin-off drama series  「アリス イン ライアーゲーム」 (Arisu in Raiagemu/Alice in Liar Game, 2012) and of course Raia Gemu – Saisei itself. Continue reading “Review: 「ライアーゲーム -再生-」 (Raia Gemu – Saisei /Liar Game – Reborn)”

Review: 「スマイル」 (Sumairu/Smile)

Year: 2009
Director: Yasuharu Ishii, Toshio Tsuboi, Akihiko Watase
Screenplay: Takayuki Takuma
Cast: Matsumoto Jun, Aragaki Yui, Nakai Kiichi
There is a plethora of Asian dramas out there, the majority of which suffer from the same ailments: weak, often completely nonsensical plot lines and an overindulgence in clichés and stock characters. The 11-episode Japanese dorama スマイル (Smile, 2009) has none of these faults, but sets itself apart with the pertinent as well as heart-wrenching story of Hayakawa Vito (played by a very tanned Matsumoto Jun), a hardworking half-Japanese, half-Filipino man who always has a smile on his face. Vito has only ever lived in Japan, speaks only Japanese and really knows nothing about Filipino culture yet has suffered from prejudice for being a ‘foreigner’ (‘gaijin’) since childhood. This discrimination makes no sense at all but persists in Japan to this day, with Sumairu courageously putting the issue of racism in Japanese society at the core of this drama. Continue reading “Review: 「スマイル」 (Sumairu/Smile)”