Review: Usagi Yojimbo at the Southwark Playhouse

usagi yojimbo

Year: 2014
Country:
UK
Language: English
Director: Amy Draper (@amyrosedraper)
Company:
N/a
Adaptation from: 
Sakai Stan’s long-running manga「兎用心棒」 (Usagi Yōjinbō)
Script: Stewart Melton (@stewmelton)
Design: Ele Slade (@EleSladeDesign)
Lighting design: Joshua Pharo
Projection design:
Nina Dunn (@nina_pixelpixie)
Sound designer: Max Pappenheim (@max_j_p)
Casting director: Annie Rowe (@AnnieRoweCasts)
Fight director: Ronin Traynor (@RoninTraynor)
Soundscore: Hirota Joji (@JojiHirota)
Cast: Amy Ip (@amyip), Kuroda Haruka (@kurodaharuka), Siu Hun Li (@siuhunli) Jonathan Raggett (@JonathanRaggett), Tabuchi Dai
Runtime: 95 min (no intermission)
Official website: None for the play but Usagi Yojimbo (website for the manga) and Facebook page (manga)

Trailer:

Seen at Southwark Playhouse (@swkplay) in London on December 13, 2014. The play runs from November 28, 2014 until January 4, 2015. Details and ticket booking here. Suitable for ages 8+.

Note: All Usagi Yojimbo photos taken from the manga’s Facebook page (no photographer credited).

When I posted my first review on Otherwhere back in 2011, I never really thought about where blogging might take me. Three years on, there have been new-found Asian film fan friends (in London and elsewhere), plenty of screeners, invites ge previews, film festivals and even interviews, as well as the opportunity to do a photoshoot for GIGAN magazine a few months back with several London-based Japanese actors – one of whom was Tabuchi Dai. I have been following Dai’s work ever since and was instantly intrigued when, a few days back, he started posting images on his Facebook page from a play he was involved in: Usagi Yojimbo at the Southwark Playhouse. So off to the theatre I went.

Continue reading “Review: Usagi Yojimbo at the Southwark Playhouse”

Review:「夢と狂気の王国」(Yume to Kyoki no Okoku/Kingdom of Dreams and Madness)

ghibli docu

Year: 2013
Country:
Japan
Language: Japanese
Director: Sunada Mami
Studio:
N/a
Screenplay: Sunada Mami
Cinematography: Sunada Mami
Soundscore: Takagi Masakatsu
Cast: Miyazaki Hayao, Suzuki Toshio, Hideaki Anno
Runtime: 118 min
Distribution: GKIDS (North America), StudioCanal (UK)
Film’s official website: N/a

Trailer:

This piece was originally written as a guest review for easternKicks. It comes as part of easternKicks’s coverage of the San Diego Asian Film Festival, with SDAFF providing access to an online screener (thank you!). In the UK, the documentary will be available on DVD from StudioCanal on December 1, 2014. In the US, it will be released by GKIDS in select cinemas on November 28, 2014 and available for digital download on December 9, 2014.

Given that it has been nearly thirty years since Studio Ghibli, Japan’s probably most famous and, internationally speaking, most successful animation studio, was founded in June 1985, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that there has to date been no feature-length documentary on it. Continue reading “Review:「夢と狂気の王国」(Yume to Kyoki no Okoku/Kingdom of Dreams and Madness)”

Review: 「自分の事ばかりで情けなくなるよ」(Jibun no Koto Bakaride Nasakenaku Naru Yo/How Selfish I Am)

 

How Selfish I am

Year: 2013
Country:
 Japan
Language: Japanese
Director: Matsui Daigo
Studio: 
N/A
Screenplay: Matsui Daigo
Original story: Ozaki Sekaikan
Cinematography: Shioya Hiroki
Soundscore: CreepHyp
Cast: Ikematsu Sosuke, Kurokawa Mei, Yamada Maho, Ando Sei, Shunsuke Daitoh  Onoue Hiroyuki
Runtime: 106 min
Distribution: N/A
Film’s official website: Jibun Bakari (日本語)

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gb2_Md4DNs

Special thanks to Raindance for providing me with a screener for this filmThe film recently screened at the annual London Raindance festival.

If definite answers are something you seek in films, then Jibun no Koto Bakaride Nasakenaku Naru Yo is probably not one to watch as it falls squarely into the slice of life genre and offers no more than a glimpse into the rather bleak lives of several characters, with many details unexplained.  Continue reading “Review: 「自分の事ばかりで情けなくなるよ」(Jibun no Koto Bakaride Nasakenaku Naru Yo/How Selfish I Am)”

Review: 「そこのみにて光輝く」(Soko nomi nite Hikari Kagayaku/The Light Shines Only There)

soko nomi nite hikaru kagayaku 4
Year: 2014
Country:
Japan
Language: Japanese
Director: Oh Mipo
Studio:
N/A
Adaptation from:
Novel of the same title by Sato Yasushi
Screenplay: Takada Ryo
Cinematography: Kondo Ryuto
Soundscore: Tanako Takuto
Cast: Ayano Gou, Ikewaki Chizuru, Suda Masaki, Takahashi Kazuya, Hino Shohei, Isayama Hiroko, Tamura Taijiro.
Runtime: 120 min
Distribution: Open Sesame (Tokyo)
Film’s official website: Hikarikagayaku (日本語)
Trailer: A trailer is available, but I’m not linking it here on purpose. I think it’s best to go completely blind into this film – the trailer contains some tiny, spoilerish bits. If you do insist, it’s below the Image Gallery at the end of the post. You might prefer to read this review post-film too.
Special thanks to Raindance for providing me with a screener for this film. The European premiere of Soko nomi nite Hikari Kagayaku, which was recently chosen as Japan’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, will be at the Raindance Film Festival on September 29, 2014. A second screening will take place on September 30. Tickets can be booked here.
soko nomi nite hikaru kagayaku 7
Soko nomi nite Hikari Kagayaku is the sort of film I would like to write two reviews for: one for the people that have seen it and one for those who haven’t. It is the sort of film about which there is, afterwards, much to discuss, but which it is best to go into blind because not knowing is, at least in a first viewing, much of its power. Continue reading “Review: 「そこのみにて光輝く」(Soko nomi nite Hikari Kagayaku/The Light Shines Only There)”

Eastern Kicks Asks: "The Film that Started It All"

crouching tiger
Childhood memories & global success story: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Recently Andrew Heskins of Eastern Kicks asked a number of critics, film bloggers and friends about “the film that started it all” – i.e. their passion for Asian cinema:

It might not have been the first Asian film you saw, or even the best, but was there one that stood out? That light bulb moment when you realised how much you loved Asian movies and had to write/talk/blog/podcast about it?

Continue reading “Eastern Kicks Asks: "The Film that Started It All"”

Where Marnie Was

marnie windmill
The story of When Marnie Was There is set in a little town by the name of Little Overton, a fictional town inspired by a real place – Burnham Overy Staithe on the Norfolk coast. Although Studio Ghibli announced that this setting was going to be changed to a village in Hokkaido in their adaptation, some friends and I still wanted to seek out Marnie’s original home base – just because we are dedicated enough Ghibli fans and because it is more fun to explore the UK by traveling to random places instead of completing the usual checklist of famous sights for foreigners. Continue reading “Where Marnie Was”

Review:「風立ちぬ」(Kaze Tachinu/The Wind Rises)

kaze 28
Year: 2013
Country:
Japan
Language: Japanese, some German and Italian
Director: Miyazaki Hayao
Studio:
Studio Ghibli
Screenplay: Miyazaki Hayao
Art Direction: Takeshige Youji
Animation Direction:
Kousaka Kitaro
Soundscore: Hisaishi Joe
Theme Song: 
ひこうき雲 (“Hikōki Gumo”/”Contrail”) by Yumi Matsutoya
Cast: Anno Hideaki, Takimoto Miori, Nishijima Hidetoshi, Nishimura Masahiko, Steve Alpert, Kazama Morio, Takeshita Keiko, Shida Mirai, Kunimura Jun, Otake Shinobu, Mansai Nomura
Runtime: 126 min
Distribution: Studio Canal (UK)
Film’s official website: http://www.kazetachinu.jp (日本語),
Trailer:

Special thanks to Studio Canal for an invite to a press screening of Kaze Tachinu prior to its UK release. I also attended the BFI Preview Screening of the film on April 23. Both screenings were subtitled, I have not seen (nor do I intend to) the dubbed version. The film is now showing in select UK cinemas (from May 9, 2014). 
Kaze Tachinu, Miyazaki Hayao’s apparent swan song, comes with a certain kind of echo of「長州ファイブ」(Chōshū faibu/Chosyu Five)in which a group of young, ambitious men – who later become the founding fathers of modern Japan – seek technological knowledge and progress abroad but soon realise that they, and their nation, are years and years behind. Like these men, Horikoshi Jiro (Anno Hideaki), the hero of Miyazaki’s film, desires to know and create for the sake of knowing and creating, although, several decades on from the Choysu Five, he now envies the Germans, not the English, for their advanced know-how. Continue reading “Review:「風立ちぬ」(Kaze Tachinu/The Wind Rises)”

Review:「レンタネコ」 (Rentaneko/Rent-a-Cat)

rentaneko 2
Year: 2012
Country:
Japan
Language: Japanese
Director: Ogigami Naoko
Studio:
N/a
Screenplay: Ogigami Naoko
Cinematography: Abe Kazutaka
Soundscore: N/a
Cast: Ichikawa Mikako, Kusamura Reiko, Mitsuishi Ken, Yamada Maho, Tanaka Kei, Kobayashi Katsuya
Runtime: 110 min
Distribution: Suurkiitos
Film’s official website: N/a
Trailer:

The film was previously featured on Trailer Weekly #29. If you are in the UK or Ireland, the film is available to watch for a small fee on the Filmhouse Player.
Sayoko (Ichikawa Mikako) is a crazy cat lady in the making: although she is a little too young to be called a spinster (as per stereotype), she is an unmarried woman with a house full of cats and nothing much else. Continue reading “Review:「レンタネコ」 (Rentaneko/Rent-a-Cat)”

Review:「黒い四角」(Kuroi shikaku/The Black Square)

The Black Square
Alternative title (Chinese): 黒四角
Year: 2012
Country: China/Japan
Language: Mandarin, some Japanese
Director: Okuhara Hiroshi
Studio: Black Square Film
Screenplay: Okuhara Hiroshi
Cinematography: Maki Kenji
Soundscore: Sangatsu
Cast: Nakaizumi Hideo, Hong Dan, Xixu Chen, Suzuki Miki
Runtime: 144 min
Distribution: N/a
Film’s official website:  N/a
Trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnvtcEW_MXg
Special thanks to Raindance, which provided me with a preview screener of this film. Kuroi shikaku showed at the 21st Raindance Film Festival on September 28, 2013. I previously featured the film on Trailer Weekly #79/80.
When Japanese film director Okuhara Hiroshi travelled to Bejing in 2008 and visited the Song Zhuang Artist Village he spoke no Chinese. The place – the experience – seemed surreal to him, or, as he explained, “the whole atmosphere felt like science fiction, including the surroundings. I felt I could shoot a Tarkovsky-like movie in this place. […] That’s how it all began.” (quote) Continue reading “Review:「黒い四角」(Kuroi shikaku/The Black Square)”

Book Review: When Marnie Was There & Musings on the Studio Ghibli Adaptation-to-Come

When Marnie Was There header Original Language: English
Year: 1967
Author:
Joan Robinson
Publisher: Collins
Place of Publication: London
Genre: Children’s novel
Edition: Collins Modern Classics (2002 edition, second-hand copy)
Other Editions and Translations: No other editions are currently in print in English. The book has apparently been translated into several languages, although I can only confirm that there is a Japanese version (「思い出のマーニー」) as well as a German one (Damals mit Marnie).
Update: If you are UK-based, you can now purchase a Kindle version of When Marnie Was There on amazon.co.uk. Elsewhere, you’ll still have to seek out second-hand copies of the book.
 
When Studio Ghibli announced earlier this month that its next project was to be an adaptation of Joan G. Robinson’s When Marnie Was There, with Yonebayashi Hiromasa directing, I quickly – after reading unequivocally raving reviews – searched for a copy. First published in 1967 to “great success” (283) and even featuring in BBC children’s programme Jackanory in the 1970s, a few decades on When Marnie Was There had all but disappeared, remaining a precious memory for people who had loved the book as children but could no longer find it anywhere. Continue reading “Book Review: When Marnie Was There & Musings on the Studio Ghibli Adaptation-to-Come”