Review: Usagi Yojimbo at the Southwark Playhouse

usagi yojimbo

Year: 2014
Language: English
Director: Amy Draper (@amyrosedraper)
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)


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:「桐島、部活やめるってよ」(Kirishima, Bukatsu Yamerutteyo/The Kirishima Thing)

kirishima 4

Year: 2012
Language: Japanese
Director: Yoshida Daihachi
NTV, Showgate
Adaptation from:
Asai Ryo’s 2010 novel of the same title
Screenplay: Kiyasu Kohei, Yoshida Daihachi
Cinematography: Kondo Ryoto
Soundscore: Kondo Tatsuro
Cast: Kamiki Ryunosuke, Hashimoto Ai, Higashide Masahiro, Ohgo Suzuka, Shimiza Kurumi, Yamamoto Kizuki, Matsuoka Mayu, Ochiai Motoki, Maeno Tomoya, Kurihara Goro & others
Runtime: 103 min
Distribution: Showgate
Film’s official website:
Twitter: @kirishima_movie


Kirishima, the titular hero of the Japan Academy’s Best Picture of the Year, is rather like Godot: although everyone is waiting for him to appear, he never actually shows up. Different from Godot, however, we can be fairly certain that the character – a teenage boy and star athlete at his school – does exist, it’s just that he seems to have literally vanished off the face of the earth after suddenly quitting the volleyball team he previously captained. His resignation is, for a long time, pretty much the most eventful thing that happens in this tale, but takes place not just off-screen but also before the narrative begins, the film itself concerning itself only with the aftermath of the event.

Continue reading “Review:「桐島、部活やめるってよ」(Kirishima, Bukatsu Yamerutteyo/The Kirishima Thing)”

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: 「愛と誠」 (Ai to Makoto/For Love’s Sake)

Alternative English Title: The Legend of Love and Sincerity
Year: 2012
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Director: Miike Takashi
Adaptation from:
Kajiwara Ikki’s manga「愛と誠」(Ai to Makoto, 1973-1976)
Screenplay: Takuma Takayuki
Cinematography: Kita Nobuyasu
Soundscore: Kobayashi Takeshi
Cast: Tsumabuki Satoshi, Takei Emi, Saito Takumi, Ono Ito, Andō Sakura, Ihara Tsuyoshi, Yo Kimiko
Runtime: 134 min
Film’s official website: (in Japanese)


Seen at the film’s UK premiere at the 56th London International Film Festival.
Update: The film will have a UK home media release via Third Window Films on June 10, 2013.

Back in the 70s Kajiwara Ikki wrote, in manga form, the story of Ai to Makoto (literally Ai and Makoto, names which also mean ‘love’ and ‘sincerity’), two teenagers on very different rungs of the social ladder whose paths fatefully cross. Angelic Ai inhabits the strata of the upper class, coming from a wealthy family that has sheltered her from all the hardships that exist in life. Makoto, meanwhile, is at the very bottom of the hierarchy: abandoned by his father and mother, he survives as a fist-fighting delinquent in the lowest echelons of Tokyo. It’s probably not the most original of stories – a modern-day Romeo and Juliet tale – but Kajiwara’s manga, which originally ran from 1973 to 1976 in the Weekly Shōnen Magazine (Kodansha), was almost immediately adapted to a dorama (1974) and to three films (1974, 1975 and 1976). More than forty-years on cult-director Miike Takashi (「クローズZERO」/Kurōzu Zero/Crows Zero, 2007; 「十三人の刺客」/Jûsan-nin no shikaku/Thirteen Assassins, 2010) dug the story out again and made it into…. well, that’s the question. Continue reading “Review: 「愛と誠」 (Ai to Makoto/For Love’s Sake)”

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 and Reflections: ヒミズ (Himizu/Himizu) as Manga and Film Adaptation

Year: 2011
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Director: Sono Sion
Screenplay: Sono Sion
Original Manga:
Furuya Minoru
Cinematography: Tanikawa Sohei
Cast: Sometani Shōta, Nikaidō Fumi, Watanabe Tetsu, Denden, Murakami Jun, Watanabe Makiko, Mitsuishi Ken, Fukikoshi Mitsuru, Kagurazaka Megumi, Kurosawa Asuka, Suwa Taro, Kubozuka Yosuke, Horibe Keisuke, Nishijima Takahiro
Runtime: 129 min
Trailer: on YouTube
Official Website: Himizu (in Japanese)
Seen at the film’s European premiere at the Terracotta Far East Film Festival in London. Himizu screens on the British Isles from June 1st. See for details below.
Note: Manga images included read right to left
When Furuya Minora first published ヒミズ (Himizu) in 2001, many fans were bitterly disappointed. Up until then Furuya had established his name as a comedy manga artist, starting with 行け!稲中卓球部 (Ike! Inachū takkyū-bu/Ping-Pong Club, original run from 1993-1996) which was so successful that it “set the standard for comedy manga” (wikipedia). Ike! Inachū takkyū-bu was followed by 僕といっしょ (Boku to Issho/Together with Me, 1998) and グリーンヒル (Gurīnhiru/ Green Hill, 2000), which both did reflect on difficulties of life in an increasingly capitalist society, but still packed this into comedic storylines. Then came Himizu.
Continue reading “Review and Reflections: ヒミズ (Himizu/Himizu) as Manga and Film Adaptation”

Review: 攻殻機動隊 (Gōsuto In Za Sheru – Kōkaku Kidōtai/Ghost in the Shell)

Year: 1995 (original film), 2008 (digitally remastered version Ghost in the Shell 2.0)
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Genre: Cyberpunk
Director: Oshii Mamoru (押井 守)
Original Manga by: Shirō Masamune (士郎 正宗 )
Screenplay: Itō Kazunori (伊藤 和典)
Art Direction: Ogura Hiromasa
Animation Direction: Nishikubo Toshihiko
Runtime: 83 min
Trailer: Teaser and longer trailer on YouTube (both not subtitled)

Seen at a special one-off screening at Prince Charles Cinema as part of their weekly Double Bill event. The other film screened as part of the “Most Manga Double Bill” was アキラ (Akira, Japan, 1988) – retrospectively, I should have watched that one too. Both screenings were completely sold out – lots of otaku about London it seems. 🙂
With some films, watching them once or twice does not suffice, but multiple viewings are required in order to fully understand and appreciate them – and 「攻殻機動隊」 (Ghost in the Shell) is, without doubt, one of these magnificently layered creations. Seeing the cult anime for the first time earlier this week at a special screening organised by London’s Prince Charles Cinema, this means what I can offer at this point is a first impression of a work that I plan to revisit many times Continue reading “Review: 攻殻機動隊 (Gōsuto In Za Sheru – Kōkaku Kidōtai/Ghost in the Shell)”

Review: 風の又三郎 ガラスのマソト (Kaze no Matasaburō: Garasu no masoto/The Glass Cape)

Year: 1989
Director: Toshiya Itoh
Screenplay: Tsutui Tomomi, Toshiya Itoh
Cinematography: N/A
Cast: Hayase Misato, Kobayashi Yu, Shiga Junichi, Amasaga Toshiyuki, Uchida Asao, Dan Fumi, Kusakari Masao
Runtime: 107 min
Trailer: no trailer available, but 4 min clip of the opening is on YouTube
Seen at a screening as part of the Films at the Embassy of Japan programme.
It’s another film that is simply magicalKaze no Matasaburō: Garasu no masoto (literally Matasaburō of the Wind: Cape of Glass) depicts a story of childhood in the rural Japan of the 1920s. At the heart of the tale is Takada (Kobayashi Yu), a young boy, whose father is transferred to a remote village in the Tōhoku region. Takada arrives there on the very windy 210th day of the year, which immediately raises suspicion in the village children: he must, they whisper amongst themselves, be Matasaburō, the son of the wind god, who appears on this day and stays until the 220th – a suspicion that seems confirmed when it turns out that Takada’s first name is Saburō. Continue reading “Review: 風の又三郎 ガラスのマソト (Kaze no Matasaburō: Garasu no masoto/The Glass Cape)”

Review: 다세포 소녀 (Dasepo Sonyeo/Dasepo Naughty Girls aka Dasepo Girl)

Entering the whacky manga territory: just so you know what you are in for…

Year: 2006
Director: E J-yong (이재용)
Screenplay: Choi Jin-seong (최진성), E J-yong (이재용)
Cinematography: Jeong Jeong-hoon
Cast: Kim Ok-bin (김옥빈), Lee Kyeon (이켠), Park Jin-woo (박진우), Eu-seong (은성), Kim Byeol (김별), Nam Oh-jeong (남호정), Park Hye-won (박혜원), Lee Won-jong (이원종), among others
Runtime: 111 min
Trailer: on YouTube

Seen at the Korean Cultural Centre (KCCUK) during the E J-yong (이재용) month of KCCUK’s Korean Film Night programme “2012: Year of the 12 Directors”.
Dasepo Sonyeo is the kind of film that I never have many expectations for because it falls into that whacky, exaggerated comedy format that rarely works for me. Based on a web manga (or rather, with the source material being Korean, a manhwa), which frequently operate in the realm of an alternate reality, the ‘way out there’ feel is reinforced. That, in fact, isn’t bad news: it’s much easier to submit yourself to Dasepo Sonyeo‘s outlandishness, its weird sense of humour and blindingly bright colour palette (pink girls! orange school skirts! purple school trousers!) if you know that this is where the film stems from. Continue reading “Review: 다세포 소녀 (Dasepo Sonyeo/Dasepo Naughty Girls aka Dasepo Girl)”

Review: 너는 펫 (Neoneun Pet/You’re My Pet)

Year: 2011
Director: Kim Byung-kon (김병곤)
Country: South Korea
Screenplay: scriptwriter not named in the any of the sources I consulted
Cast: Jang Geun-sook (장근석), Kim Ha-neul (김하늘)
Runtime: 110 min.
Trailer: on YouTube (1 min trailer with English subtitles)
Film’s official website: in Korean
Advance warning: This review contains spoilers. I would recommend reading it only if you are already familiar with the manga or J-dorama that preceded the K-film.
너는 펫 (Neoneun Pet/You’re My Pet) sets itself up for problems from the start as it commits a fatal error when it allows Eun-yi (Kim Ha-neul) and In-ho (Jang Geun-sook) to meet under ‘human’ circumstances: Eun-soo (Choi Jong-hoon), Eun-Yi’s younger brother, brings In-ho, who has been booted out his own place, to his sister’s house for them to spend the night there. Continue reading “Review: 너는 펫 (Neoneun Pet/You’re My Pet)”