Review: The Whole Hog Theatre’s「もののけ姫」(Princess Mononoke) Stage Adaptation

All images © Clare Boone of Whole Hog Theatre.
All images © Polly Clare Boone of Whole Hog Theatre.

Year: 2013
Language: English
Director: Alexandra Rutter
Whole Hog Theatre
Adaptation from:
「もののけ姫」(Mononoke Hime/Princess Mononoke, Japan, 1997)
Screenplay: not specified on programme or website
Concept arts and set design: Polly Clare Boon
Puppet design: Charlie Hoare
Soundscore: Hisaishi Joe, arranged by Kerrin Tatman for the play
Cast: James Blake-Butler, Lilith Brew, Adam Cridland, Oliver Davis, Andy Elkington, Jack Gyll, Jackie Lam, Amelie Leroy, Mei Mac, Miyake Yuriko, Jess Neale, Maximilian Troy Tyler, Victoria Watson, Samuel Wightman, Elizabeth Mary Williams
Runtime: approx. 130 min (including 20 min intermission)
Official website: (London performances),
(Tokyo performances – 日本語)

Seen during the play’s first run at the New Diorama Theatre in London. I attended the Friday evening performance. Further Princess Mononoke performances are scheduled for Tokyo (April 29 – May 6, 2013) and London (June 18-29, 2013). London tickets are sold out. 

Note: I provide no synopsis of the story here – this review presumes you are familiar with Miyazaki Hayao’s film already and hence is also full of spoilers.

How does one even begin to imagine a stage adaptation of an animated film of the calibre of「もののけ姫」(Mononoke Hime/Princess Mononoke, Japan, 1997), made by the masters of Studio Ghibli and well loved the world round? It is not a challenge that most – even those with plenty of experience and unlimited budgets – would want to take on, but the Whole Hog Theatre, a young performance company from Leamington Spa, England, with only a handful productions (Dangerous Liaisons, Constanzo and Five Kinds of Silence) to their name, was undaunted by the task and simply went ahead anyway. Continue reading “Review: The Whole Hog Theatre’s「もののけ姫」(Princess Mononoke) Stage Adaptation”

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 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: 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)”