Posts Tagged ‘Chizuru Ikewaki’



Part drama, part swordsplay movie SWORD OF DESPERATION tells the story of a swordsman who is being punished for killing an evil mistress and later must battle with powerful enemies.

The movie is directed by Hideyuki Hirayama and based on the novel by  Shohei Fujisawa. Starring are Etsushi Toyokawa, Chizuru Ikewaki, Koji Kikkawa, Naho Toda, Jun Murakami, Megumi Seki, Fumiyo Kohinata and Ittoku Kishibe. Out now.




JAPAN 2009  Directed & Written by: Takahisa Zeze   Story: Takashi Hirano, Atsuyuki Shimoda Produced by: Takashi Hirano  Cinematography: Koichi Saito  Editing: Isao Kawase  Music: Goro Yasukawa Cast: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Rei Dan, Ryoko Kuninaka, Yuji Tanaka, Chizuru Ikewaki, Takanori Takeyama, Koichi Sato, Tatsuya Fuji, Akio Kaneda, Ken Mitsuishi, Midoriko Kimura, Kyusaku Shimada, Bokuzo Masana, Erika Mabuchi, Ayaka Komatsu, Akifumi Miura, Natsuo, Taiga, Ichirota Miyagawa, Koji Sato, Dante Carver, Shiro

Japan loves doctor dramas, just as much as the country is anal about hygiene and cleanliness. Add to that a morbid fascination for self-destruction in all forms of popular culture and the Aum sect scare that until today is firmly stored in everyone’s memory (just see how nervous the country was for the 15th anniversary of the attacks this year), and you can’t help but find PANDEMIC the perfect fit for the local audience.

The surprise is that KANSEN RETTO (“Infected Islands”) scores more than well compared to any virus movie of the last decade(s). Not everyone will fall in love with the local customs, behavior and emotions displayed frequently throughout PANDEMIC – you’ll probably appreciate these only once you’re familiar with the people and the culture –, but this distinctly Japanese take on the virus / disaster movie genre may actually be the reason the movie works so well.

A young doctor, Tsuyoshi Matsuoka, is treating a patient for flu-like symptoms, just to find him dying a horrible death in the ER the day after. Despite all tests coming back negative everything points towards a new kind of super-flu virus that is spreading quickly and is lethal most of the time. As an increasing number of people in Japan shows the symptoms of the virus and hospitals struggle to cope with so many cases, the WHO takes over disease control measures, headed by Matsuoka’s former senior and girlfriend Eiko Kobayashi.

Initially the virus appears to be a form of avian flu, spreading from a chicken farm outside Tokyo, but this turns out not to be the case. The origin and type of the virus is clouded in mystery, and as Japan is spinning out of control, with hundreds of thousands dead and the country on the brink of a civil war, a race against the clock is on with Matsuoka and Kobayashi chasing after the virus’ birthplace in order to find a cure before it’s too late.

PANDEMIC doesn’t make the mistake trying to impress us with fancy special effects, an array of military weaponry or endless action sequences. Instead the film relies on its story, a very solid script and fine cast, takes a lot of time for character development and nuances and still doesn’t forget to keep its pace up. The resulting 2+ hours are tense and dense, but never rushed or fragmented. PANDEMIC is linear, logical and flowing smoothly; its conventional storytelling however doesn’t mean it chums up with the audience.

With a strong focus on the protagonists, the work of the hospital staff and the search for the virus PANDEMIC is always personal, more drama than disaster movie, churning out big emotions and not set pieces. Debating the quality of the few special effects is pointless as PANDEMIC is entirely driven by story and dialogue, but take my word for it they are perfectly acceptable.

The movie’s key message proves its eco-consciousness, the great thing about PANDEMIC however is that it doesn’t feel like a Birkenstock in 24fps. It’s grand entertainment that presses all the right buttons – after Petersen’s OUTBREAK this might very well be the second best contemporary commercial virus flick on the planet (if we leave out everything that borders on horror, SciFi or cyberpunk).

Ever since AIDS and Ebola every generation has its virus threats – caused by man, or man-made; natural diseases or bio-terror – and so virus movies will always be in fashion. PANDEMIC is as much a recapitulation of what has happened so far as it is a warning and pessimistic outlook. There’s this double-edged sword, comfort zone and fear at the same time: it’s all in our hands.


20th CENTURY BOYS 3 – REDEMPTION a.k.a. 20th CENTURY BOYS 3 – THE LAST CHAPTER: OUR FLAG [20-seiki Shônen: Saishushô – Bokura no Hata | 20世紀少年 最終章/ぼくらの旗]


Japan 2009  Directed by: Yukihiko Tsutsumi  Manga: Naoki Urasawa  Script: Yasushi Fukuda, Takashi Nagasaki, Yusuke Watanabe  Production: Morio Amagi, Ryuuji Ichiyama, Nobuyuki Iinuma, Futoshi Ohira, Seiji Okuda  Cinematography: Satoru Karasawa  Editing: Noboyuki Ito  Music: Ryomei Shirai  Cast: Toshiaki Karasawa, Takako Tokiwa, Etsushi Toyokawa, Airi Taira, Teruyuki Kagawa, Hitomi Kuroki, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Renji Ishibashi, Naoto Takenaka, Nana Katase, Chizuru Ikewaki, Kuranosuke Sasaki, Fumiyo Kohinata

The third and last chapter of the 20TH CENTURY BOYS saga is kind of one big showdown. Everything will be resolved: Friend’s identity, his reasons and the question, what exactly his relationship with Kenji and his friends is. At the peak of Friend’s reign doomsday is near and his opponents are willing to do everything in order to stop him. Kanna and la résistance are ready to take on Friend face to face – but can they prevent the worst? Can anyone get to Friend or stop his master plan on time?

20TH CENTURY BOYS – REDEMPTION begins with a short summary of the previous episodes, but that will not be enough to understand what has happened so far. If you haven’t seen part 1 & 2 or read the manga you shouldn’t bother watching REDEMPTION. For fans however CHAPTER 3 is the worthy conclusion of an outstanding film trilogy that dares all and wins all. This time the tension reaches new heights and various new twists are pushing the story to the limit until the end – and end that consists of various endings.

While some of it may be predictable the grand finale is a neat web of deception that’s simply fun to watch. The “first“ ending is intentionally disappointing, whereas the second ending is by far more satisfying. It is interesting to see how the who-dunnit plot more and more turns into a why-dunnit plot. This is a strength and a weakness at the same time: 20TH CENTURY BOYS has spent a substantial amount of its running time to make us believe the who-dunnit question is the key we’re looking for. But those who are particularly interested in Friend’s identity must be warned – REDEMPTION does not offer a really satisfying answer.

Instead the “why” is now our main concern, which is fine with me but it also disappoints expectations. Overall the why is far more interesting though: the psyche of the deviant dictator has always been the central motif of the manga and even if REDEMPTION and its predecessors do not tell us anything really new here they raise our awareness for past regimes and future dictatorships just as effectively as any other film dealing with similar topics.

Instead of painting the world in black and white REDEMPTION blurs the line between good and evil: perhaps it’s not exactly true that societies per se get the government they deserve, but each and every one of us is responsible for what constitutes society at the end of the day. Friend’s “career” clearly reminds us of certain historical figures and raises the question whether and how such a friend can be prevented. In addition the attack of the Ōmu Shinrikyō („Aum“) sect and their attack of the Tokyo Metro is clearly alive in the memories of the Japanese – 20TH CENTURY BOYS can’t hide its local origins.

REDEMPTION, garnished with a touch of BATTLE ROYALE II, is fast, furious, complex and amusing. Who’s paying attention may have learned a lesson or two about ourselves and about the fact that actions must always uphold ethical and moral standards since we cannot rely on getting a second chance.

20TH CENTURY BOYS – REDEMPTION is serious entertainment, but most of all it’s a categorical imperative in celluloid.