Posts Tagged ‘japanese movie reviews’



JAPAN 2009  Directed by: Tsuyoshi Shoji  Written by: Fukushima Yoshiki  Editing by: Tsuyoshi Shoji  Cast: Chika Arakawa, Kumi Imura, Rika Kawamura, Akari Ozawa, Yu Tejima, Hoshina Youhei

Now it’s not that we ever expected anything inventive from the live movie adaptations of the ONECHANBARA franchise, quite the opposite: if anything, the ONECHANBARA movie had to rock, and it was very disappointing to see the first installment fail so miserably.

ONECHANBARA: THE MOVIE was a timid, half-hearted attempt to bring the essentials of the game, namely blood, guts and heroines in skimpy outfits, to the big screen. It was unfinished business, a rushed, sloppy video-game-goes-J-splatter exercise, and surely one of the most dissatisfying genre movies of that year.

ONECHANBARA: THE MOVIE – VORTEX must therefore be considered one of the few sequels that actually correct most of the mistakes of the original film. That is even more surprising as it is a direct-to-video release. Just about everything turns out to be better though: from production value to the story, the action choreography to the dialogues, ONECHANBARA: THE MOVIE – VORTEX is far more solid, thought-out and homogenous, or simply speaking, it’s outright fun.

Nothing spoils the viewing experience (like was the case with the predecessor), but just don’t expect a new genre milestone: this is still action on a shoestring budget, but they know how to work around it this time. Take the special effects, for instance: hardly any physical “blood” is spilled, most of it is CGI, based on a conceptual post-production approach, but it has impact and gets the job done in high-paced fashion.

The bottom line: if you had to pick one of the ONECHANBARA movies, make sure you avoid the first one and skip straight to ONECHANBARA: THE MOVIE – VORTEX.







JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Yasushi Koshizaka Written by: Yukio Miyajima  Produced by: Yukio Miyajima  Cinematography by: Susumu Kasahara Cast: Satomi Kaneko, Yo Kamiyoshihara, Toru Amemiya, Tomohiko Isomura, Koji Nakayabu, Mayu Sakuma

What would we all do without today’s technologies? Probably talk to real people, have a real conversation, have real get-togethers, and miss out on all the junk distributed via MMS and internet, including disturbing images that could lure us out into the woods. It’s interesting to compare a terror flick like MAN HUNTING to, say, FRIDAY THE 13TH:  back in 1980 it was kind of the idea to keep the victims isolated, contain the murders, control the space and ensure its functionality in the future. Just like Norman Bates in the 60s, the killer had to leave no trace if it was his goal to do it all over again. Today, it’s the killer’s goal to tell the world about it. How pathetic; I thought gentlemen don’t brag. The good old killer etiquette is dead: they are not killing for their own pleasure anymore (or dead mother), they are killing for the public (and very rarely only that means pleasure as well).


MAN HUNTING is no DEATH TUBE, but the story wouldn’t develop the same way without multimedia mobile phones. Not that this makes the film any better or worse than it is. The story is a lame attempt to justify misogynistic torture scenes that are embedded in plot extracts from movies like BATTLE ROYALE, SAW or ALL NIGHT LONG. I am not sure why some filmmakers think doing the same thing others did before – just worse – would be sufficient for any audience out there (but maybe the V-audience is really that undemanding).


In principle, MAN HUNTING could have been an ok genre flick if it wasn’t for an irrational storyline and an outstandingly inelegant execution. Some movies are gross, some are weird, some are raw and realistic, but MAN HUNTING most of all is clumsy. Not only the direction and editing are clumsy, but the special effects: if you have ever watched a making-of by Tom Savini, or any other FX guru, you’ll be laughing out loud seeing many of the wannabe gruesome effects. A movie that has barely anything else to offer is digging its own grave displaying poorly executed scenes of violence. The only effective scenes are those copied from other films, yet MAN HUNTING never achieves the same level of quality.

With clearly less than 90 minutes of running time MAN HUNTING is best suited as opener for a movie night, or downer early in the morning when many are on their way home, or asleep. The only thing MAN HUNTING is killing is time.





JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Go Ohara  Written by: Hisakatsu Kuroki  Produced by: Jun Nakajima, Hiroyuki Sasaki Cast: Rina Akiyama, Ruito Aoyagi, Asami, Yukihide Benny, Satoshi Hakuzen, James Mark, Misaki Momose, Fumie Nakajima, Masahiro Okamoto, Minami Tsukui, Yurei Yanagi

Now that’s entertainment. It’s almost as if GOTHIC & LOLITA PSYCHO wanted to prove that funny isn’t the same as silly (see CHANBARA STRIPTEASE). Rina Akiyama plays a young woman whose mother is killed by ruthless assassins, causing her to go on a killing spree herself dressed up as a gothic lolita avenger. Needless to say that her crazy dress comes with equally crazy weaponry…ready to deliver a one-of-a-kind death penalty to the villains.

Everything CHANBARA STRIPTEASE was missing is beautifully intact in GOTHIC & LOLITA PSYCHO. It’s a tongue-in-cheek rollercoaster ride with over-the-top carnage and mayhem, but it also always keeps a healthy distance to the on-screen violence – a constant smirk is hovering above the flick from beginning to end. And with the thematic outfits GOTHIC & LOLITA PSYCHO seems like a Halloween party gone wrong, but makes very creative use of one of Japan’s most favorite pop culture icons.

Equipped with lethal umbrellas and more Rina Akiyama looks like the Harajuku version of Emma Peel, slicing and dicing her way through enemy lines. School uniforms are so 1980’s – leave that to the YoYo Girl Cops. Here comes the GOTHIC & LOLITA PSYCHO: glam and gore are never far apart, and the beautiful dress and inventive equipment make for a playful, quirky heroine you’ll instantly fall in love with.

Go Ohara’s take on J pop culture, gore flicks and “tribal” insignia is fresh and entertaining, beating other flicks by a mile. Add to that comparably good special effects, camerawork and editing, and you’re in for a great movie night. GOTHIC & LOLITA PSYCHO may have stayed under the radar a bit, but make no mistake: it’s bloodier and better than many of the other wannabe genre sensations.

With the pedal to the metal from beginning to end GOTHIC & LOLITA PSYCHO keeps what others promise. Best consumed on Friday, or Monday, evening.