Posts Tagged ‘Naoto Takenaka’



JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Takashi Miyazaki  Written by: Shimako Sato  Story by: Yoshinobu Nishizaki  Manga by: Leiji Matsumoto  Produced by: Toshiaki Nakazawa  Cinematography by: Kozo Shibazaki  Music by: Naoki Sato, Hiroshi Miyagawa  Cast: Takuya Kimura, Hiroyuki Ikeguchi, Aya Ueto, Meisa Kuroki, Toshihiro Yashiba, Naoto Ogata, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Reiko Takashima, Isao Hashizume, Toshiyuki Nishida, Maiko, Toshiro Yanagiba, Kazuki Namioka, Takumi Saito, Takahiro Miura, Tsumoto Yamazaki, Naoto Takenaka

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, was a planet on the verge of collapse: the earthlings are about to be wiped off the face of mother earth by alien invaders called Gamilas. Space Battleship Yamato is leaving for a last mission to retrieve a device from outer space that can save the earth and reverse its process of decay. What the crew doesn’t realize: no one knows if the device really exists, or if the Yamato can indeed reach the remote planet where it’s supposed to be located. But earth’s rulers and Yamato’s crew has no choice as resistance against the alien brood is futile and without the device the human race will die a horrible death for certain.

SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO has been enormously successful in Japan since its beginning in 1974, while in the West STAR WARS, STAR TREK and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA have left little room for another SciFi soap opera of epic proportions. Consequently, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO is like a parallel science fiction universe from Japan, with many details reminiscent of the Western counterparts. Wether or not Susumo Kodai is a Han Solo copy, or wether or not that red device was inspired by R2D2 I do not recall, what I can say is that SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO makes quite creative use of its assets as well as it shows a genuine quirkiness that only the Japanese can get away with. I don’t think any SciFi flick from the US could literally turn a WWII battleship into a larger-than-life USS Enterprise.

SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO makes up for some of its shortcomings that range from hectic storytelling, lack of depth of character development to sketchy direction and some superficial acting with charm and tongue-in-cheek attitude, as well as with likable characters. The fact that large parts of the mission remind of Noah’s ark and its undertaking will probably not escape most viewer’s attention, but luckily the film is rather interested in the modernization of the classic TV series than preaching, although it cannot be denied that its subject – at least and / or coincidentally – makes for very environmentally conscious entertainment (if there was something like “certified organic filmmaking” SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO was surely qualified to receive the honors).

But SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO isn’t really serious: it’s a SciFi saga with a pedal-to-the-metal attitude from beginning to end, and the makers also throw in some nice set pieces for good measure. The film is very commercial, yes, it’s trying to please a younger audience, yes, Mr. Yamazaki is still an untalented (but successful) director, yes, but SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO is also good fun.

Love it or hate it, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO is a decent adaptation of the series and a decent SciFi flick in its own right. Then again, maybe that’s not too difficult after AVATAR.







JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Noburo Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tak Sakaguchi Written by: Noburo Iguchi, Jun Tsugita  Produced by: Yoshinori Chiba, Gen Sato, Toshiki Kimura  Cinematography by: Shu G. Momose  Editing by: Yoshihiro Nishimura, Takeshi Wada  Music by: Kou Nakagawa, Takashi Nakagawa  Cast: Yumi Sugimoto, Yuko Takayama, Suzuka Morita, Tak Sakaguchi, Kentaro Shimazu, Asami, Chiharu Kawai, Maiko Ito, Kanji Tsuda, Naoto Takenaka, Cay Izumi

I wasn’t too impressed with Noburo Iguchi’s MACHINE GIRL a few years back, albeit it being one of the better of the never-ending Japanese low-budget gore movie productions. The only inventive aspect of MACHINE GIRL was the machine gun arm, and that idea looked better on Rose McGowan in Robert Rodriguez’ PLANET TERROR.

As for MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD, Mr. Iguchi and his fellow co-directors have taken a fairly different road: instead of relatively straight-forward action the movie features a blend of fantasy, horror and SciFi, as well as elements from mangas or the chanbara genre, resulting in a much more imaginative and creative movie.

The story about Rin, a high school student who on her 16th birthday finds out that she is a half-mutant and soon after finds herself in the middle of a war between mutants and anti-mutant soldiers, is of course a hotchpotch of motifs and ideas from various genres and well-known movies, yet MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD manages to fabricate a number of plot threads that kind of add up to a very good excuse for the mayhem that follows.

Most of the creativity, that shouldn’t be surprising, was invested into the characters, the action sequences and the weaponry. And this time they are getting ahead of Mr. Rodriguez: breasts boasting samurai swords, chain saws growing out of butts, phallic weapons of all kinds, genre fans most definitely get their money’s worth. All these ideas may not be new to Japanese cinema that has seen it all before this way or another, but it turns out that the accumulation of tasteless details has its appeal if you are one of the less easily offended moviegoers.

Whereas the production value, special effects quality and acting fluctuates, MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD is a good effort for a low-budget film overall and often manages to make more out of every Yen than comparable flicks. What it lacks, quite like all its peers, is a significance of any kind. MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD is pure fun, zero function. Putting it into context, I would wish for more than just visual thrills: unfortunately, the Japanese cyberpunk movement has not resulted in smarter horror flicks as its intellectual qualities have obviously never crossed over. But that’s probably too much to ask in the first place.

What is regrettable though is that there are more and more movies like MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD and less and less movies that understand how to bend genres and project meaning onto the silver screen. The Japanese B-splatter movie has become a commodity, and its sole currency is its entertainment value. With its popularity unbowed, and films like TETSUO: THE BULLET MAN disappointing many, it is not very likely that something truly surprising is going to come out of this genre any time soon. Until it does, MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD ranks fairly high among the brain-dead gore flicks.







Japanese just love band / music dramas (so do we), so after the recent BANDAGE and SOLANIN here comes BECK, based on Harold Sakuishi’s manga. After her return from New York Maho Minami and her half-brother guitarist form a rock band that quickly grows a large fan base. But as usual, commercial interests destroy all art and the band gets caught up in conspiracies and other dramatic events, shortly before they are supposed to play their biggest gig ever.

BECK is directed by (surprise, no shit, no  TRICK) the great, the one and only Yukihiko Tsutsumi and stars Hiro Mizushima, Takeru Sato, kenta Kiritani, Shiori Kutsuna, Osamu Mukai, Aoi Nakamura, Takanori Takeyama, Sari Kurauchi, Yuta Furukawa and Naoto Takenaka.