Usamaru Furuya's Grand Guignol horrorshow weeds out all but the sternest stomachs with its transgressive story and gory art — but is the true test of a piece of work how quickly it empties the room?
One of the very few shows that gets it all right: funny, dazzling, charming, thoughtful, and sporting a cast of characters that never fail to enlist our sympathy and fascination
Just how much of a chance should you give a show before you bail?
"It's hard to play dumb," Roger Ebert once wrote. "There's always the danger that a little fugitive intelligence will sneak out of a sideways glance and give the game away." The genius (if I might use that word) of Space Dandy is how it plays just dumb enough for the part of the audience that's not looking all that deeply. At the same time, it plays very, very smart indeed for the part of the audience that is so looking. On the surface, the show is broad, unpretentious, cheeky fun, all the things one could ask for in an entertainment. Then you scratch that surface even a little bit — whether by way of its compulsive use of pop-culture references from both sides of the Pacific, or by any number of other means — and out comes a wizard, a true star.
The most common expectation people have on going into The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is that they will see an exquisite piece of animation art. Few going in will expect to be moved as thoroughly as they will be, and fewer still will expect to emerge wondering about the substance of their own lives. By the end of Kaguya I felt humbled, not just because I had watched a labor of love that showed every minute of its multi-year gestation time, but because director Isao Takahata and the rest of the crew at Studio Ghibli have chosen to do far more than merely put prettiness on the screen. Through the context of a folk tale, one as well-known in Japan (and most likely as shopworn) as "Little Red Riding Hood" is in the West, they are asking us to consider the scope and meaning of a human life — not just that of its heroine, but our own lives next to hers.
There's little that's more confounding than good intentions. Consider the case of Gary Whitta, the screenwriter (Book of Eli) originally tapped to write the script for the as-yet-still-unproduced Hollywood remake of AKIRA. Whitta has been the subject of a multi-part interview by Slashfilm, and in the most recent installment he talks in great detail about that project and how specifically it would have departed from the original. It's a frustrating read, in big part because Whitta goes to some length to portray himself as not being the enemy of AKIRA fandom, and I have little doubt he is sincere about that. But sincerity of purpose is, I'm learning, no defense against making other aesthetic mistakes.