Article Archives

2020


'Tokyo Fist': The Players Of Bloodsport 
Shinya Tsukamoto's blood-soaked, bare-knuckled psychodrama gives us two men in competition for a woman -- but it's the woman who wins
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'Whisper Of The Heart': The First Draft Of Shizuku's Story 
When they talk about "a film for all ages", this Studio Ghibli masterwork about life on the cusp of adolescence must be what they mean
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'Tokyo Godfathers': Three Vagabonds And A Baby 
Satoshi Kon's most "conventional" movie was also his funniest, a coincidence-driven romp through Tokyo's lower depths
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'The Adventures Of Denchu Kozo'/'Haze': Shorter Tsukamoto 
Two short films from Shinya Tsukamoto, now anthologized in the Arrow box set for the director, show off his cheeky-humored and bending-sinister sides
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'Dorohedoro': Black (Magic) Comedy 
Blackly funny, rollicking, and spectacularly animated, the adaptation of Q Hayashida's equally off-the-wall manga is another high point for Netflix's anime coproductions
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Ryo Fukui: 'Scenery' 
All but unknown outside of Japan, this prodigy jazzman is enjoying a renaissance thanks to reissues of his few albums, including this, his striking first
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'Deep Red': It Takes A Victim To Know A Killer 
The first of screenwriter Hisashi Nozawa's novels to find its way into English spellbinds, at least until its cop-out climax
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'Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045': A Withered Husk 
Easily the weakest 'Ghost In The Shell' project thus far, but with a tease of hope at the end of its first half
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'Lament In The Night': The Voice Of The Issei 
Unknown to English-speaking audiences until now, Shōson Nagahara wrote for fellow Japanese-Americans of their own displaced world and their own broken hearts
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'Beastars': Animal House 
That very rarest of breeds: a truly adult show
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'Giant Robo': The Mecha Opera 
This grand and glorious epic returns to home video for English speaking audiences in a spectacular new Blu-ray Disc edition; it is as essential as it gets
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2019


Junji Ito's 'No Longer Human': No Longer Dazai 
A manga horror icon takes on a classic of modern Japanese literature, and makes it his own in ways both fascinating and baleful
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'Penguin Highway': Whiz Kid Vs. Cosmic Weirdness 
The author of the surreally absurd 'The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl' and 'The Tatami Galaxy' now turns to a story aimed at younger readers, but with the reality-warping and surrealism of his other work
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Gō Tanabe's 'At The Mountains Of Madness': Horror's Human And Inhuman Faces 
Gō Tanabe's two-volume adaptation of Lovecraft's classic novella shouldn't be missed by fans of that writer, by lovers of comic adaptations, or by those who want to see manga at its best
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'Millennium Actress': She Lost It At The Movies 
Satoshi Kon's mini-epic of one woman's journey in film across Japan's turbulent century starts with narrative games, but delves into the ultimate meaning of a person's life
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'Ryuko': International Woman Of Mystery 
A gorgeous homage to everything from Meiko Kaji's femme-violence films to 'Black Lagoon', but it's too top-heavy with plot and not resourceful enough about its own best ideas
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'Izo': Takashi Miike's Death (And Resurrection) Mantra 
Even longtime Takashi Miike fans were alienated by this mix of Miike's fetishes, 'Slaughterhouse-Five', and William S. Burroughs's space-age shamanism, but it deserves fresh eyes and open minds
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'Dream Fossil': How A Master Mimics Life 
Satoshi Kon's collection of short manga, from early in his career, show off all the sides he later brought to full fruition as an anime director
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'Genius Party / Genius Party Beyond': Visions Of Twelve 
These two anthology showcases of boundary-pushing animation are now at last enshrined on disc for English-speaking audiences, as they've always deserved to be
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'Rashōmon': The Post-Truth Condition 
Ryūnosuke Akutagawa's story, and Akira Kurosawa's movie, have endured to tell us something about the nature of truth in a time when we can hardly trust the words we hear in our own heads
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'Carole & Tuesday': The Mars Volta 
Shinichiro Watanabe's new series, about two young women trying to make their music their way, either needed more SF or less of it to really work
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'Promare': The Burning World 
Studio Trigger's first theatrical film is so dazzling it threatens to melt the eyes right out of the head, but suffers from feeling like a TV series truncated into a two-hour slot
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Akio Jissōji's 'The Buddhist Trilogy' 
Almost totally unseen outside Japan, these three art projects by a director best known for his 'Ultraman' work are anything but easy viewing, but also seething with vision and ambition
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Tomihiko Morimi's 'The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl': How One Thing Leads To Another 
This newly translated novel, the basis for Masaaki Yuasa's madcap movie, is just as wild as its successor, with the advantage of slightly more insight into its female protagonist
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'Tomie': The Infinite Bad Penny  
Like all great horror, Junji Ito's now-classic series about an undying supernatural siren has something to say other than "boo!"
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'Princess Jellyfish': Girls, Be Ambitious! 
A sly treatise on gender roles and presentation, wrapped in a screwball romantic farce and delivered with great affection
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Katsuhiro Ōtomo's 'Domu': A Child's Book Of Nightmares 
A shame that any of Katsuhiro Ōtomo's work should still be out of print, especially this precusor to 'AKIRA' that pits psionic warriors against each other in a high-rise apartment complex
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'No-No Boy': John Okada's First, Last, And Only 
The first major piece of fiction by an Asian-American originally vanished from sight, and seemed all but gone after the death of its author, but found new life in reissues across the decades
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'Unforgiven'/'Yurusarezarumono': From The Wild West To The Deep North 
Sang-Il Lee's Meiji-era remake of Clint Eastwood's now-classic Western doesn't quite eclipse its predecessor, but it doesn't need to; it stands very nicely on its own
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'Steins;Gate': Stand Back, We're Going To Try Weird Science 
How comedic banter, science-fiction mind-bending, and an irresistible cast of characters combined alchemically to make one of anime's best moments in recent years
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'The Face Of Another': Confessions Of A Mask 
Kōbō Abe's novel, and Hiroshi Teshigahara's film adaptation, explore an extreme case: a disfigured man given a new face to present to the world, and thus all the perils of existential absolute freedom
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'Black Lagoon': Boiled Harder 
The animated adaptation of Rei Hiroe's ferocious homage to '80s action and Hong Kong cinema has all the attitude and muscle of its source, and also all its soul and insight
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'Samurai Champloo': The Mix 
At the Venn intersection of '47 Ronin' and 'Cash Rules Everything Around Me' is this glorious jumble of period samurai adventure, road movie, anti-romantic triangle, comedy, drama, and stone cold classic
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'Tetsuo II: Body Hammer': Metamorphoses 
Shinya Tsukamoto's follow-up (side-quel?) to his immortal debut is not quite as arresting or inspired, but it has many fascinating aspects all the same
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'Tetsuo: The Iron Man': Full Metal Mutation 
Thirty years later, Shinya Tsukamoto's frenzied masterwork of cyberpunk body horror still seethes like nothing else on film
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'Punk Samurai Slash Down': Pulp Fiction 
Kō Machida's cult novel about a ronin grifter whose latest grift goes horribly wrong is one strange mash-up of conceits, even for those who like strange mash-ups
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'Cure': The Hollow(ed) Men 
Two decades on, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's mutant serial-killer thriller remains among his very best films, and one of Japan's finest from the 1990s generally
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Bonten Taro's 'Badass Babe! Sex & Fury & Other Stories': The Girl With The Hanafuda Tattoo 
An eclectic collection of manga work from a tattoo artist, folk singer, and quasi-underworld figure until now only marginally known in the West
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'The Five Star Stories': In The Year 7575 ... 
This late-1980s anime time capsule is daft but fascinating, if only because it hints at how a new re-adaptation of the same material might really go places
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'Katanagatari': The Amazing Adventures Of Sword(less) Boy And Strategy Girl 
From the pen of Nisioisin came this genre-bending and -busting samurai-era fantasy, adapted into a festive eyeful of an anime where there's as much wordplay as swordplay
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'One Cut Of The Dead / Kamera o tomeru na!': This Camera Cannot Be Stopped, Ever! 
Not just a love letter to the cinematic underdogs who pull off amazing things with sheer sweat, it is one of those amazing things pulled off with sheer sweat
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'Twilight Of The Cockroaches': The Bugs Shall Inherit The Earth 
Despite the wretched condition of the current reissue, this idiosyncratic and allegorical fusion of live action and animation has black comedy and deeper meanings alike
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'Alita: Battle Angel': She, The Ultimate Weapon 
A prime case study for how a film can be an fine adaptation of beloved source material, while also being breathless, overcrowded, and tangled as a story
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'Dororo': Take (Back) Another Little Piece Of My Heart 
Osamu Tezuka's feudal-era supernatural epic manga gives us two antiheroes, mutilated in body and spirit alike, both seeking wholeness
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'Once and Forever: The Tales of Kenji Miyazawa' 
Out of print, but reissued thanks to New York Review Books, this collection of shorter works serves as a fine point of entry to a visionary author now getting his due in the West
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'Kamui Gaiden': Uncanny Valley Of The Ninja 
Get past the often terrible CGI, and you'll find a reasonably faithful movie adaptation of Sanpei Shirato's manga masterpiece
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'Hells': Infernal Affairs 
Visually and stylistically uninhibited, but a narrative and logistical jumble, this afterlife fantasy is as divisive as it is inventive
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2018


'An Invitation From A Crab': Dreamland Hyperspace 
panpanya's English-language debut rubs shoulders comfortably with the likes of 'Nichijou' for slice-of-life strangeness, but swathed in a far darker atmosphere
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Sōseki Natsume's 'Kokoro': One Classic, Three Translations 
The great masterwork of modern Japanese fiction, by one of its all-time luminaries, has been translated multiple times, each version its own testament to the complexities of translation as an art
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'The Legend Of Kamui': A Nearly Lost Ninja Scroll 
With only two volumes in English, and those out of print, Sanpei Shirato's ragged and earthy ninja epic needs as much of a reissue in full as can be had
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