meta: Recommended


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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'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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'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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'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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'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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