Review: BANDAGE (Kobayashi, 2010)

Japanese title: バンデージ

Director: Kobayashi Takeshi

Info: IMDb, AsianMediaWiki, Trailer

Rating: ★★★★

Being an Iwai Shunji-produced and co-written film, I was quick to pick up BANDAGE, hoping for something original and enjoyable.  I’m not sure how involved Iwai was with the film (I’m guessing not too much, though there are undoubtedly Iwai inspirations scattered throughout the film), but it mostly delivered on my hopes.

Casting Akanishi Jin as one of the leads was a smart move by director Kobayashi Takeshi.  He brings massive fan support to the movie, not to mention experience in the Japanese music industry.  Playing the lead singer of a rock band, Akanishi undoubtedly draws from personal experience (he’s a very popular member of the Johnny’s boy band KAT-TUN–actually, former member now; he decided to go solo using this film as a base) as he plays the carefree yet troubled character of Natsu.  His band, LANDS, is quickly gaining mass popularity but encounters problems–the band members just don’t completely gel.  A genius musician, Yukiya (Kora Kengo), and a brilliant composer, Arumi (Shibamoto Yuki), form the heart of the band with Natsu supposedly still remaining just because of his indie fan base.  It also helps that he can sing. Continue reading

Review: Yuriko’s Aroma (Yoshida, 2010)

Japanese title: ユリ子のアロマ (Yuriko no Aroma)

Director: Yoshida Kota

Info: IMDb, AsianMediaWiki, Trailer

Rating: ★★★★

What if you woke up to someone licking the sweat off your hair?  How would you react?

17 year old Takeshi (Sometani Shota) experiences this strangely erotic act in the secluded, deserted, run-down shed where he takes a nap after kendo practice.  The licker?  Yuriko (Eguchi Noriko), who works in a massage parlor run by Takeshi’s aunt.  Upon meeting Takeshi, Yuriko realizes that she’s turned on by his body odor and ends up stealing one of his gloves to smell it.  Yeah, the premise is pretty strange. Continue reading

Great Classics: Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)

Japanese Title: 東京物語 (Tokyo Monogatari)

I first watched Tokyo Story in a classroom some time ago and witnessed something curious.  I have never seen a group of people so choked up over a film, ever.  The most curious thing about it though is that most could not place what exactly made them so emotional.  There are moments in Tokyo Story in which you are hit with a wall of emotions, surprised and overwhelmed that this simple little film could evoke such feelings.  It’s something about the characters, the honesty, the way everything hits home despite the cultural and time-period barriers. Continue reading

People To Watch: Sawajiri Erika

I may be a bit biased since I’m a guy, but Sawajiri Erika really gets to me, in a good way (at least in her early career, as of now).  She’s a rare example of an idol that I cannot dislike, despite her poor reputation.  Why am I writing this?  I felt like it.  It came to me easily.  I also believe that Sawajiri Erika is one of Japan’s gems, an actress that may be able to successfully cross over to the West at some point (barring English proficiency).  As long as she fixes her image and gets back into acting, she could quickly rise up the ranks as one of Japan’s best young actresses once again. Continue reading

Great Classics: Tampopo (Itami, 1985)

Who doesn’t love food?

Itami Juzo’s Tampopo is a heartwarming film about people who love, and are often obsessed with, food.  The main narrative follows two truck drivers, Gun (Yamazaki Tsutomu) and Goro (Watanabe Ken) who stumble upon a run down, unpopular ramen noodle shop.  The shop’s owner, Tampopo (Miyamoto Nobuko), is running it all by herself and isn’t too experienced in the “art” of making good ramen.  After a brawl, Gun and Goro take it upon themselves to improve Tampopo’s cooking and redefine her shop.  The film not only focuses on this narrative, but is interspersed with brilliantly transitioned scenes of people’s interaction with food: a white-suited yakuza (Yakusho Koji) and his mistress perform erotic acts with food, a group of homeless turn out to be master chefs, a young corporate subordinate upstages all of his superiors with his knowledge of French cuisine at an expensive dinner, an old lady sneaks around in a supermarket just to feel the food, among others. Continue reading

J-Film Thoughts & Commentary: 2001-2009 – Contemporary Masterpieces (Five-Star Films)

Contemporary Japanese cinema is a tough area to navigate.  You’ve got the idol fluff, the TV-Corporation produced C-movies, the mainstream films that are actually good, and the art-house, among others.  Here’s a list that includes my favorite films released between the years of 2001 and 2009.  It will be updated as new films are added to it, as it will be used as a reference post.  Ever wondering what you should watch next?  There’s a good chance that you’ll find something you love in every one of the following films.  Some films are graded higher because I just loved them so damn much, some are graded higher because they are just damn well-made.  In any case, this is a good list.  Hopefully you can enjoy these films as much as I have.

Continue reading

Review: Kakera (Ando, 2009)

Japanese title: カケラ

Director: Ando Momoko

Info links: AsianMediaWiki, IMDb, Trailer

Rating: ★★★★½

“Men and women are all humans.  It’s only hard when we categorize ourselves … Maybe we don’t need to define ourselves as man or woman.  Maybe [the determination of our sex at conception] is as arbitrary as whether the zoo was open or not.  What we do know is that in the beginning all humans start out being women.”

Kakera: A Piece of our Life is an emotionally-charged independent film about the budding relationship between two women.  Haru (Mitsushima Hikari, of Love Exposure fame) is a quiet, odd-ball college student dealing with a boyfriend who is with another woman and only uses Haru for sex.  Riko (Nakamura Eriko) is an enthusiastic, excitable prostheticist who prefers women “because they are soft and cuddly,” as she states in one scene.  They meet quite randomly–in a coffee shop; Haru is drinking her mocha and ends up with a cute chocolate mustache.  Riko is immediately smitten. Continue reading