Archive for May 30th, 2013

no flowers without rain poster

This is the 3rd AKB48 documentary to be released. 2012 was a turbulent year for AKB48 fans as the group said goodbye to its cherished ace Atsuko Maeda (Acchan), a major shuffle happened between teams which would see friends and colleagues being separated, Team 4 was axed, the annual senbatsu election took place in June 2012 and scandals broke out which would see 3 girls resigning in shame and another being moved to another group. For some fans, Acchan’s graduation signalled the end of an era and a time of change for the group. It seems to have started a chain reaction ever since with several members graduating. Even sales are starting to decline a little yet they still managed to maintain their record of selling over a million copies in each of the singles they released in 2012. It’s quite an achievement. The documentary follows the group over a period of 9 months (March – December 2012). It’s maybe not as dramatic as last year’s documentary which saw the members suffering in their work.

Acchan’s graduation is the main focal point of the documentary and her announcement at the end of a 3 day concert tour at Saitama Super Arena in March 2012 was a massive shock to the fans (myself included). Although some of her closest friends in the group had an inkling that she was going to quit, for the majority of her colleagues it was a big surprise that leaves them all in tears. The mood of everybody is sombre backstage afterwards as they contemplate life in the group without their ace. What better time for Acchan to leave than the day after the end of a 2 day concert in August at a location that AKB48 had been aiming to hold a concert for years – the Tokyo Dome.  A culmination of 6 years and 7 months of toil, graft and hard work for the group to reach their pinnacle. It was a dream for many members to perform at the iconic location. The Tokyo Dome concerts marked the end of chapter 1 for the group. It’s just a shame for myself that I never had an opportunity to see the group perform before Acchan left. Tickets to see AKB48 are difficult at best for their theatre shows in Akihabara. As so many people want tickets for their shows, an email lottery system has been in place for many years.

no flowers without rain screenshot
Last year also saw some casualties to the group after 3 members had to resign after being caught by a tabloid magazine fraternising with members of the opposite sex and the viewer sees the aftermath of what happens after their activities are exposed. I was very surprised to see the AKB48 Theater Manager Togosaki take 2 of the resignations so personally and breaking down backstage at a handshake event. It’s well known that Japanese idols cannot date. They sign a contract which specifically states they cannot have a relationship. Breaking this contract usually has severe consequences. Many Western fans are saying this rule is stupid. The majority of the hardcore Japanese AKB48 fans want their idol to be pure and untouched. If only they knew that a lot of them aren’t quite as pure as they think but this virginal image has to be maintained as these fans generate a lot of revenue. You’d be staggered as to how much Japanese fans spend on their idols each year. This rule is unlikely to be changed in the future.

I don’t think this movie will really appeal to everybody but AKB48 fans or those curious to know about a Japanese idol singer’s life. It’s a rollercoaster ride being a fan of the group but AKB48 has bought a lot of enjoyment for me over the past 6 years. I particularly liked seeing my oshimen (the member I support the most) Ayaka Umeda get more screentime than what she had in last year’s documentary. There’s plenty of tears and laughter shed throughout the 2 hours running time. Don’t bet against another documentary coming out early next year to cover 2013’s events.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5 (yes I’m biased but hell I’m a fan after all!)

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Aka Chinese Super Ninjas

Two rival kung fu schools engage in a sparring contest to find out which one is the best.  One school thinks they have the upper hand as they have a Japanese samurai with them but they are defeated. As is the case with a samurai losing, he commits ritual suicide but not before summoning his ninja pals. The ninjas then challenge the school and the master sends out his best students out to fight them. Staying behind at the school is cocky young pupil Shao and Chi Shang. The students are massacred by the ninjas with each group representing the 5 elements – blue water ninjas, red fire ninjas, brown earth ninjas, wood ninjas and golden ninjas armed with gold umbrella shields. Not content with wiping out the school’s best students the ninja leader decides to send a femme-fatale to get inside the school and send out detailed information on the layout of the place. The ninja woman Senshi manages to befriend Shao after he ‘rescues’ her from being assaulted outside the school. Having played the damsel in distress role so well, she is accepted inside the school and after getting the information she requires it is sent on a piece of paper by an arrow where it is intercepted by a member of the ninja school. The ninjas attack the school in a night-time raid and kill everybody apart from Shao who is captured. Due to an old trick he learnt he is able to escape and seek out his old master who he hopes can teach him the art of ninjitsu. Armed with his new knowledge and with help from 3 students from his old master, Shao decides it’s time to settle the score and destroy the ninjas once and for all.

This is one of the most imaginative Shaw Brother movies I’ve ever seen containing incredible action and gory battles. The director Cheng Cheh who helmed the excellent 5 Venoms movie pulls out all the stops and throws in the kitchen sink with this fast pacy story which doesn’t relent from the first scene.  You may have seen other ninja movies but this is probably the standard by which you can judge the rest as these ninjas are the baddest bunch of men you’ll ever see with their colourful costumes and their nasty weapons such as the golden ninjas and their shields which can blind an opponent and also fire projectiles to the red ninjas who use smoke and fire to their advantage. Then we have the wood ninjas who disguise themselves as trees and use claws to kill with the water ninjas dragging their prey underwater before despatching them. The brown ninjas are also cool as they hide underground and thrust spears up to the surface to maim their enemies. The confrontation with the ninjas is quite a violent bloody affair with the red stuff sprayed liberally around and one of the good guys literally tripping over his own intestines which are hanging down from his body. Naturally the heroes get their own back eventually with the ninja leader having his arms and legs ripped off from his body! The story and acting isn’t too bad but I don’t think the majority of viewers will be too bothered about that. It’s the fantastic martial arts choreography and blood soaked deaths most people will be interested in seeing……………and perhaps the beautiful femme fatale ninja Senshi who dresses in a revealing fishnet stockings type costume!! I liked how original this story is in using elemental ninjas – never heard of a movie using these kind of ninjas before.

5 Element Ninjas
Five Element Ninjas is perhaps the ultimate ninja movie. It’s got everything you’ll ever want in a cool ninja movie with loads of great action scenes, gore, superb martial arts choreography and there’s not a dull moment in it. Forget your arty farty Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon fighting up trees on wire rubbish, this is what it’s all about!! Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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