Archive for July, 2013

The Aimed School DVD

Aka School In The Crosshairs

Pretty young schoolgirl Yuka is one of her school’s most popular pupils and she’s also the top of her class with her work though she does have competition from the likes of a male classmate called Arakawa who isn’t happy with Yuka’s status. Yuka has a male friend named Koji whom she likes who is more interested in kendo practice rather than his schooling and he is under constant pressure from his parents to improve his grades. His parents suggest that Yuka tries to help him out. As Yuka and Koji are walking home from school one day, a young boy on his tricycle steps out in front on an oncoming truck. Just as an accident is about to happen, Yuka manages to stop the boy with her psychic powers by turning back time which she was unaware she had. With her burgeoning powers, she also manages to help Koji in a kendo competition.  A mysterious caped individual Kyogoku who also has similar psychic abilities confronts Yuka to embrace the powers she has. Soon after a new female transfer student Michiru Takamizawa arrives in Yuka’s class and she also has psychic powers. She makes it perfectly clear that she dislikes Yuka and plans to undermine her popularity. This she does by trying to sabotage the class election in which Yuka is aiming to become their representative. Her plan fails but this isn’t enough to stop her. Michiru’s next action is to create an army of pupils to stamp out bad behaviour at the school and the teachers approve of it as she is able to use her powers to manipulate them. Any student that opposes her will is attacked. It appears that Michiru and her demon mentor Kyogoku are unstoppable. Can Yuka and Koji stop them?

You might think at first that this movie directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi is going to be quite restrained and even normal by his standards but I should have known that the man just cannot help himself and it turns out to be another insane effort. Not that I dislike the insanity that is abundant in his works because it’s makes his movies wholly unique and original. This is similar to a superhero type movie as we have 2 schoolgirls with psychic powers battling for supremacy of the school they attend.  Obayashi seems to like directing movies with schoolgirls in the lead roles and he even throws in a dance sequence from the cast into the story. From the previous movies I’ve seen from him the special effects are no different and cheap matte effects are used once more. Some might call the special effects quirky but I’m not a fan of them at all as it looks ancient and primitive. The storyline is fairly easy to follow and as the movie was targeted towards the young teenage market it’s quite safe for them to watch unlike some other movies from him which has some dubious scenes and makes them unsuitable for families to watch. The plot starts out very sedately and follows the everyday lives of Yuka and Koji and although things pick up when Yuka realises she has incredible abilities under her control, it is only when Michiru appears that the story really hits it’s stride and the good versus evil scenario comes to the fore leading up to a satisfying conclusion. The chilling scenes showing Michiru’s unit marching through the school in their uniform does look very much like the SS of Nazi Germany with Michiru as the dictator in charge.

the aimed school screenshot

Hiroko Yakushimaru is a quintessential Japanese schoolgirl heroine in this movie and she performs very well in her role. She’s a likeable enough character and although goody-two shoes characters can be seen as being boring, Yuka comes across as engaging and interesting. It would be Hiroko’s next movie role in Sailor Suit And Machine Gun that would propel her into superstardom in Japan. I much prefer her nemesis though – the cold and calculating Michiru with her glowing red eyes played wonderfully by Masami Hasegawa. She makes a great foil for Yuka and even appears in a couple of scenes in a red super-villain costume. Then there is Toru Minegishi in an OTT and rather camp role as Kyogoku, the demon with his permed blonde hair, flowing cape and a drawing of an eye on his chest who is trying to get Yuka to be on his side and use her powers for the wrong reasons.

I got quite excited seeing the main location for the majority of the shoot as it was filmed in Shinjuku Central Park which is a small green oasis near the Tokyo Government Metropolitan Buildings. I used to stay on my first couple of trips to Tokyo in a hotel just across the road from the park and it seems to me that the hotel isn’t there in the movie but the viewer can see that there is major construction work going on so it could be the hotel was being built at the time. There is also no sign of the TGMB as construction only started on it in 1988 so the skyline of that part of Shinjuku looks very different to what it is now. A lot has taken place in the area since 1981!

Overall, The Aimed School is another strange but entertaining movie from Nobuhiko Obayashi which I enjoyed.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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this girl is Bad-ass promo

Jukkalan is a tough young orphan woman living with her Uncle Wang who runs a bootleg DVD shop.  She’s employed by 2 crime bosses into discreetly delivering ‘certain’ packages to each other by bike. These packages although never said is presumed to be drugs. The street smart woman has also been dipping her grubby fingers into the packages and stealing some of the drugs so that she can sell them herself and make some money but also trying to get the 2 gangs to be at each other’s throats.  Before long the 2 bosses find out what she’s been doing and send their cronies after her. They’re no match for her fighting skills but still the bosses will not stop in their pursuit of her and she’s given an ultimatum to cough up. Jukkalan also has her eyes set on a long haired rock guitarist who lives next door which doesn’t please an old childhood ‘friend’ Duan who likes her a lot and wants her to notice him but she keeps beating him up. Will Jukkalan manage to come up with the cash she needs to get the 2 bosses off her back?

Ever since Thai martial arts star Jeeja Yanin burst onto the scene with Chocolate, the rest of her work hasn’t been up the high standard I expected it to be and I’m not sure why this has been the case. With such a great title for this movie I had high hopes that this was going to be a return of form for Jeeja but my hopes were dashed immediately during the first 15 mins. Let me give it to you straight: this is more of a comedy movie than a martial arts one so all of you out there thinking that just because of the movie’s title it’s going to be a rip-roaring action fest are going to be disappointed. The problem is this movie has been sold as a martial arts movie for Westerners when clearly it isn’t – it’s a comedy movie with a couple of action scenes thrown in which is due in part to the director who’s a comedian himself. The thing is Thai audiences love that kind of thing but Western audiences like seeing more action content than comedy in this type of movie. The action sequences are too short to be really great though I did like 2 decent fights – one in which Jeeja uses a bicycle to fend off some baddies which somewhat reminded me of what Jackie Chan used to do years ago in that he’d pick up an object and use it in various ways to fight an opponent. The rest of the fights are underwhelming and I found them lacking. The main plot of the movie is a bit basic, rather weak and the pacing throughout is very uneven. I would suspect due to a lot of viewers not being familiar with Thai pop culture that some of the jokes contained in the movie fall flat. The comedy when it does work is really funny and I did laugh during certain scenes.

this girl is bad-ass screenshot

The sub-plot with Jeeja falling for a handsome guitarist who turns out to be gay and Duan, one of her ugly male friends trying to win her heart is rather pointless though he does get some great gags revolving around him. This part of the movie is meant to show a softer side to the tough image that Jeeja usually portrays in that she can be cute and adorable as well. As for the rest of the characters in this movie the words camp and oddball springs to mind from one of the gangster bosses who speaks with a high squeaky voice to some stupid cops who can’t shoot properly, midget muay-thai wrestlers and a weird looking character going around on a wooden horse with wheels in which he has to bounce up and down to move. They’re all played completely OTT and purely for laughs.

It’s a shame this movie didn’t live up to what I thought it would be and the title of this movie is very misleading (perhaps they should have stuck with the original name Jukkalan instead). There’s too much lame comedy and not enough action for my liking. I find Jeeja being wasted in these comedy movies but hopefully we’ll see her back at her kick-ass best in Tony Jaa’s The Protector 2 which should come out sometime in 2014. Let’s hope that’s the case.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Bicycle Sighs (1991)


Shiro and Keita are two friends living in the city of Toyokawa . Both are in their early 20’s and should be like the rest of their peers in university. However, they don’t feel like entering the adult world at all and don’t even bother to apply for entrance exams into university. Instead they earn their living by delivering newspapers on their bikes. Shiro comes across an old cinefilm that the duo along with a female friend did in the past that they never completed and he feels the urge to finish the project off. Keita though doesn’t like the idea as it makes him think about Kyoko, his ex-girlfriend who is planning on visiting him from Tokyo.

This was the breakout movie from Sion Sono and his first 16mm feature (the ones he made before were all 8mm) which made the Japanese movie establishment stand up and take notice of him. He made this movie from the prize money he won at the 1987 Pia Film Festival for his entry Otoko no Hanamichi. This is a very stylish movie from a young filmmaker that was still experimenting and using freedom of expression with his work. The story can be seen as the fears and uncertainties of two young men at the time of when the bubble was about to burst in Japan after many years of economic growth.  It can also be taken as the duo rebelling in not wanting to conform to what society expects from them. They want to break free from the rigid structure and regime that most young Japanese men take after leaving school.


Sono filmed this movie in his hometown of Toyokawa as he did in several of his early works. His image of Japan is different from what other filmmakers might have shown during this period in time. No wealth, glittering lights or fast cars are shown – instead a decadent old park is one favoured location in this movie giving a complete opposite view of the ridiculous amount of money that was being thrown around by the country before it all fell apart.  Sono uses a variety of different filming techniques such as switching to sepia colour for some shots and black &white for certain scenes showing baseball being played.  Surrealism is also something that he inserts into this movie. One such scene shows 2 bears talking in a room. They represent Keita and his father. The father’s bear voice is provided by none other than gore master Noburu Iguchi. This was years before he went on to make comedy horror classics such as The Machine Girl and Killer Sushi. I had no idea that Sono and Iguchi had worked together. The movie project that the 2 lead roles are filming consists of a character with a Godzilla mask on his face. I have no idea of the hidden meaning behind these scenes.  Another scene shows Keita’s young sister following a white line which ends at a seafront with a bicycle on fire. I’m sure the more intelligent of viewers will be able to work out what Sono is trying to say.

Overall, Bicycle Sighs is an interesting movie by a young director on his way up in the world. I am sure many will not even be interested in Sono’s early stuff, preferring instead to see his movies post Suicide Circle. It does give a glimpse of the greatness that was to come from him and I enjoyed this movie. Looking forward to watching more of what he created at the start of his career as a filmmaker.

No trailer but here’s the first couple of mins from the movie:

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Set at Kobe International School, an arrogant young boy by the name of Sho goes to school one morning after a major falling out with his parents unaware that a major catastrophe is about to happen. From out of the blue a tornado appears from the sky which teleports the entire school from it’s location and dumps it in a barren desert alien wasteland leaving a massive hole in the ground where the school should be. The pupils of the school which consists of native Japanese kids and Westerners surmise that a timeslip has occurred and they try and figure out a way of going back home.  Problems soon occur when food and water become scarce. With no solution anytime soon and with the days ticking by, some of the kids start becoming mad and monsters attack the school. Will the school ever return back to Earth?

Based on a manga, this cult 1987 movie is yet another that has never been officially released on DVD although there have been various rumours over the years. To be perfectly honest it’s a good thing it hasn’t because this movie isn’t very good and it is very strange to boot. It suffers from a lot of problems such as the story itself, the international cast, the special effects and the dialogue. The biggest problem of all is the bad miscasting of the Westerners. The majority were not actors but real pupils from the actual Kobe International School so I don’t blame them for their non-existent acting skills having being thrown into their roles with no training. There’s a famous American actor from the 60’s called Troy Donahue in this movie. No idea who he is but his character named ‘My Teacher’ by one female Japanese pupil is mostly redundant and bland. The Japanese cast fare little better as they speak dialogue in stilted English. It makes for some unintentional comedy at times! None of the cast stand out at all and I found a lot of the characters to be annoying, obnoxious or both. I’m not exaggerating when I say the acting is bad, it REALLY is bad! Most of the movie’s dialogue is in English. I’m not sure if the filmmakers did this in order to reach out to a wider audience or not? I found the story to be a bit odd and the kids must be really clever as they assume straight away when they land that they’ve been involved in a timeslip as if it’s a common occurrence in their lives! Certain scenes are so strange that I haven’t got a clue why it’s in the movie such as a bunch of the kids singing a musical medley so horrible it nearly made me throw up!! Another instance sees a small alien that the kids have come across giving some of its piss for them to wash their faces! I know that director Nobuhiko Obayashi made the great movie House and whilst there were scenes in that which were bizarre this one goes off the scale completely. The various genres (horror, comedy, musical, drama) don’t gel well with each other at all.

The Drifting Classroom screenshot

It’s difficult to know if the story was targeted towards kids or teenagers due to various death scenes in the movie. One scene shows some of the pupils coming across a female teacher that has drowned in some sand and we see it pouring out of her mouth. The viewer gets to see some giant cockroaches lay siege to the school and eat some of the kids. There’s also some rather inappropriate sexual behaviour right at the start of the movie which sees Sho grope his mother from behind whilst naked. It continues near the end where it is seen that there’s no hope for the school in returning back to Earth so the kids contemplate copulating with each other which results in the line “I want to have your baby”!!

The special effects have to be one of the worst I’ve seen in a Japanese movie. The matte paintings for the background look cheap, nasty and very unconvincing. The camera work for the movie comes across as amateurish at times. The shaky shot for when the school is teleported away goes on for far too long and is enough to make viewers rather seasick. It’s hard to really know what’s going on in the scene as its dark. All I could see was some sand filling up a room and some characters screaming.

The premise of The Drifting Classroom had some potential with it’s fight for survival on an alien world scenario but the filmmakers looked like they weren’t sure how to go about adapting the classic manga into a movie and which target audience to go for so what we have here is one almighty mess instead. Granted it must have been difficult with a 13 volume manga what to put in and what to leave out. There’s absolutely nothing to recommend about this movie apart from Joe Hisaishi’s musical score. It’s really is terrible. If you’re after a unique cinematic experience and if you can get hold of a bootleg DVD of the movie by all means give it a watch. Just be prepared for some major weirdness!

No trailer but here’s a clip of the small alien pissing into the faces of some kids!!

Sadako’s Rating: 1.5 star out of 5


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In feudal Japan, a man is persecuted for possessing Nostradamus’ writings and saying the world will come to an end in the future. Fast forward to the present day and Dr Nishiyama is now the owner of these writings (as they’ve been passed down family generations) and is trying to warn the Japanese government that something is about to happen because of overpopulation and pollution. The signs are there for people to see when giant slugs start appearing and large plants take over the Tokyo subway system. But that is only the beginning as bigger problems take effect. Planes start falling from the skies, snow appears in Egypt, the polar ice caps melt and Japanese children get some super powers such as jumping great heights!! An expedition by a UN discovery team to Papua New Guinea ends in chaos with an attack by radioactive cannibals and giant bats. Then all hell breaks loose as food is rationed and the population starts rioting, the O-Zone layer is destroyed leading to people being burnt to a crisp and nuclear missiles start raining down on major cities around the globe. Is there any way that the human race can survive?

Believe it or not, this disaster movie is banned in Japan with Toho Studios basically disowning the title. It has never been given an official video or DVD release in the country and probably never will be. So why is this then?  The reason is that there are several scenes showing the after-effects of radiation which greatly offended the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic blasts. The scenes in question will seem rather tame to Western viewers but you can understand and sympathise with the survivors why they would not like to see something that felt a bit too close to home for them. After only 80 days, the movie was pulled from cinemas. Even though the movie is banned in Japan, an international version of the movie which cut 30 mins from the original 115 min running time was shown and renamed as The Last Days Of Planet Earth/Catastrophe 1999. Many movie fans are not happy with this cut as some important scenes which included the Japanese Prime Minister giving a passionate and heartfelt speech have been left out. Thankfully there are unofficial sources which have managed to find a print of the original uncut version of the movie and put it on a bootleg DVD and it is this version that I saw. I really do hope that one day there will be a proper DVD release of this movie even if it will only be available outside Japan.

Prophecies of nostradamus screenshot

I’m sure at the time of its release this movie was terrifying and frightening to Japanese viewers but we now know that the end of the world as predicted by Nostradamus never happened in 1999. Although the movie may seem to be a bit preachy in constantly saying that a huge catastrophe will befall the Earth, there is some hope and optimism by the end only if mankind changes its ways. Even though it was made in 1974, the environmental message of the movie is still relevant in today’s society.  This movie doesn’t hold back in showing what would happen if ever there was a big disaster on the planet, it goes straight to the jugular. The story takes its time in setting up the doom laden mood with each apocalyptic event becoming more frightening in nature. The final scenario in which nuclear missiles are launched with those responsible for having their fingers on the trigger dead at the control centre is probably the scariest of all the scenes. It even shows the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant being destroyed. I found it chilling watching this part knowing how close it came to going into total meltdown in March 2011. The special effects in this movie by Teruyoshi Nakano is fantastic from showing a reflective image of the Tokyo skyline in the sky to a devastating set-piece of seeing many cars exploding on a highway in a massive pileup.  Some of Nakano’s effects though don’t work out quite so well such as the giant bats which is frankly embarrassing. However, it is the scene of two mutated deformed children fighting over a worm to eat in a post-nuclear wasteland that upset most people in Japan and gave this movie the controversial tag it now has. There are some other scenes which are strange and look out of place in this movie. One shows a group of young hippies dressed up in kimonos with painted faces going on a suicide sailing ride. Another is supposed to show that people are starting to go mad – a group of motorcyclists (even though it is only 2 people doing the same stunt over and over again) is seen deliberately riding over the edge of a cliff into the sea. If you watch this part closely you’ll see that one stuntman gets his timing all wrong during 1 take and crashes his bike into some rocks at the bottom of the cliff. No idea if the stuntman managed to escape injury or not?

Overall, Toho did a magnificent job with this movie. The intelligent story of a man tirelessly working to try and stop an apocalypse of epic proportions is fantastic. If you ever have the urge to get this movie, do yourself a favour and skip buying the international version as the story has been butchered to bits and instead go for the uncut original version. It may be difficult to obtain the DVD but it’s well worth watching.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Attack the gas station

4 young Korean men in their early 20’s who are bored and disillusioned decide to rob and trash a gas station. They spend all the money on buying new clothes etc. A few evenings later the 4 are back to do the same again at the same location but the gas station manager has taken precautions this time and hidden the money away. He manages to bluff the four by saying his wife has taken the day’s takings away and he cannot reach her.  They decide to hold the staff of the gas station hostage and take on their jobs for one night. Whatever money comes in from the customers for refuelling their vehicles, they’ll take it for themselves.  They soon find they are making enemies of the customers due to their abrupt manner. As the night wears on, a scuffle they have with a couple of punk schoolboys grows into something bigger until they have to defend their new territory against a bigger gang.

Attack The Gas Station has been on my radar for many years as I’ve heard good things about it. I managed to finally watch it early this week and I’m glad to say the acclaim given to it by many critics is justified.  It’s a very good black comedy with a great cast. Some have even said this movie is a social commentary on South Korea during the late 90’s when the economy of the country was in the doldrums due to the car industry and unemployment amongst young people was high.  Watching the events of the night at the petrol station unfold makes this movie even more funny as the 4 face angry delivery guys, gangs, police officers after a wild driver and customers with attitude.  The viewer also finds out why the 4 have resorted to robbing the gas station through some flashbacks. Each of them has had a knockback in life either being bullied by figures of authority or cast aside and are taking their frustrations out on society. Even though the 4 are robbers, the viewer will find themselves slowly warming up and rooting for them. Their quirky and slightly eccentric behaviour makes them endearing even though they are breaking the law and by the end credits you won’t feel any animosity for them at all. From the opening scene right through to the end when there’s a massive rumble on the station forecourt the story never dips and it is always entertaining with numerous memorable moments littered throughout e.g one of the robbers breaks open a drinks vending machine to grab some money for him to use in another machine!  It’s also quite refreshing and original in its way. This was director Kim Sang-Jin’s breakout movie (his 3rd behind the camera) and it surprised many people as nobody expected it to be as big a hit as it was. He employs some cool visual shots to enhance the movie.  I’m not sure if the director is pointing out in the storyline that the behaviour of the robbers is the fault of society for ignoring them? The movie also unfortunately inspired some young Korean people to copycat the antics of the robbers in real-life! I’m sure the police weren’t impressed with that at all!!

Attack the gas station screenshot

The cast are absolutely fantastic in their roles and the filmmakers could not have picked better actors for the robbers. Lee Sung-Jae plays the gang’s tough leader No Mark and is probably the best out of the four as whenever he appears he totally dominates any scene he’s in. No Mark particularly likes to torment the manager by wrecking the station’s phone and asking him to fix it but as soon as he does it is smashed again! I also liked Yu Oh-Seong as the character Bulldozer who is in charge of looking after the hostages in a backroom at the gas station. He comes across as menacing as he swaggers around with a kendo stick but his heart is in the right place. How he manages to control the swelling ranks of hostages is funny. This he does by making them stand on their heads with their hands clasped behind their backs or having some of them fight each other for kicks. Kang Seong-jin  plays a wannabe musician with Yu Ji-tae rounding off the leads as a failed artist whose way of painting is bizarre to say the least. These 2 are rather overshadowed by No Mark and Bulldozer though they are still important characters.  The supporting players which includes the gas station workers are also very good in the movie. The way the director allows so many bit characters to enter the movie without losing focus on the core leads is excellent. He could easily have given more screentime to many of the other characters but thankfully he doesn’t.

Attack The Gas Station has to be one of the funniest tongue in cheek Korean comedies I’ve seen in a while and is well worth seeking out if you fancy seeing something amusing. It did its job of making me laugh and it was so enjoyable. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Muzan-e Video

A young beautiful female reporter is doing an investigation on snuff movies to see if they really do exist through the underground sex industry scene by visiting AV shops, porn shoots and interviewing the cast and crew of those that participate in these types of movies. On 1 such shoot the reporter is shown what kind of movie they are making and the unsavoury things that goes on makes her ill. However, this does not put her off but makes her want more so deeper into the mire she goes. She hears word that a video company is selling snuff pornography videos so she arranges with an unknown man to obtain one of their tapes. Close to the busy east exit of Shinjuku Station the transaction takes place between the reporter and a man. The package she’s obtained has a VHS tape and a 5 page letter. In the studio the reporter plays back the tape and reads out the content of the letter. Two brothers plan to kidnap an AV actress. Posing as her colleagues as she’s leaving her work they ask her if she needs a lift home in their car. She accepts and off they go. One of the brothers cannot control his sexual urges and he tries to assault her in the back seat. He seems to think that as an AV star she likes being touched by men but she roughly objects. As the situation turns sour the girl is taken to their shabby hideout and disposed of in a very nasty way which is taped by them. From one scene in the video which shows 2 large pylons in the background, the female reporter and her colleagues set out to find the location which is in a rural area. Miraculously they manage to find the place but the brothers come out to greet them and they do not like that the reporter is snooping around. Killing the reporter’s 2 colleagues, she awakens in a darkened room tied up to a chair with her legs spread out where the brothers decide on her fate………..

Muzan-e has quite a reputation amongst Asian horror fans due to some disturbing graphic scenes and it’s a movie that I’d been trying to get a hold of for quite a while. However, if you’re expecting a movie with wall to wall bloody violence you’re likely to be disappointed. There is indeed some gore but it’s not as much as what you expected. It doesn’t come close to the bloodletting and sadism experienced in the Guinea Pig movies. The problem is that word of mouth from certain sources over the years has hyped it up too much if I’m being honest but that’s not to say it isn’t shocking because it is. It certainly pulls no punches with the nastiness. Shot like a documentary and from a third person perspective it starts out rather tame until the first graphic sex scene appears. We’re talking full on pornography here but with the genital area pixelated as is usually the case with movies that come from Japan. What transpires is unlike anything you may have seen in a movie before and it will likely make some people rush to the toilet to throw up. It really is a disgusting segment but that’s just for starters! I’m certainly not going to reveal what exactly takes place but let’s just say it involves menstruation. There are far worse scenes to come. If you haven’t already switched off then maybe you soon will. It takes someone with a strong stomach to watch this movie in its entirety. The gore factor is ramped up towards the end. I did find several scenes sickening but never once did I feel like turning it off. Director and Japanese splatter-king Daisuke Yamanouchi hasn’t come up with an explicit blood and guts horror just to horrify and shock viewers. There is a good plot behind the gore with a great twist in the end though I could see it coming a mile off. It’s like you are watching a proper documentary until things turn pear shaped. The performances of the cast are pretty good and for a change in these kind of movies the lead female is shown to be strong though she does end up being a victim by the time the end credits roll on-screen.

Muzan-e screenshot

It’s unlikely that Muzan-e will ever be released I would imagine over in the UK although I have heard that a distributor in the US was planning on releasing it last year but that never materialised. Did Unearthed Films chicken out from releasing it? The subject of the video is just so extreme that it has never officially been released except in Japan. For many years you could only get it on a grainy video tape before it came out on DVD only for it to mysteriously vanish after a short while. I still think it’s a difficult DVD to track down. The copy I saw had no subtitles but I didn’t bother me that much. I understood a little bit of what was said. What is it with Asian cinema and especially Japan that makes them come out with movies that’s full of sadism and brutality? There must be a market out there for fetishists that like this kind of thing.  What I dislike most about these movies is the disgraceful treatment of women.

More likely to appeal to those that like Asian extreme and torture porn flicks, Muzan-e is one twisted sick movie. It was better than what I thought it would be. If you’re willing to trawl through the internet to seek out a copy be warned that it’s not for the squeamish!

Unfortunately there’s no trailer for the movie and I can’t find a suitable clip either.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Sun Vulcan Movie

The Black Magma’s Hell Saturn sends Amazon Killer and Monger (a fireworks monster) to try and destroy a military base but they are stopped by the Sun Vulcan team in their Jaguar Vulcan mecha. Hell Saturn is fed up of his plans always being thwarted by Sun Vulcan and has a new idea. Black Magma are to target Tokyo and plan to separate the Sun Vulcan trio so that they can’t combine into a mecha. This they do by kidnapping 2 young children from their home and luring one of the heroes – Vul Eagle into a trap. They distract the other two (Vul Shark and Vul Panther) when they discover that Black Magma intend to plant timebombs all over Tokyo and turn the city into a sea of fire. Meanwhile Vul Eagle is captured by Amazon Killer when he finds the kids and his Vulcan Brace (the transformation device) taken from him. Vul Eagle is scheduled to be executed by having him hang from a hovering helicopter whilst the Black Magma firing squad use their machineguns to kill him. The kidnapped children are of no further use to Amazon Killer so she orders them to be placed into a sack and dumped into Lake Hamasa where they will sink to the bottom. Hell Saturn launches a squadron of Hell Fighters to rain down bombs on Tokyo. Will the Sun Vulcan team manage to save the day?

Sun Vulcan Promo 2

Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan was the 5th Super Sentai series to be aired way back in 1981/1982. This Super Sentai team however, was different from any other that has been seen over the years as it consisted of just 3 males with no addition to the team over the course of the year that it was broadcast. It also had the honour of being a direct sequel to the series before it – Denjiman. In another claim for the show it was also one that used animal motifs on the costumes for the first time and Vul Eagle (red ranger) was changed around midway through the show. I’m not sure why this happened, if the actor in the role pulled out for a reason or not but a shift took place in the show. Plots became more comedic which didn’t please some fans. The villains for the series was the machine empire Black Magma which had a base at the North Pole and worshipped the Black Solar God. Their intention was to rule the world but they target Japan first as they needed to obtain the geothermal energy the country had to power up their weapons. The villainous organisation is ruled by the Fuhrer Hell Saturn. If some of you out there have watched the series in full, no doubt you will have recognised the legendary Machiko Soga as Queen Hedrian (the character is NOT in this movie BTW). Machiko is best known to Western Sentai fans as Rita Repulsa (Queen Bandora) from the original Power Rangers (Zyuranger) series. She had the honour of appearing in 6 Super Sentai shows (Battle Fever J/Denjiman/Sun Vulcan/Maskman/Zyuranger/Magiranger).

Most Super Sentai/Kamen Rider movies during this era were quite short, usually only lasting half an hour. This movie is no exception but at least the plot moves incredibly fast and the action is relentless with the viewer thrown into the thrills and spills of the plot very quickly. It goes from one set-piece to the next. The trio of heroes make a good team and the villains suitably dark and evil – their intention of chucking the kidnapped kids into a lake after serving their purpose of luring Vul Eagle into a trap is deliciously cruel! I wasn’t aware of this but apparently Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan was the first Super Sentai show to have vehicle mechas merge into one. The 3 mechas design are of course a lot simpler than what we see these days. Cosmo Vulcan is the coolest of the vehicles as it looks like a jet. When combined the mecha looks fantastic using its sword to carry out the Aurora Plasma Slash to finish off its opponent. The only complaint I had about this movie was during the planned execution of Vul Eagle. The way he escapes from his death is rather weak and unbelievable. The storyline could have had more tension in it had the filmmakers perhaps allowed the Black Magma to launch a full scale attack on Tokyo and seeing the carnage that would have unfolded. It would have given the viewer even more reason to cheer the heroes on to defeat the evil organisation but as such the small squadron of fighters that are sent to bomb Tokyo from the air is quickly snuffed out all too easily.

Still this was an enjoyable retro Super Sentai movie coming from a show that has been tagged as one of the best from the Showa era. Worth checking out if you’re a Super Sentai fan.

No trailer for the movie but here’s the opening for the show:

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Summer days with Coo dvdIt is the Edo period and two kappas (water sprites) – a father and son are discussing that the swamp they inhabit will soon be turned to farmland. They will have no place to live. The father decides the best thing to do is to try a friendly approach with the humans. Two samurai are seen walking towards the pair. The father confronts the samurai with a peace offering of a fish hoping that it might help make them change their mind. However, it does not end well for the kappa as the samurai draws his sword and slays him with his sword. The son who has been hiding in the long grass is shocked. An earthquake occurs and a fissure opens up and drags the young kappa down to the depths of the Earth burying him alive. Fast forward to the present day and young Kouichi Uehara is on his way home from school. He trips over a rock after trying to retrieve his shoe from a river bank. He digs up the rock and throws it against a wall. The rock cracks open and a dried up kappa is discovered inside. Kouichi takes it home and puts it under a cold running tap. It starts to come back alive and talks to him. Kouchi and his family who are repulsed at first decide to keep the kappa as a sort of pet. Kouchi names the kappa ‘Coo’ as that’s the first noise he makes after being resuscitated. Coo is reluctant at first to stay with the family being that a human murdered his father but he soon accepts the situation and starts to learn about the modern world. Kouichi and Coo go on a trip to find whether any other kappa could be alive in another area but sadly the last kappa seen alive was over a 100 years ago. Then the media catch wind that a kappa is alive and well and living with Kouichi’s family. A large crowd soon turns up on the family’s doorstep which makes their daily lives very difficult indeed.  

First off let me explain to what a kappa is, in case nobody knows. A kappa is an elusive water sprite in Japanese legend thought to be about the same height as a young child but with frog, reptile or even turtle-like features.  They were thought to inhabit rivers and ponds. Kappas could be mischievous in nature or downright malevolent even drowning a child if they got too close to running water. A good way by a parent of scaring a child if they misbehaved was by saying that a kappa would take them away!

Summer Days With Coo

All thoughts of this being a children’s movie are shattered within the first 5 mins when a samurai slices Coo’s father to death with a sword in quite a graphic scene. This was Hara’s intention from the start to show that this movie was never targeted towards young children. Social commentaries on mature themes such as bullying and mass media intrusion are tackled. As well as being a tale of a kappa trying to find his place in the modern world, it’s also a coming of age story with Kouichi gaining independence and having his first pangs of love with his moody female classmate.  There’s even an environmental message that humans should be more considerate of their actions towards nature tucked away in the plot. What I love about this movie is the depiction of the characters – the best example being Kouichi’s young sister.  A brat for most of the movie she may be but it’s such a realistic portrayal of how a young girl at that age would behave. That goes for the rest of the characters in the movie – they are all believable and somebody you would meet in real life. The relationship between Coo and Koichi is wonderful to see and how it develops over the course of the movie. Koichi discovers a true friend in Coo and he in turn realises that not all human beings are brutal. Coo also shares a telepathic link to the family’s dog Ossan which can speak with him. The movie doesn’t have a happy storyline and there are several occasions for a tear or two to be shed by the viewer. It tends to veer towards being too sentimental at times though. The death of the Uehara family dog leading up to the climax by the Japanese media chasing Coo is one such scene.  Several characters are given sad background stories which include even the family dog.  Kouichi and the girl he likes Kikuchi are victims of bullying and it is shown as the cruel harsh subject it is. The ironic thing about it is Kouichi isn’t any better from the boys that bully him as he does the same to Kikuchi because he doesn’t want to lose face in front of his friends and he can’t face up to his growing feelings towards her. Kikuchi comes across as an intelligent, warm and considerate girl and is only bullied due to studying hard most of the time at school and having her head in a book. Again this is very realistic having seen situations like this at school myself. Thankfully even though a lot of the story is sad, dark and heavy, there are one or two funny moments in the movie to give the viewer something to smile about. It’s not all doom and gloom.

This widely acclaimed movie was a break from the norm for animator Keiichi Hara who is best known for the crude drawings of Crayon Shin-Chan. His style is completely different in this movie and it does have Miyazaki’s influence all over it. He’s even gone on record to say so. The quality of the animation is brilliant – a mixture of hand drawn and CGI and some real life locations in Japan have been recreated vividly in the movie. You can see for yourself just how much effort Hara has made and the love he put into the movie especially with a project that was out of his normal comfort zone.

I would say this magical movie is on a par with Studio Ghibli’s very best. It is a long movie though at 130 mins but once the story hooks you in the time will fly by. It’s definitely one of the best anime movies I’ve ever seen and with an engaging storyline. I thoroughly recommend it.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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During the Legends War all of the Super Sentai teams from Go-Ranger up to the Goseigers are battling the evil Zangyack Empire. In a final desperate attempt to end the war, the Super Sentai teams unite all of their powers. This strategy works and the Zangyack Empire is forced off the planet Earth in defeat but it comes at a price as it means that all of the Super Sentai teams have lost their powers which are transformed into ranger keys and scattered all over space. In the present time, the space pirates the Gokaigers have been collecting the ranger keys and have amassed a treasure chest full of them. The now powerless Goseigers find out that the Gokaiger have their keys and decide to take them back as they don’t trust that the pirates have planet Earth’s best interest at heart. A furious fight occurs between the two teams. During this time the villainous Black Cross King who was defeated by the first Sentai team Go-Ranger years ago returns to team up with the Zangyak Empire to defeat the Super Sentai teams. The Goseigers and the Gokaigers decide that they must form an alliance to fight this threat.  Will they be able to overcome their differences and be able to beat their powerful enemy?

I haven’t been following any Super Sentai series for a long time as I prefer Kamen Rider so I thought it was high time I take a look at a movie featuring them so what better movie to watch than this one which promised a whopping 199 Super Sentai heroes together. This was a special movie to celebrate the 35th anniversary of all things Super Sentai. The majority of the movie focuses on the Gokaigers (the space pirates) and the Goseigers (the angels). I know from reading on forums that the Goseigers weren’t a favourite amongst fans when their series was airing in Japan (why I’m not too sure?). I am familiar with the Gokaigers having seen them in the Kamen Rider crossover movie and I like them a lot. There’s a bit of an edge to the Gokaigers led by the brash Captain Marvellous as I’ve always felt that they weren’t to be trusted being that they aren’t human and all they seek is treasure just like the pirates in the past. Having never seen the series I don’t know if they come across differently in that at all? The first half of the movie deals with the bad blood between the two Super Sentai teams. You can see the difference between the two teams immediately. The Gokaigers come across as being rather dynamic and have more of an attitude whilst the Goseigers are seen as well…………rather bland. Over time they realise that they have something in common with one another such as Luka (my favourite of the Gokaigers) and Moune of the Goseigers that it’s pointless for them to fight and that they should be friends. For a movie that advertises 199 heroes the classic Super Sentai teams aren’t featured that much – they only appear at the beginning and near the climax. A couple of characters such as Deka Pink turn up in a sub-plot but they don’t really have much impact in the main story and are in fact more involved with trying to help an unemployed man who’s mentally in a bad way.  This sub-plot is eventually sewn into the main story but I didn’t think it was done that well.  The guy along with a crowd of people are seen sending positive thoughts to the teams when they’re in trouble and this boosts them enough to beat Black Cross Colossus. Even though the classic characters screen time is limited it’s good for nostalgia value to see the old actors back in their iconic roles again.

Super Sentai 199 Great Hero Battle screenshot

The action in the movie is very good and it goes from one exciting set-piece to the next.  I had never heard about the Legends War before but apparently a glimpse of this was shown during the first episode of Gokaiger. The viewer is plunged into a big battle straight away and I thought this was a brilliant start to the movie to get the juices flowing .The pace of the movie is so quick that it’s unlikely anybody will get bored watching it. The fight choreography throughout is great.  I loved seeing all the mechas that have appeared throughout the years teaming up to defeat the Black Cross King who has transformed into Black Cross Colossus even though a lot of it is stock footage lifted from various series. Due to a bigger budget for this movie there are tons of special effects and pyrotechnics going off. The filmmakers have pulled out all the stops to create a worthy movie to celebrate an important milestone in the history of the franchise.

The only thing I disliked about this movie was when the 2 teams are confronted by the past Super Sentai teams when the Black Cross King steals their keys and activates them all. I find it a bit incredulous that 10 rangers can take out 189 heroes. It makes the classic teams look very weak being defeated the way they are. My take on the matter is that the Super Sentai suits were taken over by evil energy and didn’t contain any of the owners inside them. That’s the only reason I can think of why they were beaten so easily otherwise it makes a complete mockery out of them. It does look out of place seeing the two teams fighting their sempais.

This isn’t a movie for people that have no knowledge of Super Sentai as there’s too many nods to previous series – this is strictly for long-time fans. I certainly enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun and very entertaining. Recommended for Super Sentai fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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