Archive for October, 2013


Five children of various ages who live in a rural area of Japan come together one Summer at their school which is in an idyllic location to learn on being self-reliant. The children have a whale of a time until Pyon-Kichi, one of the kids’ rabbit goes missing and they go off in search for him in a nearby forest. Shortly after, a strange looking wounded dog appears before them who can talk! His name is Pochi and he needs the kids’ help. Pochi is an alien being from a race that resembles dogs and he was sent to Earth to look for a plant that can only be found on this planet but it is highly coveted throughout the universe and this has attracted the attention of some space villains. The kids duly help Pochi out and as a reward he takes them on a journey to the far side of the Moon where they get caught up in an intergalactic adventure and feature on the universe’s most popular TV programme THE SPACE SHOW!

This family anime movie by Studio A-1 Pictures (their first theatrical release) is an amazing and extraordinary visual feast for the eyes with bold vibrant colours exploding onto the screen. It starts out as a fairly normal story by introducing the viewer to the likeable cast of characters and the simmering tension between 2 girls due to a missing rabbit. Nothing out of the ordinary you might say. However, the story changes once the alien botanist Pochi appears and the kids are taken to the Moon. This is where the movie really excels and what you will see is stunning. The amount of detail for the futuristic alien city is simply outstanding from the numerous various alien races, the cityscape itself, lunar vehicles and clothes. We’re talking high quality animation here. The inventive landscapes as the kids are given a tour of the Moon that the animators have created are excellent. It’s like they’ve just let their imagination run wild. Here is a universe that makes you want to explore and discover strange new worlds and its inhabitants. There is so much style and originality in this movie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an anime with so much colour and your eyes have a lot to see. Each of the kids is given their own little sub-plot on the Moon where they have to find a job due to not having enough to finance the return journey back to Earth. I’m not sure if certain stuff has been inspired from various Ghibli/GE999 movies such as the cat train (I think it’s a cat train or is it a dragon?) which travels between planets and some small creatures that reminded myself of My Neighbour Totoro. There is plenty of humour in the movie which will make viewers smile and even some exciting action packed chase sequences as the youngest character is kidnapped by some evil criminals and the rest try to rescue her. It’s quite amusing that wasabi is considered an illegal drug in the rest of the universe and it is this substance that these villains are after with one of the main characters making a roaring trade on the Moon by selling it. This reference to peddling drugs (however innocent it looks here) will be lost though on the kids who will be watching. A message about friendship and how to overcome differences is also addressed.

Space Show screenshot

The movie though is way too long for kids. At 2 and a quarter hours, there is no way that their attention will stay focused for the entire running time. That may have been the reason perhaps why it didn’t too well in Japan? It’s like the filmmakers tried to drag this movie on for as long as they could and didn’t know when to stop. Sometimes having a long running time can have a detrimental effect on a movie (not always the case though) but in this instance it certainly is a problem. I also thought that there was just too much going on in the movie. Fair enough if Studio A-1 Pictures were trying to make an impact but I think they’ve tried way too hard here to make a grand project. There are no major twists in the storyline or anything too complicated going on, after all this is mainly targeted for the younger audience.

It’s hard to know whether the majority of viewers will enjoy this movie or not. If you’re not bothered by the running time and the messy plot and want to be dazzled by the wonderful animation on display then you’re bound to like this movie but if you’re after a coherent storyline then I’m afraid you’re not going to get it here. Overall I was impressed with what I saw despite the faults as the visuals kept me interested. It’s a fun movie and worth taking a peek.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Like A Dragon posterKiryu Kazuma is a former member of the Tojo yakuza clan who has just been released from jail after serving a 10 year sentence and has vowed to go straight. Kazuma decides to help a young girl called Haruka out who is looking for her mother. All they have as a clue as to her whereabouts is she is working in a seedy club. Meanwhile Majima Goro, another member of the Tojo clan hears of Kazuma’s release and has a score to settle with him. A report in the news claims that a bank has been robbed of 10 million yen and that Kazuma is the prime suspect. Along with a couple of henchmen, he sets out to find Kazuma and finish off something they started before Kazuma was thrown in jail. Inside the bank that has been robbed, a couple of stupid masked thieves hold all of the staff hostage with guns asking for money not realising that the bank’s safe is empty! With a room full of police next door to the bank, the pair decide to sit it out.  A pair of young adults (a male and a  female) decide to start robbing shops for fun…….

When I reviewed Takashi Miike’s adaptation of Phoenix Wright a little while ago I thought that was the only movie based on a video game he’d made. Well how wrong I was because last week I saw this movie which is Miike’s take on the popular Sega PS2 “Yakuza” Part 1 game.  As I’m not a gamer I haven’t played it at all. This is a movie that Miike has done with a wink in his eye so it’s not to be taken seriously at all. The trailer doesn’t give you an indication though of the amount of humour in the movie because I was expecting it to be a serious movie. It took me a bit to realise that the comedy in the movie was intentional so after that I forgot about any preconception I had about the movie and just sat back and enjoyed it for what it was. In the hands of a director who hasn’t the experience of making a yakuza movie, perhaps mixing cartoon violence with humour would not work but with Miike (who is a master of the yakuza genre) it works very well. As I’m not familiar with “Yakuza”, I cannot say whether the characters, story or the locations used in it is faithful or not. How difficult was it for Miike to whittle the 15 hour game plot into a 100 min movie I don’t know but I liked what I saw.  Some viewers might say there’s just too many sub-plots going on in the movie and not all of them are given enough screentime. It’s a valid enough point. One such example of this is the two robbers inside the bank. I felt their story was relegated to the background and didn’t really serve a purpose to the overall plot.  A problem arising from being thrown straight into the plot is there’s no background on why Kazuma has been sent to jail for 10 years and what’s the relationship between him and Haruka’s mother. Maybe for those that has played the game all that is explained?  The hero of the movie Kazuma is a charming character despite being an ex-yakuza member and I liked how much he was determined to help the cute young girl Haruka in seeking out her mother. His nemesis Majima is an amusing and insane character who regularly uses a baseball bat and ball on his enemies. Perhaps if Miike had focused the story solely on what was going on between Kazuma and Majima it would have been better but it looks like he’s tried to cram as many things from the game as possible.  Nevertheless I did find all of the characters in the movie to be interesting. Nobody will be able to say that the action sequences aren’t anything less than brilliant, exciting and typically OTT though it’s been toned down a bit by Miike standards. Some of the fights are a bit unrealistic but seeing as this is a movie based on a game that’s understandable. Some of the characters are covered in an dazzling aura when they’re powering up their energy i.e Kazuma is on the verge of being defeated in a fight when he guzzles down an energy drink to regain his strength. I’m taking it that’s a feature inside the game.

Like A Dragon screenshot

The movie is set in the seedy red light district of Kabukicho, which is close to the east exit of Shinjuku train station. This area is familiar to myself because it’s quite close to my ‘local cinema’ whenever I’m in Tokyo – Shinjuku Piccadilly. Although I’ve only walked around the area during the daytime when it’s safe, it is at night that the place comes alive with its bars and host/hostess clubs brimming with customers mostly salarymen. I’m sure I’ve seen a couple of real-life yakuza people in their dark suits hanging around buildings there. There are some horror stories of foreigners having gone into some bars there thanks to the yakuza’s tactics of having a beautiful young girl outside to encourage patrons inside and ended up with a massive bill to pay at the end of the night. If you do visit Tokyo one day don’t be put off from visiting Kabukicho (once called the most dangerous area in the city). As I have said it’s fine during the day but have your wits about you at night especially if you’ve been drinking otherwise it could turn out to be a very expensive experience for you. Lecture over!

The acting is fine from the cast for the movie but I have to say that Goro Nishitani is head and shoulders above the rest and is just a delight to watch as the insane Majima. Just take a look as how he kills a man by smashing a home run ball to his head with a baseball bat! He lights up the screen and overshadows Kazuki Kitamura as the hero Kazuma. The only characters I found a little bit annoying were the male/female couple  who go on a stealing spree. Whilst Saeko who plays Yui does look cute, I found her whiny attitude grating. Miike regular Sho Aikawa is wasted in a role here as a police detective.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. The humour, visual style, the action and of course the character of Majima made this a winner in my eyes.  The majority of Miike fans will love it although I’m not too sure about those that have played the actual game itself.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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After School (2008)

After School DVD

Kimura and Miki seem like just another happy married couple who have been childhood sweethearts. They live close to their neighbour Jinno, a high school teacher. As Miki is heavily pregnant and Kimura works late because he’s an accountant, he asks Jinno to keep an eye out on Miki just in case something happens. One day, Kimura asks Jinno if he can borrow his car to go to work but fails to come home during the evening. Kimura’s boss is handed a photo of him getting into a car with an attractive young woman so he hires a seedy detective by the name of Shimazaki to track him down. Shimazaki decides that he might find some clues at Kimura’s old school and in doing that gets Jinno to help out in his investigation.  The detective believes that Kimura has become involved with the yakuza and has been seeing a bar hostess called Ayumi.  Jinno though is resolute that Kimura would never cheat on his wife even though some footage on CCTV cameras is telling a different story.

This movie became a surprise hit when it was released in 2008. It’s a very good movie by indie director Kenji Uchida who came up trumps in 2005 at the Cannes Film Festival with his first movie A Stranger Of Mine which won 3 awards there (haven’t seen it yet!). This is the second movie he came up with. What seems like a simple enough mystery gradually unravels itself over the course of the movie and I really did enjoy the ingenious manner that Uchida handled it. It’s not like other mysteries where you sort of have an idea with what is going on – Uchida gradually pulls away the layers to the story one by one. It’s a clever technique by the director to make the viewer think they know everything that’s going on but as the movie progresses it becomes obvious that there is more to the plot than meets the eye. None of the characters are as transparent as they look and even Kimura’s friend Jinno knows more than what he is telling Shimazaki.  There are twists and turns galore before the climax so by the time the end credits scroll onscreen I was utterly captivated by what had transpired. It all boils down to the opening scene where you see a situation happening up to a certain point and by the end you are shown that scene in full. Then everything makes perfect sense and you realise just how good a director Uchida is! Although this isn’t a comedy movie per se, he has taken what would on paper sound like a thriller with some dark undertones and turned it into something that’s fairly light.

afterschool screenshot

The movie is helped by the fact that the cast consists of 3 actors who illuminate the screen as the lead characters. Yo Oizumi is fantastic as Jinno, Kimura’s childhood friend. A very crafty character who may look naïve and even act dumbfounded when he is told that Kimura has disappeared with another woman but he is more savvy than what the viewer is led to believe. Kuranosuke Sasaki shares plenty of screen time with Oizumi as the seedy private detective Shimazaki who is ordered to track down Kimura. They make an amusing pair together. Rounding off the leads is Masato Sakai as the mysterious accountant Kimura. The movie does make you question which of the three (maybe all of them) is pulling the wool over who’s eyes and that’s the beauty of the movie and why I found it so enjoyable.

I seriously didn’t expect much from this movie so I was pleasantly surprised. Not knowing anything about the plot I believe made the experience all the better for myself. So if you like a mystery story which has numerous twists to it, I’m sure you’ll like this movie very much. Recommended.

No trailer I’m afraid. Sorry.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Aces Go Places III poster

aka Mad Mission 3

Professional thief King Kong is duped by a 007 and Queen Elizabeth II lookalike into stealing the Crown Jewels which leads to all sorts of complications for him and his partner Baldy. He finds out that his employers aren’t who they’re supposed to be.

This is probably the weakest entry of the 4 Aces Go Places movies I’ve seen so far. Eric Tsang relinquishes his directing duties in this third instalment of the popular series and Tsui Hark takes up the reigns. His style is different from Tsang and not for the better either. There is more of a focus on slapstick comedy rather than the action although what you do see is rather good. It’s a parody of a James Bond movie complete with super-villain sets (a submarine which is shaped like a shark with teeth), gadgets and beautiful women. Hark also feels the need to copy a chase scene straight out of Mad Max. The movie features several actors that have starred in a couple of 007 movies such as Richard Kiel (Jaws) minus his steel teeth and Harold Sakata (Oddjob) complete with his bowler hat. There’s even an appearance by Peter Graves (of Mission Impossible fame) who turns up as a British agent.

aces-go-places-3 screenshot

It starts out as a very good movie with a great action sequence at The Eiffel Tower in Paris which I thought would set the tone for the rest of the story. Sadly it doesn’t and a big part of why it’s not a good movie is because Karl Maka mugs the screen too much as Baldy. He comes across as a very annoying character. I tolerated him in the first 2 movies but he was just too much in this instalment. Granted that a part of why the series was so successful was the audience liked his character but he has more screentime than his co-star in this movie. I didn’t think that was necessarily a good thing. Maybe a lot of viewers will enjoy seeing Maka taking the mickey out of himself but I did find him to be rather tiresome and wanted him offscreen more than on. That’s not to say I dislike the character of Baldy completely. Some of the jokes he is involved with mostly with his young son are funny. The misunderstanding with his wife when she thinks he’s having an affair is quite amusing too. Other jokes which come off rather well include King Kong using a special attachment to crack a high security access system that uses a game of Noughts & Crosses! I’m not sure who wrote the script but it falls apart easily in this movie. The plot is wafer thin and at times it becomes confusing. The stunts on display are OK (love the rocket powered skateboard chase!) though the special effects used look cheap (the matte effects come off the worst). The movie has its moments though they are few and far between such as seeing a bunch of jet-pack wearing Santa Clauses staging a heist!

If you enjoyed the first 2 movies then I’m sure you’ll like this one though I wasn’t too impressed. It’s a patchy effort from Tsui Hark. If you want to see the series at it’s very best skip this one and watch the 4th instalment by Ringo Lam which is an all-action spectacular. It’s a hell of an improvement over this one. Just average.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Queen Millennia

In the year 1999, the planet of La Metalle is heading towards a disastrous near collision with the Earth as it nears a 1000 year erratic orbit around the Solar System. An inhabitant of La Metalle named Yukino Yayoi who has been given the task of overseeing the Earth and its people for 1000 years as its Queen is nearing the end of her reign where she has to hand over the task to somebody else. The Queen has disguised herself as an Earth inhabitant and is working as a teacher and a part-time assistant to an astronomer. The people of La Metalle who have been in suspended animation in their crystal city for many years wake up from their long slumber as their planet nears the Earth. Yukino is shocked when she discovers that the ruler of La Metalle has plans to conquer the Earth by creating a space bridge between the two worlds in which La Metalle’s troops will take-over the planet thereby forcing the human race to flee into space. Yukino, Professor Amamori and his nephew Hajime vow to stop the invaders. Yukino’s sister Selene is also on hand to help the trio. To complicate matters further for Yukino, the commander in charge of La Metalle’s forces in none other than her boyfriend  – Fara.  Yukino’s underground ship The Ark is deployed in a last ditch effort to stop the La Metallians? Will they succeed in their mission?

This is one of Leiji Matsumoto’s lesser known works and it is based on a long 42 episode anime series which aired in Japan during 1981/82. It wasn’t a big success for some reason. Basically the plot compresses the season long storyline into a 2 hour movie. I would say it is a prelude of sorts to Galaxy Express 999 as the main character Yukino is the mother of Maetel, the heroine of GE999. In another similarity to GE999, the story is told through the eyes of a young boy Hajime who has lost both his parents. They were both working on Yukino’s ship The Ark when a mysterious explosion killed them.  Hajime adores his beautiful blond haired teacher Yukino and there’s a hint that it is more than that and Hajime is secretly in love with her. The movie has a typical tragic storyline that Matsumoto likes to employ in his work.  The character of Yukino takes centre stage in the movie in which she tries to hide her true identity from Professor Amamori and Hajime whilst trying to plead with her sister Selene and her assistant Yamori to what the extent of La Metalle’s plans for Earth is going to be. I’m sure most people will get a feeling of deja-vu with the 2 main characters. Yukino and Hajime apart from wearing different costumes more or less look like Maetel and Tetsuo. I’m not sure why Matsumoto has made Professor Amamori’s head and features look so odd. It’s almost like he’s Homer Simpson!!

Queen Millennia screenshot

I might be in the minority here but Leiji Matsumoto is right up there with Hayao Miyazaki when it comes to epic anime movies. I’ve never seen a bad movie yet from Matsumoto and this story is another brilliant and exciting space opera. There is one devastating sequence which shows a seeing a city being pummelled when La Metalle launches fiery meteors as its first line of attack with Hajime searching desperately for Yukino amongst the ruins of her badly damaged apartment in a skyscraper. Earth forces respond back by using old tanks, giant catapults and WWII planes to hit the enemy. There’s also the awesome sight of seeing Yukino’s circular shaped The Ark spaceship rising from the surface of the Earth for the first time.  It’s like a chunk of the Earth’s surface disappearing off the face of the planet! There’s also plenty of drama and tears in the story especially towards the end as Yukino bravely sacrifices herself to save the planet she loves and the old dead Queens who oversaw the Earth centuries ago with their effigies lining up on the walls with a glowing green flame containing their souls on a long corridor inside The Ark coming back to life to help Yukino. It’s quite an emotional climax as Hajime says goodbye to Yukino as her coffin is escorted to an awaiting ship in the sky to whisk her body out to deep space. A lot of the plot is Earth based rather than being set in deep space and although there are several battle scenes I didn’t feel it had a sense of grandeur as the ones in the Space Battleship Yamato movies.

Undoubtedly another big reason why I love this anime movie so much is the superb evocative soundtrack by New Age composer Kitaro.  It suits the spectacular storyline very well and the end song Star Sky Angel Queen which is sung in English by American singer Neil Sedaka’s daughter Dara is excellent. This is yet another soundtrack I’ll be trying to buy in the near future!!

Once again I’m giving this epic Leiji Matsumoto movie the maximum rating. It gave me a superb moving plot with characters I cared about.  I’m sure this will appeal to Matsumoto fans but this movie is very hard to find at the moment (I think it’s only available in Japan). It’s a shame that no distributor in the West has given it the proper DVD release it deserves as I’m sure old school anime fans would love it. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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In murky silence, a cell divided and created 3 lives. Bem, Bela and Belo are 3 sub-human creatures which were created in a lab. Despite looking humanoid, when they get angry they change into monsters. They roam the world and take on the role of protecting humans from other creatures such as their nemesis The Man With No Name (another sub-human created around the same time as Bem, Bela and Belo). What the trio want more than anything is to become human but if anybody finds out about their secret they have to move on to another city. When they arrive in a new city, there’s a spate of mysterious deaths linked to a pharmaceutical company. A female employee Sayuri who is also a single mother has been infected with a virus that is gradually turning her into a monster. She unleashes her vengeance on mankind and it’s up to Bem, Bela and Belo to stop her. Belo falls in love her with her daughter Michiru. There’s also a chance for the monsters to become human at last.

Humanoid Monster Bem was originally an anime series which first came to the attention of the Japanese public way back in 1968. This is the spin-off movie from the drama series of the same name which aired in Japan during 2011 and had respectable viewing figures at the time. I first saw the trailer for this movie during my last trip to Tokyo at the beginning of December 2012 and there was heavy promotion for it at the time. In fact the monster trio were even used to promote the anti-piracy policy of Shinjuku Piccadilly cinema! Perhaps I should have watched the drama series first before watching the movie as all the characters (even the supporting ones such as their detective friend Natsume who is a part of a group of humans that are helping the trio out) are already established but as it has a story that’s easy to follow it didn’t really hinder me at all. There’s a quick recap about their background story right at the beginning. It’s a simple enough tale of good versus evil and of the trio questioning if they want to really become human. A special plant which is growing rapidly holds the key for them to fully turn human but will they decide to use it or not? Judging from the trailer I thought it was about a trio of good vampires but it has nothing to do with those creatures in the end. The main characters are interesting with each having a special talent: Bem has a rod/stick that can make him look what has taken place in the past but can also be used as a weapon as well, Bela has a whip to attack her opponents and Belo as the youngest doesn’t have a weapon at all. The trio cannot die from conventional human weapons such as bullets as witnessed in a scene in which they charge full speed into a police ambush before flying off. They heal fairly quickly afterwards. I quite like the overall look of each of the leads. Their behaviour differs from each other with Bem being fairly quiet and contemplative though he is haunted by a ghost like image of The Man With No Name often. His wife Bela is quick tempered and Belo behaves just like any small child!!

Humanoid_Monster,_Bem screenshot

The first third of the movie had me glued to the screen but I’m afraid my mind did wander during the middle section when the story does drag a bit too much and focuses on Sayuri’s torment on becoming a monster and worrying that if she loses control of her human side she’ll hurt her daughter. The trio also have to contend with the corrupt head of the pharmaceutical company who has a hidden agenda of his own and is responsible for Sayuri’s condition. As the movie runs just a touch over 2 hours I felt that 20-25 mins should have been cut to make the movie flow better as the pace really slows down during this time. Things do pick up in the final third as Sayuri transforms into a fully-fledged tentacled creature and it is only Bem, Bela and Belo that can stop her. The trio of popular male idol Kazuya Kamenashi, Anne Watanabe and Fuku Suzuki do well in their roles making the audience care for them. The special effects are a bit of a mixed bag. The transformation effects with Sayuri’s claw emerging from her arm is great and disgusting at the same time. The other CGI effects are just OK. Is the movie suitable for a family audience? Yes I think so, although there are a couple of scenes that might frighten the kids.

In the end, I was more or less satisfied with the movie. It had a good storyline which got a little bit sidetracked during the middle but it recovered well enough for the action packed finale. It’s directed well enough by Shunsuke Kariyama. As it goes on for too long though I don’t think it could sustain a kid’s attention for the entire running time. Worth a watch.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Takuma and Mayu first met when they were 8 years old at a hospital. Takuma was diagnosed with a serious heart condition which prevents him from doing any physical activity and as such if he does not get a transplant he will not live to 20 years old. Mayu hangs around the hospital as her father is Takuma’s doctor. They begin to become friends and soon even closer than that with Takuma giving Mayu her first kiss. He makes a wish when he finds a four leaf clover in a field that he will survive and they will get married before they both reach 20. As they enter their teenage years, they become a couple and support each other. Takuma though is aware that his time is short and he decides maybe it should be time that he splits from Mayu in order to spare her any more pain. Mayu though is adamant  that they should remain together.  As they are graduating from middle school it seems they will split up regardless with Takuma applying to be enrolled at Shido High School but what he doesn’t know is Mayu has been secretly studying to be enrolled there as well. Takuma’s face is a peach when the student representative to give a speech on the opening day to all the other freshmen is none other than Mayu who embarrasses him before being dragged off by some of the teachers! A freshman by the name of Kou sets his sights on capturing Mayu knowing full well that she is dating Takuma.  Although she brushes him off, he persists in his pursuit of her. Takuma challenges Kou to a 100m sprint knowing full well that ding such a challenge is dangerous to his health. The winner will get Mayu and the loser never has to look at her again. Takuma wins and Kou isn’t happy but he sticks by the rules of the challenge. As Takuma’s condition begins to deteriorate, fate is about to give him a helping hand when Kou is involved in a nasty train accident. He is pronounced brain dead at the hospital and he has filled in a donor card meaning that his heart can be given to Takuma who has no idea that it is Kou’s heart that is to be given to him. But there’s a twist to this tale again………………..

The Japanese love their romantic weepy tales. This movie sticks to the same tried and tested formula but that’s not to say this story isn’t any good because it is.  If you like your movies which have plenty of opportunities for you to cry a river then you’ll get it in spades here. I’m not one to usually watch these types of movies but with Mao Inoue as one of the leads I just had to take a look. This is one of those movies in which they tease a happy ending only for the filmmakers to snatch that happiness and demand that you bawl your eyes out at the climax. It’s a sweet love story with the usual trials and tribulations that couples usually entail though there’s a sentence of death hanging under one of the people involved. It’s obvious from the start even when they were kids how much the couple care for each other. Mayu might seem to some as being too clingy whilst others might see Takuma as not taking full advantage  of the time he has left with Mayu instead of trying to push her away. Despite the problems they encounter along the way (Takuma is distracted by a girl named Ryoko, an old classmate of his who has the same heart problem as he has), the deep bond the couple have is never fully broken.

I give my first love screenshot

The movie does veer into melodramatic territory during the 2nd half as Ryoko passes away in hospital (Ryoko’s death makes Takuma realise the value of being alive and what Mayu means to him) and Kou has his accident. When the viewer first meets Kou, he is seen as being too cocky. Whilst he is very popular at the school especially with the girls, he has his heart set on Mayu whom he calls ‘Princess’. I just didn’t like the fact that he was trying to drive a wedge between Takuma and Mayu but there’s a reason behind this. He had gone through the heartache of losing somebody close with an illness so maybe he was doing Takuma a favour by taking Mayu away from him and sparing her the pain of when he eventually dies. It is shocking though when he has his accident as he runs across a railtrack as the barriers come down and momentarily distracted by a cyclist fails to see the rushing oncoming train which hits him. Mayu and her father do their best to hide the fact from Takuma that it is Kou’s heart which is to be given to him. Takuma’s joy at being given a second opportunity at life though changes when he eventually finds out what has happened and that Kou is in a coma at the same hospital with no hope of ever waking up. Even though both were once rivals for Mayu, he refuses to take Kou’s heart. However, even the transplant opportunity is taken away from him when Kou’s parents reverses Kou’s donor card request when they think that he might have a chance of recovering when he moves his hand even though the doctor says it is only a reflex move. It’s heartbreaking to watch a sobbing Mayu beg and plead for them to change their minds once more but they refuse. Viewers might think the parents as being a bit selfish not to allow their son’s organ to help another person live but one must realise what they are going through and that they are just clinging on to a tiny bit of hope. You can’t blame them at all for that. The ending has a rather cheesy scene which made me groan but I don’t want to spoil it for everyone so I’m not going to say anything more about it. You’ll either think it’s a sweet gesture on Mayu’s part to fulfil a promise she made to Takuma or take it as a strange scene.

Overall the cast are great in their roles. Masaki Okada is good as Takuma who displays a positive attitude to life even when he knows it is going to be cut short but it’s Mao Inoue who shines the brightest in this movie as Mayu, a selfless, headstrong and playful character who is willing to do anything she can to make sure her boyfriend life is extended. They share some good chemistry together.

Have a box of tissues on standby when you’re watching this movie, it does get very sad as we near the climax. It might remind some viewers of their own first love experience. There are one or two humorous moments to lighten up the mood but overall it’s a movie that tugs at your heartstrings.

Unfortunately this is a muted trailer as the audio has been blocked not just in this video but on several other trailers for the movie as well. Sorry.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Judge is the most charismatic assassin in Hong Kong and also the best. During one afternoon whilst driving around in his new Audi car (a gift from his employer for completing his latest hit), he gives a lift to a beautiful woman Yu-Fen who pulls a gun on him. She has just done a hit of her own and thanks to Judge she manages to escape successfully. Judge begins to like this woman but she is unaware that the man she carjacked is a legendary assassin. Both of the assassins are employed by the same person, a woman nicknamed Ice. The two fall in love with each other which does not go down well with Ice who is slightly jealous. Despite this, they continue to work and complete more missions until Ice gives a job to Yu-Fen to kill Judge for not doing a hit properly. Ice’s vicious henchman Shooter turns against his boss and kills her at a gym before turning his attention to Judge and Yu-Fei. Will the two assassins survive the onslaught against them as Shooter targets the pair who are on a luxury boat trip? In addition, a HK police detective is also on their tail and determined to bring them to justice.

Whilst this story is just your standard run of the mill actioner, it is still a very entertaining movie between a pair of doomed lovers which moves at a fair pace and only slows down in the middle during an awful montage sequence which sees the assassin couple mucking about together on the streets of Hong Kong holding hands all to a song which is sung by Andy Lau. With a tag line of “even killers need love”, this should give you enough information what kind of movie this is with a love triangle going on as the couple’s boss Ice becomes jealous of Judge and Yu-Fen’s relationship.

A taste of killing and romance screenshot

The story is hardly original with so many clichés and you sort of know before the end what’s going to happen. I’m happy to say though that the action takes more precedence over the romance aspect. The gun battle sequences are choreographed well enough and prove to be exciting. The shootout on the beach near the climax is a particular highlight. The stylish direction by Veronica Chan keeps things ticking over very nicely. The story gets even better during the second half of the movie when Ice’s henchman Shooter takes matters into his own hands and decides to eliminate the assassin couple. Shooter played by Mark Cheng is probably one of the most vicious bastards I’ve ever seen in an Asian action movie. Not content with killing an old woman by suffocating her in plastic wrap, he even kills an innocent cute little girl by shoving bleach down her throat and putting her dog into the washing dryer. It’s enough to make the viewer really hate his guts and hope he gets his comeuppance.

I wasn’t convinced by the relationship between Judge and Yu-Fen and I felt the chemistry between them just wasn’t there. Anita Yuen looks very nice in her designer garb when the viewer is first introduced to her during a hit job she does and Andy Lau is at his charming best here. This is probably not the best work that either of them has done.

If you’re in the mood for a movie which delivers on the action front but comes with a cheesy romantic sub-plot, this should fill your boots. It’s an adequate but not an essential movie to watch.

No trailer but here’s a clip from the movie

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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As I’ve mentioned before, I simply can’t review every Asian movie I’ve seen otherwise all my free time would be taken up with writing so what I’ll try and do is give a brief list of movies for a month that I’ve seen and just give a rating for it. They won’t include the movies I’ve given a review. Without further ado, here’s the September 2013 list:

Project A-Ko
Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Project AKo
Macross: Do You Remember Love
Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Macross Do You Remember Love
Above The Law
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Above the Law DVD
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Men Behind The Sun 2: Laboratory Of The Devil
Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

men behind the sun 2 front
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc  I – The Egg Of The King
Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

berserk golden age arc I
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc  II – The Battle For Doldrey
Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc  III – Descent
Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Sadako’s Rating: 1 star out of 5

Kamen Rider Kiva: King Of The Castle In The Demon World
Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Art Of The Devil 3
Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Art of the Devil 3
Daughter Of Darkness
Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

True Legend
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

True Legend 2010
Tomie vs Tomie
Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Tomie vs Tomie
Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Cheetah On Fire
Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

The Iceman Cometh
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Kamen Rider Hibiki & The Seven Senki
Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Kamen Rider Hibiki the Movie
Girl Boss Revenge: Sukeban
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Girl Boss Revenge Sukeban
The Sword Of Doom
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Sword of Doom
Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Gappa: The Triphibian Monster
Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Scandal 1950
The Twilight Samurai
Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Twilight Samurai
Pastoral: To Die In The Country
Sadako’s Rating: 1 star out of 5

Haru: An Unforgettable Day In Korea
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

The Face Of Another
Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

The Face_of_Another_poster
The Ceremony
Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Anna Magdalena
Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5


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oba the last samurai poster

Aka Battle Of The Pacific

The tide of war has turned in the Pacific Campaign and the Japanese are being pushed back by the Allies. On the island of Saipan, the Americans are leading a charge that has seen numerous victories for them. In a last push by the Japanese to retake the island on July 7th 1944, there is a large attack nicknamed the ‘banzai charge’ which results in 4,000 Japanese and 2,000 American soldiers being killed. Captain Sakae Oba who takes part in the attack miraculously survives. He retreats into the jungles around Mt Tapochou which has a commanding view of the island where he leads a bunch of soldiers in guerrilla warfare against the Americans. Their task is made harder as there’s a small community of Japanese civilians they have to protect. Colonel Pollard of the US Army declares that Saipan has been successfully liberated from the Japanese but that is far from being true as Oba’s tactics begin to frustrate him. Captain Herman Lewis is asked to try and flush him out as he is fluent in Japanese. He admires Oba’s skills and understands Japanese culture and philosophy as he spent 2 years living in Japan. As the war in the Pacific comes to an end in August 1945, Oba who by now is nicknamed ‘The Fox’ and his forces refuses to surrender and vow to fight on. Will he come to his senses and admit that there’s no point in fighting anymore or will they carry on resisting the Americans even though hostilities are over?

Based on a true story, the antics of Captain Sakae Oba have become legendary in Japan where his guerrilla warfare tactics frustrated the Americans on the island of Saipan for 18 months in 1944/45 until he and his troops officially surrendered in December 1945, 3 months after the war had ended. This isn’t a movie where it shows the American army as being villains against the heroic Japanese army, there is a nice balance showing both sides of the conflict in the story which I liked. This has been done before by Clint Eastwood but he split the story up into 2 separate movies. This being a Japanese movie it does portray some of the Americans are being somewhat racist especially Captain Lewis’ superior officer who doesn’t really care about the explanation why the Japanese fight to the death and never surrender.  Thankfully though, the character of Captain Lewis played by Sean McGowan is there to act as the sympathetic gaijin who respects Captain Oba. It could be that director Hideyuki Hirayama had one eye on the foreign market with this movie which is why there is so many Americans in the movie and they wanted Lewis’ character to understand and speak fluent Japanese so he could act as a go-between between the US Army and Oba. The cinematography is great but the movie wasn’t shot in Saipan or even in Japan at all but in Thailand. The jungle locations are beautiful and are used effectively in the hit and run battles that Oba employs against the Americans. As with most movies that deal with historical events, the story here isn’t 100% accurate. I think this movie might have been better had the American perspective been reduced or even taken out of the movie so that it focuses completely on the story of Captain Oba.

Oba-_The_Last_Samurai screenshot

The performance of most of the cast is rather good. I’m expecting that some of you out there may be expecting me to criticise the Western actors but for a change they perform adequately. It perhaps helps that the 3 main English parts were given to recognisable Hollywood names. OK, fair enough they may not be the A-list of Hollywood but Daniel Baldwin is probably known to a lot of people given that he comes from a famous family.  Yutaka Takenouchi is fantastic as Captain Oba and it’s obvious he took the role seriously as he slimmed down considerably to look the part of an emaciated soldier after months of hardened fighting in the jungle and whose steadfast mentality that his men will eventually win the battle of Saipan never waivers even though he probably knows deep down that the situation is hopeless. Oba isn’t a soldier by trade, he’s a geography teacher. He goes by the samurai philosophy that it would be better to die than surrender to the enemy – this was the Japanese military mentality at the time. Some of the movie focuses on Oba’s decisions and his leadership. Although some of his troops do not necessarily agree with his actions, the decisions he makes turns out to be correct. Oba didn’t have a choice but to do this. He had no superior officers to call upon as they had killed themselves and no way of contacting anybody outside the island. The only other cast member that stood out for me was the lovely Mao Inoue who plays a nurse called Aono who harbours a deep hatred towards the Americans as they killed her family whilst they were all sheltering in a cave. For most of the movie the only thing she wants to do is kill the Americans though she softens up a bit at the end when she sees an American nurse looking after a Japanese baby boy at a hospital who was discovered in an abandoned house.

I really liked this movie. It had a storyline that I found interesting and compelling with a powerful performance by Takenouchi as Oba. Definitely worth checking out.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Lupin III live dvd

Lupin The Third is a playboy/thief who’s always one step ahead of the law. He sets about rescuing a beautiful woman he becomes infatuated with during a ride in his car. She is on her way to prison in a police van. He succeeds in breaking her out of prison at night but discovers she’s just a cunning thief like him who goes by the name of Fujiko Mine. After she tells him how much she likes gemstones he agrees to help her out in a heist as he believes he’ll have a chance to seduce her in the meantime! A mysterious man Jigen comes onto the scene and wants to restore the Lupin Empire and the fortune that comes with it but finds that Lupin isn’t interested as he can take what he wants anytime he feels like it but what he wants more than anything is getting laid! He lives a carefree lifestyle. Lupin manages to make the yakuza angry by stealing a precious statue that may have supernatural powers and they set out to kill him. Inspector Zenigata is charged with bringing Lupin to justice though he has as much luck in doing that as the yakuza does in trying to assassinate him. Nevertheless Lupin turns himself in to the cops in order to think about his next move.

I had no idea that a live action movie of Lupin III had been made in Japan. I love the Lupin III anime movies so I was interested to see how Lupin’s antics would transfer over to live-action. I wasn’t expecting such a camp and wacky movie which is very OTT but it is in line with the style of the anime. I’ve seen one person mention it to be like the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies. The story serves as an introduction to Lupin and how he first met Fujiko and Jigen. The only other regular character from Lupin’s gang who is missing from this movie is the samurai Goemon. I’m not sure if this movie bombed on it’s release in Japan as there hasn’t been another live action movie featuring Lupin since but there are rumours of a movie being released in 2014 with Shun Oguri in the lead role as Lupin. No official announcement has been made yet.

Lupin III live screenshot

Any pretence that this was going to be a serious movie is shot down during the first scene. Despite the silliness that’s abound with this movie (and believe me it does get incredibly silly at times!), I did find myself laughing during several scenes. It’s not a perfect comedy movie by any means – sometimes it works well, at other times it fails. You would be hard not to think that this movie is like a real-life cartoon as it has that feel to it in certain scenes i.e a person gets flattened literally by a door or Lupin is able to jump tall walls. There’s even a weird scene that I never saw coming which sees a troupe of women assassins dressed as nuns that strip off into black top/hot pants and suddenly burst into a song and dance routine!

Don’t try and make any sense of logic with the plot otherwise your brain will fry. The movie is just an excuse for a barrage of chase scenes with a couple being speeded up a-la Benny Hill and gags galore. If you’re wondering about the title of the movie it doesn’t have any meaning at all to the story. It sounds like it’s just been made up to confuse viewers! Those expecting Lupin to look like his anime counterpart will be disappointed. Yûki Meguro doesn’t come close to looking like Lupin and the clothes I usually associate with the character is different too. Lupin wears a white outfit and black scarf combo. Thankfully though Lupin’s perverted personality is exactly the same but Meguro feels the need to exaggerate wildly with his acting in this movie. The same could be said about Hideko Ezaki who might not be as busty as the Fujiko from the anime we know but she certainly brings a lot of sex appeal to her role. She nails Fujiko’s personality so well who uses her feminine wiles and Lupin’s lust to get him to do what she wants. It’s probably Inspector Zenigata who comes off the worst in this movie. He’s a rather weak character who acts like a complete prat. He’s much better in the anime. The character of Jigen isn’t as cool either.

Overall, this is a bit of a strange movie. I think it was a mistake to make this movie as outrageously OTT as it was and felt it was aimed more for kids at times but obviously it wasn’t as there’s too much sexual content for them. It’s still a fun movie though. I am sure though that hardcore fans of Lupin’s adventures will be split down the middle whether they like it or not. Give it a go and see what you think.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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