Archive for October 28th, 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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