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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

The_Witch_of_the_West_is_Dead_poster

Young teenage girl Mai decides to drops out of high school due to being an outcast. Her overworked parents send her down to her foreign grandmothers house in the countryside for a month so that she can reflect on her decision. Once there, the grandmother tells Mai that she’s a witch and that she can teach her the ways of being a witch. Thus begins a tale in which Mai learns about love and life…….

Contrary to the title of this movie, this story isn’t about Margaret Thatcher, the former UK Prime Minister who was called by some people The Witch Of The West! This is a lovely coming of age movie with stunning cinematography about a troubled teenager who gets an education on life from her wise old foreign grandmother. The reason behind Mai quitting school is pretty weak to be honest – she doesn’t like the clique culture at her school. Whilst it may seem to Western viewers to be a poor excuse, from what I’ve read and seen the bullying culture in Japanese schools by cliques seem to be quite intense leading to depression and in some cases suicide. I’ve gone over this in other reviews so I won’t repeat myself again. In Mai’s case she wasn’t bullied though she was an outcast because she hadn’t joined a clique. There’s a passing reference to racism in that Mai’s mother as she was a halfie had difficulties at school but this is quickly skimmed over and nothing else is mentioned of it probably because it’s a family movie. The movie’s message seems to be more about not passing judgement on people and enjoying life. Mai’s witches training isn’t what you might think it to be – no spell casting here ala Hogwarts. Her grandmother instead asks her to help around the house especially in making wild jam and tending to her herb garden. She also insists on Mai to create her own little sanctuary inside the woods – somewhere where she can relax and mull over things.

Drama and tension is kept at a minimum. Mai doesn’t get on with one of her grandmother’s neighbour – the gruff son of a jolly postman who makes catty remarks about her. This ill feeling is made worse by the fact that the grandmother’s hens are slaughtered one night in their coop and Mai discovers that the neighbour’s dogs are responsible. Mai seems to think that by telling all about this crime to her grandmother she will go round to sort them out but the grandmother doesn’t bat an eyelid and says that even if the accusation is true, storming round to point fingers at the neighbours won’t solve anything. The pair’s relationship is delightful to watch but storm clouds gather on the horizon and due to a misunderstanding they fall out and Mai is even given a slap across the face by her grandmother! The grandmother quite happily sits down in a rocking chair, puffs away on a cigar afterwards with not a care in the world about what’s happened which I found quite amusing! Even though they are still on speaking terms, the warm feeling between them is broken.

Witch of West screenshot

During this period Mai’s father comes round with news saying the family is moving away. Mai goes back with her father and says she will try and attend the new school there. There is no hug or pleasant goodbye between Mai and her grandmother. Things are left unresolved between them. 2 years pass by and Mai has settled down nicely at her new school but then comes dreadful news that her grandmother has passed away. Now Mai feels guilty at having not patched up their relationship and returns to the house to see her body. There is however, a message from beyond the grave for Mai from her grandmother. Even the gruff son of the postman who disliked Mai is nice to her by coming round and paying his respect for the gaijin woman who never said anything bad about him even though he never amounted to anything much.

Mai’s role is played by the pretty young actress Mayu Takahashi and it is Shirley Maclaine’s daughter Sachi Parker (who was raised in Japan from the age of 2 by her father) that portrays the grandmother under a lot of makeup to make her appear older than what she really is. The interaction between the pair which makes up a lot of the movie is great to watch and feels natural. Parker is probably the better out of the two. Her Japanese language skills is excellent but if you’ve grown up in Japan I wouldn’t expect her to be less than fluent.

I really liked this movie with it’s gorgeous cinematography of the woods in which Mai’s grandmother lives. It’s a shame the storyline didn’t elaborate more on the racial problems encountered by Mai’s mother when she was still at school and the underlying tension that existed between mother and daughter but otherwise this was a fine family movie with good performances from all the cast.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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home the house imp

The Takahashi family consisting of mother, father, 2 kids and their elderly grandmother move to an idyllic thatched house in the country in Iwate prefecture. The father who is working for a food company has been shipped out there as his ideas for trying to sell something new didn’t work out in Tokyo. None of the family are happy at being there especially the mother and elder daughter though the father tries his best by saying it’ll be cheaper for them to live there. All have trouble adapting to their new way of life and it gets worse when strange things begin to happen for some family members. The grandmother keeps staring into the roof void of the house and then the children begin to see a young face appearing through the window. As things begin to get worse and the family are close to packing up and leaving, they discover the source of the problem………

Some viewers might say that this movie is like a live-action version of Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro as the plot is
quite similar to it and some scenes in fact are uncannily familiar. Whereas that movie dealt with other worldy spirits of the forest, this one has a cute young imp as the troublesome spirit that bothers the family. The young imp is supposed to be a male character (but played by a little girl) who is lonely and plays mischevious tricks on the family like looking in through the window and making noises in the night but he eventually befriends the young boy of the house who sees him sitting on a small shrine in the house’s grounds. The spirit made the last owner of the house who was a foreigner to sell up in less than a year.

home the house imp screenshot

The movie doesn’t necessary focus just on the young imp. The viewer sees how each family member tries to integrate themselves into the local community (the young boy trying to join a local football team and the daughter being invited to the school’s swimming team). The father is also vindicated of his past failures when he persuades a local catering firm in trying out his latest food fads and finds they’ve gone down well with the workers. Just as the family feel like they’ve settled down in their new home and things have turned a corner for each of them, the father is asked to go back to Tokyo and work once more in the company’s head office. I really did think the movie was going to have an ending where the father turns down the offer and wants to stay at their new place but that doesn’t happen. The one thing that confused me about the movie was the young imp itself. It is thought to be the spirit of the grandmother’s brother who died when he was young – bit of a coincidence that he should turn up at the house when the family has no previous connection to the area. Nothing is really explained why he is there.

This is unashamedly a feel-good family movie with hardly any real drama as such. The cinematography showing the stunning Iwate countryside (forests/lush green fields) is fantastic and the house the family share is in such a beautiful location I wouldn’t mind living in the place myself. Director Seiji Izumi isn’t that well known outside of his home country (and I’ve never seen any of his other movies) but I really did like what he achieved with this movie. Apart from the lovely Ai Hashimoto who plays the daughter of the family, I didn’t really recognise anybody else of the main cast though they all perform very well in their roles.

Overall, this is a charming movie to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon which leaves you with a smile at the end. Definitely worth a look.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Professorandhisbelovedequation

A young maths teacher nicknamed Root (due to his square looking head!) starts his new post at a high school. In order to introduce himself to his new charges, he starts to tell them a story about how he fell in love with maths. His mother Kyoko, a single parent began to work as a housekeeper for a maths Professor by his sister-in-law. The Professor though had a unique health problem – he could only remember things for about 80 mins due to a car accident that happened to him. Everything after 80 mins he forgets so Root’s mother has to introduce himself to the Professor each and every day. Despite this problem, the Professor still managed to excel at maths. Gradually, Kyoko brings her son Root to see the Professor and the 2 develop a friendship through their love of baseball and Root soon begins to understand maths by his new friend.

I’ve got to admit that I hated maths as a subject at school but watching this movie you begin to understand that there’s a certain magic about numbers. I wish I had a teacher at high school like Root who makes the subject not only easier to understand but also makes topics such as prime and perfect numbers rather interesting and accessible. You don’t have to be good at maths to enjoy this movie though – it’s more or less a gentle drama told via flashbacks about a close and genuine friendship between three people, forming a bond like a family and showing the viewer how the Professor applies maths in everyday situations to live his life. Director Takashi Koizumi who honed his art serving as an A.D on Akira Kurosawa’s last 5 movies is famous for his slow burning stories and this one is no exception. The nice slow pace is perfect for this kind of story. Don’t expect any gripping drama to take place in the story although the friendship between the trio is temporarily broken during the final third of the movie by the Professor’s sister-in-law who becomes jealous of their close ties and fires Kyoko. Thankfully though the trio is reunited in a moving finale to leave the viewers at the end credits with a feel good factor without the use of melodrama.

The subject of the Professor’s mental illness is treated with respect throughout the movie. In order to remember important things, he pins notes on his jacket and stuff on his blackboard to remind himself. The core trio are all very likeable characters. The Professor has had many different housekeepers looking after him before but they all left having found it difficult to cope with his illness and having to re-introduce themselves to him each and every day. Kyoko though is different to the rest. She is kind, understanding and most of all has the patience to deal with the Professor and his moods. Root and the Professor bond over baseball and it’s the Professor that gives Root his life-long love of maths and treats the young boy like his own. It’s clear to see that the Professor has been living a lonely life since the accident and this new family unit he’s been given reinvigorates his zest for life.

professor2

Eri Fukatsu is one of my favourite Japanese actresses and she is fabulous in this movie as the Professor’s housekeeper Kyoko. I don’t think the casting people could have picked anybody better than Eri for this role. I also really loved Akira Terao as the Professor who manages to capture not only the friendly nature of the character but also the sadness he has due to his mental illness. Rounding up the trio is Ryusei Saito as young Root who is such a good child actor. The interaction between Root and the Professor is sure to bring a smile to one’s face.

Overall, this is an entertaining movie that you can’t help but like. Don’t be put off by the fact that the subject of maths is prominent in the story – you may even learn something from this movie!! It’s a superb movie to watch with beautiful cinematography, a great minimalistic story with a meandering pace to it and lovely characters you’d like to meet in real life, I would say it was one of my favourite Japanese movies I watched in 2014. A must-see.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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Nin x Nin Ninja Hattori-Kun The Movie dvd

Kanzo Hattori with his trademark red swirls on his cheeks is a ninja in training who is given a final challenge of a solo trip to Tokyo where he must find and protect his master. He doesn’t know who he is or what he looks like but he will know when he sees him. Hattori travels to the city and is soon on top of Tokyo Tower looking around for his master when he spots a little boy called Kinichi in his bedroom. Hattori thinks that Kenichi is his master and so he makes his acquaintance with him. Nobody else is allowed to see Hattori except Kenichi or he will fail to become a fully-fledged ninja so whenever his parents come into his bedroom Hattori uses his special powers to hide himself. Hattori amuses himself around Kenichi’s house when he is at school. They make friends with a blind female painter Midori and also have to stop an evil Koga ninja – a rival clan of Hattori’s kind.

Based on a manga and an old anime series, this goofy and fun ninja parody movie centres on the relationship between the blue costumed ninja Hattori who says “nin nin” and a lonely young lad Kinichi who is bullied by his peers. It is mostly thanks to a manic performance by SMAP member Shingo Katori that the movie works so well with his silly faces and a fish out of water scenario as he adapts to the modern world (something that is so alien to him). Shingo’s unique sense of humour as seen in various Japanese TV shows over the past decade is ideally suited for kids who will have a great time laughing at Hattori’s antics such as disguising himself so as to blend in with his surroundings or bouncing around the screen like a loony! The scenes where he attacks the rice cooker whenever it starts beeping is mildly amusing. Even the scenes showing the former Koga ninjas using their old skills in their new lives manage to raise a chuckle.

Nin x Nin Ninja screenshot

Whilst I enjoyed the comedy, I felt the movie lost a lot of steam in the 2nd half as it turned darker and shifted to concentrate on the rogue Koga ninja Kurokage who is creating havoc and attacking retired ninjas by making them comatose. If you expect to see tons of ninja action during this time you’ll be disappointed as there’s hardly any. Even the so-called showdown at the end is a big let-down. There’s a message in the movie for kids as well of believing in one self. Kinichi is low on confidence but thanks to Hattori who instils a much needed boost thanks to him teaching the young boy some ninja skills he soon gets the respect of his classmates who once tormented him. The 1st half of the movie devotes itself to turning Kenichi’s life around. Hattori also gets to renew an old rivalry with Kenichi’s new teacher called Kemumaki (who happens to be a retired ninja).

This movie is a perfect vehicle for the main star of the show – Shingo Katori. I don’t think many adults will be too enamoured with his performance as he acts like a young child but seeing as the movie is targeted for kids they shouldn’t really complain. I also have to question why Rena Tanaka’s blind painter Midori was in the movie at all as she doesn’t serve any kind of purpose except to be in mild peril. On saying that though, Rena does look beautiful throughout the movie and makes for some nice eye candy. She does well with what little material she is given.

As a drama this movie more or less fails but as a comedy it does pretty well. This is lightweight stuff we’re talking about most of the time and as a movie for kids it succeeds. As long as you realise this isn’t about a movie about a ninja that goes around slicing and dicing people with a sword you should enjoy it.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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school-days-with-a-pig-posterMr Hoshi is a bright and relatively new teacher at an elementary Japanese school who is given a grade 6 class as his charges. He wants to make his mark at the school so he proposes an experiment to teach his students about the food they eat. He wants to bring a small piglet to school, let his pupils look after it for a whole year and then at the end of that period the pig will be taken to the slaughterhouse to be eaten by them. Despite opposition by some staff and parents, the female Principal decides to let the experiment go ahead and soon the pupils are building a pen for the little piglet which they dub ‘P-Chan’. The class take their pig husbandry duties seriously and begin to become quite attached to ‘P-Chan’. He soon grows into a large pig. As the class will graduate at the end of the year, the inevitable question about slaughtering  the pig comes round. Even though it was decided at the beginning of the school year what would happen to the pig, some of the class aren’t happy about killing it and want another class to take over looking after it after they’ve all gone. The final decision rests though with Mr Hoshi. What will he and the class decide to do?

Based on a real-life experiment that took place in Osaka during 1990 which was the basis of a TV documentary, this award winning movie is a moving and educational story about the circle of life and asks the question if we have a god given right to end animals’ lives. How close the script was to what actually took place in Osaka I’m not too sure. I liked the concept of the movie about taking our food for granted and giving a class the responsibility of raising an animal before eating it – basically making them appreciate the food on their plate. The problem the class did was giving the pig a personality and a name. As soon as that happens, you’re giving it a human trait which makes it even more difficult to kill it. It was great to see the youngsters dilingently looking after their pig so well – building a colourful pig pen in their schoolyard, bringing their own food, cleaning the pen etc. They don’t slouch in their duties one bit, taking the challenge they’ve been given very seriously. This was a class that loved the pig they looked after but in doing that became too attached to it. I was expecting some kind of drama to take place with maybe a rival class perhaps becoming jealous of all the attention given to a pig and sabotaging the work the class had done but nothing of the sort happens.

schooldayswithapig screenshot
Even after their teacher had told them right at the start of the experiment what would happen at the end of the year, when it comes to the crunch there is disagreement between the pupils of the class and the teacher decides that a debate is to take place with everybody voicing their opinion about whether to kill P-Chan or keep it alive. The young cast were given a brief outline by the director of what to discuss in this segment so what you see taking place is unscripted and off-the-cuff. I loved this segment and it was very interesting to hear what they had to say and also realistic – very much coming from their heart. All angles are covered by the class. It was very much like watching a politicial debate in Parliament with some heated and passionate opinions taking place between them. On one hand you have some pupils saying they have a responsibility to go ahead with the vow they promised at the start of the yearand others saying what right do they have to send the pig to be killed and that P-Chan should be passed along to another class to adopt so that they take over their duties. Mr Hoshi hardly ever intervenes during this spirited discussion apart from when things get a bit shouty. The viewer is made to choose a side. Mr Hoshi decides to finally settle the argument that a vote should take place and whatever the decision of the vote is to be final. Even when the final tally is counted, the class is split 50/50 so the person making the final decision regarding P-Chan’s fate is Mr Hoshi himself. I think you can tell which way he decides to vote. It was the best thing to happen – that the kids see the fruits of their labour through to the end. Yes, it was sad for the kids but the right decision I thought. Viewers might think it becomes maybe too sentimental near the climax as there are many tears shed by the cast. It shows how much all of them no matter on which side of the fence they were in the debate, they cared very deeply for the pig they called their friend. As this movie was targeted for kids, the actual slaughter never takes place in the movie. It ends with the class running after the slaughter van in slow motion as it gather speed and moving away from them before fading to black. I’m not sure if showing all of them eating the pig afterwards as the final scene would have been a good idea or not to show the class appreciating the sacrifice of P-Chan.

The young cast (all 26 of them) are fantastic with their acting which looks natural and their ability to showcase their emotions. Even though perhaps kids’ opinions are somewhat tossed aside by adults who think they they’re too young to fully understand what’s going on, the pupils here show much intelligence and maturityand it’s good to see a teacher that values their differing views too. They’re all a very likeable bunch of kids as well. Tsumabuki Satoshi who plays Mr Hoshi gives a good and convincing performance as their teacher and yes, the 11 pigs that were used to portray P-Chan are cute!!

Overall, School Days With A Pig is a very good movie to show to children about the food chain and what we eat on our plates which is what the whole point of the story was about at the end of the day. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Here we go with last month’s movies that I checked out. Those that I’ve reviewed will not be in this list:

Kamen_Rider_W_Forever_A_to_Z_The_Gaia_Memories_of_Fate

Kamen Rider W Forever: A To Z/The Gaia Memories of Fate
3 stars out of 5

The Isle 2000
The Isle
3.5 stars out of 5

Satan Returns 1996
Satan Returns
2.5 stars out of 5

Ah My Goddess movie
Ah! My Goddess! The Movie
3.5 stars out of 5

BladeOfFuryCover
Blade Of Fury
2.5 stars out of 5

Riding Bean
Riding Bean
3 stars out of 5

Utsushimi
Utsushimi
3 stars out of 5

Boukenger vs Super Sentai
GoGo Sentai Boukenger Vs Super Sentai
3 stars out of 5

CopsVsThugs_DVD
Cops vs Thugs
3 stars out of 5

kamen_rider_agito_project_g4
Kamen Rider Agito: Project G4
3 stars out of 5

hunter-x-hunter-phantom-rouge
Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge
3 stars out of 5

Sailor Moon S The Movie
Sailor Moon S The Movie: Hearts In Ice
3.5 stars out of 5

Stone Age Warriors
Stone Age Warriors
3 stars out of 5

intoadream
Into A Dream
3 stars out of 5

Hot For Teacher
Hot For Teacher
4 stars out of 5

Street Mobster
Street Mobster
4 stars out of 5

Wolf Children
Wolf Children
4 stars out of 5

Megalopolis Expressway Trial
Megalopolis Expressway Trial
3.5 stars out of 5

pleasure-kill-poster
Pleasure Kill
3 stars out of 5

Labyrinth of Dreams
Labyrinth Of Dreams
3 stars out of 5

Sixty-Million-Dollar-Man
Sixty Million Dollar Man
4 stars out of 5

redpeonygambler
Red Peony Gambler
3 stars out of 5

About Her Brother
About Her Brother
3.5 stars out of 5

Eros High School
Eros High School: Feels So Good
2.5 stars out of 5

samuraisentaishinkenger
Samurai Sentai Shinkenger vs. Go-onger: GinmakuBang!!
3 stars out of 5

Charisma
Charisma
3.5 stars out of 5

girl-boss-crazy-ball-game
Girl Boss: Crazy Ball Game
3.5 stars out of 5

origin_-_spirits_of_the_past
Origin: Spirits Of The Past
2.5 stars out of 5

Girl-Boss-Blues-Queen-Bee_s-Counterattack
Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack
3.5 stars out of 5

mardock-scramble-the-first-compression
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression
3.5 stars out of 5

Mardock Scramble Second Combustion
Mardock Scramble: The Second Combustion
2.5 stars out of 5

alone_across_the_pacific_masters_of_cinema_series_uk_dvd
Alone Across The Pacific
3.5 stars out of 5

late-chrysanthemums-movie-poster-1954-1020233480
Late Chrysanthemums
2.5 stars out of 5

Planzet
Planzet
3 stars out of 5

Guzoo
Guzoo: The Thing Forsaken by God – Part I
3 stars out of 5

angel-s-egg-mystical-egg-of-the-angels-1985
Angel’s Egg
2 stars out of 5

Raise The Red Lantern
Raise The Red Lantern
4.5 stars out of 5

red-spell
Red Spell Spells Red
3 stars out of 5

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Ultraman Saga (2012)

Ultraman Saga opens with a powerful apocalyptic vision of Tokyo, buildings destroyed and the city seemingly devoid of life. We are soon introduced to the Earth Defense Force (EDF), Team U. They and a group of young children and the last survivors on planet Earth after the world was invaded by the evil Alien Bat, the rest of the human population having been abducted. In an alternate universe in which he defeated Ultraman Belial in the previous movie (Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial), Ultraman Zero receives a distress call and proceeds into the multiverse and finds our universe. He goes towards the Earth in aid, and from yet another universe, that from which Ultraman Dyna disappeared through a black hole 15 years ago, a young defense team pilot named Taiga is trapped in the ship of an invading alien force, who quickly disappear to another dimension. Taiga soon finds himself in another world, in the apocalyptic version of Tokyo, as Ultraman Zero battles a huge fleet of alien spaceships. As Taiga notices a crashing ship heading straight towards a young boy, he pilots his ship directly into its path in an act of self-sacrifice. Witnessing his brave actions, Ultraman Zero rescues Taiga and joins with him. Taiga soon encounters Ultraman Cosmos and his human host Musashi, along with Team U and the children. He and Musashi learn that Ultraman Dyna and his human host Asuka had once stayed with the team and protected them, but that was lost in battle with the alien Zetton. It is now up to Taiga and Musashi to protect the survivors. However, Taiga is not so happy to be joined with Ultraman Zero, and has no intention of fighting…

Despite the Ultraman movies being targeted primarily for kids, part of the strength of Ultraman has always been the way it also manages to appeal for adults as well. I’ve watched several of the movies they’ve made since 2000 and they’ve been very good but it seems that something has gone wrong with this one as I just didn’t enjoy it that much. It’s like they’ve tinkered with the formula that made the previous movies so good and what you get here leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. The plot I thought was going to be fairly interesting due to the sombre beginning with Tokyo in ruins but this didn’t go anywhere in the end. A bonus for me in initially watching this movie was the addition of several members of my favourite idol group AKB48 in the cast. There are 7 of them in total which includes my oshimen Ayaka Umeda as Misato. Apart from Sayako Akimoto who plays Team U leader Anna, the others don’t get to do that much. The studio obviously thought that they could cash in on the popularity of the group and attract their fans to watch the movie. One of the biggest problems I found was there’s far too many comedic moments which I didn’t find funny at all and were poorly executed. Kids might find it amusing but anybody else will just roll their eyes. I felt that some of the comedy was so embarassing. I didn’t feel any suspense or excitement in the action scenes, I was like “is that it?’. The movie came across as dull and just going through the motions. I wasn’t too keen on the overuse of CG effects either.

Daigo in the role of Taiga/Ultraman Zero is one of the biggest disappointments acting wise in the movie. His performance is cringeworthingly bad and OTT. It’s hard at times to know if the character of Taiga is being serious or funny. Adult fans will find it hard to connect to the character and consequently will not really give a toss about him – I didn’t anyway! Thankfully Takeshi Tsurno as Ultraman Dyna even though he doesn’t appear for nearly 2/3 of the movie gives probably the best performance out of everybody involved which says a lot about the bad acting you’ll encounter. There’s too many kids who are just there in the background of the movie – I’m not sure if their purpose is just to be seen to look happy or sad in some scenes. Makes you wonder why they’re in the movie at all. Only one of them is given a substantial role and I wouldn’t say he’s that great either. I would have liked to have seen more of Ayaka Umeda but alas she’s only seen fleetingly in some scenes.

All in all, not a great movie for Ultraman fans though I’m sure kids will enjoy it. It was lackluster with terrible acting from some members of the cast. I do hope they’ll be an improvement with the next Ultraman movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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aka Kitaro and The Millennium Curse

Young women disappear one after another in drizzling rain. They all hear the cursed chanting of the Cage Song before they vanish into thin air. Kitaro and his friends investigate these mysterious cases when they meet Kaede Hiramoto, a high school girl who finds herself involved in this mystery. She has been cursed and this has caused scales to appear on her hand. With the help from the librarian of Yokai Library, they find out that the curse was caused by an evil Yokai that was released from 1,000 years of sealing. To save Kaede, they are to gather the 5 ancient musical instruments and perform the ritual to seal the evil Yokai again, which has to be done within 48 hours! In search for the ancient instruments, Kitaro and his friends depart for three different points that the ancient map indicates. Kitaro & Kaede head to “sky”, the sacred mountain in Hakone, Cat-girl and Ratman head to “land”, Mt. Takao, and Sand Witch and Old Cry Baby head to the “ocean” off the coast of Miura peninsula. But the evil Nurarihyon is determined to stop them. Will Kitaro be able to stop the curse, protect Kaede and the human beings from the evil Yokai, and also, overcome his destiny?

With the success of the first Gegege no Kitaro movie, the studio behind the live action project swiftly filmed this sequel while interest was still high. The main cast from the first all appear in this one too. The storyline is better and the budget is significantly bigger. Even though you could watch this movie without having watched the first, it will diminish your enjoyment slightly if you’re not familiar with the yokai characters you see though there is a small flashback about Kitaro’s origins right at the beginning of the story. The pace of the movie is a bit slow at first but it does quicken though I will say that with the running time (2 hours) it’s about 20 mins too long. Don’t get me wrong, the story doesn’t drag or anything and it never gets boring but the movie would have flowed better. The CG effects are pretty good with the main highlight near the end when a massive giant skeleton incarnated from thousands of dead souls comes to life and threatens to attack a coastal town before Kitaro comes to the rescue. The action sequences are competently done with a dynamic fight scene between Kitaro and Yasha (a foreign yokai from a far away land who hypnotises victims with his music). There’s plenty of excitement on display.


Eiji Wentz shines once again as the half human/half yokai main character Kitaro though I’ve always enjoyed watching the supporting cast more than him. Kii Kitano is the young schoolgirl Kaede and she pulls in a fine and sympathetic performance. She looks so fresh faced and this movie came out just as her popularity was increasing. These days she’s not just an actress on the TV and in the movies but a pop star as well. I confess to having a soft spot for Rena Tanaka who plays Cat-Girl so I liked all the scenes she was in very much. For somebody that was 28 years old at the time of filming she looks incredibly young so perhaps that’s why she was chosen to play a teenage character. The rest of the supporting cast (Kitaro’s eyeball father, Ittan Momen (a piece of white long cloth that can fly like a magic carpet) and Nurikabe (I can’t really describe what he is except maybe he looks like the NHK TV channel mascot Domo but Nurikabe is grey, taller and has no mouth and teeth!) have a part to play in pushing the plot along and kids will laugh watching the antics of Ratman and his farting hijinks.

Overall, this movie is a great family/kids movie and it will entertain them no end. There’s a couple of scary scenes which could frighten them but nothing too bad. Quite an enjoyable movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Tetsujin 28 The Movie (2005)

Shotaro is a 12 year old boy and the son of a famed scientist who died tragically. He’s finding it hard to settle down at his new school in Tokyo and his relationship with his mother is a little bit awkward. Suddenly a massive robot named Black Ox appears over the city and starts tearing the place up. Dr Reiji Takumi who is controlling Black Ox wants to vent his anger against the world after the death of his son and seeing his computer empire fail. Shotaro’s mother is injured in the attack by Black Ox. Shotaro is approached by a man who used to work with his father and takes him to a laboratory where he is given the chance to lead the fightback against Black Ox by taking the controls of a secret government robot codenamed Tetsujin 28. The project was meant to be a last ditch effort to protect Japan during the final days of World War II. After 27 failures they managed to get it right with no.28 but by that time Japan had already lost the war. Shotaro is the only person deemed capable of taking the controls of the mighty robot to defeat Black Ox but his first battle results in a resounding defeat with Tetsujin nearly destroyed and Shotaro runs away after everybody says he’s a loser. Dr Reiji Takumi who is controlling Black Ox wants to vent his anger against the world after the death of his son and seeing his computer empire fail. Eventually Shotaro returns back the government laboratory and begs the people for a chance to take control of Tetsujin 28 which is being rebuilt. The scientists there train him up in how to use the robot more effectively and it is all set up for round 2 of a robot slugfest but who will come out on top in this encounter?

This family movie is based on a very famous 60’s anime series that was shown in the US as Gigantor. It was never shown over here in the UK and I had no prior exposure to Tetsujin 28. I’m usually quite a fan of mecha movies (anime or live action apart from the awful Transformers trilogy) but this one didn’t capture my imagination at all although I did like the sleek design of the two robots especially Black Ox. It all started brilliantly though and seeing Black Ox bending the antenna of Tokyo Tower like a turkey twizzler and throwing Tetsujin 28 into the Diet Building was great. The head to head fight between the two robots was a big disappointment. Imagine playing an old boxing video game where it takes an eternity to connect with your opponent’s face……well that’s how the fight with the two robots looked. It was just so slow and the punches thrown by both of them looked very weak and there’s no movement between them. After this encounter the movie just went downhill and even a return bout between the robots didn’t improve anything. You would have thought the fights would have been kinda spectacular but instead it comes across as boring. It’s like seeing two pieces of metal banging against each other, you have no indication who’s winning in the fight. Even having two men in rubber suits (a staple use in kaiju movies) would have been better than this. The movie just sort of peaked too early with the initial Black Ox attack and could never top it afterwards. The CG effects aren’t that great either and it makes the movie looks like a cheap video game. Another problem I found is the movie had a bit of an identity crisis in that it never knows if it wants to be targeted towards kids or something a little bit darker for the adult fans that grew up watching Tetsujin 28 in their youth. I’m not really sure if this movie would actually hold a child’s attention for too long as it just drags on and on. It didn’t know when to end.


The performances from the cast is decent. I did enjoy seeing ex-idol and former Morning Musume leader Yuko Nakazawa playing a young police detective and it was great seeing her in action. She looked different with short black hair. The last time I saw her in a movie was probably in the Morning Musume feature Morning Cop and that was a long time ago. The other cast member that kinda stands out is Yu Aoi who plays a robotics expert. She looks fantastic in her uniform and beret. Unfortunately the young man who plays Shotaro doesn’t fare too good through no fault of his own. It’s just his character is too weak a hero and uninteresting to really root for him. Abe Hiroshi is wasted in a bit role as Shotaro’s scientist father.

Overall I thought this movie was a complete waste of time barring the first 20 mins. I would imagine that it will appeal to long-time fans of Tetsujin 28 but otherwise avoid it.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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Usagi Drop (2011)

27-year-old Daikichi is an unmarried office worker with no girlfriend. When his grandfather dies he attends his funeral and sees a strange little girl there. He finds out that the quiet and sad little girl is his grandfather’s illegitimate daughter and the mother is unknown. The little girl is called Rin and she’s 6 years old. The family debate about who will take over responsibilities to look after her. With nobody willing to do it, Daikichi takes it upon himself to be her guardian. His family are surprised as they believe he has no idea on how it is to become a parent. Even his mother warns him that she made many sacrifices for her 2 children. He soon learns the difficulties in raising a child as a single parent with the usual childhood problems: wetting the bed, not making friends, then making friends, becoming sick, experiencing feelings of abandonment and posing tricky questions about death. As time passes by, little Rin begins feeling more and more comfortable being around him, but still must face the loss of her father.

Based on the manga of the same name, this is a lovely heartwarming tale about a young man taking up the responsibilities of parenthood and finding out that it’s not as easy as it looks but even through the hardship he encounters in raising young Rin he wouldn’t have it any other way. We witness the likeable Daikichi change from being a work intensive person and even changing job so that he can focus his attention solely on raising Rin. It shows the human condition and our ability to nurture in the absolute best and worst of scenarios. It also shows the emotional and physical toll in raising a child especially in a work-heavy society such as Japan. With this kind of movie you might expect sentimentality or maybe some saccharine sweet moments but director Hiroyuki Tanaka keeps them to a minimum. Even when there’s a little bit of drama near the climax as Rin and her nursery school friend Koki run away to visit Koki’s fathers grave in a cemetery and come across a creepy looking young man, it is handled competently and any thoughts that the situation is going to become dark is soon forgotten. There’s hardly any conflict in the movie and the romance that seems to be building between Daikichi and a female single parent seems to be snuffed out before the end credits. There’s not a lot of character development either but that didn’t really bother me. Ultimately this movie is about the cute and warm relationship that grows between Daikichi and Rin

I quite like Kenichi Matsuyama as an actor. He has established himself as one of Japan’s brightest actors and he doesn’t fail to impress as Daikichi. He has the knack of being able to tackle a variety of diverse roles. The main star of the movie has to be Mana Ashida who is simply too adorable for words. She’s THE most popular child actress in Japan right now which has seen her star power rocket over the past year. Already a veteran of several movies and dramas, she is fantastic as Rin. Even though she may be a child, Mana’s acting especially in her dramatic scenes is superb. She compliments Kenichi Matsuyama’s acting very well and they make a very believable parent and child. With everybody wanting to have a piece of Mana Ashida at the moment, I just hope she won’t burn out soon.

Usagi Drop is a sweet feel-good movie that will leave you smiling afterwards. It was an absolute delight to watch.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5.

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This movie has been split into 3 parts. The first part named Kamen Rider Decade: Final Chapter follows the series cliffhanger ending at the climax of the Rider War in which Decade accepts his place as the Destroyer of Worlds and Tsubasa is running amok taking on all the other riders in order to claim their cards. Can any of the Riders left alive stop Decade? The second part of the movie Kamen Rider Double: Begins Night investigates the origins of Kamen Rider Double as briefly shown in the opening of the series’ first episode, referred to in the series as the “Begins Night” and how Phillip and Shotarou’s boss Shokichi met his end. The Movie Wars 2010 is the third and final part of the movie, a convergence of the two parts that brings the casts and characters of Decade and Double to finish the fight with Super Shocker together.

Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider W Decade Movie War 2010 was a fun movie. Having not watched a lot of Decade or W I wasn’t sure if I’d be lost with the movie’s plot but fear not because it didn’t really matter. The action’s great as usual with these Kamen Rider movies. However it’s a little uncomfortable especially in the first part because it’s largely Rider-on-Rider violence, and the deaths are fairly graphic, with Riders really exploding, chunks and all. You won’t see any blood or anything as this is a kids movie after all but I never thought I’d see the day when Kabuto’s head horn would be blown off! The character of Tsukasa as Decade is a nasty bastard make no mistake about it. He’s ruthless and seems to enjoy destroying the other riders. For him to get killed by Natsumi in her KR Kivaata form was a bit lame in my opinion. He’s gotten past all the other tough riders and it’s left to her to finally make the breakthrough to finish him off. Sorry I didn’t buy it. Just a minor gripe though and a great opening part to the movie.

As for the KR Double segment of the movie, I also really enjoyed this as well. Unlike Decade where I did manage to catch a third of the series, with Double I switched off after 2 episodes as I thought it had too many young characters for my liking. Now after watching this movie I might actually go back and watch the entire series. This part of the movie gives a good backstory to the series which builds up to a satisfying conclusion. It’s the characters that actually make this part work so well even the annoying Akiko which was one of the main reasons I disliked the series so much. We also get to see the appearance of KR Skull who looks cool with his hat. The action is top notch.

So now onto the final part where Decade and W team up to defeat Super Shocker but Decade also brings along a few other friends along to counter the threat – 9 Heisei Riders. This sequence might not have the grand scale feel of All Riders vs Dai Shocker but it’s still amazing to see. The only problem is what semblance of plot and logic you had going in the first 2 parts is thrown out of the window in the final segment. It didn’t really matter because the action is so good you don’t really care about it.

Overall, this movie was fantastic and it was a great way to end Decade’s story although he would appear in other KR movies after this. Definitely recommended for KR fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Superkid (2006)

A quirky children’s movie from Hong Kong about a boy genius escaping from his prison of sorts in a top secret facility and meeting up with his female internet friend as he wants to understand what makes a family happy. Along the way, they get up to all sorts of scrapes as the female boss of the secret facility Chloe sends her goons out to get her top student back.

Hong Kong isn’t that well known for producing kids movies. Although tagged as a kids movie, it does have some scenes that might disturb them involving hypodermic needles and even referencing to a notorious HK Cat III horror! Thankfully the majority of the movie is light stuff with some slapstick comedy and lessons to be learned in life aimed squarely at the kids. The leading characters are OK, at least they’re not annoying. It’s a good movie to watch on a rainy afternoon.

No trailer for this movie

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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The alien parasite Fog Mother begins its millennial hatching of its brood to infest the planet Earth. However, a sacrifice is required for Fog Mother to fulfill its ritual. Environmental photographer Kouji Segawa’s sister is abducted and he is left for dead by Fog Mother’s underlings, but mysterious beings known as “Earth Spirits” resurrect him into the warrior Kamen Rider J. Fog Mother’s battleship goes on an orgy of destruction. Can Kamen Rider J save the day?

Kamen Rider J isn’t a favorite amongst fans though I don’t understand why as this movie is very enjoyable with an environmental theme running throughout it. Plenty of action with tons of explosions and pyrotechnics going off. There’s even a rip-off from Alien as Fog Mother’s eggs hatch with ‘face hugger’ like creatures emerging. But even then the filmmakers weren’t content with copying one franchise, they even copy Ultraman as Kamen Rider J transforms into a 50 foot giant to fight Fog Mother’s battleship.

The story is simple and the action is relentless from the start. The suits and FX are good quality, and the miniatures for the giant bits are cool. Although the running time is just over two episodes’ worth of regular TV, the plot comes across well and the finale is very satisfying. I would certainly recommend this for Kamen Rider fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Hinokio (2005)

A sweet family movie of a young lad called Satoru stuck in a wheelchair after an accident which claims his mother. His father builds an advanced humanoid robot which takes his place in school and he can interact with his classmates through a computer.

This movie touches on issues such as bullying, family, life and death. Konata Hongo is fantastic as Satoru and it’s amazing to see how young Maki Horikita is with her long hair. Loved the end song by Yui.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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A touching movie of a family forced to flee their home in the mountains and leave their Akita dog Mari and her 3 pups after a devastating earthquake. If you thought Lassie was clever you haven’t seen Mari yet. Based on a true story. An incredible tale of survival against the odds. Get those hankies at the ready for the emotional climax. If you love dog movies then this comes highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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