Category Archives: Movie Review

The bonds we share….Why you need to see ‘Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms’

There is something special about walking out of a screening full of emotion and constantly thinking about the film three days later, but here we are. Brisbane anime fans got the unique opportunity to be the first in the country to see the brand new film ‘Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms’ when it was shown at Madman Anime Festival. Admittedly, I wasn’t too keen to see it but something inside me said that I need to check this out. So, grabbing the last few tickets that were available for my friends and I (absolute packed house) we waited to see what the fuss was all about. The hype and buzz that this film had is completely justified. This is the first film from acclaimed screenwriter Mari Okada making this her directorial debut with this fantasy feature. If you are wondering why that name sounds familiar, she was screenwriter of a certain anime ‘Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day’. Just knowing that little knowledge, we were going to be jumping on a feels train.  

The people of Iorph have a lifespan of hundreds of years and maintain their teenage appearances for life, but when the peace of this town is shattered by those who want the secret to their longevity for themselves, a young girl named Maquia is forced to escape. Wandering the land alone, upon finding an orphaned baby she chooses to raise him, but as this boy grows up so the difference in their lifespans is thrown into ever-sharper relief.

The film starts off slow, quickly establishing the differences between the people of Iorph and humans. We are introduced to this world and these mythical humans (the Iorph people) and how they maintained long lifespans and being able to spin essentially the fabric of life. The humans want to be able to have this longevity and have tried to bring the two sides together. The Kingdom (where the humans reside) kidnap one of the Iorph females to become the wife of the Prince. This results in the destruction of the land where the Iorph people lived and all around. Maquia is a very young Iorphian, who learns very early on that life is unpredictable. She comes across a newborn boy and decides to become the orphans guardian. I won’t spoil the rest of the film as I firmly believe that if the plot was given the magic of this film will be lost.

What makes this film stand out is the themes that it essentially covers. It is a love story of a mother loving her child, a child loving their mother. It is the bond that two people build between each other that is true and pure. It was a very unique way to explore bonds between people as it is something that is rather relatable with everyone. Another theme that was covered was the concept of life and death. It was chilling at times the way the story was portrayed, however was able to explore the importance of living your life and accepting that death is a factor of life as well. You could even argue that this film explore the concept of the ‘circle of life’ and that everyone has a place within it. There were so many theme weaved within this story that it blew my mind. It looked at family, first love, politics, parental relationship and of course age.

Although at times I felt that the animation was sloppy, there were just breathtaking moments that can only be truly appreciated on the big screen. The emotional factors within this story was built up slowly, leaving viewers right at the end grabbing tissues. It is definitely a film that will leave a lasting impression on you. I still think about the scene where Maquia and Ariel (the adopted son) establish their bond as being parent and child, it is so raw and filled with unintended emotions that it would make the strongest of hearts melt with the feels.

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I cannot wait to see this movie again. I do feel it will be one that you will need to see at least three times because there is so much in it, but each viewing you will be rewarded.

I rate this movie * * * * (four out of five stars).

Easily one of the best anime movies I have seen since ‘Your Name’ and ‘A Silent Voice’.

The film premiers Australia wide on June 7. Don’t miss the opportunity to see it on the big screen.

 

 

Review: Genocidal Organ (Blu Ray)

Genocidal Organ is another film from the Project Itoh Collection. Project Itoh, for the uninitiated, is a collection of manga that have received the anime treatment, with Genocidal Organ being the debut release. Another film from the collection is Harmony, which we’ve previously reviewed and can check out here.

Continue reading Review: Genocidal Organ (Blu Ray)

Got an hour and forty minutes to kill? Review on Death Note (US) 2017…

The adaption that nobody asked for was finally released….

When I write a review about something I try to remain positive and optimistic. I try to see the good in a project and give it a fair go. I went into watching the new ‘Death Note’ film that has been released on Netflix on August 25th with an open mind. With that said my mind was blown as to how bad it was. It was just plain terrible.

Now, before I continue I must confess. Although I have seen a good majority of episodes, I have yet to complete ‘Death Note’ anime series. That said I know the characters and the general plot of the story where Light becomes the holder of the Death Note book and any name that is written in the book would face their untimely death.

Now this production was exactly what Netflix would produce, an over budget show filled with gore and sexual content. We start the film on such a confusing note, the main character Light Turner is an ‘edgy’ teen in a typical American high school that mysteriously ends up with a book that fell from the sky. I wish I was making that up but that is exactly what happens.

The pacing and general plot of the movie was so ridiculous when I was watching it I would be questioning my own sanity as to why I was still watching. The script was just bad. Some of the dialogue between the characters was just so ridiculous you felt as if you eyes would roll back so hard in your head. The characters in the film were just not what you would expect, particularly from the main leads, Light (Kira) and Mia. From what the film makes it out to be is that Light and Mia team up to use the Death Note to get rid of the scum, getting their thrills from doing this. It was just an odd development for the characters and completely unrealistic. It makes it even more insane towards the end of the movie. On note of the characters, the actor that plays Light/Kira was completely terrible. This movie could have had some sort of potential if they got an actor that could actually act. He was just bad. I can’t even be nice about it.

I want to rant and rant more about this movie, but it would be spoiling it for everyone. It is just not my cup of tea. It could have been a decent adaption for western audiences if they paid more attention to the script, plot devices, the main actor and general delivery of scenes. I was one of those people that crave more adaptions of anime to western screens, but if this is what they are putting out into the universe, just keep it. Was there anything redeeming in this film? Sure Willem Dafoe, the dude is damn scary and brilliant, only perfect casting choice in this film. Also the soundtrack was interesting. It took on a strange 80’s vibe which actually strangely fit the darkness that this film was trying to portray.

If you are a Death Note fan I strongly suggest you stay with the anime. If you are a casual fan what the hell give it a shot, but don’t go into watching this film thinking it will win any awards. It is a teen angst drama filled with sex and gore. It would be like if Twilight was given a budget.

I rate this 1/5.

Review: The Red Turtle (DVD)

The Red Turtle is an animated feature film collaboration between French company, Wild Bunch and famed Japanese animation house, Studio Ghibli. It’s at times beautiful, haunting, suspenseful and ultimately depressing and sad but don’t let that detract you from watching this stunning film.

The film tells the story of a young man who finds himself shipwrecked on an island who quickly learns that he has to fend for himself on this idyllic remote land. He sets about building a raft to take him away and hopefully back to civilisation however the first two times in his attempt, the raft crashed into something under water which ultimately destroys the raft leaving him to swim back to shore. It isn’t until his third attempt that he encounters the source of the impact, a large red turtle.

After making it back to shore and watching from a mountain, he sees the turtle come to land which leads him to running back to it and flipping it onto its back, believing that this time his attempt to escape will be successful. However during one night, he has a strange dream which convinces him the turtle is actually his salvation so after waking he tries to flip the turtle back but he’s unable to to and it appears that the turtle dies. However the next day, the turtle transforms into a woman who the man nurses back to life and the story delves into their life from surviving a massive natural disaster which rocks the island to raising their baby son together.

I don’t want to disclose more of the story suffice to say, this isn’t what you would call a feel good story and to be quite honest, during the viewing I had mixed emotions ranging from bemusement, sadness and hopelessness. There are funny moments during the film such a family of crabs which follow the man around during his solo days and almost seem to see him off during his escape attempts yet are waiting for him on the sand when he emerges from the water each time. It’s quite beautiful how Ghibli films have a knack for not just having the main characters being the focus of the story but how the most unassuming objects in the setting lend a hand to carry the narrative. In this case, the makers know that the film is quite depressing and inject these moments to add some levity and softer moments and for the most part they do their part.

One important thing to note is that there is no dialogue during the film whatsoever so it’s a testament to the storytellers that they can run a film for close to 90 minutes without having a slow or boring moment. Just when you think you know how the film’s going to end up, something changes to keep you on your toes and it’s moments like this that make you realise you’re not just watching another animated feature. The animation is very Ghibli-esque and in particular, the three characters have all look amazing. I couldn’t find out what technology was used to animate but it looks like they’ve been motion captured as the end result is quite stunning with a striking visual look.

It’s because go the way that it’s presented that I found it hard to score this film so I’ve had to go with two scores. One for the story and one for the animation and overall presentation. Keep in mind that despite the foreboding message throughout the film, it’s still quite essential watching for any Studio Ghibli fans and only serves to build their impressive roster of rich storytelling and, at times, adult concepts. If you get the chance, give it a watch and let us know what you think of it.

*Thanks to Madman for review copy*

Final score:

Story: 6.5/10 – Dark, moody, depressing. Watch when you’re in a really, really good mood.

Overall presentation: 8.5/10

Review: Death Note: Light Up The New World (Movie)

Ten years after the last Death Note movie hit theatres, cinemagoers in 2016 are treated to a new movie entry in the series. Death Note: Light Up The New World recently hit cinemas in a limited release in Australia and been a fan of the anime and the manga, I had to get along to it. So what did I think of it? It’s a watchable affair but not without its flaws some of which are too big to just ignore.

Death Note Light Up

In case you missed all the news about it, the movie is set ten years after the events of the previous movies and the Death King in charge of the shinigami world releases six Death Notes on Earth in order to relieve some boredom. Having six murder notebooks on Earth stirs things up with 4 of the notebooks being in Japan, one in Europe and the other in the USA. It isn’t long before the US and European books end up in Japan which begins a fast and deadly game of cat and mouse between the police and the new Kira. So I mentioned there were flaws but before I get to them, let’s talk about what is good about it.

First off, the story itself is pretty good and solid in pieces however at times it tries to be too smart for its own good and ultimately ends up being a tad confusing in places. Early on in the movie it doesn’t affect the pacing too much but towards the end, it can leave you scratching your head wondering what’s going on. The actors give fairly solid performances as well with some actors from the past movies making a show in this new outing. And they even manage to squeeze in Tatsuya Fujiwara, the original Light Yagami into the film as well. Cinematography is great as are the special effects and CGI which leads to the Death Gods themselves.

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We see a couple of new characters with Beppo, Arma and everyone’s favourite shinigami, Ryuk making an appearance. Beppo is awesome and looks amazing and I still can’t tell if he was real or just CGI. Ryuk’s animation is oh so silky smooth and he’s never looked better. But the real stand out would have to be Arma, a female shinigami dressed in beautiful white robes with elegant, spindly fingers who loves eating grapes just like Ryuk has a fetish for apples. The costume design and makeup are absolute standouts and I found myself wanting her to come back on the screen, she’s so amazing looking.

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Now for the negatives, in the original series, L’s successor was Near who lived all the way through to the stunning climax of the story. So in this movie, there’s mention of Near whatsoever. At all. At any time. It’s like they never existed. Granted it’s been ten years but Near was a child meaning that unless they met an untimely demise, they should still be around. That’s one point, the other being that the successor in this movie is called Ryuzaki just as in the series. Why does he have the same alias? Surely it would make sense use a completely different name to separate both characters from different timelines. I’m guess the writers probably went for continuity but it reeks a little of lack of originality. Misa Amane is back in but for the small part she played, it was hardly worth it and almost seems like they just added her just for the fans.

But probably the biggest issue I have with the film is this new L himself. While the original L was an absolute genius, had an incredibly sharp mind, an aura of mystery and eccentricity, even the way his wardrobe suggested that he was more focused on solving mysteries than appearances. This new L doesn’t come across like possessing any of those qualities at all. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. He’s almost like that friend that most people have that tries to be funny and does have their occasional moment but for the most part they fall flat. The original L when he solved problems, you could see how he got there. L version 2 shows up at the Task Force HQ advising he’s made a breakthrough in the case and we as viewers have no idea how he got there. It’s disappointing considering how L was portrayed as a prodigy while the new one comes across as a bit wacky and mildly amusing.

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The movie overall does have drama, tension and areas of suspense and as I said at the very start, it’s watchable. Someone new to Death Note will probably like it more and not see the obvious flaws but for people familiar with the source material, this new film might leave them feeling a bit empty. And to be honest, it is great to have a movie ten years after it was all finished. I honestly thought I’d never see Ryuk on screen again and to have 3 shinigami on screen is awesome. With all these types of movies, before you know it the run will end so get along to it before it ends.

Final score: 7/10

Review: My Korean Teacher (Movie)

My Korean Teacher is a charming tale of love lost, love found, bad timing and everything in between.

The film centres around Young-Ung, Yesung from K-Pop boyband Super Junior, a young Korean man living and working in Tokyo for a company delivering ginseng. Unfortunately his career at the company will be coming to an end after one last business trip to Okinawa and things start to go South very quickly when the business comes under investigation for something they’re shipping with the ginseng. To add more to the drama, Young-Ung’s relationship also ends in a particularly bad way leaving with nothing but the trip to Okinawa.

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Just when he’s feeling at his lowest, two people enter his life that will change his life direction. They run a language school and are in need of a Korean teacher, a position that he takes up with very little confidence. At the school, he meets young single mother Sakura, played by Nozomi Sasaki, a woman working at a travel agency who needs to learn Korean ASAP to impress a CEO from a Korean company about to do business with the agency she works for.

This then begins a relationship of him teaching her, meeting her son Kei and grandmother as well as developing a very close friendship with Sakura. Along the way, complications begin to raise their head from a couple of other suitors which leads to Young-Ung begin to realise that there may be more than just a friendship there.

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Straight off the bat, I really loved this movie. It’s incredibly cute and really easy to watch and quite beautiful in its storytelling. The movie was filmed in Okinawa, Japan and the landscape is simply breathtaking. From the gorgeous beach scenes, the bustling city streets and tranquil, peaceful village-like streets and scenery. The cast is all amazingly well matched and Yesung’s on-screen time with Nozomi is something you can’t take your eyes off, their chemistry is perfect. Also, considering that Yesung is a singer and not primarily an actor, he comes across very natural and has great comedic timing. Having said that, K-pop idols do wear many hats and rarely just sing. They’re usually involved in hosting variety shows and/or are also involved in K-dramas in Korea.

The other major cast members, Masahiro Sato who plays the owner of the language school named Kawamoto and Eri Fuse playing Sayuri, another teacher from the school are absolutely hilarious and the interactions they have with Young-Un at the end of most days in a bar are great. I found myself waiting for those scenes and in that regard, the film didn’t disappoint. Another part worth mentioning is with Kawamoto, Sayuri and Young-Un trailing Sakura around town. This segment in the film is so funny and one of the movie stealing moments. There are so many moment like that in the film though, from watching Young-Un and Sakura become closer throughout the film to the classroom scenes and even the scenes early in the story with Young-Un and his girlfriend, there’s some great stuff in there.

https://youtu.be/3SjVbLF5yys

There’s a sub plot in the film involving Young-Un’s parents back in Seoul, Korea which initially doesn’t play out much but it has a really big bearing towards the end of the movie. This takes nothing away from the movie and only serves to pace it along and form a really solid story. The film has very solid, faultless direction from Director Yuzo Asahara which is making me want to check out more of his work.

I said this earlier in the review but yes, I really, really liked this movie and for me, is easily a standout from this year’s Japanese Film Festival. Get along to see it if you like rom-coms with a small twist of drama, you won’t be disappointed.

Final score: 9/10

Review: Wolf Girl & Black Prince (Movie)

Ever been in a situation where all your friends have something you don’t so you lie to to them so you don’t feel left out? That’s basically the plot of Wolf Girl & Black Prince, a 2016 film based around the 2014 anime which follows the adventures of Erika Shinohara who has her clique of friends at her high school.

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All her friends are involved with boys apart from her. One day while out with her friend she sees a handsome male in the street and manages to take a picture of him to show her friends that she also has a boyfriend. Unfortunately for her, the male in the picture, Kyouya Sata, goes to her school which forces her to confess to Kyouya about what she’s done. Surprisingly he agrees to go along with her charade but on the condition that she becomes his “dog” at his beck and call. This leads to various scenarios where Erika has to suddenly leave her friends to attend to whatever need he has which in turn develops many funny situations.

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Adding more drama to the already convoluted situation are a couple of males that throw themselves into the mix becoming something a little more than a love triangle. The story is funny and at the same time has dark overtones as Erika is at times humiliated by Kyouya all in the name of pretending to be her boyfriend or else he tells her friends the truth. In the movie, Erika is played by Fumi Nikaido quite well as she shows equal amounts of confusion, embarrassment, understanding and care. While actor Kento Yamazaki handles Kyouya very well and as you’d expect in his situation to behave. Narcissistic, clearly relishing the moment and as someone you come to dislike, hoping he’ll see what Erika is going through and change his ways. Still, both actors work well together and helps to maintain a nice balance of mature themes in the movie.

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The film is very well paced at a running time of just over two hours but you really can’t tell and that’s a testament to how well the anime storyline has been converted for the film. Just keep in mind that while it’s supposed to be a comedy/drama, the overall theme of the movie may be a bit much for viewers not familiar with the anime. By this I mean that effectively Erika is his slave who caters to Kyouya’s every whim without a second though or hesitation. However I don’t really want to break down the psychology behind the movie as I could be here all night, suffice to say that I enjoyed it despite some frustrating moments. The moments are more from thinking and expecting a character to behave in a certain way except they do the exact opposite. It kind of leaves you there scratching your head thinking, “why did they do/say that?” or “why did they act in that way?” But that’s true from most films, you can’t make everyone happy.

It was nice to see the back streets of Harajuku being used for the trendy shopping areas along with the school they used for the shooting. If my school looked like that and offered what they did, I wouldn’t want to leave, it’s enormous and very modern. Have look at it when you see it!

Overall, Wolf Girl and Black Prince was entertaining and easy to connect with the characters. It’s the kind of movie where viewers will have their favourite person in the movie and find themselves rooting for them, hoping everything works out for them.

You can catch this film and many others at the Japanese Film Festival 2016. Check the website for screening times in your city.

Final score: 6.5/10

Review: Erased (Movie)

Erased is a 2016 live action film based on the hit anime of the same name by writer Taku Kishimoto. The story revolves around Satoru Fujinuma, a manga artist who experiences moments of flashback in time allowing him to change the course of events. He coins the phrase “Rewind” for these moments. He doesn’t know what he has to change but time keeps looping until he fixes what he’s there for.

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During the early part of the story, he suffers a terrible tragedy which results in him having a revival moment, waking up and living a large part of his childhood as a ten year old trying to avert a spate of murders of young children in his area. He needs to stop these from happening as it affects the tragedy he suffers as an adult. The film closely follows the events of the anime, for the most part, and even mirrors some of the scenes, shot for shot.

The film stars Tatsuya Fujiwara as Satoru Fujinuma and Kasumi Arimura as his close friend, Airi Katagiri. Tatsuya might be known to audiences as playing the role of Light Yagami in the Death Note movies. First off, full disclosure, I was a huge fan of the anime and went into this expecting to be disappointed. I’m pleased to say that I definitely wasn’t disappointed and was in fact, quite the opposite. Both leads give great performances which always helps to carry the movie along. Tatsuya is a standout as he doesn’t always know if what he’s done is enough to prevent a tragedy and you can see the anguish and anticipation in him as he, like us, hopes for the best. Kasumi lights up the scene whenever she appears, she gives such a delicate performance as Satoru’s best friend and confidante. A special notice must be given to the two young child actors who play the roles of Satoru and his childhood school friend, Kayo. Tsubasa Nakagawa as a young Satoru literally steals every scene he appears in, he’s such a charismatic and talented young actor and likewise with Rio Suzuki as a young Kayo. The chemistry these two child actors have is astounding and really makes the film something special.

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The cinematography is fantastic with locales from suburban Tokyo to the tranquil riverside shots. Anyone familiar with the anime will admire the attention to detail, in particular the house where Kayo lives has an amazing level of detail in comparison with the anime. I’m always a sucker for movies filmed in Japan as it’s genuinely hard to take a bad shot in Japan, no matter where you are or the time of year. The film doesn’t have much in the way of a musical score or if it did, I wasn’t aware of it but that’s possibly because I was so sucked into the film. However, Erased still carries itself nicely no doubt due to the excellent storytelling, performances and on screen drama. Now that I’ve mentioned the storytelling, I just have to say that there is a massive change towards the end. No spoilers so don’t panic but when I saw which way it was headed, it surprised me. I wasn’t disappointed and I could see at the same time why the story was changed to accommodate the different medium for the story.

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All in all, I loved it and not just because I would love it even if it was bad. I was a tad nervous before the viewing as I am with all anime’s that receive the live action movie adaptation. It doesn’t take much to turn a great anime into a stinker of a film but I’m happy to say that that wasn’t the case here. What the director, Yūichirō Hirakawa, has managed to do here is tell a story that weaves drama, heartbreak, suspense, love and a sense of childhood nostalgia that really pulls at your heart strings and yes, keep your tissues ready. There are a couple of scenes that’ll have you sobbing a bit. definitely one of the better live action movie adaptations which I highly recommend to anyone who was a fan of the anime.

Final score: 8.5/10

Thank you to the Japanese Film Festival for arranging a screening!

Review: Death Note 1 Live Action Movie

Death Note live action movie supplied by Otaku Fuel.

One of the most popular animes to come out of Japan, Death Note, has been immortalised in two live action movies. The first movie simply called Death Note was a box office smash knocking The Da Vinci Code off the top spot in the Japanese theatres. This review will look at the DVD itself and the production value behind it. But first, for the uninitiated, a brief background into the Death Note story. It revolved around an A grade student called Light Yagami who is bored academically as he feels there are no more challenges to really test him. This all changes the day he finds a Death Note belonging to a death god or shinigami called Ryuk who also happens to bored with life in the shinigami realm. The Death Note has the power to kill anyone by writing their name in the book while picturing that person’s face. Light decides he can change the world by eliminating the criminals with Ryuk as his mentor and guide. Top detective, L, decides to take on the challenge of bringing the unknown killer to justice thus beginning a cat and mouse game between the two brilliant minds of Light and L.

death-note-movie-posterDeath Note movie poster

 

The movie has been handled with precision directing under the instruction of Shūsuke Kaneko who directed both Death Note movies. Anyone familiar with the anime or manga will love the way this well loved favourite has been handled as the film moves along at a cracking pace never letting the viewer out of its grasp. Visually the movie is beautiful to look at as the stylised feel of the anime has been transferred to the screen in an accurate and sublime manner that can be so rare of anime to live action transfers. The actors portraying L and Light have been extremely well cast and play a thrilling game of good versus evil that makes viewing this movie an absolute must.

Moving onto the extras, there’s a couple of humourous clips where the two main leads gave press interviews and they were playing it up for the cameras by talking over each other and getting in the way of each other as they were answering their questions, funny stuff. Production diaries, a clip of a special viewing in Japan, meeting the audience in Japan and a picture gallery round off the movie related extras. There’s the usual assortment of trailers and tv spots that are worth watching and of course there’s always the random selection of other anime’s that Viz Media are plugging. All in all, still worth watching and checking out when you’re done with the movie.

ryuk-lightRyuk, the shinigami and Light Yagami

Two thumbs up for this movie and a must view for any anime fan wanting to extend their Death Note experience, highly recommended and a must buy.