A trigger happy, diaper wearing, soccer player with Yakuza connections goes looking for revenge; an old man lives inside the belly of a whale for thirty years with only a plesiosaur as company; the main character has a foot race against God Almighty and wins! All of this and more are only to be found in Mind Game, a funny, imaginative, and wonderfully delightful film by animator turned director Masaaki Yuasa.
The space pirate Cobra with his android partner Lady cross the galaxy in search of thrills, treasure, and, yes, adventure! Cobra first appeared in Weekly Shonen Jump in 1978 and is old school space opera through and through, of the sort found in old pulps of yesteryear, with a dash of Barbarella, Bond, Star Wars, Westerns, and any bizarre idea creator Buichi Terasawa can come up with, thrown into the mix. The film version followed in 1982. Produced by Tokyo Movie Shinsha with the backing of the studio’s top talent, such as legendary director Osamu Dezaki, character designer and animation director Akio Sugino, and art director Shichiro Kobayashi, Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie is a kaleidoscopic, tripped out, wild and weird ride from start to finish, featuring some of Dezaki’s most satisfingly “out there” direction.
Released in 2016 (a full twelve years after Godzilla: Final Wars), Shin Godzilla marks the third reboot of the franchise as the eponymous lizard stomps his way across modern Japan with the Japanese government racing to stop him. It’s a well worn plot by this point, yet the film’s almost singular focus on the tumultuous bureaucratic response to the crisis — rather than, say, around a few core characters — makes for something that feels fresh and new, while also giving writer and director Hideaki Anno ample time to take aim at the bureaucratic morass that is Japanese government. As for Godzilla himself — courtesy of veteran VFX director Shinji Higuchi and a new design by Mahiro Maeda — probably not since his original outing in Gojira (1954)has the creature looked so terrifyingly monstrous.
Fist of the North Star (movie), a remake of the first arc of the TV show (itself a remake of the famous manga by Tetsuo Hara and Buronson), released to Japanese movie-goers in 1986 with greatly improved art and animation over the TV series but also, like almost all anime movie remakes, a heavily cut down plot. General TV Series director Toyoo Ashida returned to helm the film along with character designer & animation director Masami Suda and many other Toei Animation staff; but, for my money, it’s the soundtrack by classical composer Katsuhisa Hattori and rock group Kodomo Band (“Heart of Darkness”, “Purple Eyes”) that provides the real emotional punch making this absurdly macho, apocalyptic splatter-fest seem almost poignant. Tune in for the full review!
Today, the thieves take a wrong turn and end up in the incredibly bizarre and unsettling world of Gozu, a film directed by Takashi Miike, who, though, he has since gained a measure of respectability, was once known in the West for his anything goes, flyby night films set predominately in the horror and yakuza genres (of which Gozu, from 2003, is no exception). The film stars Sho Aikawa and Yuta Sone as two yakuza brothers, Ozaki and Minami that head off from Tokyo towards a small town on some unknown business; however, soon after arriving, Ozaki goes missing, setting Minami off on a quest to find his friend amidst a backdrop freakish residents, bizarre happenings, and even stranger secrets. This is one weird film. Tune in, as we unravel the mysteries of Gozu!
Hiroyuki Nakano’s Samurai Fiction (1998) is a zany samurai comedy about Peace pretending to be a jidai-geki tale of revenge. After a skilled swordsman named Kazamatsuri (Japanese rocker and composer for the film, Tomoyasu Hotei) waltzes off with the clan treasure, the rambunctious and young Heishiro (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) sets off in pursuit, hoping to restore his clan’s honor by retrieving the treasure and slaying the thief; however, Heishiro soon finds that revenge is not so easy and requires the help of Hanbei, a master swordsman played by Morio Kazama, and the affection of his lovely young daughter (Tamaki Ogawa), which ultimately forces Heishiro to make a choice between Honor and Pride or Love and Peace!