FANTASIA18 REVIEW: ペンギン・ハイウェイ [Pengin Haiwei] [Penguin Highway] [2018]

“I might be too amazing for my own good” Adapted from Tomihiko Morimi‘s Nihon Science Fiction Taisho Award-winning novel from 2010, Penguin Highway takes us into a world barely unlike our own. Directed by Hiroyasu Ishida from Makoto Ueda‘s script, the film centers upon a Japanese fourth grader on the cusp of self-proclaimed greatness. With […]

FANTASIA18 REVIEW: 打ち上げ花火、下から見るか? 横から見るか? [Uchiage hanabi, shita kara miru ka? Yoko kara miru ka?] [Fireworks] [2017]

“If …” In a nation of repressed emotions, three young teens find themselves confronting their feelings at what might be their last opportunity to do so. Shy Norimichi (Masaki Suda) can’t stop himself from starring at Nazuna (Suzu Hirose) while his more confident best friend Yûsuke (Mamoru Miyano) admits to wanting to declare his love […]

FANTASIA18 REVIEW: ルームロンダリング [Rûmu rondaringu] [Room Laundering] [2018]

“Don’t cry. Smile.” According to Kenji Katagiri‘s debut feature Rûmu rondaringu [Room Laundering]—and I have no reason to disbelieve him—Japan has a law stating that landlords must divulge whether a previous tenant died or suffered a violent crime within any newly vacated property to all prospective replacements. But while this rule makes sense considering people […]

REVIEW: Oh Lucy! [2018]

“Meow. Meow. Smooch.” I saw Atsuko Hirayanagi‘s short film Oh Lucy! back in 2014 and thought it to be a bona fide charmer. It told the story of a lonely woman named Setsuko who does her niece a favor by recouping the cost of English classes the cash-strapped girl had decided quit. The American teacher […]

REVIEW: アンチポルノ [Anchiporuno] [Antiporno] [2017]

“Go on without me” Escape while you’re young because the longer you wait the more trapped you become. In this way we’re all lizards encased in glass bottles—a motif that runs throughout Sion Sono‘sアンチポルノ [Anchiporuno] [Antiporno], the director’s entry into Nikkatsu’s “Roman Porno” reboot forty years after giving birth to the genre. It’s during adolescence […]

REVIEW: この世界の片隅に [Kono sekai no katasumi ni] [In This Corner of the World] [2016]

“Was I always daydreaming?” It’s starts as a cutely surreal slice of life in 1930s Japan as Suzu (Non) and her flights of fancy take the spotlight. The young girl loves to draw and daydream—the latter often leaving her with time lost in a place unknown. At one point she even finds herself with a […]

FANTASIA17 REVIEW: 帝一の國 [Teiichi no kuni] [Teiichi: Battle of Supreme High] [2017]

“Could any man dream for more?” We are defined by moments, decisions made by us or for us by another. For Teiichi Akaba (Masaki Suda) it was always the choice between love of the piano (his mother’s passion) and a desire to please his father (Kôtarô Yoshida‘s Josuke Akaba) by following a path towards political […]

FANTASIA17 REVIEW: Junk Head [2017]

“And you call yourself God” After finding acclaim with stop-motion animated short Junk Head 1 in 2014, writer/director/animator Takahide Hori decided to expand its science fiction-infused world to feature length. The result is a two-hour adventure following one man’s descent through a subterranean infrastructure built by clones entitled simply Junk Head. It takes place centuries […]

REVIEW: 攻殻機動隊 [Kôkaku Kidôtai] [Ghost in the Shell] [1995]

“What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror” Hype is a tough concept to combat. To tout a film like攻殻機動隊 [Kôkaku Kidôtai] [Ghost in the Shell] as one of the best animes ever created is to set-up expectations that cannot help but falter under the weight. Yet here I am—having watched […]

REVIEW: 君の名は。 [Kimi no na wa.] [Your Name.] [2016]

“That day when the stars came falling” I had no idea what to expect upon sitting down to 君の名は。[Kimi no na wa.] [Your Name.] and the first few minutes definitely had my head spinning. We’re ushered in via the voiceover narration of two high schoolers we’ve yet to properly meet in Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) and […]

REVIEW: 百日紅 [Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai] [Miss Hokusai] [2015]

“That nutty old man is my father” Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai‘s “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji” series is one of my favorite works of art with “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” being its unforgettable cornerstone. Even so, I never thought to myself, “Why hasn’t anyone made a movie about his life?” If you’ve seen one […]