FANTASIA22 REVIEW: 大怪獣のあとしまつ [Daikaijyu no Atoshimatsu] What to Do with the Dead Kaiju?] [2022]

We’re protecting people’s right not to know. The easiest way to describe the tone of Satoshi Miki‘s realization of an objectively ingenious concept (What happens to the rotting carcass of a defeated kaiju?), is to mention the question to which every journalist demands an answer after a blister filled with the gaseous byproduct of the monster’s decomposition bursts: Does it smell like poo or puke? If that sounds like your idea of a good time for two hours, Daikaijū no Atoshimatsu [What to do with the Dead Kaiju?] is for…

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FANTASIA22 REVIEW: さがす [Sagasu] [Missing] [2022]

They deserve to be delivered. Santoshi Harada (Jirô Satô) has a plan. It concerns a three-million-yen reward for helping to capture the infamous serial killer known as “No-Name” (Hiroya Shimizu). Santoshi says he saw him on the train to work. The man who’s been all over the news is inexplicably here in town right now and he’s pretty sure he knows where he can find him. Except, of course, that Santoshi is in no shape to “find” anyone. He’s been clinically depressed and unable to hold a full-time job since…

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FANTASIA22 REVIEW: Inu-ô [Inu-oh] [2022]

Here we are. Director Masaaki Yuasa and screenwriter Akiko Nogi‘s adaptation of Hideo Furukawa‘s novel The Tale of the Heike: The Inu-oh Chapters finishes with a couple screens of text describing its titular Noh performer’s final years of success despite his name being all but forgotten in comparison to the shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu’s personal favorite. It’s why these three have brought the story of Inu-ô [Inu-oh] to life to ensure his name, and that of his friend Tomona from Dan-no-ura, a blind biwa-playing priest, won’t disappear again. What better way…

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REVIEW: 竜とそばかすの姫 [Ryû to sobakasu no hime] [Belle] [2021]

Come now, change the world. If Suzu (Kaho Nakamura) had her way, she’d melt into the floor never to be seen or heard from again. It’s been like this for the decade since her mother put on a lifejacket to wade through the choppy river and save another girl her age stranded and crying in the middle of the water. The girl came ashore in that jacket. Her mother didn’t. Suzu has often wondered why she wasn’t more important than that stranger. Why staying with her and her father (Kôji…

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REVIEW: ドライブ・マイ・カー [Doraibu mai kâ] [Drive My Car] [2021]

Those who survive keep thinking about the dead. The film starts with Yûsuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima) and Oto Kafuku (Reika Kirishima) naked in bed, him half asleep and her relaying the latest lightning struck plot bouncing around her subconscious. It’s about a teenage girl who’s so infatuated with her crush that she breaks into his house when no one is there, taking small tokens amongst his possessions and leaving some of her own in the hopes that the transfer would somehow indelibly bond them. The next morning sees the couple in…

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REVIEW: Gûzen to sôzô [Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy] [2021]

Maybe it’s the loss of someone I believed was mine. Everyone lives through a series of choices. Some are buoyed by the happiness of having always chosen correctly (or at least the privilege of never having to wonder if the other choice would have provided greater happiness) and some weighed down by regret. There are other times too, however, that people may find themselves existing in a moment where happiness becomes inextricably linked to regret. Perhaps it’s only through pushing yourself to the brink of self-destruction that you finally realize…

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FANTASIA21 REVIEW: Sukutte goran [Love, Life and Goldfish] [2021]

It was uplifting to some extent. There are two types of people in this world. Those who find a ninety-minute romantic comedy musical with a ninety-second song serving as an intermission break twee and those who find it charming. Middle ground doesn’t exist in this equation and director Yukinori Makabe rightfully refuses to pretend otherwise. His film Sukutte goran [Love, Life and Goldfish] (adapted by Atsumi Tsuchi from Noriko Otani‘s manga of the same name) wears its idiosyncratic feel-good sentimentality on its sleeve to provide the dreamlike environment Makoto Kashiba…

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FANTASIA21 REVIEW: Droste no hate de bokura [Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes] [2021]

I don’t know why. The logistics behind Droste no hate de bokura [Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes] are mind-boggling to fathom since time-travel stories are often confusing enough to keep straight when they aren’t filmed as a one-shot. The Europe Kikaku theatrical troupe embracing that extra challenge is thus wild. Group director Makoto Ueda admits he wouldn’t have written the script that way if he didn’t already trust his actors and know they could handle the experiment. Not that having them at his disposal necessarily made his and director Junta…

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REVIEW: バトル・ロワイアル [Batoru rowaiaru] [Battle Royale] [2000]

It’s not my fault. The idea that a totalitarian government would target children as a means to subdue opposition wasn’t a far-fetched concept even before such YA-fare like The Hunger Games arrived over a decade later. You don’t have to look further than twentieth century wars wherein teens were drafted to serve as cannon fodder while the adults in charge sought to destroy the world. Transform draft dodgers during Vietnam into bratty fifteen-year-old punks rebelling against high school authority and you have your unwitting band of so-called “disrespectful counter-culture” types…

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REVIEW: アーヤと魔女 [Âya to majo] [Earwig and the Witch] [2020]

I shall give you the worms. Those familiar with Diana Wynne Jones‘ children’s book Âya to majo [Earwig and the Witch] will be surprised to find Gorô Miyazaki‘s cinematic adaptation beginning with a chase scene pitting a red-headed woman on a motorcycle against a yellow Citroën on her tail. They weave in and out of traffic with impossible speed and maneuvering before we see the first bit of magic used to create some extra distance. That’s when a cut occurs for us to watch the unknown redhead walk through a…

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REVIEW: ウィーアーリトルゾンビーズ [Wî â Ritoru Zonbîzu] [We Are Little Zombies] [2019]

Reality is too stupid to cry over. Hikari (Keita Ninomiya) has always been a “single player.” That’s what happens when you’re raised in an affluent household by parents who substitute gifts for affection thanks to them never being around. Videogames became the boy’s only outlet. They gave him comfort when bullies at school put him in lockers and when he found himself microwaving yet another vacuum-sealed bag of spaghetti-for-one within his perpetually empty apartment. They’re also the medium by which he interprets reality’s framework for everything that happens to him…

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