Tokyo International Film Festival 2014 stirs up controversy with nationalist advertising slogan

Written by: William on October 29, 2014 at 7:31 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Tokyo International Film Festival is currently running in Roppongi. Japan’s premier film event always draws crowds and plenty of press attention.

So far this year’s biggest headlines have perhaps been generated by comments by director Takeshi Kitano, who has reached the age where he doesn’t care what people think anymore. He criticized the monopoly of the major Japanese film studios which control movie theaters, and how the local media never writes proper reviews. “The Japanese film industry is going to ruins,” he decried. He also admitted his dislike for anime. “I dislike Hayao Miyazaki the most. But I give credit to his works for earning so much money.”

Meanwhile Hideaki Anno, whose work is being showcased in a retrospected at TIFF, lamented the state of the local anime industry. “The Japanese animation industry has hit a dead end — it will be tough to escape unless we can make animation without commercial considerations.”

Hardly the stuff of a buoyant festival that the organizers were no doubt hoping for.

tokyo international film festival criticism copy advert slogan

However, there has been even more criticism of the festival itself by industry people and the public alike about the way TIFF is presenting itself. TIFF has never been very sophisticated in its PR but this year might be the most crass.

In large print adverts run in major newspapers it has been pushing the country’s “legacy” for producing cinema maestros. This nationalist tendency might well meet the approval of the current government and no one would surely doubt Japan’s pedigree when it comes to past masterpieces, but this is bullishness verging on the right wing.

ニッポンは世界中から尊敬されている映画監督の出身国だった。お忘れなく。

The official English translation of the copy is even worse:

Lest we forget; our nation gave birth to some of the world’s most respected directors.

The “lest we forget” is horribly formal and also sounds like an intonement at a memorial service. It is the kind of phrase you hear uttered after terrible events. And the “our nation” is, needless to say, hardly welcoming to the many foreign visitors to the festival.

It has been harshly criticized by director Tetsuaki Matsue.

Our question is also this: Who has forgotten? Just as no one has forgotten about the great directors of France, America, Germany et al, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi and Ozu have not been blotted out of the public’s mind, as far as we know. Does TIFF need to remind us, especially like this?

tokyo international film festival criticism copy advert slogan

Better alternatives have been suggested:

世界から敬愛される映画監督たちはこの国から生まれた。

Some of the world’s most respected directors were born here.

However, no matter how you adjust the copy, the rightist nuance reminds.

It is also perhaps no surprise that AKB48 producer and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe favorite Yasushi Akimoto was invited to produce the film festival this year. The rather inexplicable appointment by the government has resulted (directly or otherwise) in a nasty taint of politics over the event.

The festival was sponsored by Toyota until 2012 and it was in past festivals that the copy really rankled with us personally. That year the theme was all about ecology and the environment, including even a “green carpet”. This from an international event based in that eco paradise Roppongi, flying in guests and staff from all over the world. And sponsored by the biggest car manufacturer on the planet. “Action! for Earth” [sic] the slogan said. Yes, quite.

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“Princess Jellyfish” exhibition at Shibuya Parco Museum: Male visitors must “cross-dress” in female clothes

Written by: William on October 27, 2014 at 8:47 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

A new exhibition event in Shibuya will turn all male visitors into crossdressers.

All right, let’s qualify that.

The exhibition, held in December and January at Shibuya Parco Museum, is a promo for the upcoming live-action film adaptation of the manga “Princess Jellyfish”.

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

The original, called “Kuragehime” in Japanese, is all about the goings-on at an apartment building populated only by female otaku, such as a girl obsessed with kimono and another with Chinese history. The tenants of the apartment in the threatened “Amamizukan” building are all girls. No boys are allowed, though the main character Tsukimi Kurashita (her mania is for jellyfish, hence the title) eventually allows a cross-dressing politician’s son into her life and of course, we can probably all guess how things turn out between them.

The exhibition will feature props, costumes and more from the world of the film and manga.

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

As men are “banned” from the apartment building in the story, likewise the exhibition is ostensibly only open to female visitors. Should men turn up, they will be forced to wear “female items” if they want to enter the exhibition. At the time of writing we aren’t sure exactly what these are, though we doubt a mainstream space like Parco Museum would actually force young guys in Shibuya to wear skirts. If you want to see that kind of thing, head over to Shinjuku or Akihabara for the otoko no ko cross-dressing cosplay subculture trend.

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko renna nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

princess jellyfish kuragehime film live action movie manga higashimura akiko rena nouen exhibition shibuya parco museum

Following an anime series in 2010, the live-action film version of Akiko Higashimura’s comic is set for release on December 27th and stars Rena Nounen (of “Amachan” fame) in the gauche lead role.

“Kuragehime Exhibition”
Parco Museum (Shibuya Parco Part 1, 3F)
December 19th to January 12th
Tickets: ¥500

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Descendants of “villain” in Korean box office hit “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” sue over historical inaccuracies

Written by: William on September 16, 2014 at 9:58 am | In CULTURE | 1 Comment

Descendants of a figure depicted as a “villain” in the current Korean box office smash “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” are suing over the film’s alleged historical inaccuracies.

“The Admiral: Roaring Currents” revolves around the 1597 Battle of Myeongnyang, a victory for the Korean Joseon navy despite the odds. The Koreans had only a dozen ships against the invading Japanese’s 133 warships.

the admiral roaring currents korean film lawsuit descendants sue producers historial inaccuracy

The film, known simply as “Myeongryang” in Korea, stars famed Korean actor Choi Min-sik (“Old Boy”) as Admiral Yi, the commander of the Korean last stand. Released in July, it has grossed over $100 million and been seen by over 17 million people. It is now the most successful film in Korean box office history. It received a limited release in America this summer.

Detractors have accused the film of having an nationalistic agenda. Its release and popularity at a time of Japanese and Korea tension over territorial and historical issues is certainly unfortunate for politicians, though the reasons for its success may also be more innocuous. Ordinary Koreans have much affection has for Yi, the underdog protagonist hero, and film’s distribution company is said to have a monopoly over local movie theaters.

Facing incredible odds, Admiral Yi held his ground even when ordered to fall back and devised strategies to hold the Japanese ships at bay. His leadership qualities are greatly admired by Koreans today and a translation of his diary into modern Korean has been a bestseller.

Not everyone feels that “The Admiral: Roaring Currents” is accurate or fair, however.

The suit, filed against the producer and director Kim Han-min, the screenwriter Jeon Cheol-hong, and a novelist, relates to the portrayal of a side character in the film.

“Our ancestor’s name has been defamed for commercialization and we are also suffering from stigma,” say descendants of Bae Seol, a Korean general whom the film depicts as a rival to Yi. Bae is often said to have deserted the battle but alternative theories say he was allowed to leave the battle due to illness. He was later captured and executed.

His modern-day descendants have asked for screenings of the film to be suspended.

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New photos released for new live-action film version of “Lupin III”

Written by: William on June 24, 2014 at 2:03 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

The first set photos have been released for the upcoming live-action film adaptation of the popular TV anime “Lupin”. Starring Shun Oguri, Meisa Kuroki and Tadanori Asano, “Lupin III” will be released in Japan on August 30th.

lupin iii film movie live action 2014 shun oguri

lupin iii film movie live action 2014 shun oguri

We love the look of this latest big screen version (following the 1974 film) of the iconic manga and anime by Monkey Punch (who has been a consultant on the new movie). It is supposed to show how the main characters all meet for the first time but updates the story to a contemporary setting.

lupin iii film movie live action 2014 shun oguri

lupin iii film movie live action 2014 shun oguri

lupin iii film movie live action 2014 shun oguri

lupin iii film movie live action 2014 shun oguri

The big-budget movie has been filmed in Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong and elsewhere, and features an international starry cast. It is directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, who is known mostly for work in the science fiction and horror genres.

lupin iii film movie live action 2014 shun oguri

lupin iii film movie live action 2014 shun oguri

Still no full trailer but anticipation is now super high for this film!

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Catch: A short film by Intel Japan about childhood cancer

Written by: William on March 12, 2014 at 8:54 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Catch is a 15-minute-long short film produced by Intel Japan that tells the story of a boy in Tokyo.

While the whole thing is fictitious, it is a successful example of how to turn sentimentality and careful filmmaking into a memorable ad — without people even realizing they are watching a commercial.

intel japan catch cancer school boy film

The Japanese title translates as “Catchball” and it’s about a young boy’s struggle to come to terms with his classmate’s death from cancer.

Baseball, school, child mortality, cancer… hardly likely subjects for an IT computer to choose for a film to advertise its brand. But director Takuma Takasaki pulls it off, with some help from talented young actors. And it all comes together at the end in a harmony of message, visuals and product.

What’s inside is at the core of what we do every day at Intel, but it’s more than just what we make that counts. It is the passion behind everything Intel does to enrich people’s lives.

intel japan catch cancer school boy film

We don’t want to give too much away. The film also has very good English subtitles.

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New Godzilla movie trailer debuts

Written by: Japan Trends on February 27, 2014 at 12:15 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

After a teaser a few weeks ago, the official trailer has been released for “Godzilla”, the new American film adaptation of Japan’s most famous monster.

Hollywood has a very bad track record when it comes to adaptations of Japanese pop culture. From “Astro Boy” to “Dragon Ball”, “Street Fighter” and “Super Mario Bros.”, the results are typically embarrassing for all concerned and more often than not, box office bombs. They seem to do better with darker video games or horror films. The “Resident Evil” series has its fans and the first “Silent Hill” film was quite a good horror flick on its own merits, while the remakes of “The Ring” and “Ju-on: The Grudge” weren’t so poorly done.

godzilla 2014 hollywood remake monster movie summer blockbuster japanese toho kaiju

Roland Emmerich previously laid waste to the Godzilla franchise in 1998 with a notoriously cringe-worthy and stupid film adaptation. It was a literally a disaster movie.

In these post-Christopher Nolan days, though, Hollywood blockbusters are darker and grittier, so expect more handheld CGI shots. And if the tone is anything to go by in the trailer, lead actor Bryan Cranston will bring a raw emotion to the film that was utterly lacking in the comedic Emmerich film.

The studio sells its new version of Toho’s monster classic like this:

“An epic rebirth to Toho’s iconic Godzilla, this spectacular adventure, from Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures, pits the world’s most famous monster against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.”

Here’s the official trailer.

It will be released in US theaters on May 16th (in other words, the first blockbuster of the summer season) and will be shown in 3D.

Directed by Gareth Edwards, the man who put a micro budget to very good use in his independent cult hit “Monsters”, this time he is working with $160 million, which must have been a bit of a change. With its distinguished cast of Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn and Sally Hawkins, the film is clearly aiming for serious dramatic elements on top of the special effects. Youngsters get eye candy in the shape of Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen to keep them occupied, while Ken Watanabe flies the Japanese flag for the film.

In the new telling, the A-bomb “tests” in the Pacific were apparently attempts to wipe out the monster. But they failed. And now he is back to wreck havoc on mankind, specifically New York.

After failing so dismally in 1998, we hope Hollywood has learnt its lesson.

What will Japanese audiences make of the new version? Having only moderately flocked to recent Hollywood fare that offered “Japanese” settings like “47 Ronin” and “The Wolverine”, this time the film doesn’t even have that going for it since the action has been transplanted to American soil. Sure, many will be curious what the monster looks like and Ken Watanabe has plenty of local fans, but ultimately the success of the movie in Japan will depend on the quality.

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Movie adaptation of “The Idolmaster” premieres January 25th

Written by: William on January 15, 2014 at 8:47 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

Movie adaptations of video games rarely work.

For every Silent Hill and Resident Evil there’s a Final Fantasy, Super Mario Bros. or Prince of Persia.

But things go better when Hollywood isn’t meddling with the Japanese source material.

And so it is we wait with bated breath for the upcoming film version of The Idolmaster, the mega successful Namco Bandai Xbox game that sees players become Yasushi Akimoto-type idol producers. If you’ve ever wanted to be in charge of your own idol group, this is the game for you.

he Idolmaster Movie: Kagayaki no Mukogawa e! The Idolmaster Movie: To the Other Side of the Light

The Idolmaster Movie: Kagayaki no Mukogawa e! (The Idolmaster Movie: To the Other Side of the Light) is a brave choice. Although the franchise is immensely successful as a game and anime series, how do you turn such a subject matter into a feature-length film?

And without the interaction element of the game and the digestible length of the TV anime, will it be as interesting for the general public, enough to justify the larger budget?

There is always the problem of the fine line between satisfying the hardcore fans and also bringing in new audiences.

he Idolmaster Movie: Kagayaki no Mukogawa e! The Idolmaster Movie: To the Other Side of the Light

Here’s the trailer.

We will find out on January 25th when it premieres in Shinjuku.

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Japan’s Disposable Workers: Lost in the Global Unemployment Crisis

Written by: William on January 7, 2014 at 7:41 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Happy New Year, readers.

2014 is the Year of the Horse and while we are still in the grips of the cold winter, things aren’t nearly as chilly as they are in parts of America right now.

We wanted to start off the year with a little write-up of this interesting-looking and very timely documentary we heard about.

Japan’s Disposable Workers: Lost in the Global Unemployment Crisis is directed by photographer and multi-media journalist Shiho Fukada and focuses on the workers who have no social safety net.

Japan's Disposable Workers: Lost in the Global Unemployment Crisis shiho fukada precariat film documentary

Often dubbed the Precariat overseas, the growth of this new generation of workers without lifetime employment was originally deplored as a post-Bubble, Heisei-era phenomenon. Needless to say, that was a gross simplification, as the economic heyday was built on the back of day laborers and others whose situations were very uncertain. Homelessness didn’t started in 1990.

Japan's Disposable Workers: Lost in the Global Unemployment Crisis shiho fukada precariat film documentary

The film looks at three main areas:

Overworked to Suicide
After the recession of the 1990′s, Japan’s white collar salarymen increasingly must work arduous hours for fear of losing their jobs. This often leads to depression and suicide.

Net Cafe Refugees
Internet cafes have existed in Japan for over a decade, but in the mid 2000’s, customers began using these spaces as living quarters. Internet cafe refugees are mostly temporary employees; their salary too low to rent their own apartments.

Dumping Ground
Kamagasaki, Osaka, Japan used to be a thriving day laborer’s town. Today, it is home to approximately 25,000 unemployed and elderly men, many of whom are also homeless.

Japan's Disposable Workers: Lost in the Global Unemployment Crisis shiho fukada precariat film documentary

As someone who used to live near Kamagasaki, I am particularly interested to see that section of the film.

It already screened in Washington DC last September at the Pulitzer Center Film Festival.

Japan's Disposable Workers: Lost in the Global Unemployment Crisis shiho fukada precariat film documentary

Here Shiho Fukada talks about her project in 2012 before she had finished making it.

It’s a cold time of year to be hopeless or poor in Japan (or anywhere). Here’s hoping the final film gets screened in Tokyo to raise awareness of the issues.

Go to MediaStorm.com for the trailer.

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Studio Ghibli’s latest film “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” blends realism and fantasy folktale

Written by: Mina on December 2, 2013 at 5:04 pm | In CULTURE | No Comments

On November 23rd, Studio Ghibli’s latest film Kaguyahime no monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya) was released in all theaters across Japan.

Kaguyahime no monogatari The Tale of Princess Kaguya

I have already seen a number of reviews so far, most of which are specifically focused on how different the film looks, compared to other Ghibli works from the past. But I would like to take a different approach.

Director Isao Takahata is famous for his depiction of real life, while his longtime friend and another Ghibli guru Hayao Miyazaki uses fantasy as a basic setting of his stories.

“The Tale of Princess Kaguya” is based on a Japanese folktale from the tenth century called Taketori monogatari – or  ”The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”. It’s a story about an old bamboo cutter who finds a tiny baby girl inside a bamboo stalk and together with his wife raises the baby as his own. The girl grows up to be a woman of ordinary size and of extraordinary beauty. She is approached by a number of suitors, but she somehow manages to reject all proposals. Finally, she reveals her biggest secret to her parents that she was sent from the moon as a result of some “promise” that she made and must return there. In the end, an emissary from the moon takes her back to where she belongs, leaving everyone in tears. It definitely doesn’t sound like a happy ending, doesn’t it?

Kaguyahime no monogatari The Tale of Princess Kaguya

One could easily argue that this film might be the most “fantastic” of Takahata’s all past works. Yet the primary focus of the story is not the encounter between humans and aliens but answering many questions of why. Why was she sent from the moon in the first place? Why was she sent to earth? Why was she so sad when she left earth? Why did she need to return?

The tag line reads “The crime and punishment of a princess”, which implies that this is not a simple feel-good story of a lunar princess who comes down to experience life on earth. Takahata says in one interview that the earth and the moon stand opposite from each other: while the moon might represent sanctitude but without any color or life of its own, the earth is full of life, hardships – and joy.

If the earth was considered ultimate hell where all sinners are sent to serve their sentence, Princess Kaguya would be happy to return home, which is obviously not the case here. Perhaps this is where he portrays realism over fantasy, in an imaginative story setting where he suggests that life on earth might at times be too cruel, yet it does have something that even heavenly beings from above envy.

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