Saturday, August 17, 2013

For the Love of Robots

From Guillermo del Toro's Sketchbook (
Japanese love robots. It is a nation of AIBO (remember the Sony dog robots?), ASIMO and NAO. Japanese literally created thousands of robot animes, starting from ASTRO BOY in 1950s. Now, it was foreseeable that Japanese fans of robots would be captivated by Guillermo del Toro's PACIFIC RIM. And we are. There is a report of rather disappointing box office results from the opening weekend, but the reactions from its audience are exceptionally better. Twitter is filled with illustrations drawn by the fans of the film, some of which are simply amazing. As I have discussed before, Japanese consumed incredible amount of robot/monster-related action animes, TV shows and films in last fifty years. I am not a particularly into this genre like other hardcore fans, but still, have seen the share of these inspiring (and uninspiring) works. Guillermo del Toro is a self-admitted fan (otaku) of all these works, and his vast knowledge of the genre resonates with Japanese audience (including me). By the way, my personal favorite of del Toro's work is still CRONOS (1993), a hypnotic horror fantasy film.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Early Wakamatsu's Work Discovered

Kouji Wakamatsu (CATERPILLAR(2010), UNITED RED ARMY(2008)) died last October by car accident. His unfortunate, premature death has created the huge void in Japanese cinema industry today. One of his earliest works, OSORUBEKI ISAN, HADAKA NO KAGE (恐るべき遺産 裸の影, 1963) was discovered recently and screened at SHINDO KANETO FILM FESTIVAL last week. Its premiere was 50 years ago and it has never been screened since. The film, according to Chunichi Shinbun, is about a girl in Hiroshima, who lost her parents in atomic bomb and herself was exposed to nuclear radiation. The trailer shows the small segment from the film, which indicates the noticeable decay. I hope the film go wider circulation, just not to commemorate the artist, but to bring his immortal message to the younger generations today.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Hoodlum Soldier (1965)

It's the year 1943, near the northern border of Manchuria. The infantry division of Japanese Army stationed in the midst of this barren land, quietly waiting for Soviet invasion (which actually took place in August 1945). Arita, a wary 3-year private, was dodging any hint of death as much as possible. He hates Army. He hates Soldiers. He had intentionally franked the promotion exam, so that he wouldn't have to order something horrible to the other soldiers. All he wanted was to go home. However, he was not a weakling nor an idealist. He was much more experienced, cunning and clever. He knew all the unpleasantness of the life in barracks, violent bullying, bloody punishment and incoherent command structures. He knew how to survive, not in the actual battle field, but in the barracks of abrasive Japanese Army. He knew how to be quiet. He could take unnecessary, sadistic beating from the superior, without flinching. He knew how to avoid troubles. Then, he was assigned to look after the new recruit fresh from Japan. Omiya was a hoodlum, a Yakuza bodyguard with zero tolerance to anything. Now, Arita had to really look after Omiya, otherwise he would be in trouble.
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