Posted tagged ‘yamada takayuki’

Film Review: 13 Assassins (2010)

October 19, 2011

My ‘ssassin Boys

by Ender’s Girl

(Sorry for the lame-o title-o, but a pun on the hit 2001 K-romcom My Sassy Girl was the best I could come up with – though I know not everyone can relate. My apologies.)

The Cast:
Yakusho Koji, Yamada Takayuki, Iseya Yusuke, Matsukata Hiroki, Inagaki Goro, Ihara Tsuyoshi, Sawamura Ikki, Furuta Arata, Takaoka Sousuke, Rokkaku Seiji, Matsumoto Koshiro, Namioka Kazuki, Kondo Koen, Ishigaki Yuma, Kubota Masataka, Ichimura Masachika

Directed by Miike Takashi / Toho & Sedic International, 2010

In a Nutshell:
A crack team of 13 samurai battles the odds – and an army of 200 elite guardsmen – in a suicide mission to dispatch an evil lord in late-Edo Japan.

(SpoilLert: Don’t worry, not saying who dies – or lives – in the end!)

“A good fort needs a gap. The enemy must be lured in so we can attack them. If we only defend, we lose the war.”

– Shimada Kambei in Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)

With 13 Assassins, master provoc-auteur Miike Takashi takes on a revitalized genre that, in recent years, has become the playground of veteran filmmakers like Yamada Yoji who favor quieter, deconstructed re-imaginings of samurai slumming it in the relatively bloodless years of the Pax Tokugawa.

In sharp contrast to Miike’s 2010 period opus (and, uh, 183,034th career feature to date lol), Yamada Yoji jidaigeki (Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade) are leisurely explorations of the minutiae of Japanese feudal society – samurai pass their time running office errands, dabbling in a trade, or perhaps, on more exciting days, refereeing (or figuring in) a domestic spat or two. In this era of peace, nobody has time to whinge about not having any civil wars to fight, or foreign armies to repel, or rival daimyo to vanquish (the daily grind of life is a battle in itself). And instead of traditional heroes and villains, Yamada Yoji protagonists are but regular blokes, and the antagonists usually snooty in-laws or petty, opportunistic bureaucrats.

Now enter Miike Takashi’s World, where: “If it ain’t about the killin’, then it ain’t worth filmin’!!!” His samurai and aristos are just. too. cool to trouble themselves with such mind-numbing mundanities; they loaf through the hated peacetime torpor with a bad case of the blahs, willing themselves back to the good ol’ pre-shogunate g(l)ory days of barbarism and bloodshed, when everyone and everything went by the credo “Fight-o ergo sum.” Robbed of their self-validating license to do violence, they longingly finger their idle swords while dreaming of honor and sacrifice, and nursing death wishes of an epic scale to match their own aspirations to immortality.

Goro Gone Bad, after the jump! Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!


Movie Smackdown (Part 1): Crows Zero (2007 & 2009) vs. Volcano High (2001)

September 24, 2010

Battlefield High School

Part One: Counting Crows, Feuding Foes

by Ender’s Girl

A murder of Crows, a violent eruption of teen superpowers… and oh yes, those epic dogfights in the pelting rain and churning mud. Get a taste of high school action, J- and K-style.

Love is a battlefield, as Pat Benatar lustily declared in her 1983 song. Planet Earth is one too, according to John Travolta’s alien Psychlo character from his 2000 intergalactic flop.

Aaaand… so is high school, apparently – a premise that has spawned an entire genre of teen action comedy/dramedy on screens big and small. You need only transplant the barroom brawling and gangsta-mongering from mainstream action flicks into the tamer, more innocuous environs of an educational institution, and voila! – Battlefield High School.

The fact that these stories are set on a high school campus lends a patina of harmlessness to the violent scenarios — even though the plot actually has less to do with academics than with a bunch of overgrown kids fond of rearranging each others’ faces and dislocating random body parts as their after-school routine. To describe these types of productions (most rating not lower than PG-15 or its equivalent) as being “about high school life” is like saying that Titanic was about the, um, iceberg. The school setting isn’t really the point; films like these get made so that teen audiences — ah, those intense little creatures! — can live out their aggressive, hormone-fueled fantasies that continually chafe (futilely, it seems to them) against the carefully imposed strictures of a traditionalistic, “adults rule” society.

Korean director Kim Tae-gyun and Japanese filmmaker Miike Takashi tender two alternate interpretations of this proposition with Volcano High and the Crows Zeros, respectively — all diverting, popcorn-friendly fare, but each bearing the unique and heavily stylized stamp of its maker.

Crows Zero & Crows Zero II

The Cast:
Oguri Shun, Yamada Takayuki, Yabe Kyosuke, Kiritani Kenta, Takaoka Sousuke, Kaneko Nobuaki, Miura Haruma

Directed by Miike Takashi / Toho Company, 2007 & 2009

In a Nutshell:
Senior toughie Takiya Genji transfers to the notoriously lawless Suzuran All-Boys’ High School. His mission? To vanquish the rival student gangs one by one and earn the title of Suzuran’s top dog – er, crow – and thus prove to his yakuza boss of a father that he has what it takes to inherit the family business. The biggest obstacle to Genji’s mission happens to be Suzuran’s strongest and most dangerous punk Serizawa Tamao and his head-bashing posse of high school hoods.

(SpoilLert: Moderately spoilery.)

Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!

Vid Clip: Thirteen Assassins trailer (d. Miike Takashi, 2010)

September 3, 2010

Unlucky Them, Lucky Us!

by Ender’s Girl

Prolific cult director Miike Takashi’s remake of Kudo Eiichi’s 1963 chanbara classic Juusan-nin no Shikaku/Thirteen Assassins is currently vying for the Golden Lion at the 67th Venice International Film Festival, facing stiff competition from a diverse gallery of auteurs ranging from the acclaimed to the quirky to the downright notorious (uh, Vincent Gallo the Brown Bunny Man, anyone? YUCK). The VIFF runs from Sept. 1-11, 2010.

Set in the late Edo Period, the story of Thirteen Assassins is said to be loosely grounded in history: a covert samurai strike team carefully lays an ambush in a remote mountain village. The target? An evil maharajah — er, noble who will be traversing the nearby mountain pass with his retinue — and this being the time of the Shogunate, “retinue” roughly translates to “a small army of badass bodyguards.” It is a worthy plan, but will the stealth and cunning of these doughty warriors prevail against the sheer numbers of their foes? Well, Japan will find out when the film opens Sept. 25th.

Trailer (and some other stuff) after the jump!

Drama & Film Review: Densha Otoko / Train Man (Fuji TV, 2005)

December 20, 2009

Beauty and the Geek

by Ender’s Girl


The Cast (drama):
Ito Misaki, Ito Atsushi, Shiraishi Miho, Toyohara Kosuke, Horikita Maki, Oguri Shun (hehe)

The Cast (film):
Yamada Takayuki, Nakatani Miki, Kuninaka Ryoko, Eita (hehe)

Directed by Murakami Shosuke; Adapted screenplay by Kaneko Arisa / Toho Company, 2005


In a Nutshell:
Guy meets Girl on a train. (Except that our Guy is your Ultimate Akiba Geek — a bespectacled, backpack-lugging, action figure-collecting, Tokyo Anime Center habitué who lives in his tiny cubicle of a room and has never scored a date in his life, while our Girl is a 6-foot-tall, Benoist tea-drinking, angel-faced goddess who was raised in luxury and is more or less genetically predisposed to being, oh, PERFECT. DOES OUR HERO HAVE A SHOT IN HELL????

(SpoilLert: Very! But it doesn’t matter because anyone who’s ever been online knows this fairy tale by heart–and how it ends.)

[Recommended companion track: What else? “Twilight” by the Electric Light Orchestra]

“I Choo-Choo-Choose You!”
– Valentine’s Day card given by Lisa Simpson to Ralph Wiggum, The Simpsons Season 4


Otaku Rising

Otaku of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your Evangelion action figures, Nintendo joysticks, and Pokemon hand puppets! Hahahahaha

But seriously, never before has the geek counterculture enjoyed so much social acceptability as it does now. The Information/Technology Age IS the Age of the SuperGeek: Geek chic is the new cool, nerdishness is practically mainstream. Oh, the old stereotypes are still there — the gadgetry and gizmos and the gawkiness and the geekspeak esoterica and a hundred-and-one other oddities, and they aren’t really expected to go away anytime soon in media and pop culture. But with society’s growing dependence on technology and all its fringe benefits, and with a thriving film and TV drama niche dedicated to advancing the Cause of the Nerd (and the Revenge of the Otaku!), comes this one inescapable truth: “Blessed are the geeks, for they shall inherit the earth.”


But first, to disambiguate: The term “otaku” is probably closer in meaning to “geek” than to “nerd.” Although both terms connote a conspicuous lack of social skills, geeks are distinguished by their “eccentric devotion to a particular interest,” while nerds are usually perceived to be “intelligent, single-minded experts in a particular technical discipline” (Oxford Dictionary of English). But the otaku spectrum is an eclectic one, and anywhere within its ambit you will find the audio/videophiles, gamers and techies, manga/anime junkies, cosplay enthusiasts, “technosexuals” and “infornographers,” seiyuu groupies, mecha collectors, maid café regulars… and maybe an actual Trekkie or two. But for the most part, geekhood is mostly a harmless, if rather arcane calling. Geek extremism, however, is never pretty: on the fringe of the fringe you have the otaku as sociopathic killer (take the 1989 Miyazaki Tsutomu kidnap/murder case for instance, or even the more recent Akihabara Massacre), as well as the crazies who actually marry video game characters in webcast ceremonies officiated by actual freakin’ priests, ugh.

Hop on board! (Toot! Toot!) Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!

Drama Review: Byakuyakou / Journey Under a Midnight Sun (TBS, 2006)

November 30, 2009

Road to Perdition

by Ender’s Girl


The Cast:
Yamada Takayuki, Ayase Haruka, Takeda Tetsuya, Watabe Atsuro, Yo Kimiko, Yachigusa Kaoru, Kashiwabara Takashi, Izumisawa Yuki, Fukuda Mayuko

In a Nutshell:
Two children commit the unthinkable but manage to deceive the police — except for one homicide detective who stays doggedly on their trail. But old sins cast long shadows, and their original crime inevitably leads to the next, and to the next, and to the next…

(SpoilLert: Spoilers right off the bat! Tread carefully.)

[Recommended companion tracks: “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden; “Eclipse” by Pink Floyd]


“Long is the way
And hard, that out of Hell leads up to light;”

– John Milton, “Paradise Lost”


These two kids, how they break my heart.

What makes a murderer? Does it really boil down to personal choice? Or is it when circumstances beyond one’s control present both the means and the opportunity to make that choice in the first place? And when a person takes the life of another, what does it do to them? What if this person were just a child?

When a grownup commits murder, it seems almost ordinary by society’s standards, and perhaps the more sensational ones (like crimes of passion) will merit a passing mention in the local news. But when a child commits murder, why do we feel so shaken right down to our very core? We often overlook the fact that children are capable of doing a lot more than we give them credit for. They can fight, they can hurt each other, they can defend themselves or those whom they love, they can think and feel and react, they can lie and steal — they can make moral choices. It is modern society that blithely looks away from this reality, choosing instead to view children with rosy-tinted innocence while denying them any smidgen of personal accountability.


When an eleven-year-old boy sticks a knife in his own father’s chest, when a girl of the same age plots to gas her own mother to death — what does this do to them? And what does this do to us, as viewers? How do these young killers live with the implications of their crimes? What do they do to survive, and how do they deal with potential obstacles to their freedom?

Byakuyakou is the journey that these two children, Kirihara Ryouji and Nishimoto Yukiho, undertake together as they carry their burden of guilt and fear and shame through uncharted territory, hacking out their own road in this wilderness while leaving a trail of blood and lies and tears. For the story of Byakuyakou is also a journey deep into the human heart, this no man’s land of hidden valleys and dark, endless tunnels. There are more secrets to bury, more crimes to cover up before the statute of limitations expires — and beyond this, freedom.

Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!