All posts filed under: Eye On

Eye-On-Manga-Tanjo

The Manga Master

Updated 2018/10/08: Added new trailer in anticipation of its World Premiere at the Tokyo International Festival The proliferation of manga across the globe has been one of the pillars of the Japanese government’s economic soft power initiative, “Cool Japan” which also works to spread Japanese culture internationally. Many Japanese are often surprised by how knowledgeable foreigners can be regarding many popular manga titles as well as the increasing number of tourists who flock to Japan to consume and experience manga culture first hand. That being said, the roots of the medium itself is most likely unknown to both Japanese and international fans alike. Revealing the little known history of manga is the aim of The Manga Master which is directed by Oki Moe who is helming her second feature. Her debut work, Firecracker Ideals was a purely independent spin on the contemporary morose of young people as they grow to see the wide disparity between their life idealized through youthful ambitions versus unwelcome realities. It was hailed as a confident movie capturing some of the …

Eye-On-Sweating-the-Small-Stuff

Sweating the Small Stuff

It’s often said a filmmaker’s second work tends to be their most personal. For Ninomiya Ryutaro, the writer, director, editor, and star of his sophomore effort Sweating the Small Stuff this could literally be the case. Reportedly based on true events, and apparently shot in the locations those events happened, is the story of the protagonist (also named Ninomiya Ryutaro) spinning his wheels through a nihilistic life his very own? Auto mechanic Ryutaro, 27 years old, lives a fairly simple life. He seems confident, at least his swagger communicates as much, but spends much of his time reading books and drinking beers with friends. Something seems to be holding him back. One day, he receives a phone call from Yusuke, his childhood friend whose mother, Ryuko, is dying from Hepatitis C. Despite knowing for a while that Ryuko was sick, Ryutaro hasn’t visited her. And then he finally decides to go. Japanese independent cinema is populated with similar tales of characters aimlessly drifting through life but Ninomya’s movie may be able to distinguish itself from …

Eye-On-Tale-of-a-Butcher-Shop

Tale of a Butcher Shop

There is a German documentary from 2005 titled Our Daily Bread. Without narration or much in the way of music, it brought to light with mesmerizing visuals the impact convenience and modern mass-production methods have had on the food we consume. The meditative quality of the documentary left reaction solely to the viewers, be it shock, disgust, amazement, etc. On first look, Hanabusa Aya’s 2013 documentary Tale of a Butcher Shop may well be the Japanese pseudo-companion piece. The local butcher shop remains a visible and well-loved part of many communities throughput Japan. But like everywhere, these are slowly disappearing feature of the landscape due to modernization and demands for meat to be sold at volume and for low prices. The Kitades are a family who live outside Osaka. They have been raising and slaughtering the cows they sell for meat at their small butcher shop for over 100 years. As the family embark upon their decision to close shop in response to competition from corporate supermarkets, the three butcher siblings contemplate life afterwards. By …

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3ft Ball & Souls

When Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin had Bill Murray relive a single day repeatedly until he got the day right, the concept was so original and fresh the title of their movie is used to describe any story with a similar narrative device. Most recently, ‘All You Need Is Kill’ the Japanese manga and Edge of Tomorrow put a sci-fi spin on the concept by making the time loop a stratagem employed by the antagonists. However, this latest update and many others following the original were focused on the protagonist’s retries as a vehicle for personal development which ultimately breaks the cycle. The fresh and emotional spin director Kato Yoshio has put on the concept for his latest, 3ft Ball and Souls, is three characters are tasked with the maturity of another. Four troubled strangers, a fireworks craftsman, a first year residency doctor, a grief stricken mother, and a high school girl–the youngest among them–meet at online suicide club and decide to get together for the singular purpose of dying together. Fate intervenes, however, as …

Eye-On-A-Crimson-Star

A Crimson Star

UPDATE 2 (Sep. 20, 2018) Added link to report on the press screening. UPDATE 1 (Aug. 23, 2018) Included brand new trailer released to coincide with its Raindance Film Festival competition berth. Also removed proof-of-concept short which has been taken offline now that the movie is slated for a December 2018 release. Filmmakers, particularly writer/directors, drawing on their personal lives to inform or even inspire the movies they direct is not uncommon. When leading a production crew and directing actors on one’s first few films, communicating what one wants based on one’s experiences more than likely aids in achieving the desired results. At the age of 19, director Igashi Aya directed her Toho Gakuen Film Techniques Training College graduate thesis, Tokeru. She stated the movie was the story she could make at that age as a young girl living in the Hokkaido countryside. Tokeru is an outpouring of her frustration at watching and hearing her classmates banal conversations and pointless ambitions. The emotional and adolescent confusion portrayed by the lead character as well as the …

Eye-On-Our-House

Our House

At its core Kiyohara Yui’s Our House is a story of two women. Seri is an adolescent girl living in an old house with her mother who Seri knows is planning to get remarried with her new lover. Sana is an amnesiac who is given sanctuary in the home of Toko, a woman seemingly harboring many secrets. Gradually, however, the movie begins to reveal why it won two awards at the Pia Film Festival, and earned screenings at the Berlin International Film Festival’s Forum Section and at the Lincoln Film Center in New York. With a high-concept usually found in science fiction and the forward thinking of an experimental movie, Kiyohara slowly begins overlapping these stories occurring in parallel as the boundaries between them become increasingly porous. Yet, nothing about it suggests it is a “genre” movie per se. Though there is a level of spookiness applied by Kiyohara as the occupants of the house begin to sense one another–no doubt attributable to her mentorship with Kurosawa Kiyoshi–the contrivance is primarily a form of storytelling. …

Eye-On-Amiko

Amiko

Rebellious teens and social rebelliousness have been and are an oft used theme in movies though some of the most memorable works were products of the social unrest of the 60s and 70s, both abroad and in Japan. While a fair degree of such movies are still offered by the independent scene abroad, much of the spirited filmmaking pioneered by such filmmakers as Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Sono Sion, Tsukamoto Shinya, and Ishii Sogo in the late 70s and 80s has all but vanished in Japan. So, when a movie that recaptures much of the feel of those bygone days emerges, not just stylistically but in terms of its content, people take notice. That the director of this movie is a 20-year-old young woman, the youngest ever to participate in the Forum Section of the Berlin International Film Festival, is further cause for excitement. Amiko is the story of a high school girl in a small provincial town who is absolutely convinced the Japanese have lost any sense of spontaneity. But a long conversation with Aomi, a …