Jul 26 2015

IS ~Otoko Demo Onna Demo Nai Sei~ (Series Review)

IS ~Otoko Demo Onna Demo Nai Sei~
Review by Jen Wang

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Although IS ~Otoko Demo Onna Demo Nai Sei~ gets off on the wrong foot with an incorrect statistic in its opening graphic, this 2011 adaptation of a manga series helps raise awareness of the lives of intersex individuals. “Intersex” refers to variation in sex characteristics that do not fit typical definitions of “male” or “female”. The differences may be external, internal, or both. IS follows two teenagers who go through the ups and downs of adolescence while struggling with their gender identity.

Despite growing up as a male, Haru Hoshino (Saki Fukuda) has begun to appear more female, his registered sex. As a result, he has to transfer to a new high school under a new identity. Although his parents are supportive, Haru reveals that they too have struggled with acceptance in the past. On the other hand, Miwako Aihara (Ayame Gouriki) has a neglectful father and an abusive mother who forces her to be more feminine. Miwa find solace in Haru’s friendship, but she still has many inner demons. Meanwhile, Haru has to contend with an outside world that insists on enforcing a strict gender binary.

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Jul 15 2015

Otoko no Isshou – BD/DVD Trailer

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Pony Canyon has released a 2-minute scene from their upcoming BD/DVD release of Otoko no Ishhou, starring Nana Eikura and Etsushi Toyokawa.

The 2015 romantic film was directed by Ryuichi Hiroki, based on Keiko Nishi’s manga story.

Mar 10 2015

Rookies – Episode 8 (Review)

ROOKIES
Episode 8

Review by David Cirone

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SUMMARY
The Nikogaku team faces off against their old nemesis Enatsu (Yusuke Kamiji), the instigator of the brawl that disbanded the team and crushed the dreams of the young players. Kawato (Ryuta Sato) states it outright at the start of the episode, proclaiming that the boys are facing off against the ghosts of their former selves.

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Feb 04 2015

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno (Film Review)

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno
Review by Jen Wang

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The red-haired wanderer is back, and so are the demons of the past. The second live-action adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin covers the infamous Kyoto Arc, bringing to life Himura Kenshin’s most formidable opponent, Makoto Shishio (an unrecognizable Tatsuya Fujiwara). The former assassin is plotting to take down the government that betrayed him—a government that must rely on another one of its former weapons, the man once known as the Battousai. Kenshin (Takeru Sato), however, is reluctant, but with an entire city at stake, he has no choice. Kyoto Inferno sets him on the path, littered with several eager to fight the infamous Battousai, to the ultimate showdown.
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Jan 24 2015

The Yellow Handkerchief (Review)

The Yellow Handkerchief (Shiawase no Kiiroi Hankachi)
Review by David Cirone

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Starring Ken Takakura as a drifter picked up by a joyriding young couple, The Yellow Handkerchief starts out with just enough tension to keep you hooked on the possible outcomes of what is essentially a loosely-plotted, dialogue-heavy road movie. Will Takakura’s character reveal the reasons for his troubling dreams of a prison escape? Will the young girl (Kaori Mamoi) get in over her head with the puppy-dog-in-heat driver (Tetsuya Takeda) she’s decided to hitchhike with?

Yes, you find out the answers, but nothing goes in a straight line in The Yellow Handkerchief, and moments of character drama are deftly intercut with comedy and occasional silence to let us fully engage and care about each member of the central trio. I was impressed by director Yoji Yamada’s restraint and his use of long, wide shots of the the Japanese countryside that let us decide our own pace of engagement.

The Yellow Handkerchief won the first Best Picture award at the Japan Academy Prize in 1978, and it still holds up nearly 40 years later as a touching, unpredictable drama and a fantastic showcase for Takakura’s magnetic performance.

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