Sep 22 2015

Outrage (Film Review)

Review by David Cirone


In Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage, violence comes suddenly and at full force, often preceded by brief, polite conversation. A successful character study disguised as a standard yakuza crime drama, Kitano returns to the his signature gangster genre (there’s a ten-year gap between this release and 2000’s Brother), stacking the film with great actors like Jun Kinimura as Ikemoto, Kitano’s benefactor turned enemy, and Kippei Shiina as Kitano’s right-hand man. Kitano himself (performing as alter-ego Beat Takeshi) is typically grounded and realistic, fitting right into his role as underworld boss Otomo, who gets caught in a battle for power between his superiors.

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Sep 06 2015

Rookies – Episode 11 (Review)

Episode 11

Review by David Cirone


The Nikogaku team has reached the semi-finals, and the dugout is filled with a feeling of dread and insecurity. Mikoshiba (Kiesuke Koide) speaks to his team with the full authority of his position as captain, urging them to keep fighting for the sake of their teammates and their absent coach.

Kawato (Ryuta Sato) stands at the border of the stadium, listening intently to the game’s radio broadcast as Nikogaku squares off against their rivals Megurogawa and their star pitcher Enatsu (Yusuke Kamiji). An early home run by Shinjo (Yu Shirota) gives them hope, but the team is suffering from too many injuries. Sekikawa’s (Akiyoshi Nakao) base-stealing fails because of his sprained ankle, and Aniya’s (Hayato Ichihara) anguish grows more visible with every pitch.

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Aug 20 2015

Last Cinderella (Series Review)

Series Review by David Cirone


Last Cinderella piles on the cute. As much a fantasy story as its namesake, the series trips over itself time and time again as it overtly panders to a middle-aged female audience. Despite its talented and earnest cast led by Ryoko Shinohara and featuring Haruma Miura and Naohito Fujiki as her dueling love interests, Last Cinderella never found it balance and took itself too seriously. Played for straight comedy, it might have been more successful.

Sakura (Shinohara) has no confidence, no dating experience, no fashion sense, no clue about makeup, and no radar for judging how the people (especially men) around her feel. One month shy of 40, she’s become androgynous, a point hammered home by the beginnings of a beard sprouting from her chin in the first episode.

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Aug 08 2015

Rookies – Episode 10 (Review)

Episode 10

Review by David Cirone


As the Nikogaku team rises in the qualifying rounds for Koshien, rumors begin to spread about the team, and coach Kawato (Ryuta Sato) earns the attention of the horse-racing obsessed sports writer Yoshida (Atsuro Watabe). Is it possible that the violent kids and their violent teacher are intimidating their opponents off-field?

The High School Baseball League takes the rumors seriously and calls Kawato in for a conference, citing Kawato’s history at his previous school and the recent attack on another coach (see episode 5). The challenge to their team’s integrity comes at the same time as their schoolmates are treating them like celebrities and as the boys are deepening their self-confidence.

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Jul 26 2015

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

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


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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