Jan 09 2018

35-sai no Koukousei (Series Review)

35-sai no Koukousei
Series Review by David Cirone

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No Dropping Out -Back to School at 35- (35-sai no Koukousei) aims for shock value and social relevance, framing the struggles of modern high school students inside an outrageous premise — what if a beautiful, smart, world-experienced 35-year-old woman put on a school uniform and came to class with these impressionable teenagers?

The result is a flat, predictable, and meandering middle-school play, the kind where every kid gets one line to justify their presence on stage and make their parents happy. Each episode focuses on a different member of the senior class at Kunikida High who reveals his or her secret troubles (bullying, self-esteem, academic pressure) to the mysterious new student Ayako Baba (Ryoko Yonekura). By the end of each episode, somebody cries, Baba gives some inspirational advice, and then smiles come back again.

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Aug 20 2017

My Teacher (film trailer)

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Warner Brothers Japan has released the English-subtitled trailer for the upcoming film adaptation My Teacher, based on the Sensei! …Suki ni Natte mo ii Desuka? manga series by Kazune Kawahara.

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Aug 09 2017

Hirokazu Koreeda’s Sandome no Satsujin selected for 74th Venice International Film Festival

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Sandome no Satsujin (The Third Murder), starring Masaharu Fukuyama, has been selected for competition at the 74th Venice International Film Festival. Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, Fukuyama co-stars with Koji Yakusho and Suzu Hirose. The film opens September 9 in Japan.

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Jan 31 2017

Terrace House – Season 1 (Series Review)

Terrace House – Boys and Girls in the City
Season 1 – Part 1 Review by David Cirone

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Terrace House, now streaming in the U.S. on Netflix, is the Japanese “Real World”-style reality show watered-down to be as polite and PG as possible. Absent are the sensational, over-the-top, media-career-minded personalities we’re accustomed to on U.S. TV — nobody throws a drink in someone’s face, nobody trashes the house or gets caught in a drunk “Oh my god what did I do” late-night affair. Instead, Terrace House offer lots of subdued conversation, repressed emotions, and episodes full of frustrating indecision.

The “Terrace House” of the title is huge by Tokyo standards, crafted from immaculate stone and glass architecture. If you think this is going to be your typical shared apartment in Japan, think again. It’s got a game room, spacious kitchen, private pool… a paradise in central Tokyo. But instead of being impressed and energized by their new environment, the house guests all seem terribly intimidated, and the shyness and reservation inspired by the home never seems to go away.

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Nov 12 2016

Hanzawa Naoki – Episode 4 (Review)

Hanzawa Naoki
Episode 4

Review by David Cirone

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After his temporary victory at the surprise on-site inspection, Hanzawa (Masato Sakai) finds himself on borrowed time as bank manager Asano (Kanji Ishimaru) moves forward with his plan to get Hanzawa transferred out of the bank as punishment for the bank’s losses.

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Oct 09 2016

Hanzawa Naoki – Episode 3 (Review)

Hanzawa Naoki
Episode 3

Review by David Cirone

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Even though Hanzawa failed to grab Higashida’s property, the determined banker is causing too much trouble for his scheming superiors, and they order a surprise three-day inspection to keep him off balance and prevent any more surprise moves.

Led by Tokyo Chuo Bank’s Deputy Manager Ogiso (still steaming from losing face at the disciplinary hearing), a team of auditors marches in and demands a “random” list of records, and it’s obvious that the list has been designed to focus on the bank’s most troublesome loans. The auditors pick apart the records, finding fault after fault, chastising both Hanzawa and his team for careless errors. Hanzawa takes it on the chin, and his subordinates are guilt-ridden for adding to Hanzawa’s already perilous position.

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Oct 07 2016

Kasha (Review)

Kasha
Review by David Cirone

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Kasha, based on the mystery novel by Miyuki Miyabe, is a disappointingly flat adaptation, packed with thematic missteps and lacking both the heart and intrigue of the original story.

Set in the early 90s, Kasha (superbly translated by Alfred Birnbaum in the U.S book version as All She Was Worth) follows injured Tokyo police detective Shunsuke Honma (Takaya Kamikawa) as he reluctantly investigates his nephew twice-removed’s missing fiancee. Honma’s feeling useless at home, benched indefinitely after a robbery shooting, and the chance to get out of the house and do something useful is too tempting to refuse.

Honma soon discovers that the missing woman, Shoko Sekine, has been leading a double life, secretly taking over another woman’s identity and wooing Honma’s nephew into marriage. Shoko’s credit card application reveals a bankruptcy in her past, and she’s fled Tokyo without a trace. Honma puts together the pieces of Sekine’s dark past, leading him toward a fateful confrontation with the woman who may have committed murder to start a new life.

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Sep 08 2016

Hanzawa Naoki – Episode 2 (Review)

Hanzawa Naoki
Episode 2

Review by David Cirone

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In the aftermath of Hanzawa’s face-off with the bank’s disciplinary committee, his superiors scramble to do damage control and put a swift end to Hanzawa’s unpredictable plan. Moreover, the longer they wait to put Hanzawa in his place, the more they’ll risk damage to their own fragile reputations.

Hanzawa (Masato Sakai) finds an unlikely ally in the bank’s Executive Director Owada (Teruyuki Kagawa), who’s watching Hanzawa’s actions from headquarters with wariness and amusement (and also, from a strategically safe distance). He’s intrigued by Hanzawa’s spirit and ability to one-up his superiors, and he refuses to step in, urging branch director Asano and his comrades to clean up their own mess.

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