Dec 06

Shazai no Ousama (The Apology King) (Review)

The Apology King (Shazai no Ousama)
Review by David Cirone


For the first hour of Shazai no Ousama (The Apology King), Sadao Abe’s tour-de-force comedic performance is so detailed, surprising, and funny that it distracted me from the larger, heartfelt film that forms in the background. The film delivers many well-earned laughs as openly skewers Japanese tabloids, media figures, and the country’s gossip culture, and its episodic structure slowly starts to link together the various characters that dogeza (“apology”) expert Ryoro Kurojima (Abe) encounters in his mission to profit from the perfect apology.



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Nov 04

Suitei Yuuzai (Series Review)

Suitei Yuuzai (Presumption of Guilt)
Review by David Cirone


Twelve years ago, a young girl is found murdered in a park. The police come up empty-handed, but their chief suspect is a long-shot — a door-to-door salesman Shinozuka (Jun Kunimura) with a history of assault. Unable to find firm evidence, they pin their case on experimental DNA tests which point to Shinozuka. At trial, he reluctantly confesses his guilt and is sentenced to life in prison. Suddenly, new DNA evidence comes to light, and Shinozuka is found innocent after spending over a decade in prison. How will he adjust to his new freedom and start a new life in the shadow of his past?

Attorney Yoko Ishihara (Hitomi Kuroki), tenacious and pragmatic, represents Shinozuka, pushing for the updated DNA test that proves Shinozuka’s innocence. She wants to make the police force and the media repay the debt of Shinozuka’s long years in prison, during which he suffered the death of his estranged wife and became separated from his only daughter. She’s out for revenge, and she’s smart enough to realize the high-profile case will further her own political ambitions.


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Sep 11

Rookies – Episode 6 (Review)

Episode 6

Review by David Cirone


Episode 6 of the series is where Rookies goes from good great, when so many traditional “happy-ending” elements don’t come true. Picking up mere seconds after the last episode, Shinjo (Yu Shirota) steps to the plate in the ninth inning with two outs and a runner on base. Strike 1… Strike 2…


Shinjo cracks the ball straight into the outfield for an easy base hit, but Sekikawa (Akiyoshi Nakao) lets his excitement get the better of him and tries to score the winning run. He slides into home plate in a cloud of dirt as all his friends watch in freeze frame. Will their dreams come true? Will they find honor and respect in this victory? Everything come into clear focus when the dust clears and Sekikawa is tagged out. Game over.

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Aug 01

Black Butler (Film Review)

Black Butler (film)
Review by Jen Wang


A return to monarchy, big pharma trying to control the 1%, and sexism galore—the future depicted in the live-action Black Butler (also known as Kuroshitsuji) is unappealing even if the fashion is splendidly fabulous. The film tries a little too hard to adhere to the original manga, hence the bleak setting and strange Victorian attitudes.  Nevertheless, the quirky elements and interplay of light and darkness, human and supernatural make Black Butler compelling and unique.

In this adaptation, an orphan named Shiori Genpo (Ayame Gouriki) has summoned the demonic butler Sebastian (Hiro Mizushima) to help her carry out vengeance in exchange for her soul. Disguised as a boy, she gathers clues about her parents’ murder while running her family’s company and serving as “Watchdog” for the Queen. Why the Queen needs a spy is never clear; the political intrigue falls by the wayside as the film gets more personal. The case of mummified corpses establishes a fantastical tone with some sci-fi tech thrown in later, but the role of a sinister drug company and the fate of the young female victims are uncomfortably reminiscent of real life events. This is creepier than anything Sebastian does.

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Apr 27

Space Battleship Yamato (Film Review)

Space Battleship Yamato (film)
Review by Jen Wang


The live-action adaption of the classic anime, Space Battleship Yamato, has all the potential to be an epic space opera.  A malevolent alien species called Gamilas threatens the existence of humanity, which decides to bank its chances on a Hail Mary mission carried out by the oddball crew of the Yamato.  There’s cool special effects, tense action scenes, moments of tragedy and humor, and even a dash of romance.  The promise the film shows in the beginning, however, ends up petering out into clichés and heavy-handed melodrama.

Takuya Kimura plays the perfectly-coiffed reluctant hero, Susumu Kodai.   His lonely life is turned upside down by a bizarre accident.  Despite having no love for the military, he re-enlists to help out Yamato‘s crew, most of whom welcome him with open arms and a few drinks.  Only Yuki Mori (Meisa Kuroki), the young ace pilot with a mean right hook, treats him coldly.  There’s no explanation for the familiarity and her grudge until Mori sits down with Kodai’s friend, Daisuke Shima (Naoto Ogata), in a very contrived scene.


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