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


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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Terrace House – Season 1 (Series Review)

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


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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Hanzawa Naoki – Episode 4 (Review)

Hanzawa Naoki
Episode 4

Review by David Cirone


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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Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (trailer)


Preview trailer for Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, based on the Shinya Shokudo manga series by Yaro Abe, which won the 55th Shogakukan Manga Award.

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Hanzawa Naoki – Episode 3 (Review)

Hanzawa Naoki
Episode 3

Review by David Cirone


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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Kasha (Review)

Review by David Cirone


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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Hanzawa Naoki – Episode 2 (Review)

Hanzawa Naoki
Episode 2

Review by David Cirone


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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Hibana (Spark) (Series Review)

Hibana (Spark)
Series Review by David Cirone


Netflix’s latest Japanese series Hibana (Spark) is a deeply-felt, intelligent character drama about the highs and lows of the “manzai” comedy world, viewed through the complex friendship of its two lead characters, the shy but driven Tokunaga (Kento Hayashi) and the abrasive wild man Kamiya (Kazuki Namioka).

Based on Naoki Matayoshi’s award winning novel, the story spans 10 years, beginning with a bombed performance by Sparks, the young comedy duo of Tokunaga and his schoolboy partner Yamashita (Masao Yoshii). The newbie Sparks is bumped for time at a low-paying beach summer festival and forced to deliver their cerebral act against the tide of crowd noise and loudspeaker announcements. Feeling sympathy for their plight, Kamiya, the leader of the following act, Ahondara (or “airheads”), swears he’ll get revenge, and launches a fierce tirade against the exiting audience, condemning them one-by-one to go to hell.


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