Tag Archives: Asian

The girl who leapt through time, Japanese (animated) movie (2006)

I’m going to let you in on a little secret about me: I never sleep in. Not even in the weekends. I’m always up early, usually at around six in the morning, and I do this because time is precious and I don’t want to lose too much of it by sleeping. (It also helps that I don’t need much sleep, so there is that). As a result that means I am never late for things either. I always arrive way too early at my work, or at appointments. I’m always amazed at people that arrive 2 minutes before they have to be somewhere. I would go completely nuts if that were me. It all would be so much easier though if there was some way we could travel through time. We would literally have all the time in the world, and things would be so much easier. Or would they? Even though it might sound like a very nice thing to be able to travel through time, and maybe even correct mistakes you might have made, it always comes with a consequence. Something that the movie I am about to review is trying to make painfully clear.

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I would not recommend stepping of your bike like that. You might get hurt.

In The girl who leapt through time we meet the happy go lucky highschoolgirl Makoto Konno. She lives at home with her parents and her younger sister, and enjoys playing baseball. She is always in a rush though, racing on her bike to get to places in time, and nearly always arriving late at school. One day after class ends, while riding downhill on her bike, her brakes fail. She desperately tries to find a way to stop before hitting a railroad crossing, but fails and gets hit by an oncoming train. But then strange things start to happen. She all of a sudden finds herself back on her bike, just before the accident happens. This time events happen differently. She soon finds out she has the power to time-leap, essentially travelling back in time for short or longer distances. Makoto begins to enjoy her new found power and uses it for relatively small things such as getting perfect grades or arriving in time. Her two closest friends Chiaki and Kousuke are beginning to notice changes in her behaviour. Eventually time catches up with her, and she begins to realise that everything comes at a price. Especially since one of her friends might be in mortal danger…..

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It’s scenes like this that are simply breathtaking.

I have been wanting to see this movie for a very long time. To my delight I was finally able to obtain it on this year’s animecon and I have finally found some time (pun intended) to watch it. And I can tell you this movie did not disappoint. This was a really wonderful piece of animation both in terms of story as in art. At the heart of this one is the underlying message that every action we take or might not take, has a consequence. If for instance you might fear to admit you love someone, because you might lose his or her friendship, you might rob yourself from something even more beautiful. This last theme is something that is dealt with quite heavily in this movie, but before you start to think this is a mushy romantic film: it’s not. Though there is definitely some melancholy in this movie, it’s mostly a very uplifting and upbeat story. There were quite a number of times this film presented some heartwarming moments, that managed to put a smile on my face.

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Sometimes you just enter that fork in the road. 

From an animation point of view this film is really something. We are talking about a movie that is more than ten years old, but the animation presented in this one is breathtaking. There are numerous shots of a beautiful landscape, that coupled with the music, just gives you the feeling you want to stay in those scene forever. The main characters are great as well. Makoto is a great and fun character, which is important as you spent almost the entire movie at her side. You really sympathise with her, and the things she is going through. Her two friends Chiaki and Kousuke are for a change not your typical macho type boys, but two men that have their hearts in the right place. As the inevitable love triangle begins, it is luckily not one of those that will make you cringe (thank God for that). There are some other minor characters that also have some influence in the story, but the movie mainly revolves around the three characters I just mentioned.

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Take off your earphones when I am talking to you: that’s plain rude! 

The voice acting in the film (I watched the movie in the original Japanese language in case you were wondering) is very good, except for some of the scenes where Makoto has to cry or laugh. Those are always difficult emotions to pull off, but at a brief scene near the end it spoiled the emotional moment a little bit. But this is a minor thing in what is otherwise a truly terrific and beautiful movie. The girl who leapt through time is a film that I can definitely recommend. Especially if you like movies that feature time travelling elements. Sometimes films such as those can get very complicated, but in this one it’s handled very well, without it ever becoming hard to follow. So, they say time waits for no one. In other words, what are you waiting for? Go and see this movie.

I give The girl who leapt through time a 9 out of 10 score.

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Plastic Memories, Anime tv series (2015)

For those of you that have been wondering if my love for anime has maybe disappeared, let me put your minds at ease: it has not. I admit it has been quite a while since I have last published a post for an animeseries, which is exactly the reason why I am doing one now. And don’t you just love it that it’s for a series that I just picked by pure chance and turned out to be something really quite special? I’m still in the middle of Ergo Proxy, and while I am so far truly enjoying it, it paints a picture of a very bleak future. The entire atmosphere it breathes is quite depressive and that is why I was looking for something to counter that and put me in a bit of a brighter mood. Looking through the Crunchyroll line up, I stumbled upon Plastic Memories. I found the premise for it quite promising, and I thought it would be a pretty bright and upbeat show. In parts it truly was just that, but I certainly did not expect that the final episode would bring me close to tears.

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This is a bit how I feel when I haven’t yet had my coffee in the morning.

Plastic Memories takes place in the future where humans live alongside androids that are all but indistinquishable from humans. The most advanced models, the so-called Giftias, have the most humanlike abilities, and have emotions and memory. Unfortunately all this comes at a price. A Giftia has a maximum lifespan. If it exceeds that limit, it results in a change in personality and memoryloss. In fact the best way to describe is that they turn into a very agressieve zombielike being. But there is an organisation that helps to retrieve the Giftias that are getting close to their expiration dates from their owners. The so called Terminal Service carries out that work in teams of two, a human called a Spotter and a Giftia that acts as the Marksman. A young man called Tsukasa has just started working at one of the offices of the Terminal Service. He is introduced to his beautiful partner Isla and together the pair start their job. Tsukasa is quickly developing feelings for Isla though and soon their relationship begins to become very complicated. Even more so as it seems Isla’s time is starting to run out……

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Don’t you just hate it that you have to prove to everyone who you are?

This is one of those animeseries that seems to have nearly every range of emotions contained within it. You will laugh, you will feel excitement, and you will cry. When the series first starts, it looks like the show will develop into a light hearted romantic comedy. There is nothing wrong with that, but a series like that is usually not really my cup of tea. For some reason I decided to stick with it though, and I am very glad that I did. This is an incredibly heartwarming series. As the series progresses there are an increasing amount of very beautiful moments between owners of Giftias that have a hard time letting go of their almost humanlike androids. A young boy for instance, has developed a very strong relationship with a Giftia that has been acting as a kind of mother figure, as his real mum died. There are several moments like these throughout the show, but at the heart of it all is the relationship between Tsukasa and Isla.

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I guess they both don’t like the food and drink on offer. I wonder why?

Tsukasa is a character that has his heart in the right place. At the start of the series he is very inexperienced and tries to do his job as best he can. Even though he certainly makes mistakes, his natural charisma helps him to get through these mistakes and get better. Isla has a lot of experience, but when it comes to human emotions she has a hard time coping with those. At first she feels awkward when Tsukasa seems to be developing feelings for her, even calling it an error. But as is usually the case, true love can’t really be denied, and the bond between the two turns into something truly beautiful. The rest of the characters are made up of their coworkers, and even though some of their roles are minor, they really become an integral part of the story as well. Both in providing comic relief, but also in adding to the many layers this series has. I especially liked the redhead Michiru that even though she denies this has fallen for Tsukasa. She really is a great character that provides some of the best comedy the series has on offer.

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Well, I told you the backgrounds were very beautiful.

The animation style of this anime is rather good, especially when it comes to the backgrounds. The future city this is taking place in, looks amazing and utterly believable. Another strong point and something of a rarity these days, is that the final episode brings the series to a close in a highly emotional and breathtaking way. I do advise you to keep a box of tissues nearby though. Are there any negatives to this one? Well I am hardpressed to find them. There is a very small moment of fanservice in a later episode that I found to be a little out of place. But that scene goes by so fast that you hardly even know it’s there. I highly recommend this series. It’s message throughout is very clear and so true: live live to the fullest and spend as much time as you can with the people you love. Before you know it, time is up. This series plays with that message in an incredible way. This anime shows how precious memories really are, and that you should cherish them as much as you can. Especially the good ones.

I give Plastic Memories a 9 out 10 score.

Demon City Shinjuku, Japanese (animated) movie (1988)

When anime was first introduced in my country, it was done in a way that was completely wrong. Even though that has been a long time ago, when I was in my early teens, I remember watching a news item that mentioned kids were being introduced to a new Japanese artform that focussed on strong violence and sex. As usual the media saw this as an opportunity to sensationalise this, and parents were in an uproar. The anime videotapes that you could buy back in those days, only seemed to bring out movies that were either hentai or contained incredibly graphic violence. And of course the tapes sold like crazy. Not a good way to start my introduction to the wonderful world of Japanese animation. A movie that was featured a lot in the news item I spoke of earlier was Wicked City. In it’s opening scene a man is making love to a gorgeous looking woman, that eventually turns into a spiderlike demonic creature. I swear that every man who saw this scene must have given up on sex pretty much right away….well maybe.

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It might not look like it, but this is one of the most touching scenes in the entire movie.

 

Wicked City was a horrormovie, but a truly disgusting one, with over the top violence and sexscenes that could almost be considered porn. It certainly showed the darker side of anime and is a film that while very infamous, is one you should pretty much avoid seeing. This rather long introduction serves as a stepping stone to the film I am about to review. Demon City Shinjuku is strangely enough directed by the same man that was responsible for the aforementioned movie. But it is a much better film, and could almost be considered as a mild version of the atrocious Wicked City. So there is really no need for concern, or to think that my blog has suddenly turned into a platform for promoting movies that push all the wrong buttons. Are your minds set at ease? Right, let’s get on with the review then.

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This is the prototype version of what we call Starbucks these days. 

High atop the roof of a building in Tokyo two men are locked in mortal combat. With supernatural energy dancing around them, swords clash back and forth, until eventually one of the men is defeated and dies. With a triumphant roar the victor, a man named Rebi Ra, sees the entire city going doing down in a powerful earthquake. He has been possessed by very strong demonic forces and promises that soon the entire world will be enslaved by demons from another realm. Ten years later the moment Rebi Ra spoke of is almost at hand. The World President, that is on a mission of peace to bring together the human race, suddenly gets captured by Ra. This is all part of his plan to stop the only person that might put an end to him, a young man called Kyoya Izayo, the son of the man he killed on the rooftops all those years ago. Meanwhile the president’s daughter, the beautiful Sayaka Rama, tries to enlist the help of Kyoya. At first he wants nothing to do with her, but when she enters the ruins of Tokyo alone, he decides to follow her in. The city is but a former shadow of itself though, and the horrors they find inside might be enough to stop them from preventing Rebi Ra’s plans to enter the entire world in eternal darkness…..

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I wonder what is going through their minds…..

One of the things I love the most about this movie is the incredible atmosphere it breathes out. The ruins of the destroyed city of Tokyo are brought to life in a truly breathtaking way. With subtle touches like still working traffic lights, skyscrapers that have fallen against each other, and other things like that, the city has become an almost living entity. You feel a constant sense of fear and dread, that is just perfect for a horrormovie. The story of the film is one of it’s weaker points. It simply serves to bring our heroes from point a to b, and encounter a new and potentially horrifying creature. And that is another thing this movie does well, the plethora of monsters it serves up. It’s not called Demon City for nothing, as our young hero Kyoya certainly has his hands full at fighting a number of horrifying abominations , while at the same trying to protect the girl.

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No way in hell would I ever enter a place like this. 

The two main characters of the film, Kyoya and Sayaka, are not exactly what you would call well developped. Kyoya is your basic cocky and kind of macho type male, that at first is rather annoying. In fact you kind of wonder how a guy like that can save the world. This all changes of course when he meets Sayaka. She brings an innocence with her, that tempers his bravado, and turns him into a different person. While Sayaka is, for lack of a better term, rather dull, she is certainly brave although also rather stupid. For her to be entering a demon infested city alone without any kind of weapon borders on suicide. All in all though, even though the pair won’t be winning the award for best anime characters ever created, they work just well enough to grow on you. In fact a certain scene with Sayaka near the end of the film is quite beautiful and rather touching.

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That really is a bad way to go out. 

Demon City Shinjuku is a pretty good horror anime film. While the animation is now almost thirty years old, it still looks good enough to draw in people who usually don’t like oldschool anime. With a great atmosphere, some cool fight scenes and horror that never turns gory, what we have here is a film that can be enjoyed by most people that like horrormovies. The only thing worth mentioning on the negative side of things, is that the end of the movie feels a bit anti-climactic. Still though, it doesn’t ruin the movie itself, and I highly recommend the film all the same. If you have trouble tracking down this movie, you can find it on YouTube for free in both a subbed and dubbed version.

I give Demon City Shinjuku a 8 out of 10 score.

Black Bullet, Anime tv series (2013)

You have to wonder what kind of fascination the Japanese seem to have with destroying Tokyo in increasingly inventive ways. We have seen earthquakes, tidal waves, supernatural disasters and even huge monsters laying waste to the city in countless anime and live action movies throughout the years. It provides great entertainment, I have to be honest in that, but it does make me want to know if there is just some kind of hate against this city. Whatever the reason is, in the animeseries I am about to review there is yet another threat against it. Although it is called the Tokyo area in this anime to be more specific.

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This guy certainly isn’t a likeable character in this series. 

It is the year 2021, and the human race has almost been destroyed by the parasitic virus known as Gastrea that turns it’s host into horrifying monsters. What’s left of mankind now lives in cities protected by huge stone Monolith walls that are made from a special material called Varanium, which is able to subdue them. Not long after, children were born that carried the virus within them, but did not turn into monsters. Instead they gained superhuman abilities which were incredibly useful in fighting the Gastrea. Known as the Cursed Children, they were only females. A special fighting force is formed, the Civil Securities, that pairs these children with a handler called a Promoter. The highschool student Rentaro Satomi is one of these Promoters who operates in the Tokyo Area. Rentaro is paired with the loveable Enju Aihara, who has a complete crush on him. But soon things become grim as the Gastrea are beginning to gain ground. Will the remainder of mankind finally fall into oblivion?

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What?! We are not getting a second season?!

Black Bullet is a 13 episode animeseries that for lack of a better term to describe it was just, well, fun. It isn’t the best thing that I have ever seen mind you, but quite honestly it’s one of those series that just doesn’t seem to do much wrong. From a story point of view I can’t say it will win the price for originality. A virus is ofcourse nothing new, although the way it is handled in this series is different from what you might be used to. Another thing that I found that was very cool was the use of the Cursed Children. Here we have young girls ranging from 10-13 years old that have all kinds of superpowers and act as though they are adults. Which ofcourse they are not. It provides both comedic but also at times very grim moments. The story unfolds  rather nicely, and has a few tricks up it’s sleeves along the way, although there were not a lot of surprises.

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If you have a fear of spiders I would definitely watch this….

The characters in the series are not it’s strongest point. The bond between Rentaro and Enju is pretty fun to watch at times. Although some people might also find some of the situations between them a little bit unsettling to watch, as Enju is of course still a child. I don’t think the series crosses any serious lines though, and for the most part it certainly gave a few laughs. During the later episodes a lot of new Cursed Children, also called Initiators are introduced together with their Promoters. And they just don’t get enough screentime to grow any real attachment to them. I felt the series could have used a bit more time to focus on it’s characters instead of throwing them at us without giving us time to get used to them.

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Do you really have to move so close to me? 

What the series may lack in character development it more than makes up for in the action department. If you like action featuring superpowered beings fighting huge and horrifying monsters, this is a show that will certainly give you that. Some of the bigger Gastrea monsters had very cool designs, and it was incredibly satisfying to watch them get taken down in some of the more spectacular fights the series has on offer. But it’s not all monster fighting though, as Rentaro and Enju get to deal with a lot of different situations including assassination attempts and prejudice against the Cursed Children. The animation of the show is pretty good as well, and together with the music serves up a nice and pleasurable viewing experience. All in all I really enjoyed this one. The story for a change gets wrapped up for the most part in the end, although there was certainly room for a second season. Seeing it’s been almost 4 years since the release of this one, I doubt that will happen though. Black Bullet may not be for everyone, but if you like a bit of action coupled with cool monsters and interesting fight scenes, you might give this one a shot.

I give Black Bullet a 8 out of 10 score.

Bad Guys, Korean Drama Series (2014)

I love watching Korean dramaseries, but for some reason I am always running behind with reviews for these. It usually takes me a bit of time to finish them too, and that is not because I don’t enjoy them. On the contrary I absolutely love them, but as always there are only so many hours in a day, and you can only watch one thing at a time. For people who might be unfamiliair with Korean dramas let me give a small introduction for you. (I have done this before so feel free to skip this part and continue to read the next paragraph). Still here? Okay then. Korean dramaseries are tv series that usually contain around 20 episodes and cover a wide range of topics. Romance, historical period pieces, crime, even science fiction is entering the range of titles on offer. The great thing is that these are selfcontained stories, so there is never the risk of a series getting cancelled and leaving unfinished threads. Although there are a few exceptions of dramas getting a second season if it is succesful. One of these is the 2014 crimedrama Bad Guys.

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Well, I did warn you that this series could get bloody right?

In Bad Guys we meet up with detective Oh Gu-tak who has a nickname: Mad Dog. He certainly seems to live up to his reputation as he doesn’t shy away from using pretty excessive measures to catch criminals. But you can’t really blame him as years back his only daughter was murdered by a brutal serial killer. Since then he has been living with guilt and certainly isn’t the same man that he used to be. When a series of new murders take place in his district, Oh Gu-tak comes up with an unorthodox plan to capture the killer. He enlists the help of three dangerous criminals that are currently residing in prison. One is a psychopath and serial killer himself, the other a former mob boss, and the final member of Oh Gu-tak’s new crimefighting squad is a hired hit-man that never made a mistake, but eventually turned himself in. The person who eventually ends up catching the criminal, will get his sentence reduced. Things are not as easy as it seems though. Everyone has a very hard time getting along, but there also seems to be a tie that connects these four people together. A tie rooted in a very dark past and that might have very dire consequences…..

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He did not get the nickname Mad Dog for nothing.

This crimedrama is a very dark and bloody show, and honestly that is how I like them. Where the series at first starts off as a show that seems to focus itself on catching a different criminal in each episode, we soon get a storyline that branches out and carries on throughout the course of the series. The plot is very clever and it’s nice to continually try to find new pieces of the story and figure out what is going on.  It also contains quite a bit of action, featuring carchases and impressive fight scenes that have a blockbuster movie quality to them. This being a crime story it contains some very dark material at times, and there are a few brutal scenes, but it never goes too far or becomes to explicit to watch.

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I am not kidding, this guy wears this expression the entire series. Even his hair seems to agree with him.

The real highlight of this show however are the actors. The level of performances that are given in this show are really off the charts, and truly worth the watch. Detective Oh Gu-tak is played by Kim Sang-joong and he is very impressive to say the least. This is the first time I have seem him in a show or movie, but the way he portrays this quite frankly frightening character is astonishing. His grief and trauma over the death of his daughter really come to the fore in his performance and makes him so fascinating to watch. Ma Dong-seok who people might recognise from Train to Busan, plays the former mobster Pak Un-seol. His character provides some of the much needed comic relief in what is otherwise a very dark series. He gives another solid performance and certainly became one of my favorite characters of the show.

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You would almost think that this guy is a vampire…..

The most human character and the one with the highest level of charisma is the hired hit-man Jung Tae-soo. He is pretty much the only one that really struggles with the deeds that he has done, and his background story is the one that got to me the most. Ofcourse I am not going to spoil things for you, but suffice it to say that it’s pretty touching. The last member of the band of misfits is psychopath Lee Jung-moon, played by Park Hae-jin. Quite frankly this guy gave me the creeps. His continually stoic expression throughout the series seriously was unnerving, but it was a terrific and very chilling role. We also have a female police detective called Yoo Mi-young played by Kang Ye-won. Quite frankly she is the only one that I did not really like in this series. I found her character to be pretty boring and not really fitting the rest of the high caliber acting that was done in this series.

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This is the Korean version of Spanish bullfighting.

This 11 episode series was a delight to watch. With the exception of a few moments in later episodes, this was a well paced series that had a really interesting plot, solid performances and a great atmosphere. Bad Guys is getting a second season, but sadly with an entirely different cast of characters. Which I think is a real shame as the cast for this show was simply put amazing. If you like crime dramas or serial killer stories and have yet to experience your first Korean dramaseries, this might be your perfect way to start. If you are looking for a way to watch this drama legally and for free you can check out the website Viki. This series together with scores of others can be found there in high quality, and there is a drama on that site for everyone.

I give Bad Guys a 8 out of 10 score.

The Karate Kid part II, American movie (1986)

When I grew up as a kid there was a movie that always made me feel good. It is one of my favorite childhood movies and it’s called the Karate Kid. I watched this film at a time where attending school was a very dark place for me. I was bullied nearly every day, and here was a film where the same thing was happening to this young boy called Daniel. But guess what? He not only managed to gain respect and grow as a person, but he also beat his bullies in a brilliant way. It gave me hope that eventually everything can be beaten if you just put your mind to it. I will always be grateful to the movie for providing me a sense of relief and escapism in what was quite frankly a time in my life that I don’t like to look back on very often. Three years later the sequel came out. And it blew my young mind away again, but this time also for a few other reasons.

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FINISH HIM!!!!!!

The second part of the Karate Kid literally starts where the first part ended. Daniel has just won the All-Valley Karate Tournament and prepares to go home with his teacher mr. Miyagi. Once outside the pair see Daniel’s rival from the first movie being accosted by his own sensei John Kreese. Luckily Miyagi intervenes just in time, proving that you should never hold a grudge for too long. Six months later mr. Miyagi receives a letter from his lost love in Okinawa, Yukei, telling him his father is very ill. Daniel is eager to find out who Yukei is, and he soon hears the story behind the reason for his old master’s departure from Japan all those years ago. Yukei was apparently arranged to marry a man named Sato, who was mr. Miyagi’s best friend. But when he fell in love with her, Sato challenged him to a fight to the death. Unwilling to enter into such a duel, Miyagi left Japan, leaving behind a heartbroken Yukei. Having no choice now but to go to Okinawa and his dying father, he departs in all haste, with Daniel travelling with him. Upon their arrival though, both master and student are about to find out that some people can hold a grudge for a very long time……

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Honestly I would have included only pictures of Kumiko, but I guess I did not want to be too obvious.

This movie is very dear to me. It’s my number one go to movie whenever I feel down or depressed. Somehow it never fails to lift my spirits. There are two things this film did besides the general feel good atmosphere it manages to create. The first is that it introduced me to Asian culture, more specifically the culture of Japan. I loved the many customs we as an audience get to experience through this film. One of the scenes that really still brings a smile to my face is the tea ceremony between Daniel and his love interest in this movie: Kumiko. It is a wonderful custom to observe, and it is also incredibly romantic. With this movie my interest for Asian culture in general started to take shape, a fact that continues to this day. The second thing it did was give me my first movie crush. I was absolutely mesmerised by the beauty of Kumiko, played by a young Tamlyn Tomita. In my young mind she was the perfect woman, and I completely fell in love with her. Ah teenage love can be so strange at times.

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Ice, Ice, baby…..

From an acting point of view there are some great roles that I think are worth mentioning. First up is Pat Morita, as mr. Miyagi. I think his role in this second part was even better than in the first movie, as in this film the spotlight is somewhat more on his story instead of focussing all the attention on Daniel. It gives us a few wonderful scenes, most notably the ones between him and Sato and his love Yukei. Sato played by Danny Kamekona is the perfect adversary for Miyagi. His gravelly voice is terrific, and he also manages to create a humanity to his character in a great way. Lastly we have Sato’s nephew Chozen Toguchi, played by Yuji Okumoto, who eventually becomes Daniel’s opponent. He is a particular breed of nasty, and you will come to hate him over the course of this film. Some of the things he does still gets my blood boiling after all these years, and it is only a big compliment to Okumoto’s acting, that he manages to invoke such a feeling.

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Okay, sorry, just one more…..

Now some might argue how mediocre the fight scenes in this movie look. Certainly we are not watching a Jet Li or Jackie Chan movie here. The fights only serve to create some extra tension, in what is otherwise a really great and heartwarming film. I can’t express through words alone how much I still enjoy seeing this movie, even though it is now 31 years old. Both parts 1 and 2 are the ultimate feel good experience and are a perfect watch for whenever you just want to feel like you can take on the world again. It probably won’t please everyone, cynics might certainly point out the many flaws this film probably has, but I just love this movie to death. If you have never seen this one, I do recommend watching part 1 first. That movie establishes the relationship between mr. Miyagi and young Daniel, and to skip that would be to miss out on a lot of things. And remember to relax: wax on, wax off.

I give the Karate Kid part II a 10 out of 10 score.

 

Corpse Princess, Anime tv series (2008/2009)

There is this old saying that there is one thing that is certain in life: death and taxes. While I don’t really care about taxes, I do care about not dying any time soon. I don’t consider myself to be very old yet (although some people might argue with that), but if I were to die now, I would certainly have a few regrets. There are still a lot of things that are on my bucket list and that I haven’t yet been able to do. Most of these are because of not having enough time, others are simply because I haven’t yet gathered up enough courage to do some of those things. And ofcourse I am being really cryptic here, but hey a guy has got to have a couple of secrets in his life right? Why all this talk about death in this post? Could I not find something more cheerful to talk to you about? Well I probably could have, but death and regret has everything to do with Corpse Princess, the Animeseries I am about to review.

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The new student at school really was not working out.

Corpse Princess, or Shikabane Hime as it is also known, is a 25 episode horror/action anime series. Makina Hoshimura was just a normal girl until she and her family were brutally murdered. But Makina did not die. At least not in the normal way that everyone is used to. No, she returned as a living Shikabane Hime (a Corpse Princess) and has one sole mission on her mind: to avenge the death of her family. In this series when a person dies but still has intense regrets, he or she returns as a Shikabane. The Shikabane at first look like the normal persons they were in real life, but eventually turn into horrible monsters that prey on the living. The Kougon Cult has been created to protect normal humans from these horrible creatures, using the Shikabane Hime as their weapons. After a Shikabane Hime has killed exactly 108 Shikabane, they are granted peace and allowed to enter heaven. Makina, armed with dual Mac-11 submachine guns, and assisted by Keisei Tagami a buddhist monk from the Kougon Cult, soon sets out on the path for revenge. But it will not be an easy task, especially since the Shikabane group known as The Seven Stars have a horrible plan in store for humanity. A plan that may very well end every single living human being…

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Well, I did mention there were monsters in this anime right? 

Corpse Princess was both a pleasant and a very unpleasant surprise. Now, I know this sounds very vague, but bear with me as I will explain soon enough. The thing that surprised me the most in this series was the storyline. I had expected this to be a pretty generic action packed horror series, but it was actually the story itself that I found to be the highlight. This anime has a lot of underlying subplots and a rich and well thought out worldbuilding concept, that I haven’t seen in quite a while. The Kougon Cult and their many rules and regulations slowly show their secrets throughout the episodes, and it was a delight and sometimes shock to discover them. This anime first starts off with Makina encountering the monster of the week, and dealing with it, but eventually turns into a rich and powerful storyline that gets better with every episode. This being a horrorseries, there are certainly enough gory moments in it that might turn off some viewers, though it never became the main focus of the show.

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Yes, I know this stance looks incredibly cool. 

The anime also has a pretty large cast of characters. Throughout the series more and more are added, and at times it became hard to keep track of everyone. Makina, being the main character, certainly was one of the best attractions the series had on offer. She is just seriously bad ass, can take a hell of a beating, but also has a humanity to her that is hardly found in someone who is, well, basically dead. Keisei the contracted monk assigned to Makina, is a pretty funny character at times. While he can certainly hold his own in a fight, he also has a pretty lecherous side to him, that provided some great comic relief. Another character that becomes very important in the series is a young boy who Keisei took in once as an orphan, called Ouri Kagami. He inadvertently stumbles across Makina one night, and soon becomes involved in the daily struggles that she faces. On the villain side there is a great character called Akasha Shishido, but to actually tell who he is, would spoil things for you. Suffice it to say that although he is evil, you really feel for him as well, and that’s what made him so fascinating.

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Some people take the phrase “I’ve got my eyes on you” a bit to literally.

Corpse Princess certainly also had a few fanservice moments. There were a couple of girls that had breast sizes that seemed to defy the rules of basic anatomy, but it luckily never became as bad as for instance in the anime Highschool of the Dead. Now in the beginning of my review I also told of an unpleasant surprise and that was unfortunately the final episode of this anime. Seriously, what were they thinking? It just….ends. There is no resolution, it just ends in the middle of a fight, and the viewers are left to wonder how it will turn out. Now, after having invested time in a series that ran for 25 episodes I certainly felt cheated. As such, it also becomes hard to recommend a series in this way. It definitely was a terrific watch, with plenty of action, horror and a great story. But without a real resolution to things, you do wonder what the point is in watching this. My score for this just had to reflect that. If the final episode had handled things better, I would have graded this much higher. A real shame, but sometimes in life you are just left with regrets. Now….where did I hear that before?

I give Corpse Princess a 7 out of 10 score.

A Company Man, Korean movie (2012)

Yes everyone I am back, and my vacation has finally started. In the coming days, I will try and catch up with some of the posts I have missed out on, as well as write some reviews of my own. And what better way to kick off a vacation from work, with a movie about work. Well, sort of. Don’t get me wrong I don’t hate my job or anything like that, but it is not my lifelong ambition either so to speak. And I guess the same can be said for most people that have a day job. If you happen to be one of those lucky few that are an exception to this rule, congratulations on that great achievement. But before this post is turning into a job interview let me start by telling you what this movie is about.

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Just another day at the office. 

In A Company Man, we are introduced to Heyong-do, a man who seems to love his job. Wearing a suit and tie, he always turns up in time for his work at the seemingly normal company he is employed by. But the company is a front for an entirely different kind of business namely that of assassinations. Heyong-do is one of the hitmen, and one of the company’s best. Never before has he failed a mission, and it looks like he has no conscience whatsoever. But then he meets up with the single mother of one of his co-workers, and falls in love. This is the beginning of the end for him. Because of his intense feelings he really wants to change his ways, and quit being the stonecold assassin that he has been all his life. When he begins to spare certain people that he was supposed to kill, the company wants to get rid of him. But not by laying him off. No they have a much more permanent solution in mind….

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Hitman by day, houseman by night…gotta keep those shirts clean. 

This is one of those great Korean actionthrillers that I really love to watch. Although actionthriller seems to be too harsh a word for it. There certainly is action, I won’t deny that, but at the heart of it is also a pretty heartbreaking drama, and a truly great story to boot. A movie such as this stands or falls with the performance of it’s lead actor, and luckily the casting for this one was perfect. So Ji-sub portrays the role of Heyong-do in a terrific way. His natural charm makes sure that you instantly care for this character, even despite the horrific job he is carrying out. Both in the drama and action scenes So manages to deliver a believable role, and he is one of the best reasons for watching this film. But actress Lee Mi-yeon, who plays his love interest also does a great job. Their on screen chemistry works very well, and in scenes that could normally have turned into something very mushy, they both manage to avoid that altogether.

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So…tell me, what makes a good cup of tea? 

For the actionlovers out there this film offers just enough to satisfy. As mentioned even though you can classify this as an action thriller it isn’t the overall theme of the movie. So do not expect an action sequence every minute, as you will be really disappointed. The movie is shot and directed beautifully with a terrific final shoot out scene, that is one of the highlights of this movie. I have tried to find some things that I did not like about this film, but I honestly could not find them. This is just a solid Korean movie, that is truly worth seeing. With great performances by the cast, and a story that provides enough drama and action, I highly recommend this movie. So, as Heyong-do mentions at one point in the film: “The work day is over ” . And so is this review.

I give A Company Man a 9 out of 10 score.

School-Live!, anime tv series (2015)

It’s been quite a while since I have been in school. And saying it like that, really does make me feel old lol. Would I ever want to go back to school though? No, I don’t think I do. There were certainly some things that I liked, but the negative aspects of school for me at least outweigh the positive ones. Let’s just leave it at that. Why am I rambling about this? Well, the anime show I am about to review deals with school a lot, but in a different way than we are used to. First off though, I want to thank the wonderful D, over at D Talks Anime. They featured this incredible anime over on their blog, with terrific posts covering every episode. So, if you are not yet following this truly amazing blog, go over there and do that first. I promise you this review won’t be caught up in a zombie apocalypse or something. Wait, where did that come from? Zombie apocalypse? We were talking about school right? Well…..

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Well, I guess that is one way to head down an escalator.

School-live opens up with the young girl Yuki getting woken up at school by a cute looking dog. Yes, Yuki sleeps at school because she is part of the “School living club”. This group consists of four other members including the young teacher Megumi Sakura, whom everyone adores. Yuki loves school. Every day she happily skips down the hallways of the school, always looking forward to the classes she attends. The other members of the group all look out for Yuki, and try to protect her in any way they can. But it’s just a school right? Besides maybe some bullies, there is nothing life threatening at school right? Wrong…..it soon becomes clear that something absolutely horrible has happened to the world. Through the windows of the school we see a courtyard full of shambling corpses. The happy world Yuki seems to be living in is apparently in her mind. It is up to the rest of the girls to make sure Yuki, and they themselves will remain alive in the middle of the ever increasing threat of the walking dead…..

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Demonstrations for gardening tools seem to become more lifelike by the minute.

So this series was an amazing surprise. I can honestly say that I would have skipped over this anime numerous times if I had not know the plot for this one. When the series starts, it seems like this will be a very goofy comedy, with some lighthearted and very happy young girls. Even the opening song, although very catchy, seems to support this. But then the series presents it’s twist, and it becomes a very different but also very unique show. Yes, this is another anime that deals with zombies, but I promise you that it really does so in one of the most unusual ways that I have seen. Although this series can definitely be classified as horror, it never becomes too gruesome or gory. Amidst all the darkness, there is always the happy go lucky spirit of Yuki, who lives in her own world, and who seems to be unaware of the horror around her.

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I am not lying….there really is a zombie apocalypse in this anime….honest.

The characters for this series are a bit of a mixed bunch. Yuki, who is pretty much the centre of the show, is a girl that everyone seems to like. She is sweet, kind, and always happy. She got on my nerves fairly quickly though, especially because of her grating voice. The three other girls, besides the teacher, are all pretty strong but in their own ways also have their flaws. The girl Miki for instance is trying to come to terms with the loss of one of her closest friends, and also has trouble with trying to maintain the delusions of Yuki. For me, I never felt any real attachment to any of them, except for the teacher Megumi, who certainly became my favorite. Strangely enough even though I never felt much for any of them, you still got scared when they got in danger. It is really something I can’t describe, nor have I ever had any kind of similar experience.

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Let me tell you a bedtime story” Once upon a time there was this beautiful zombie…”

The story of this anime is certainly it’s strongest selling point. It contains a lot of interesting and quite frankly jaw dropping twists, that I am ofcourse not going to spoil for you. Suffice it to say, that this is not your usual zombie apocalypse storyline, but I would almost call it a feel good horrorseries. That’s not to say that everything is good in this show. One of the later episodes in this anime I really could have done without, and was one of the show’s lowpoints. Some of the comedy in this series does at times feel forced, and even cringeworthy. But that could also just be me, since I am not a huge fan of comedy in the first place. That said though, I highly recommend this 12 episode anime. It is a really unusual series, that combines two totally different genres in a refreshing mix that really is worth your time. People who have always wanted to try out a zombieshow but always thought they were too gory, might want to have a go at this one.

I give School-live a 8 out of 10 score.

Special Features Presents: Kenji Kawai, the God of Anime and Asian cinema soundtracks

This is going to be a bit of a different kind of post than you are used to reading on my blog. Because this is a post about music, or to be more precise soundtracks. A great movie soundtrack stays in your mind, and actually helps to increase the enjoyment of a particular movie. In the Western world we ofcourse have legends like Hans Zimmer or John Williams, that have produced a great many memorable soundtracks.  Who can forget the dark sounds of the Dark Knight trilogy, or the impressive Imperial March from the Star Wars franchise.

As much as I love the sounds of these, I have come across one composer throughout my many years of watching movies and anime, that has impressed me the most. And  that is Kenji Kawai from Japan. His soundtracks are simply speaking completely out of this world, and have given me goosebumps all over, every time I hear the sounds of them. Today I thought I would share a few of his impressive music compositions, from various anime and Asian films. I hope you will enjoy listening to them. Here they are in no particular order.

Ghost in the Shell: Opening Theme

This one is probably his best known composition. The opening theme to the brilliant anime movie Ghost in the Shell, is hauntingly beautiful. The video below is a live performance that is absolutely amazing.

 

The Battle of Wits

Taken from the soundtrack of the Chinese historical martial arts epic, A Battle of Wits, this is one of my favorite songs from Kenji Kawai. It starts off slow, but then at 2:10 it becomes this incredibly epic orchestral piece, that literally produces goosebumps whenever I hear it. If there is only one video you have time for, this is the one you should listen to. Absolutely breathtaking.

 

The Sky Crawlers: Opening Theme

Another song from an anime movie, this one is called Sky Crawlers. I have not yet seen this movie, but I bought it just for the soundtrack. Yes, I kid you not, I bought a film solely for the soundtrack, not even caring if it’s any good. Another hauntingly beautiful song, this is almost dreamlike.

 

Avalon: Log in

This song is taken from the highly underrated 2001 live action movie Avalon. It was a brilliant movie with a truly epic scope, made even more impressive by the score. This song is another epic masterpiece, that comes to life at the 0:30 mark, when a choir and orchestra explode and produce a song that is not of this Earth. Another live performance, that only increases the awesomeness of this song.

 

Ghost in the Shell: Nightstalker

To close things off, I give you another song from the Ghost in the Shell soundtrack. It is the shortest song on the list, lasting only 1 minute and 34 seconds, but it is truly amazing. My only regret is that it’s so very short, but luckily you can always push the repeat button. A completely unique, very bleak but also very atmospheric song.

 

Final thoughts

For me Kenji Kawai is the absolute master of movie soundtracks. His compositions are simply amazing, and I can never get enough of them. He has a very recognisable sound, and usually whenever I see a new movie or Animeseries that Kenji Kawai has made the music for, I manage to identify it immediately. If you are interested in hearing more of his work, I suggest heading over to YouTube where you can find more of his amazing sounds. As mentioned in the beginning, this is the first time I have made a post like this, so I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Did you enjoy this post? Have you heard of Kenji Kawai? What do you think of his music, do you love it or hate it? Let me know in the comments section below. As always thank you for reading, and see you at the next post!