The 1948 novel Ningen Shikkaku, known in the west as No Longer Human, is considered a masterpiece of literature in Japan. It is considered autobiographical, as the torment of the main character seemed to mirror the demons of author Osamu Dazai. Dazai had completed suicide by the time the final part of this serialized book was released.
After many adaptations across many mediums over the years, Polygon Pictures has produced a new vision of the classic. Re-imagined as a sci-fi dystopian tale, Human Lost by director Funimori Kizaki is a striking film with a lot of ideas. Unfortunately, those ideas are seldom explored to the fullest.
Honestly, I’ve never been too worked up over finding originality. I know that a tried and true story can still be told in over a million ways. Is the setting a fantasy where it used to be sci-fi? Are there comedic beats or is it more series? What sets this apart from others? John Wick‘s concept wasn’t necessarily original, but we never saw a revenge film about a dog being killed, nor did we see one with such elaborate world-building.
Even the most acclaimed creators’ works can be traced back to the maker’s inspirations. Media is all about inspiration and telling old stories in new ways by combining myriad elements in a really creative way. Today, I want to look at a film that in a lot of ways is unoriginal, but that I don’t think has to be discarded because of that. From Studio 3Hz and director Kazuya Nomura comes Black Fox, a new film that just recently released on Crunchyroll.
I’ve discussed previously my disdain for the praise aimed at Trigger in its early days. The whole “savior of anime” meme got old quick with the industry growing larger than ever, and certainly not solely because of Trigger’s work. Funnily enough, as time has gone on, there are now a lot of people who seem to think Trigger is “stagnating,” but that’s kinda bullshit.
With their catalog having built up over the years, Trigger has only been getting more praiseworthy as time has gone on. Kiznaiver was one of the best looking shows of 2016, Gridman was one of my top five from last year, and I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time I watched Space Patrol Luluco.
Now, director Hiroyuki Imaishi and screenwriter Kazuto Nakashima have reunited for a new project, this time a feature-length film. As I am in Japan currently, I took this rare opportunity to see the film in theaters. Because I am not fluent and didn’t pick up on everything, this is not a formal review, but I couldn’t resist taking the time to give my thoughts.
… I mean, come on. I’ve already reviewed Violet Evergarden and Liz and the Blue Bird within a reasonable time-frame. I’m about two years and TWO US theatrical releases late to this. So this is gonna be a short review of a movie that – SPOILER – is great and you should watch it.
One of the earliest scenes in Liz and the Blue Bird depicted the protagonist, Mizore, waiting for someone at the school gate. One girl comes through the school gate, but Mizore is met with disappointment as it is not who she is waiting for. And then, the music swells from a scarce pluck of the string to a delightful melody, as the tapping of one girl’s steps is heard along the pavement.
But it’s not just any girl. It’s THE girl. Like a wind coming from the distance, Mizore and the audience know that someone important is coming before they even see her face. It’s as if hearing the quickening heartbeat of a shy young girl faced with her crush, translated into song.
At the risk of understating this film’s message, showbusiness sucks. Satoshi Kon’s 1998 thriller by Studio Madhouse, Perfect Blue, was a must-see for me during its re-release in theaters last month. I had always heard about the film and seen glimpses of its iconic moments, but without the full picture, I was still in for a lot of surprises.
Kon’s films have stretched close to the same critical acclaim here in the west from adults as Miyazaki and Ghibli have achieved with… well, everyone. The late and great creator’s films have also inspired many auteurs to take inspiration. Such as the late Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell inspired the Matrix, Perfect Blue inspired Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan from 2010. So it is especially criminal that I had not previously seen any film by the late Mr. Kon before this one. And this was quite the start. Continue reading →
How do you follow up a classic? Better question, how do you follow up a classic that concluded so perfectly as to deter any attempt at a continuation? You can try to advance the narrative beyond the conclusion but the result may be so different as to not attract the same audience or so similar it gets called derivative. For instance, Studio Sunrise’s Cowboy Bebop has received no shortage of praise, but what about the film from 2001?
Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven’s Door, was not a continuation of Bebop. It featured the same characters doing what they do best for two hours, but never feeling like a cheap cash in, but rather just… Bebop. A lesser studio may not have pulled it off, but this was no ordinary studio. As it turns out, it wasn’t even Studio Sunrise, but Studio Bones. Only fitting as its three founders were former members of Sunrise. So, how was the follow up to one of the most legendary anime when given the Bones treatment? Continue reading →
Studio Shaft turned Nisio Isin’s bizarre, engaging, and dialogue rich novel series into one of the most visually appealing Animated series of all time and if you have never watched the Monogatari series before, now is the time to give it a try.
If aesthetic and visual storytelling is your jam, then Kizumonogatari will be your bible. Announced in 2010, this trilogy tells the tale of wounds that put the entire story of the series into motion, making it the perfect place to jump in for newcomers.
[This analysis contains spoilers for Ghost in the Shell 2017]
Ghost in the Shell, directed by Rupert Sanders, is not a great movie. That isn’t to say it is terrible. I feel the need to clarify that in a world where sometimes it feels like things are either great or terrible. No, Ghost in the Shell may not be great, but it is an average, entertaining science fiction action flick.
Many will accuse this film of whitewashing, though I would argue many of those people haven’t seen much of the series. The hardcore fans who have seen the series mainly dislike the film for being a dumbed down, poor adaptation. Is it dumbed down? Certainly. Is it a poor adaptation? Well, that depends on your perspective.
Keep in mind that EVERY version of Ghost in the Shell is significantly different from the other. The characters and lore change enough between them that it is easier to think of them as completely separate universes. Even the original manga creator, Shirow Masamune, said there was no definitive Ghost in the Shell. Hell, the original film was an adaptation of the manga and by all merits, it was nothing like the manga.
So in this analysis, I’m not judging GITS 2017 as an adaptation, but simply a new, flawed take on the series. I want to look at how this film fails to capture the essential elements of the series and even look what makes this film unique and the themes and messages that- if executed properly- could have led to a truly different, but all-together great classic. Continue reading →