With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Thursday, March 29, 2012

ACF 1406: THIS BOY CAN FIGHT ALIENS! licensed by Sentai Filmworks

 
Sentai Filmworks continues the company’s commitment to showcasing the newest and most innovating creators and films in the anime field with their latest short film acquisition, THIS BOY CAN FIGHT ALIENS!  It was produced by CoMix Wave, which helped initiate the current revolution in independent anime production with the works of Makoto Shinkai (Voices of A Distant Star, The Place Promised in Our Early Days) that have inspired a whole new wave of animators in Japan. THIS BOY CAN FIGHT ALIENS! was written and created by director Soubi Yamamoto, who’s making her long format animation debut after producing animation for video games and cell phones. 

Synopsis: When aliens suddenly invade the world, Earth seems to be fighting a losing battle until Arikawa, one of the defense command staff, accidentally discovers a young man lying on a hill.  Tests soon prove the impossible: this one teenager, Kakashi, has the power to defeat the attackers!  Unfortunately, Kakashi has also lost his memory, and with it the knowledge of how to actually use his power.

Moving Kakashi in with himself and his own commander, Shiro, Arikawa accidentally starts a strange triangle of emotions and relationships.  A triangle that threatens the fate of the planet as Kakashi begins to question his own motivations.

Here comes a film that turns The War of The Worlds inside out:  THIS BOY CAN FIGHT ALIENS!

THIS BOY CAN FIGHT ALIENS will soon be available digitally, with a home video release on DVD & BD scheduled for later this year.  Look for it online at www.thisboycanfightaliens.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thisboycanfightaliens

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

ACF 1405: DREAM EATER MERRY


Section23 Films has just released DREAM EATER MERRY, the latest hit anime series from animation powerhouse J.C. STAFF (Excel Saga, Azumanga Daioh, Revolutionary Girl Utena). The Complete Collection is now available on both DVD & Blu-Ray by Section23 client, Sentai Filmworks.

Synopsis: Sometimes daydreaming can get you into trouble, but what do you do when it’s OTHER people’s dreams that you have to watch out for? For the last ten years Yumeji Fujiwara’s life has been getting progressively stranger, beginning with suddenly gaining the ability to predict what kind of dreams other people will have.

Then his own dreams took a bizarre turn in which he was being pursued by armies of cats! Now, however, the weird-o-meter has just maxed out: Not only has Yumeji learned that the leader of the dream cats needs Yumeji’s body to access the Real World, but a beautiful girl suddenly drops on top of him and announces that she’s a Dream Demon who needs to return to HER world! 

Title:                 DREAM EATER MERRY COMPLETE COLLECTION
Running Time:   325 min.
Age Rating:       TV PG (V)
Language:         English & Japanese with English Subtitles
Published by:    Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by:  Section23 Films
Format:             DVD
SRP:                $59.98

Title:                 DREAM EATER MERRY COMPLETE COLLECTION BLU-RAY
CAT:                 SFB-DEM100
UPC:                814131013019
Format:             BD
SRP:                $69.98
 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

ACF 1404: VIZ announces second digital manga update for March 2012

THE PRINCE OF TENNIS © 1999 by Takeshi Konomi/SHUEISHA Inc.
VIZ MEDIA DELIVERS A SECOND DIGITAL UPDATE FOR MARCH
OF NEW MANGA SERIES LAUNCHING ON VIZMANGA.COM  AND
THE VIZ MANGA APP FOR iPAD, iPHONE AND iPOD TOUCH

GENKAKU PICASSO, THE PRINCE OF TENNIS And YU-GI-OH! 5D’s
Join The Extensive VIZ Manga Digital Library

VIZ Media continues to stir the imaginations of fans across North America with the latest announcement of a second update for the month of March featuring four new manga (graphic novel) series set to debut on VIZManga.com and for digital download on the VIZ MANGA App for the Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

The newest update began yesterday, Monday, March 26th and features the digital launch of the surreal art-adventure of GENKAKU PICASSO, the on- and off-court sports action of THE PRINCE OF TENNIS, and the tense high-speed drama of YU-GI-OH! 5D’s. The new properties join six other VIZ Media manga titles that also launched earlier this month on VIZManga.com and the VIZ MANGA App.

The VIZ MANGA APP is available for free through the iTunes Store and all manga volumes are generally available for purchase and download in the U.S. and Canada within the application for $4.99 (U.S. / CAN) per volume. More than 45 series and 500+ volumes are currently available for download.

GENKAKU PICASSO Vol. 1 · by Usamaru Furuya · Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens
Hikari “Picasso” Hamura, a grouchy teenager with a talent for drawing, dies in a freak accident. The gods decide to revive him, but only on the condition that he use his artistic gift for the good of humanity. Picasso discovers that sketching a person’s aura yields a surreal portrait of their psyche. Stranger still, Picasso can dive into these dreamscapes and help people by exploring their deepest emotions, memories and perceptions.

THE PRINCE OF TENNIS Vol. 1 · by Takeshi Konomi · Rated ‘A’ for All Ages
Four-time consecutive U.S. Junior tournament champ Ryoma Echizen comes to Seishun Academy to further his reign as The Prince of Tennis. His skill is matched only by his attitude – irking some but impressing all as he leads his team to the Nationals and beyond!

YU-GI-OH! 5D’s Vol. 1 ·  Story by Masahiro Hikokubo, Art by Masashi Sato · Rated ‘T’ for Teens
In New Domino City, the hottest game in town is the Turbo Duel, fought from blazingly fast motorcycles called Duel Runners. On the outskirts of New Domino City, in a district known as Satellite, a new Turbo Duel hero emerges – Yusei Fudo! On his custom-built Duel Runner, Yusei takes on all challengers, fighting for his friends and the future of Satellite!

VIZ Media’s multiple digital manga platforms allow for universal access to read manga from an iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and now, on VIZManga.com for desktop/laptop PC-enabled computers as well as Android-powered devices with built-in web browsers. With one account, registered users may access their purchases across even more devices than ever.

The free VIZ Manga App continues to be the top app for reading manga and features a rapidly growing library of the most popular manga series in the world. Over 45 series and 500+ volumes are currently available, with new additions and free Chapter 1 previews added weekly.

For more information, visit VIZManga.com or www.VIZ.com/apps. 

ACF 1401: MY GIRLFRIEND IS AN AGENT reviewed; free screening tonight in New York

Korean Cultural Service
presents
Korean Movie Night 
Series 2: It's A Fine Romance!
 My Girlfriend Is An Agent
Directed by SIN Tae-ra
South Korea, 2009, 112 minutes
When: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 7:00 PM
Doors open: 6:30 PM
Where: Tribeca Cinemas (map here)
54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, NYC
Near the A, C, E @ #1 Canal Street subway stops
Admission: FREE!!!
All seating is first-come, first served

The Korean Cultural Service's series of three rom-coms continues tonight with a free screening of MY GIRLFRIEND IS AN AGENT, a Korean variation of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. It starts off with AHN Soo-ji (actress KIM Ha-neul) in a white wedding gown posing for photographs with her groom. Except she's actually working undercover on a stake-out for the Industrial Security Team of NIS (National Intelligence Service).

Soo-ji in action

A high speed chase on water ensues in which -- surprise -- she executes an amazing move and captures the bad guys. In the midst of all this, she gets a phone call from her boyfriend LEE Jae-joon (KANG Ji-hwan). He tells her that he's breaking up with her and leaving the country. She runs to stop him at the airport, but is grabbed by security forces there because of the gun strapped to one of her thighs.

Following this, the film's credits start to roll, accompanied by some Mission Impossible theme-like music. Indeed, a connection with that series will play out much later in the movie. The story resumes three years later. Soo-ji's working cover is now as a travel agent, and she's starting to date Sung-joon, a handsome fellow who seems like a good prospect. Meanwhile, Jae-joon has returned to South Korea and is working with the overseas operations section of the NIS Harimao ("fearless tiger") Team. In a typical instance of inter-agency rivalry and secrecy, neither of these divisions know what the other is up to. And it turns out that they're both working on the same case, but coming at it from different directions.

Jae-joon on the floor and in trouble

Naturally Soo-ji and Jae-joon encounter one another and their mutual feelings are rekindled. But the situation is complicated, to say the least, as neither can reveal what they really do. Lies, suspicion and distrust ensue, the same factors that led him to leave her three years earlier.

Will they be able to surmount these difficulties and finally find true love with one another? Will they be able to thwart the sale of a biochemical weapon by Dr. Roh (Soo-ji's target) to Victor, a Russian agent being trailed by Jae-joon?

Soo-ji and Jae-joon prepare to "foil" the bad guy

This being a rom-com, the results are not all that unpredictable. But it's how the film gets there that matters, and MY GIRLFRIEND IS AN AGENT does so in fine form. Both leads are well-suited for their roles, and there's a nice contrast between Soo-ji's significant experience and Jae-joon's hilarious ineptitude as he tries to break into field work from the research end of operations. The movie also does a nice job of using seemingly insignificant things to set-up important developments later on.

MY GIRLFRIEND IS AN AGENT is a delightful romp in the realm of rom-com espionage. ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars, highly recommended.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

ACF 1400: Nagisa Oshima's TABOO at Japan Society this evening

  Taboo / Gohatto
Directed by Nagisa Oshima
With Takeshi Kitano, Ryuhei Matsuda, Shinji Takeda,
Tadanobu Asano, and Yoichi Sai
Japan, 1999, 100 minutes
In Japanese with English subtitles
When: Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 7:00 PM
Where: Japan Society
333 East 47th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues, NYC

Japan Society's new film series, As Cherry Blossoms Fall: Films & Scenes of Sakura, continues tonight with this screening of Nagisa Oshima's Taboo at 7 PM.

Synopsis: In 1865 Kyoto, Japan’s rigid samurai code is threatened by the emotional whirlwinds of passion and desire. A samurai militia unit that defends the Shogunate enlists 18-year-old Kano, a warrior whose mesmerizing good looks immediately intrigue his fellow students, superiors and even his captain (Beat Takeshi). After a series of mysterious murders provoke further suspicion, disorder erupts

Tickets: $12 general admission, $9 for Japan Society members, seniors and students

Buy Tickets for TABOO Online or call the Japan Society Box Office at (212) 715-1258, Mon. - Fri. 11 am - 6 pm, Weekends 11 am - 5 pm.

The film series As Cherry Blossoms Fall is presented in association with the Japan Foundation and runs through April 14, 2012. Series information here. The film series is part of Sakura — Spring Renews, Beauty Blooms.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

ACF 1399: THE EMPEROR'S NAKED ARMY MARCHES ON

Kenzo Okuzaki
The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On
Directed by Kazuo HARA
Japan, 1987, 122 minutes
When: Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 3:00 PM
Where: Asia Society 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), NYC

Asia Society's film series Extreme Private Ethos: Japanese Documentaries, curated by La Frances Hui, resumes tomorrow afternoon with this fascinating look at Kenzo Okuzaki. During World War II (or The Pacific War, as it's referred to in Japan), he served in the 36th Regiment in New Guinea, where conditions became horrendous, to say the least.

After the war, Okuzaki was in trouble with the law on several occasions. In 1956 he murdered a real estate broker and served 10 years hard labor. (Aside from his statement late in the film that he didn't want to kill the man he murdered, we unfortunately learn nothing of the circumstances of or reason for this crime.) In1969, Okuzaki used a homemade slingshot to fire pachinko balls at the Emperor Hirohito. For this he was sentenced to 1 year, 6 months of hard labor. In 1976 he scattered flyers with pornographic images of the Emperor, earning him a sentence of 1 year, 2 months.



Okuzaki was captured during 1944. Very few members of his regiment survived the war. Of those who did not, two died under mysterious circumstances, having been executed by a firing squad shortly after the war ended. The film is primarily a record of his efforts to learn the truth about what happened, and to get those who were responsible to accept their responsibility. This, at least in part, accounts for his enmity towards Hirohito, whom he blames for not apologizing for putting his soldiers in the position in which they found themselves.

His quest leads him to interview some of the few remaining soldiers who served in the garrison. When some are evasive or reluctant to answer his questions at all, Okuzaku is not above resorting to physical violence. A particular target of his is one Koshimizu, who had been the garrison's leader, and who changed his name to Muramoto after the war. Koshimizu becomes implicated in the execution of those two soldiers. He even may have delivered the coups de grace to the pair.

Okuzaki becomes increasingly violent during the course of the film and was once again sentenced to a lengthy prison term at the movie's end. Fanatical and self-righteous though he was, he managed to unearth things that speak of the lowest levels of behavior to which human beings are capable in their determination to survive, no matter what the cost.

ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars, solidly recommended

Afternote: Okuzaki died at the age of 85 in 2005 in Kobe Japan, about six years after his 1987 sentence was to have ended.

ACF 1398: Happy Birthday, Meiko Kaji

In Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972)

Japanese actress Meiko Kaji was born Masako Ohta on in Tokyo, Japan.

Meiko Kaji, left, in Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter

I feel confident in saying that she is best known in the United States for her roles in the Female Convict Scorpion (a.k.a. Female Prisoner Scorpion) series (which began in 1972), in Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970), and in the two Lady Snowblood movies (1973 and 1974).

In Lady Snowblood (1973)

Kaji was one of the actresses featured in Japan Society's film series Mad, Bad... & Dangerous to Know: Three Untamed Beauties of Japanese Cinema, which ran from March 31-April 18, 2010. The other two were Ayako Wakao and Mariko Okada. 

So, Happy Birthday wishes to you Meiko, from AsianCineFest and all your many fans wordwide.

ACF 1397: AFTER THE FLOWERS screens tonight at Japan Society

 After the Flowers / Hana no ato
Directed by Kenji Nakanishi
Adapted from a short story by Fujisawa Shuhei
With Keiko Kitagawa, Masahiro Komoto,
Shuntaro Miyao, and Akiko Aitsuki
Japan, 2009, 107 minutes
In Japanese with English subtitles
When: Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 7:00 PM
Where: Japan Society
333 East 47th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues, NYC

Japan Society's new film series, As Cherry Blossoms Fall: Films & Scenes of Sakura, continues tonight with this screening of After the Flowers at 7 PM.

Synopsis: If Jane Austen had ever written an edo-period love story or Ozu Yasujiro directed a swordplay drama, it might have looked a little like After the Flowers, an exquisitely mounted second feature by Nakanishi Kenji in which all emotions are beneath social surfaces and swordplay is held back to only two life-changing fights.

Tickets: $12 general admission, $9 for Japan Society members, seniors and students

Buy Tickets for AFTER THE FLOWERS Online or call the Japan Society Box Office at (212) 715-1258, Mon. - Fri. 11 am - 6 pm, Weekends 11 am - 5 pm.

The film series As Cherry Blossoms Fall is presented in association with the Japan Foundation and runs through April 14, 2012. Series information here. The film series is part of Sakura — Spring Renews, Beauty Blooms.

ACF 1396: VIZ Media to create original mangas for REDAKAI

© 2012 Spin Master and Marathon Media.™ & © 2012 Cartoon Network
 VIZ MEDIA TO CREATE ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVELS
BASED ON SPIN MASTER AND MARATHON MEDIA’S
HIT BOYS ACTION PROPERTY, REDAKAI

VIZ Media Acquires Publishing License from
Cartoon Network Enterprises and Spin Master Ltd.

VIZ Media has announced a deal with Cartoon Network Enterprises, the exclusive licensing agent for Spin Master’s full portfolio of brands, to create original graphic novels for Spin Master Ltd. and Marathon Media’s REDAKAI, the popular animated series and innovative trading card game.

REDAKAI follows the adventures of Team Stax as they race against competitors searching the world for mystical Kairu energy, the primal power of the universe.  In the hands of good, Kairu is a living force that guides the universe. But in the hands of evil, Kairu is the most destructive power in the world. Those who can harness it can eventually obtain the highest rank of Kairu warrior, a Redakai. Set in exotic locales with amazing battles, monstrous warriors, and super powers, the REDAKAI animated television series has been a hit for young boys 6-12 since its debut on Cartoon Network in July 2011.

VIZ Media will create and release original stories for REDAKAI in full color. The first graphic novel will be available in October 2012, with the second volume to debut in February 2013.

REDAKAI is a co-production from Spin Master Ltd. and Marathon Media, A Zodiak Kids company, and the animated series currently airs Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings on Cartoon Network. Spin Master launched the trading card game, featuring exclusive Blast3D™ technology, in Fall 2011. The line of action figures and trading cards is currently available at all mass retailers, toy specialty accounts and online.

For more information on REDAKAI, please visit www.redakai.com.  For more information on VIZ Media, please visit www.viz.com.

Friday, March 23, 2012

ACF 1395: OKI'S MOVIE reviewed; showing tonight at MoMI

Oki (left) and Jingu at Mt. Acha
Oki's Movie / Ok-hui-ui yeonghwa
Directed by HONG Sang-soo
With Jeong Yu-mi, Lee Seon-gyun 
South Korea, 2010, 80 minutes 
When: Friday, March 23, 2012 @ 7:00 PM 
Where: Museum of the Moving Image
35th Avenue at 37th Street, Astoria, Queens
From midtown, taxi or N/Q Train outbound to 36th Avenue

HONG Sang-soo is a South Korean director whose works I have only recently encountered. But with the plethora of Korean films that have been playing in New York over the past few weeks, I've now seen four. Oki's Movie is both the most recent of his films that I've seen and the one that I saw most recently. Tonight it will be shown at the Museum of the Moving Image, closingg out The Korea Society's retrospective of five of HONG's films.

Oki and Jingu in bed

The film is about a love triangle that involves (in the order in which we meet them): Jingu, a young filmmaker and heavy drinker; Professor Song of the film department; and Oki, another filmmaker. It is divided into four sections, the last one sharing the movie's title. In this the film is different from the other three of HONG's films that I've seen thus far. Each of them tend to be bifurcated in some way. Woman is the Future of Man (2004) takes place in two towns or cities. Tale of Cinema (2005) consists of two separate, yet related, story lines. Like You Know It All (2009), like Woman is the future of Man, takes place at two separate locales.

Oki and Professor Song at Mt. Acha

On the other hand, Oki's Movie shares a number of characteristics with the other three films. Each has a young male filmmaker as either the main character or one of the main characters. (Oki's Film, as I've mentioned, also has a female film director as a main protagonist.) In each there is a lot of eating and even more drinking going on. And the four films share stylistic consistencies such as basically static, tripod-mounted camera that utilizes occasional slow zooms.

HONG Sang-soo is a well-respected art house director, and I've come to understand and appreciate his works more with each film I've seen. Oki's Movie has contributed significantly to that progression, and I must confess that I look forward to revisiting it before long.  A film definitely worth seeing.

ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; solidly recommended

ACF 1394: DOLLS kicks off new film series at Japan Society tonight

Dolls / Doruzu
Directed by Takeshi Kitano
With Hidetoshi Nishijima, Kyoko Fukada, Miho Kanno,
Tatsuya Mihashi, and Chieko Matsubara
Japan, 2002, 113 minutes
In Japanese with English subtitles
When: Friday, March 23, 2012 at 7:30 PM
Where: Japan Society
333 East 47th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues, NYC

Japan Society's new film series, As Cherry Blossoms Fall: Films & Scenes of Sakura,
begins with tonight's screening of Dolls. This is the 10th, and most lyrical and poetic film by acclaimed Japanese director Takeshi Kitano. Focusing on three couples and the overpowering love that both drives and dooms them, the film is inspired by the beauty of traditional Japanese bunraku puppet theater.


Tickets: $12 general admission, $9 for Japan Society members, seniors and students

Buy Tickets Online or call the Japan Society Box Office at (212) 715-1258, Mon. - Fri. 11 am - 6 pm, Weekends 11 am - 5 pm.

The film series As Cherry Blossoms Fall runs through April 14, 2012. Series information here. The film series is part of Sakura — Spring Renews, Beauty Blooms.

ACF 1393: Akira Kurosawa

 Akira Kurosawa
March 23, 1910 - September 6, 1998

Akira Kurasawa was born 102 years ago in Tokyo. Unquestionably the most famous Japanese film director in the West, he is revered not only for so many fine films, an incredible number of which are masterpieces or near-masterpieces, but also for putting Japanese cinema on the world stage. This occurred when Rashomon, which had been released in 1950, won the Golden Lion Award at the 1951 Venice Film Festival. Kurosawa himself was also awarded the Italian Film Critics Award at that same festival.

Still, I believe that the single film with which his name is most closely associated is Seven Samurai (1954). For me it is a work of cinematic perfection: there's not the single, slightest thing about it that could be improved upon.

Kurosawa (front center) with the cast and crew of The Lower Depths (1957)

During his lifetime Kurosawa directed some 31 films. For me his towering presence in world cinema is most succinctly embodied in the fact that, as far as I can tell, he has more films in the Criterion Collection than any other director. The Criterion offerings include the massive box set AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa. If you don't already own many of his films on DVD, this might be a perfect purchase, though it requires the outlay of a considerable amount of money at one time. It includes four of his earliest films: Sanshiro Sugata (1943), The Most Beautiful (1944), Sanshiro Sugata Part Two (1945), and The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail ((1945). These four films also became available in a box set from Criterion entitled Eclipse Series 23: The First Films of Akira Kurosawa. Another box set that was released earlier is Eclipse Series 7: Postwar Kurosawa, a collection of five "lesser" films spanning 1946 - 1955.

Though he never received an Oscar as a director, in 1990 he received an honorary Oscar for his achievements in film, both in terms of the audiences he reached and the filmmakers he influenced. Two of his films Dersu Uzala (1975) and Ran (1985) were awarded Oscars as best foreign films. All told he won 61 award and was nominated for another 17.

All praise and thanks to one of the world's greatest movie directors. His contributions will last in the memories of film lovers forever.

ACF 1392: Free screening of MY GIRLFRIEND IS AN AGENT

Korean Cultural Service
presents
Korean Movie Night 
Series 2: It's A Fine Romance!
 My Girlfriend Is An Agent
Directed by SIN Tae-ra
South Korea, 2009, 112 minutes
When: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 7:00 PM
Doors open: 6:30 PM
Where: Tribeca Cinemas (map here)
54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, NYC
Near the A, C, E @ #1 Canal Street subway stops
Admission: FREE!!!
All seating is first-come, first served

Opening at number one, and staying in the box office top ten for nine straight weeks, MY GIRLFRIEND IS AN AGENT is the Korean version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Kim Ha-Neul gets dumped by her boyfriend, Kang Ji-Hwan, because she’s never around. Actually, she’s a spy. Three years later, he runs into her again, only now he’s also joined the intelligence service too, albeit in a different department.

Now they both have undercover identities they both have to keep hidden and they’ve got secret missions they both have to fulfill, while working out the trauma of their past relationship. Full of high-speed chases and plenty of glossy gunplay, it’s easy to see why a movie this fast on its feet is already slated for a Bollywood remake.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ACF 1391: THE NAVIDAD INCIDENT: THE DOWNFALL OF MATIAS GUILI available now from VIZ Media's Haikasoru imprint

© Natsuki Ikezawa 1993
VIZ MEDIA’S HAIKASORU IMPRINT RELEASES AWARD WINNING NOVEL
THE NAVIDAD INCIDENT: THE DOWNFALL OF MATIAS GUILI

A Modern Classic Of Magical Realism And Political Satire
That Reinvents Myths Of 20th Century Japan

VIZ Media’s Haikasoru imprint has announced the release of author Natsuki Ikezawa’s surrealistic novel, THE NAVIDAD INCIDENT: THE DOWNFALL OF MATIAS GUILI. The book is published by the company’s Haikasoru imprint and carries an MSRP of $24.99 U.S. / $28.99 CAN / £16.99 UK. An eBook edition is also available on the Amazon Kindle, Apple’s iBooks Store, the Barnes & Noble’s Nook Books Store, and the Sony Reader™ Store.

Haikasoru publishes some of the most compelling contemporary Japanese science fiction and fantasy stories for English-speaking audiences, and is the first imprint based in the U.S. dedicated to Japanese science fiction and fantasy in translation.

In this sweeping magical-realist epic set in the fictional south sea island Republic of Navidad, Ikezawa gives his imagination free rein to reinvent the myths of the twentieth century Japan. The story takes off as a delegation of Japanese war veterans pays an official visit to the ex-World War II colony, only to see the Japanese flag burst into flames. The following day, the tour bus and its passengers simply vanish. The locals exchange absurd rumors – the bus was last seen attending Catholic mass, the bus must have skipped across the lagoon – but the president suspects a covert guerrilla organization is trying to undermine his connections with Japan. Can the real answers to the mystery be found, or will the president have to be content with the surreal answers?
“Natsuki Ikezawa crafts an engrossing story that combines charmingly surreal set pieces, traditional fantasy tropes such as ghosts, with a story of international politics,” says Nick Mamatas, Haikasoru Editor. “We invite readers to take the journey to the mysterious nation of Navidad and uncover the truth behind these unexplained occurrences in this newest release from Haikasoru!” 

Author Natsuki Ikezawa was born in Hokkaido, Japan in 1945 and was formerly enrolled at Saitama University before leaving to become a poet and author. Presently, he writes fiction and literary criticism and is also an active public speaker. Several of his works including STILL LIVES and A BURDEN OF FLOWERS have been published in English. In 1993, THE NAVIDAD INCIDENT: THE DOWNFALL OF MATIAS GUILI was the winner of the prestigious Tanizaki Jun’ichiro Prize.



For more information on THE NAVIDAD INCIDENT and the Haikasoru imprint, visit the dedicated website at www.haikasoru.com.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

ACF 3890: AS CHERRY BLOSSOMS FALL: FILMS & SCENES OF SAKURA

Hana: The Tale of a Reluctnt Samurai
Hot on the heels of it's terrific Love Will Tear Us Apart film series, Japan Society will present As Cherry Blossoms Fall: Films & Scenes of Sakura. This ten film series has been curated to reveal the beauty of transience (mono no aware in Japanese) and will run from March 23–April 14, 2012. Complete program info here.

As Cherry Blossoms Fall: Films & Scenes of Sakura is presented in association with The Japan Foundation. It is part of the program Sakura - Spring Renews, Beauty Blooms, which is taking place in conjunction with the New York and Washington, DC centennial celebrations of the gift of cherry trees from Japan. Japan Society will revel in what has become known to New Yorkers as a symbol of spring. This six-week-long series of programs is shaped around the many meanings and connotations of sakura, or cherry blossoms--the celebration of spring and beauty, rebirth, resilience, ephemerality and reflection on the one-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

In addition to As Cherry Blossoms Fall, Sakura - Spring Renews, Beauty Blooms will feature live performances of centuries-old kabuki dance; a discussion with architect Rem Koolhaas; a haiku workshop; and a Japanese confections discussion and workshop. The Sakura series culminates with Japan Society’s annual j-CATION all-day culture festival—12 hours of crafts, workshops, language classes, film screenings, live concerts, and a Japanese-style game show.

ACF 1389: OKI's MOVIE at MoMI

 Oki's Movie / Ok-hui-ui yeonghwa
Directed by HONG Sang-soo
With Jeong Yu-mi, Lee Seon-gyun
South Korea, 2010, 80 minutes
When: Friday, March 23, 2012 @ 7:00 PM
Where: Museum of the Moving Image
35th Avenue at 37th Street, Astoria, Queens
From midtown, taxi or N/Q Train outbound to 36th Avenue

The Korea Society's retrospective of five films by HONG Sang-soo concludes this Friday with Oki's Movie, which was the closing film for the Horizons section of the 67th Venice Film Festival. A story told in four chapters, Oki's Movie follows a film student and her complicated relationships with a young director and a middle-aged professor. The awkward romantic triangle serves as the inspiration for her film project.

ACF 1388: NINJA KIDS!!!

Ninja Kids!!!
Directed by Takashi Miike
When: Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 12:00 noon
Where: Asia Society
725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), NYC

From the twisted mind of Takashi Miike comes an insane new kids’ flick about a feuding ninja school – a riotous comedy that easily earns all three exclamation points in its title. Little Rantaro comes from a long line of low-ranking ninjas, so when the time comes to leave the family farm to enter ninja school himself he is determined to study hard. Yet despite their dedication in star-throwing, explosives, and rock-climbing, Rantaro’s first year class is so inept that the headmaster declares an early summer vacation and sends them all home.

But the youngsters will get to earn their stars yet – after being challenged by a rival clan, the first-years must race to ring the bell at a mountaintop temple to save the school. Brilliant in its excess and bursting with joyous energy from the infectious young cast, the film is loaded with non-stop visual gags, dopey villains, adorable ninja trainees, and one very informative “friendly ninja trivia commentator” (as well as a musical back-story about a ninja-turned-hairdresser, sung mock operatic under a shower of falling flower petals). To quote one reviewer: Your jaw will drop like an elevator with a snapped cable. Be sure to stay for the end credits!

Comment: Stylized cartoon violence is jarring at first, until you realize that no one really gets hurt.

This screening of Ninja Kids is part of the New York International Children's Film Festival (NYICFF), which ends on Sunday, March 25th with screenings at various venues. For information about the remaining festival screenings, which include both live action and animated offerings from Asia, click here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

ACF 1387: VIZ Media announces launch of six new digital manga series

YU-GI-OH! GX © 2005 by Kazuki Takahashi, Naoyuki Kageyama/SHUEISHA Inc.
© K. Takahashi
© NAS/TV TOKYO
VIZ MEDIA LAUNCHES 6 NEW MANGA SERIES ON VIZMANGA.COM
AND THE VIZ MANGA APP FOR iPAD, iPHONE AND iPOD TOUCH

BUSO RENKIN, THE EARL AND THE FAIRY, HIKARU NO GO,
PSYREN, TEGAMI BACHI and YU-GI-OH! GX
Join The Extensive VIZ Manga Digital Library This Month!

VIZ Media delivers more digital manga (graphic novel) excitement to fans this month with the announcement of the launch of six new series are now available on VIZManga.com and for digital download on the VIZ MANGA App for the Apple iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. The new series include BUSO RENKIN, THE EARL AND THE FAIRY, HIKARU NO GO, PSYREN, TEGAMI BACHI, and YU GI OH! GX.

The VIZ MANGA APP is available for free through the iTunes Store and all manga volumes are generally available for purchase and download in the U.S. and Canada within the application for $4.99 (U.S. / CAN) per volume. More than 45 series and 500+ volumes are currently available for download.

BUSO RENKIN Vol. 1
· by Nobuhiro Watsuki  · Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens
BUSO RENKIN is the story of teenager Kazuki Muto, who dies trying to save a girl who was being attacked by an eerie monster. The next morning, however, Kazuki is left wondering whether it was all a dream. Lo and behold, the girl, the monster, and his death are all real! The girl, Tokiko Tsumura, was actually trying to slay the homunculus (a beast that can take the form of humans, and whose main source of food is people), but Kazuki got in her way. To revive Kazuki, Tokiko replaces his heart with a "kakugane," an alchemic device that allows him to summon a lance with which to fight the monsters. It turns out that Tokiko is a member of the Alchemist Warriors, an organization sworn to protect the world from the diabolical creatures. Soon, Kazuki joins Tokiko in her quest to terminate the sinister being that creates and controls the homunculus.

THE EARL AND THE FAIRY Vol. 1 · original concept by Tani Mizue, story & art by Ayuko · Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens
Lydia Carlton is a fairy doctor, one of the few people with the ability to see the magical creatures who share our world. During one of her rare trips to London to visit her father, Lydia’s quiet life is suddenly transformed when she is rescued from kidnappers by a mysterious young man! Edgar Ashenbert claims to be descended from the human ruler of the fairy kingdom, and he urgently needs Lydia’s help to find and claim his birthright, the legendary sword of the Blue Knight Earl. Things will never be the same for Lydia as she is pulled into a dangerous quest against dark forces!

HIKARU-NO GO © 1998 by Yumi Hotta, Takeshi Obata/SHUEISHA Inc.

HIKARU NO GO Vol. 1 · story by Yumi Hotta, art by Takeshi Obata · Rated ‘A’ for All Ages
After stumbling across a haunted go board, Hikaru Shindo discovers that the spirit of a master player named Fujiwara-no-Sai has taken up residence in his consciousness. Sai awakens in Hikaru an untapped genius for the game, and soon the schoolboy is chasing his own dream – defeating the famed go prodigy Akira Toya!

PSYREN Vol. 1
· by Toshiaki Iwashiro · Rated ‘T’ for Teens
Ageha Yoshina just got transported to a warped alternate dimension where you've got to fight your way back to our world – or die trying. "Save me!" Those were Sakurako Amamiya's last words to her friend Ageha Yoshina before she mysteriously went missing. Now Ageha's on a quest to find her. He's convinced that the mythical Psyren Secret Society has something to do with the recent rash of disappearances. And now he seems to be caught up as a player in their very deadly game...

TEGAMI BACHI Vol. 1
· by Hiroyuki Asada · Rated ‘T’ for Teens
Amberground is locked in darkness. A man-made star casts only a dim light over the land. The pitch-black wilderness is infested with Gaichuu – colossal insects with metal exoskeletons. The Gaichuu make travel between the cities of Amberground extremely dangerous. But thankfully the Letter Bees, a brave corps of messengers, risk their lives in order to keep the hearts of Amberground connected.

YU-GI-OH! GX Vol. 1
· original concept by Kazuki Takahashi, story and art by Naoyuki Kageyama · Rated ‘A’ for All Ages
Years after Yugi's legendary battles, the game is so popular that schools dedicated to the art of Dueling have sprung up all over the world. Join Jaden Yuki and his pals at the Academy for the adventures of the next generation of YU-GI-OH!
VIZ Media’s multiple digital manga platforms allow for universal access to read manga from an iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and now, on VIZManga.com for desktop/laptop PC-enabled computers as well as Android-powered devices with built-in web browsers. With one account, registered users may access their purchases across even more devices than ever.

The free VIZ Manga App continues to be the top app for reading manga and features a rapidly growing library of the most popular manga series in the world. Over 45 series and 500+ volumes are currently available, with new additions and free Chapter 1 previews added weekly.

For more information, please visit VIZManga.com or www.VIZ.com/apps. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

ACF 1386: Happy Birthday Wishes To Hong Kong Actor Simon Yam!


Simon Yam in PTU: Police Tactical Unit

Veteran Hong Kong actor Simon Yam was born in that city on March 19th, 1955. His IMDb filmography lists over 170 films and TV appearances, going back to 1977. He's played a wide variety of roles on both sides of the law. (Interestingly, his father and elder brother Peter Yam Tat-Wing were both law-enforcement officers.)

Yam as the serial killer in Dr Lamb

Some of his films that are better known in the West include:

Bullet in the Head (1990)
Once Upon a Time in China (1991)
Dr. Lamb (1992)
Full Contact (1993)
The Mission (1999)
PTU (2003)
Breaking News (2004)
Election (2005)
Kill Zone, a.k.a. S.P.L. (2005)
Election 2 (2006)
Exiled (2006)
Sparrow (2008)
Yip Man 2 (2010)

So, Happy 57th Birthday, Simon Yam, and may there be many happy returns of you to the screen in years to come.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

ACF 1385: Documentary double-feature at Asia Society tomorrow

Up Close and Personal: Naomi KAWASE
(Two films screened in one program)
 When: Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 3:00 PM
Where: Asia Society
725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), NYC
 
Asia Society's film series Extreme Private Ethos: Japanese Documentaries, curated by La Frances Hui. resumes tomorrow afternoon with these two works by Naomi Kawase. In her work family has been a central theme. Abandoned as an infant by her parents, who had already separated at the time of the filmmaker’s birth, Kawase was adopted and raised by her great uncle and aunt. The abandonment has left a major scar in the filmmaker. Many of Kawase’s documentaries confront issues of identity and family in an attempt to deal with the void she has felt since childhood.

Embracing
Directed by
Naomi KAWASE
Japan. 1992, 40 minutes, Color, 16mm.
 
Against the advice of family members, filmmaker Kawase sets out to search for the father she has never met. As the filmmaker looks up old photographs and public registries to locate her father, a sense of loneliness and quiet perseverance permeates the screen. Made when Kawase was 23 years old, Embracing charts a deeply emotional journey filled with pain, emptiness and longing. (A Kumie, Inc. film. Print courtesy of Japan Foundation.)
 
Tarachime
Directed by
Naomi KAWASE
Japan, 2006, 43 minutes, Color, Digibeta.
 
Bearing her own child for the first time, filmmaker Kawase reflects on the themes of motherhood, family, and the cycle of life as she films the great aunt who adopted and raised her. Called Grandma by the filmmaker, Uno is 90 years old and ailing, evident in the uncompromising exposure of her fragile body. The documentary shows the two women fighting, as Kawase complains about her lonely childhood, and their subsequent reconciliation. At once brutal and tender, the film reveals a complex mother-daughter relationship. "Tarachime" refers to "birth mother" in Japanese. (A Kumie, Inc. film.)

“[Tarachime is] a beautiful and breathtaking work of art…of the most marvelous simplicity.”—Natalia Ames, Nisimazine

“[Her films] are about life… Kawase just took your hands and led you to her garden. It is an intimate journey, a generous gesture.”—Apichatpong Weerasethakul , filmmaker (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, 2010)

Friday, March 16, 2012

ACF 1384: U.S. Premiere of TATSUMI opens 5th ContemporAsian season at Museum of Modern Art

Images courtesy of The Match Factory.
Tatsumi
Directed by Eric Khoo
Singapore, 2011,  94 minutes
With the voice of Yoshihiro Tatsumi 
In Japanese with English subtitles
When: April 4–9, 2012
Where: The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street, NYC
Info and tickets here

ContemporAsian, MoMA’s annual showcase of Asian cinema, features weeklong engagements of films that capture the various styles, histories, and changes in contemporary Asian filmmaking. This series includes recent independent gems by both new and established filmmakers whose work represent the rapidly transforming visual culture of the region. The fifth season of ContemporAsian opens with the U.S. premiere of Tatsumi, a riveting animated documentary about the life and art of celebrated graphic novelist Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

A Drifting Life, Tatsumi’s epic graphic novel memoir, forms the foundation for Khoo’s animated documentary. In postwar Japan in the late 1950s, Tatsumi brought innovation to Japanese comics through works of social commentary aimed at an adult audience. Khoo, known in his native Singapore for such live-action films as Be with Me (2005) and My Magic (2008), brings Tatsumi’s art to life by juxtaposing Tatsumi’s autobiography with his short stories that focus on the effects of World War II and urban alienation on the Japanese people. This first-ever film adaptation of Tatsumi’s work adds depth and structure to his various narratives while remaining loyal to his vivid style. Print courtesy The Match Factory.


Synopsis: In post-war occupied Japan, young Tatsumi’s passion for comics eventually becomes a means of supporting his poor family. Already published as a teenager, talented Tatsumi finds even greater inspiration after meeting his idol, famous Disneyesque animator Osamu Tezuka. Despite his steady success, Tatsumi begins to question why Japanese comics should cater to children with cute and whimsical tales and drawings. In 1957, Tatsumi coins the term gekiga (dramatic pictures) and redefines the manga landscape by encouraging an alternative genre for adults. Realistic and disquieting, Tatsumi’s work begins to grapple with the darker aspects of life.

This exhibition is organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, and Jenny He, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film.

Screening Schedule:
Wednesday, April 4, 7:00. (New York premiere. Introduced by Khoo and Tatsumi)
Thursday, April 5, 4:00
Friday, April 6, 7:00
Saturday, April 7, 1:30
Sunday, April 8, 5:00
Monday, April 9, 4:00

ACF 1383: VIZ Media at WonderCon

ONE PIECE © 1997 by Eiichiro Oda/SHUEISHA Inc.
TORIKO © 2008 by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro/SHUEISHA Inc.
VIZ MEDIA ANNOUNCES ACTIVITIES & CONVENTION
EXCLUSIVES FOR WONDERCON 2012

VIZ Media Treats Attendees To Special “Test Drives” Of New
WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA Digital Manga Magazine

VIZ Media, the largest distributor and licensor of anime and manga in North America, returns to WonderCon 2012 as the show comes to Anaheim, CA, March 16th-18th at the Anaheim Convention Center. WonderCon is one of the country's best comics and pop culture conventions. VIZ Media will be located in Booth 206. Complete details on WonderCon are available at: www.comic-con.org/wc.

Throughout the convention, VIZ Media will treat WonderCon attendees to special “test drives” of the company’s new WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA digital manga magazine. Drop by the VIZ Media booth, sample the new digital content, and complete a special survey to be entered to win a new Apple iPad 2! The winner will be notified following the show.

Each new digital edition of WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA treats manga fans in North America to the latest chapters of some of the world’s most popular manga series only two weeks after they debut in Japan’s massively popular WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP magazine. Featured series include BAKUMAN。, BLEACH, NARUTO, NURA: RISE OF THE YOKAI CLAN, ONE PIECE, and TORIKO. WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA is available through an annual membership that provides 52 weeks of access to 48 weekly issues for just $25.99; members also receive an annual collector’s yearbook, collectable YU-GI-OH! game cards four times a year, and access to exclusive content. As a show special, attendees that become new members will receive a special bonus premium (while supplies last).

Celebrate all things SHONEN JUMP at a special SHONEN JUMP Fan Meet-Up on Friday March 16th from 2:30pm - 3:30pm in Room 208 and learn about the benefits of being a WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA member! Grill the WEEKLY SJ ALPHA editors in a live Q&A session! Win prizes at the trivia contest and join in the live fan art jam! Meet editor Urian Brown, the lead hype-man of #TEAMJUMP, specializing in video games, anime, and assorted fun wacky antics. Also meet Misaki Kido, female leader of #TEAMJUMP, and challenge her manga knowledge or ask for advice about your own manga!

Finally, sit in with WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA editor Urian Brown as he joins NAMCO BANDAI Games to celebrate NARUTO SHIPPUDEN: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations in a special panel discussion on Sunday March, 18th from 4:00pm-5:00pm in Room 207. With over 10 million units of the popular game, based on the smash hit anime/manga series, sold worldwide, all fans of NARUTO are encouraged to attend this celebration of the series. In addition to being treated to an appearance by Production Head Director Hiroshi Matsuyama of CyberConnect 2, fans can enjoy a panel covering the exciting world of NARUTO video games, with a guest host, Urian Brown, master of all things video game-related at WEEKLY SJ ALPHA. Don't miss all of the action happening live on-stage with this exciting and breakthrough game franchise.

For more information on WEEKLY SJ ALPHA and exclusive subscriber offers, please visit SJAlpha.com or VIZManga.com