With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Friday, December 26, 2008

ACF 197: "The Sky Crawlers" reviewed

All images (c) Stage 6 Films / Production I.G.

The Sky Crawlers / Sukai kurora
Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Japan, 2008, animated, 121 min.

Two weeks ago, on Friday, December 12th, 2008, I had the joy of seeing the New York premiere of The Sky Crawlers, the newest animation from master director Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. There didn't seem to be an empty seat in this terrific venue for the 7:00 show, which I attended, and there was a big line waiting for the other screening that night. So it seems that two full, or nearly full, houses got to enjoy one helluva terrific film.

Base Commander Suito (l) and pilot Yuichi

The Sky Crawlers is based on a series of five books by MORI Hiroshi, who is well known for his mystery novels. (Here I've written his name as I understand he insists it be done, family name first and all-in-caps.) In an alternate reality, war as we know it has been replaced by corporate-sponsored combat between rival air forces. The pilots are known as Kildren, adolescent youths who never age and who seem to exist only to engage in combat.

I've been interested in aviation since elementary school and have seen a lot of films related to flight and air combat. The aerial scenes and dogfights in this film are terrific, all the more amazing because they're animated.

The story's central character is Yuichi and we meet him as he is assigned to a new base and plane. The base commander is Suito, another Kildren, and a rather strange, intimate relationship develops between the two of them. Yuichi also develops another relationship with a prostitute, a normal human; she and one of her co-workers are kind of fighter pilot groupies.

The attention to detail in the film is incredible, though not surprising since Oshii is directing. As the opening credits are ending, the camera's viewpoint is from under the nose of a plane coming in for a landing. Between the camera and the ground are letters forming the credits for the director.

The credit letters cast shadows on the ground, and the shadows actually become larger as the plane comes closer to the ground, just as they would if they were real objects. And during a dogfight early in the film, bullet casings can be seen coming out of the wing machine guns of a fighter! (See the picture at the top of this post.)

Two of my favorite young Japanese actresses provide character voices for the film. Rinko Kikuchi (Funky Forest: The First Contact and Babel) does that of base commander Suito Kusanagi. Chiaki Kuriyama (Kill Bill: Vol.1 and Exte: Hair Extensions) provides the voice for Mitsuya. (I believe that's the prostitute Yuichi hooks up with, but I'm not positive.)

In The Sky Crawlers, Oshii has created not only another visually stunning animation, but one that poses a number of intriguing questions about youth, memory, and the difficulties in forging connections, whether one is a kildren or a normal human.

ACF rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars. A must-see for anime´fans, and a should-see for everyone else.

The Sky Crawlers @ YouTube.
Mamoru Oshii @ YouTube.

(I came across these convenient links at JapanSugoi, an interesting website devoted to "Everything Cool about Japan.")

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

ACF 196: VIZ Media & Warner in distribution deal

VIZ Media and Warner Home Video Forge Distribution Alliance

Hit Japanese Animated Properties Include


Earlier this month, VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media) and Warner Home Video (WHV) announced that they had reached agreement for the home entertainment distribution in the United States and Mexico of new and catalog DVD releases from VIZ Media. The announcement was jointly made by Hidemi Fukuhara, President and CEO of VIZ Media and Jeff Brown, WHV Executive Vice President and General Manager, TV, Family and Animation.

The new arrangement should have a positive impact on the districution and availability of numerous popular titles. Since this is probably of interest to many of you anime´ fans out there, here's the info from the press release:

Effective April 1, 2009, WHV will be the exclusive home entertainment distributor for new and catalog DVD content based on well-known franchises such as NARUTO, BLEACH, DEATH NOTE and INUYASHA as well as the POKÉMON animated television series and catalog features. The first new DVD releases from VIZ Media and WHV are scheduled to be NARUTO Uncut Box Set 13, NARUTO Uncut Box Set 13 Special Edition

VIZ Media is one of the leading purveyors of Japanese animated content (anime) and manga (graphic novel) publishing in North America. VIZ Media is one of the largest U.S. studios in the non-theatrical anime DVD segment and has played a major role in helping anime gain widespread mainstream popularity.

A leader in the video distribution industry, over the years WHV has successfully signed agreements with content owners of some of the world’s most renowned brands including BBC, National Geographic, Peanuts, Dr. Seuss, Popeye, American Girl, Cartoon Network, Leap Frog, Scholastic, The Wiggles, NFL, NBA and NHL.Other perennial animated properties in the Warner Bros. library include Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, Hanna Barbera, Scooby-Doo, Batman, Superman and all of the other DC Comics characters.

Regarding the announcement, Mr. Fukuhara remarked, “We look forward to joining forces with Warner Home Video and are confident that in working with their strength in sales and distribution, we will continue to grow the anime category even more effectively than we have over the last several years. We’re very encouraged by Warner Home Video’s enthusiasm for this category and our properties and look forward to our titles reaching an even wider audience as a result of this relationship.”

Brown added, “The association between Warner Home Video and VIZ Media demonstrates our continued commitment to the growing sector of anime. Adding to our previous success with The Animatrix and Appleseed: Ex Machina, we are looking forward to a successful relationship with VIZ Media, one of the top players in the anime genre and children’s animation.”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

ACF 195: Canadians Get Anime´at the iTunes Store, including free 1st episodes!

News for Canadian fans of anime´!!!

VIZ Media's NARUTO (uncut), BLEACH and DEATH NOTE are now available on the iTunes store in Canada (www.iTunes.ca). English dubbed versions of NARUTO (Uncut Version) Season 1, 2 and 3 (Volumes 1 & 2), three story arcs of BLEACH (The Substitute, The Entry and The Rescue), and all 37 episodes of DEATH NOTE are now available for purchase and download.

In celebration of this launch - iTunes Users in Canada will be able to download the first episode of NARUTO, BLEACH and DEATH NOTE For FREE Until January 6,2009!

Here's further info from VIZ's press relase:

NARUTO, BLEACH and DEATH NOTE have emerged as three of the world's most popular Japanese animated series, each attracting millions of devoted viewers with a blend of stylish animation, multi-faceted characters and riveting story lines.

“We are excited to make NARUTO, BLEACH and DEATH NOTE available on iTunes in Canada," says David Rewalt, Senior Director, Retail Development, VIZ Media. "The flexibility and convenience of iTunes will allow Canadian fans to watch their favorite episodes whenever and wherever they want on their iPod or iPhone. It's very natural for a hip entertainment and pop culture phenomenon like anime to take full advantage of the latest in digital media delivery and we invite fans in Canada to become part of the growing audience enjoying these VIZ Media titles on iTunes.”

NARUTO (Uncut): Rated T+ for Older Teens
NARUTO has become the hottest animated series across North America and is one of VIZ Media’s most successful manga and animated properties in terms of sales. Created by Masashi Kishimoto, the series depicts the adventures of a young boy named Uzumaki Naruto who trains to become a ninja. The boy is cursed with the spirit of a nine-tailed fox demon and is forced to live a bullied life discriminated against by his fellow villagers. Naruto is resilient and undaunted in his quest to become a master ninja and his determination often inspires those around him. Through amazing adventures, the young ninja learns the importance of friendship, teamwork, loyalty, hard work, creativity, ingenuity, and right vs. wrong. Dedicated website at www.naruto.com.

BLEACH: Rated T for Teens
BLEACH, an animated, hyperkinetic, ghost-busting action series is the story of a 15 year-old named Ichigo Kurosaki who was born with the ability to see ghosts. When his family is attacked by a Hollow – a malevolent lost soul – Ichigo encounters a Soul Reaper and absorbs her powers. Now he has dedicates his life to protecting the innocent and helping the tortured souls find peace. Dedicated website at www.bleach.viz.com.

DEATH NOTE: Rated T+ for Older Teens
DEATH NOTE is based on the manga series of the same name and is currently one of the hottest animated titles in Japan. The series depicts the adventures of Light Yagami, an ace student with great prospects but who is bored out of his mind. All of that changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami death god. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and now Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. But when criminals mysteriously begin dropping dead, the authorities send the legendary detective L to investigate, and he is soon hot on the trail of Light, who must now reevaluate his one noble goal. Dedicated website at www.deathnote.viz.com.

Individual episodes on the iTunes Store in Canada are C$1.99 each. Full seasons also can be purchased. These titles are also available on the iTunes Store in the US.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

ACF 194: "A Romance Papa" at The Korea Society's Classic Movie Night this Thursday

A Romance Papa / 로망스 빠빠
Directed by Shin Sang-ok
Cast: Kim Sung-ho, Shin Sung-il, Choi Eun-hee
South Korea,1960, b&w, 131 minutes

The Korea Society
's Classic Movie Night series continues this Thursday, December 18, 2008 at 6:30PM with a screening of Shin Sang-ok's A Romance Papa.

Kim Seung-ho plays a typical, optimistic Korean father—known as "Romance Papa" to his five children—who has always managed to support his family on his modest salary. When his company lays him off, he can't bear to tell them. His children find out in spite of him, and conspire to support the family without making their father lose face.

Movies will be screened at The Korea Society in midtown Manhattan, 950 Third Avenue @ 57th Street, 8th Floor.

Individual ticket price (one film): $5 for members, $10 for nonmembers.

Buy tickets

For more information or to register for the program, contact Heewon Kim at (212) 759-7525, ext. 355

Thursday, December 11, 2008

ACF 193: Supercop coming out January 13th!

I just recieved some P.R. info about Supercop (a.k.a. Police Story 3) coming out early next year in a 2-disc ultimate edition from Dragon Dynasty. This is a fantastic film, easily the best in the outstanding series (outstanding, that is, aside from the much later New Police Story). And the extras on Dragon Dynasty's 2-disc ultimate editions are always terrific.

So I'm passing on the info right away and hope to have my review copy in the near future. Even though it's the holiday season, I'll be getting my review of this up really fast, and may even be able to also put up some thoughts on Police Story 1 and 2.

Also check-out Grady Hendrix's Kaiju Shakedown article about the Supercop release. This was where I first learned that it was coming out, but there wasn't much information about it at that time.

Here's the Press Release info from Dragon Dynasty:

The Dragon Dynasty label releases yet another high-flying action packed adventure, SUPERCOP. One of Jackie Chan’s most beloved films, SUPERCOP flies onto DVD shelves in a two disc ultimate edition on January 13th from The Weinstein Company and Genius Products.

SUPERCOP tells the adrenaline-fueled story of a Hong Kong police officer who teams with a beautiful but “by the book” agent in order to bring down the region’s most notorious and merciless drug cartel. Going undercover as siblings, the unlikely duo must utilize use their explosive kung fu skills and resourcefulness to dissolve the infamous syndicate.

SUPERCOP features the legendary kung fu master, Jackie Chan (The Forbidden Kingdom, Rush Hour) and Michelle Yeoh (The Mummy 3, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), and co-stars Maggie Cheung (Jet Li’s Hero). Directed by Stanley Tong (Mr. Magoo), this martial arts masterpiece led the way for a new era of kung fu stars in America and is sure to find success once again.

Kevin Chan (Chan), a Hong Kong Police officer, teams up with beautiful but dangerous Chinese agent Jessica Yang (Yeoh) who poses as his sister as they go undercover to bring down the region’s predominate drug cartel.

Special Features:
· Flying High: An Exclusive Interview With Star Jackie Chan
· Dancing With Death: An Interview With Leading Lady Michelle Yeoh
· The Stuntmaster General: An Exclusive Interview With Director Stanley Tong
· The Fall Guy: An Exclusive Interview With Co-Star And Jackie Chan Bodyguard And Training Partner Ken Lo
· Commentary By Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan

Price: $24.95
Street Date: January 13, 2009
Catalog Number: 81700
Rating: NR
Run Time: 91 minutes
Languages: English Dolby 5.1, English DTS, Cantonese Mono
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Closed Captioned

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

ACF 192: Hwang Jin Yi @ Korea Society

Just a brief reminder that The Korea Society's monthly presentation of select episodes of Korean KBS TV's hit drama Hwang Jin Yi continues tomorrow night, Wednesday, December 10, 2008. Part Two: The Birth of a Kisaeng will be shown 6:30 PM.


Hwang Jin Yi's mother fears that her young daughter will follow in her footsteps and become a kisaeng: a singer, dancer and hostess who lives a life catering to the whims of the yangban elite. Determined that her daughter should become more than a mere plaything for men, she sends Hwang Jin Yi deep into the forest to be cared for by an old monk. But when Hwang Jin Yi slips away and glimpses the beauty of a kisaeng dance, she is drawn to her destiny.

Special Guest:
Actress Jeon Mi-seon (the mother) will appear from Korea through an exclusive video conference to discuss the making of Hwang Jin Yi and answer audience questions. This series continues through February 2009. Click here for the full schedule and photos from the series.

Buy tickets

The Korea Society
950 Third Avenue @ 57th Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10022
(map here)

Monday, December 08, 2008

ACF 191: The Sky Crawlers @ The Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center


The Sky Crawlers


Japan/2008/122 Min. /color/Japanese with English subtitles

FRIDAY, DEC. 12, 2008 AT 7 & 9:30


Somewhere, in a country similar to ours
There are children who do not become adults
They are very similar to us

We are proud to announce the New York Premiere of Director Mamoru Oshii’s latest film, The Sky Crawlers, - an engaging combination of philosophy and science fiction, featuring brilliantly executed aerial combat sequences. Oshii sees this film as a message to the youth of the world. Visually appealing high quality animation was produced by Production I.G. The Sky Crawlers was nominated for the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival.


The story takes place in another possible ‘now’ - a world that has eradicated war and finally attained peace. However, this prolonged state of peace created demand for a new kind of war. A conflict happening elsewhere, that could be seen on TV or read in the papers - in order to get a feeling of reality.

Private war contractors enlist fighter pilots to perform their services in an endless “war as entertainment.” They call these pilots Kildren. Innocent-looking teenagers, Kildren never age into adulthood, and live in a state of eternal adolescence until the day they drift gracefully through the endless skies.

One day, pilot Yuichi arrives to his newly assigned airbase. He has only vague memory of his past. The only two things he recalls are that he is a Kildren and how to operate a fighter plane. A woman is keeping an eye on Yuichi. She is Suito, the base commander. A Kildren herself, Suito behaves as if she’s been waiting to meet Yuichi for a long time. Perplexed, Yuichi is nevertheless gradually attracted by her.

All pilots at the base have to confront the most invincible enemy ace, known as Teacher. His trademark is a black jaguar painted on the nose of his plane. It is said that if you run into him up in the sky, you don’t come back to tell your friends. Who really is the Teacher? What does Suito know about Yuichi’s past? What are the secrets behind the Kildren?

About the Director

Born in Tokyo in 1951, Mamoru Oshii is one of the most remarkable personalities in modern Japanese filmmaking. He succeeded in introducing the complexity of fanta-politics and introspective philosophical speculation into the world of animation, influencing Hollywood creators with his visionary style.

Oshii joined the legendary anime studio Tatsunoko Pro. in 1977. After moving to Studio Pierrot, he worked on TV anime series “Urusei Yatsura,” based on Rumiko Takahashi’s bestseller manga, made his feature film debut with “Urusei Yatsura: Only You” in 1983, and created an enthusiastically acclaimed “Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer.” After directing “Angel’s Egg” in 1985, he turned his back on mass entertainment and started making both animated and live action films that expressed his unique worldview.

In 1988, Oshii joined the talented creators group called Headgear, that gave birth to the project entitled “Mobile Police Patlabor.” Its TV anime series, OVA series and the two feature films added new realism to the robot genre in animation. In 1995, Oshii released “Ghost in the Shell,” an epoch-making movie that hugely influenced Hollywood creators and ranked No. 1 in Billboard Top Video Sales Chart (August 24, 1996). Nine years later, he directed “Ghost in the Shell” ideal sequel, “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence” the first Japanese animated feature to compete for the Palme d’Or at the Festival de Cannes.

Oshii has also directed a number of live-action features, including “The Red Spectacles” (1986), “Stray Dog” (1991) and “Avalon” (2001). The world of “The Red Spectacles” and “Stray Dog” was further developed in the animated feature “Jin-Roh - The Wolf Brigade” (1999), produced by Production I.G from Oshii’s script. In 2006, he wrote and directed his most challenging visual experiment, “Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters,” a satirical mockumentary about 50 years of Japanese dietary culture. The film was invited for the official selection at the 63rd Venice Film Festival.

Oshii’s latest new movie, The Sky Crawlers, received its international premiere at the 65th Venice Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Golden Lion. Later, it was greeted with 3 awards at Sitges 08.

Director’s comment on the film: (a part of full comments)

“I am at an age where I am neither too young nor too old to direct a film. Although I still have lots of what I want to experience and accomplish, in societal terms, I could be described as in my “prime years.” I sometimes feel aware of my age especially when I’m surrounded by staff that is much younger than me, or when I’m face to face with my daughter, who is no longer a child.

Consequently I’ve thought about these issues in my role as a filmmaker. I felt urged to give a message to the younger generation

Saturday, December 06, 2008

ACF 190: NARUTO on Yahoo Top 10 List!

Fans of Naruto, either in manga or anime´ form or both, will be pleased to learn that it has been named the 7th most-searched item at Yahoo! in 2008. This also suggests that if you're not familiar with NARUTO, perhaps you should check it out for yourself. Here's the full press release info from VIZ Media, which distributes NARUTO:

NARUTO has been named by Yahoo! as the Number 7 most-searched term in 2008, as reported by the Yahoo! 2008 Year In Review Top 10 Search list. The list, which is available at YearInReview.yahoo.com, provides insights about popular culture and what Yahoo! searchers cared about most throughout 2008. The spunky ninja-in-training NARUTO appears on the list beside future President Barack Obama, fan favorites American Idol and the WWE and celebrities and personalities such as Miley Cyrus, Angelina Jolie and Lindsay Lohan.

The Yahoo! Year in Review Top Search list provides valuable insight into the public’s tastes and interests and reflects how the web presents a new and continually evolving range of exciting possibilities to stay connected and access compelling content.

NARUTO has become an international phenomenon and is one of VIZ Media’s most successful manga (graphic novel) and animated properties in terms of sales. Created by Masashi Kishimoto, NARUTO was first introduced in magazine in Japan in 1999 and quickly became that country’s most popular ninja manga targeting tweens and teens - more than 85 million copies to-date have been printed. The manga series (rated T for Teens) and animated counterpart (rated TV-14) about a young ninja in training captivate millions of fans across North America, Europe and South America. The series depicts the adventures of a young boy named Uzumaki Naruto who trains to become a ninja. Through amazing adventures, the young ninja and his friends learn the importance of friendship, teamwork, loyalty, hard work, creativity, ingenuity, and right vs. wrong. The global popularity of NARUTO has also spawned a wide array of video games, collectable toys, apparel and more.

"NARUTO'S ranking on the Yahoo! Top 10 Searches for 2008 list proves once again the worldwide strength of this popular brand which has entertained countless fans across the globe," says Gonzalo Ferreyra, VIZ Media Vice President of Sales and Product Marketing. "We are honored to be on a list that includes future president Barack Obama, top hot trend American Idol, and pop culture icons such as Miley Cyrus, Angelina Jolie and others. This validates just how mainstream this property and the unique genres of Japanese manga and anime have become in our popular culture."

New volumes of the NARUTO manga have also appeared regularly throughout 2008 on notable literary best-seller lists such as the USA Today Top 150, Bookscan’s list of Top Graphic Novels and others. NARUTO was also recently named the top manga property on ICV2’s recent list of the Top 50 Manga Titles for Summer 2008 and the animation was named the Number 3 anime property on the retail industry watchdog’s roster of the Top 25 Anime Titles for Summer 2008.

The online NARUTO world includes a variety of interactive websites and gaming portals as well as the availability of animated episodes available for streaming and download on innovative outlets like such as Amazon Unbox™, and X-Box.com.

VIZ Media also recently announced an innovative and unprecedented multimedia plan to provide near-simultaneous Japan-U.S. release of the animated series’ newest story arc, NARUTO SHIPPUDEN, for free via the official NARUTO web site at www.naruto.com.

Licensed NARUTO products in publishing, home entertainment, video games, apparel and more have successfully launched around the world and many can be found throughout retail stores across the country.

More information on NARUTO is available at www.Naruto.com.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

ACF 189: Tora-san @ Japan Society

Tora-san Goes Religious?
(Episode 32)
Otoko wa Tsuraiyo: Kuchibue wo foku TorajiroDirected by Yoji Yamada
With Kiyoshi Atsumi, Chieko Baisho and Keiko Takeshita
Japan, 1983, 105 min.

Japan Society's monthly screenings of films selected by director Yamada from the long-running Tora-san series continues tomorrow night Friday, December 5th, 2008 at 7:30 PM. I'm glad to be passing on this info about another great episode from this terrific series. Catch it if you can.

When Tora-san (Kiyoshi Atsumi) stops into the town of Okayama to pay respects to his brother-in-law’s late father’s grave, he is taken in by the temple’s priest. When he falls in love with Tomoko, the priest’s charming daughter, he dons a robe and begins chanting sutras to win over her heart- and realizes he might just be cut out for the pious life despite his family’s doubts.

The Tora-san Goes Religious? page at Japan Society's website, which  includes a YouTube clip, can be accessed by clicking here.

This film is part of the Monthly Classics series, Best of Tora-san.

Tickets $11/$7 Japan Society members, students & seniors

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.

Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues, New York, NY 10017