With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Korean comedy MISS GRANNY opens today in limited theatrical release

CJ Entertainment
 Miss Granny
Directed by HWANG Dong-hyuk
South Korea, 2013, 124 minutes

The delightful South Korea comedy Miss Granny opens in three U.S. markets today: Los Angeles (CGV Cinemas), New York (Bay Terrace), and New Jersey (Edgewater Multiplex). (Info and showtimes are available at the official Miss Granny website. Note- see addendum at the end of this review for three additional cities.)

Miss Granny is a transformation tale along the lines of Big (1988). In that film a young boy is magically transformed physically into the body of an adult. However in Miss Granny, the aging process is reversed: a 74 year old grandmother becomes a twenty year old version of herself.

OH Mal-soon (actress NA Moon-Hee) is the granny in question. Widowed at a young age, she raised her only child, BAN Hyun-Chul (SUNG Dong-Il, Foxy Festival, 200 Pounds Beauty), on her own. BAN is now a professor at a prestigious national university, and an authority on gerontology. OH lives with him, his wife and their teenage son BAN Ji-Ha, who writes songs and plays in a heavy metal band, and daughter.

OH works at a senior cafe. Mr. Park (PARK In-Hwan), a widower, is her neighbor and co-worker; he has cared about her for years. As a youth, he worked as a house servant in her home, so they have a long history together.

Actress NA Moon-Hee, left, as OH Mal-soon

OH is a crotchety, cantankerous old battle-ax. When OH's "suggestions" to her daughter-in-law, which are really no more than a veiled series of criticisms, result in her developing a serious heart condition, the family comes to think granny must go live in a retirement home, at least for awhile.

Dispirited, OH wanders the streets alone and comes across the Forever Young Portrait Studio. She decides to have her funeral photograph taken, and the photographer promises to make her look fifty-some years younger. Afterwards, while riding on a bus, she discovers that that is exactly what has happened. Though her mind is still that of a 74 year old, she now looks just like she did when she was twenty!

Even as a twenty year old, Miss Granny cannot resist feeding her grandson.

Taking the name of Audrey Hepburn, her favorite actress, she reinvents herself as OH Doo-Ri and is now played by SHIM Eun-Kyung (Sunny, Masquerade). Comic incidents abound as she makes the most of her new-found youth and begins to realize the dream of her youth, namely to become a singer. Only now it's with her grandson's band!

There's lots of credit to go around for the phenomenal way this film succeeds. The story was written by SHIN Dong-Ick, HONG Yoon-Jeong, and DONG Hee-sun. In addition to directing the film, HWANG Dong-Hyeuk also did the screenplay adaptation. I don't know who did the English subtitles, but whoever is responsible is to be most highly commended. Physical comedy relatively easily crosses borders, but the verbal aspects of comedy face many pitfalls. In Miss Granny, the sense of young OH Doo-Ri speaking in the vernacular of an old woman really comes across delightfully.

OH Doo-Ri (SHIM Eun-Kyun) rediscovers one of the joys of being youthful 

Which brings me to SHIM Eun-Kyung. While the entire cast puts in commendable performances, SHIM's is outstanding, a real revelation. In facial gestures, body language, and dialogue delivery, she does a remarkable job of convincingly portraying the opinionated, quarrelsome old woman inside the youthful body of a twenty year old.

ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very, very highly recommended.

Addendum, Monday February 3rd: The official Miss Granny website now indicates that the film is also playing in Honolulu, Toronto and Vancouver.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Print & digital debut of DEADMAN WONDERLAND manga on Feb 11th

DEADMAN WONDERLAND Volume 1 ©Jinsei KATAOKA 2007 ©Kazuma KONDOU 2007

A Student Must Fight To Clear His Name And Catch
A Mass Killer After Being Wrongfully Sentenced To A
Carnival-Like Penitentiary Where Nothing Is As It Seems

VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), the largest distributor and licensor of manga and anime in North America, unleashes a gritty manga (graphic novel) story of survival with the print and digital debut of DEADMAN WONDERLAND on February 11th.

Volume 1, featuring story and artwork by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou, is rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens and will carry a print MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN. A digital version will also launch for $6.99 (USD/CAN) on February 11th on VIZManga.com and through the VIZ MANGA App for the Apple iPad®, iPhone® and iPod® touch, Android-powered smart phones, as well as through the Nook, Kobo, Kindle, iBooks and GooglePlay stores.

VIZ Media will publish Volume 2 of DEADMAN WONDERLAND in April with additional editions of the 13-volume series scheduled to be released bi-monthly.

Framed for the brutal murders of his classmates by the mysterious Red Man, middle school student Ganta Igarashi finds himself sentenced to death and sent to a bizarre and fatal theme park/prison that has risen from the ruins of the Great Tokyo Earthquake – a hell on earth known as “Deadman Wonderland.” The inmates of this insane penitentiary fight for survival every day to provide entertainment for the masses, and terrifying secrets lurk in the shadows. Ganta is determined to survive Deadman Wonderland and clear his name, but the price may be his soul.

“DEADMAN WONDERLAND presents a stark vision of the future where a privately run, carnival-like prison stages notorious gladiatorial fights to the death that help to finance the city’s reconstruction,” says Mike Montesa, Editor. “Thrust into this surreal and violent new world for a crime he didn’t commit, Ganta discovers he possesses a power that can be used as a weapon and help him discover the truth. Now all he has to do is stay alive!”

For more information on DEADMAN WONDERLAND, or other manga titles from VIZ Media, visit www.VIZ.com.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

DRAGON BALL FULL COLOR Volume 1 coming February 4th


Experience Akira Toriyama’s Bestselling Martial
Arts Action Adventure In Vivid Color

VIZ Media brings Akira Toriyama’s classic manga (graphic novel) series DRAGON BALL back to fans in an entirely new way with the release of DRAGON BALL FULL COLOR Volume 1 on February 4th.

The new edition from the Shonen Jump imprint features a special full-color treatment of the first DRAGON BALL Z manga volume in a larger 6 5/8" x 10 ¼” size. The volume is rated ‘A’ for All Ages and will carry an MSRP of $19.99 U.S. / $22.99 CAN / £12.99 U.K. Future volumes will be published three times a year.

DRAGON BALL FULL COLOR Vol. 1 also will be available for digital download for $12.99 (USD/CAN) from VIZManga.com and the VIZ MANGA App for the Apple iPad®, iPhone® and iPod® touch, Android-powered smart phones, as well as through the Nook, Kobo, Kindle, iBooks and GooglePlay stores.

In the series, Son Goku is the greatest hero on Earth. Five years after defeating the demon king Piccolo, he’s grown up and has a family. But what is the real reason for Goku’s incredible strength? A visitor from outer space arrives bearing terrible news – Goku is an alien, and the visitor, Raditz, is Goku’s brother! When Raditz turns out to be a ruthless killer, Goku must fight his incredibly strong brother to save his family and the entire human race. A surprising alliance may be Earth’s last hope: Goku will team up with his old enemy Piccolo to save the world!

“Akira Toriyama’s bestselling manga series has thrilled generations of readers, and this new release lets fans revisit his groundbreaking martial arts action adventure in vivid full color,” says Mike Montesa, Editor. “Goku has become a skilled fighter, but new foes threaten his family and the Earth, and he must form new alliances in order to win the day. Fans current and new won’t want to miss the gorgeous new release of this classic series!”

Renowned worldwide for his playful, innovative storytelling and humorous, distinctive art style, Akira Toriyama burst onto the manga scene in 1980 with the wildly popular DR. SLUMP. His hit series Dragon Ball (published in the U.S. as DRAGON BALL and DRAGON BALL Z; both published by VIZ Media) ran from 1984 to 1995 in Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. He is also known for his influential design work on video games such as Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger, Tobal No. 1, and Blue Dragon. His other manga works include COWA! (also published by VIZ Media), Kajika, Sand Land, Neko Majin, a children's book Toccio the Angel, and his newest series, Jaco the Galactic Patrolman.

For more information on DRAGON BALL, or other Akira Toriyama manga titles from VIZ Media, visit www.VIZ.com.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

HELLCAGE: INMATE 611 PART 2 available on DVD today

Switchblade Pictures
Hellcage: Inmate 611 Part 2 / Joshû 611: onna-tachi no gyakushû
Directed by Riichi (a.k.a. Toshikazu) Katsu
Japan, 2007, 77 minutes

Hellcage: Inmate 611 Part 2 (a.k.a. Female Prisoner 611: Revenge of Evils) is available today on DVD from Switchblade Pictures. It's the sequel to Hellhole: Inmate 611, which I reviewed yesterday. Despite the same inmate designation in the title, this second film is not about Saya Mizushima (Akira Kiuchi) at all, but rather focuses on Reika Walka (Harumi Nemoto). Both characters/actresses, as well as almost all of the rest of the cast, were in the first film. Reika is referred to in the subtitles here as inmate number 48, then 42, then 48 again, which is a bit confusing, but relatively inconsequential.

Eri gets some from Masatoshi while Reika is in the slammer

We are treated to three new characters. One is Masatoshi Goto (Wataru Seihodo), a boyfriend of Reika's who wants to break her out of prison with the help of another new character. The third is Eri Hayashi (single-monikered actress Ruka), a friend of Reika's who shoots meth.

The sets are pretty much the same as in the original, cheap-looking even for a direct-to-video film, which both Inmate 611 features seem to be. The formula is also the same: a few sex scenes, none of which involve the main actress. And again there's a point at which the main character -- Reika in this case -- has to spend some time in solitary confinement because of crossing bitchy warden Mikawa.

Reika (left) with Warden Mikawa

But the story and the cinematography in this sequel are a significant cut above the original, which I didn't think much of. The film essentially takes place in two time periods set roughly six years apart, and I felt that director Katsu exhibited more finesse in going back and forth between them than he did in the first film. Even the sex scenes seemed improved. Unfortunately, both films end rather abruptly, as if having reached the seventy-some minute mark meant "that's a wrap."

Japanese men keep their underpants on when they're screwing, at least in the Inmate 611 films

Special Features consist only of trailers of other films from Switchblade Pictures and the disc credits for Hellcage: Inmate 611 Part 2. Fortunately there's no problem with the aspect ratio such as what I experienced with the original.

There is a third film -- Joshû shiiku 611, which I believe translates simply as Inmate 611-- in the series, but at this point I don't know if Switchblade will be putting it out. If it does, rest assured that AsianCineFest will be reviewing it.

The ACF Rating for Hellcage: Inmate 611 Part 2 is 2 out of 4 stars; a fair film, even for its not particularly demanding genre; rather mildly recommended but even that only if you like this sort of thing.

Sentai Filmworks announces acquisition of WIZARD BARRISTERS

Time to bring out the smoking gun and work some serious courtroom magic in Sentai Filmworks' latest acquisition, Wizard Barristers. This 12 episode supernatural action thriller is directed by Yasuomi Umetsu (Mezzo DSA, Galilei Donna), with scripts by Michiko Itou (HENNEKO, Day Break Illusion) and animation production by Studio ARMS (Elfen Lied, Queen’s Blade: Rebellion).

Synopsis: When the laws of magic are broken, someone’s got to enforce them, and that duty falls to the deadly men and women of the Police Department’s Section 1. However, even the most malevolent mage has a right to a fair trial, and defending those craven mavens and nefarious necromancers in court is the job of the Benmashi, the Wizard Barristers. It’s a tricky profession, requiring both arcane ability and a judicious sense of jurisprudence, and at just 17, Cecil Sudo is not only the youngest Benmashi at the Butterfly Law Offices, she’s the youngest one ever!

That won’t stop her in her duty to defend the alleged adepts and prestidigitating perps, but it’s going to mean long hours burning the midnight brimstone, summoning up summaries, parsing phrases with paranormal paralegals and cutting deals with opposing counsels from hell. And when a young Benmashi starts to discover that her OWN potential to charm is more magical than she realized, there’ll be hex-tra incentive to start working wonders outside the courtroom as well as in it!

Prepare to be beguiled as the most enchantingly Adept Attorney ever makes her case in  Wizard Barristers. 

Wizard Barristers will be available soon through select digital outlets with a home video release to follow.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Switchblade Pictures
Hellhole: Inmate 611 / Joshû 611: onna-tachi no yakata
Directed by Riichi Katsu
Japan, 2007, 75 minutes

The world of women-in-prison is a time-honored guilty pleasure genre. Hellhole: Inmate 611 (a.k.a. Female Prisoner 611: Hell Hole), which was released by Switchblade Pictures on DVD in November, 2013, unfortunately is not a very good addition. 

Saya Mizushima (Akira Kiuchi) is a celebrity who has been sentenced to prison for assault. She had been seeing Ando Yuya (Kentaro Nakakura), the handsome, wealthy young CEO of CyberSector, an IT company. After discovering that he was also getting it on with Takako Sawaguchi (Minami Aoyama) of CyberSector's accounting department, Sayaka lost it and attacked both of them.

Assigned  prison number 611, she refuses to knuckle under to the dictates of Keiko Mikawa (Jaguar Yokota), the female warden and a real bitch. This leads to a lengthy period in solitary after which she is assigned to a cell with four other female prisoners. One of them is Reiko Wada (Harumi Nemoto). She and Saya had at one time been members of "The Ladies," a girl gang. Reiko also had some dirt on one of the male wardens, which she had used to blackmail him into insurinng the parole of another prisoner.

There are a few scenes showing tits and ass. One is the ludicrous "can-can" performed by a new inmate in which she is naked and jumps from one leg to another, the intent being to get anything hidden in her vagina to fall out, he butt already having been subject to a visual search using a flashlight. Another sex scene features simulated intercourse between one of the female prisoners and a male guard.

Sadly, there are no lesbian encounters. Saya, it should be noted, is not one of the prisoners who gets naked. Neither does Kei Mizutani, the Queen of the Japanese B-movies in the '90s, who here plays a rather benign prison guard. It's been awhile since I'd seen her in a movie and I was looking forward to it. However, I was rather disappointed: she didn't have much to do and would probably have been better utilized as the dastardly prison warden played by Yokota.

In fact disappointing is the word that best describes my overall reaction to this film. I don't expect a helluva lot in terms of story, dialogue or acting in sexploitation fare such as this, but even so Hellhole: Inmate 661 was quite a letdown. Even the nudity was rather ho-hum.

The only menu selections on the DVD are for playing the movie or selecting the special features, which are limited to the Japanese Trailer, trailers of other titles available from Switchblade Pictures and the disc credits for Hellhole: Inmate 611. Thus there is no "Setup" option, although the English subtitles can be toggled on and off using the appropriate button on your remote or computer DVD player.

There seems to have been a manufacturing problem in mastering the video. The aspect ratio indicated  on the DVD box is "LB 4:3" but when inserted in various players, the default 4:3 image was squished on the sides, making it necessary to select an aspect ratio such as "Full" or "Wide Zoom," depending on the player and TV input. (I tried it on four players, including a PS3, an older Panasonic DVD player, and my relatively new iMac and found this to be the case on all of them.) On my Sony portable DVD, for example, I had to select the "Full" vs. the "Normal" LCD aspect feature. I can't recall ever encountering this type of annoying problem before; fortunately, experimenting with the various aspect ratio settings was a fairly quick and easy work-around.

ACF Rating: 1 out of 4 stars; poor, not recommended. Switchblade Pictures has put out some decent to very good offerings, but sadly this is not one of them.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

South Korean comedy MISS GRANNY opening at select U.S. theaters Friday

CJ Entertainment
 Miss Granny
Directed by HWANG Dong-hyuk
South Korea, 2013, 124 minutes

The delightful South Korea comedy Miss Granny is coming to North American theaters this coming Friday, January 31st. The movie will be released in Los Angeles (CGV Cinemas), New York (Bay Terrace), and New Jersey (Edgewater Multiplex).

Synopsis - Oh Mal-Soon (Na Moon-Hee) is a 74-year-old widow that realizes she is becoming a burden on her family. As she is roaming the streets, she comes across a photo studio and decides to dress up for a self-portrait. When she walks out of the photo studio, she mysteriously turns back into her twenty year old self. Making the most out of this one in a lifetime opportunity, she changes her name to Oh Doo-Ri (Shim Eun-Kyung) and decides to make the most out of her youth.

Look for a full review here at AsianCineFest later this week.

Sentai Filmworks has acquired SAKURA TRICK

An unforgettable, life changing moment is sealed with a simple kiss in Sentai Filmworks’ latest acquisition, Sakura Trick. This romantic slice-of-life comedy from original creator Tachi is directed by Kenichi Ishikura (ef: tale of melodies, Hidamari Sketch) with music by Ryosuke Nakanishi (Majikoi – Oh! Samurai Girls, Kuroko’s Basketball), character designs by Kyuta Sakai (Humanity has Declined, Strawberry Marshmallow) and animation production by Studio DEEN (Fate/stay night, Rozen Maiden – Zurückspulen).

Synopsis: Haruka and Yu have always sat next to each other and they’ve been best friends forever… well, since they were just girls in junior high anyway. But on their first day of Senior high, they’re stunned to learn that the new seating plan has them on opposite sides of the classroom! And since everyone knows that long distance relationships don’t work unless the parties involved put extra effort into it, they decide they need to do something extra special to make their friendship “different.”

However, deciding to kiss each other awakens a whole new level of feelings, and it doesn’t help that some of their classmates seem to be ‘involved” in similar circumstances. So what’s a girl to do when her best girl friend is suddenly seeming more like a girlfriend? It’s a life lesson that the school curriculum isn’t normally prepared to teach, except maybe in French class, but our two young heroines are about to get a private education you’ll never forget!

Come learn about the bird and the... er… birds, as two young girls learn to deal with the pros and cons of intramural osculation in Sakura Trick.

Sakura Trick will be available soon through select digital outlets with a home video release to follow.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Free screening of FRIEND: THE GREAT LEGACY next Tuesday

Korean Cultural Service New York
Korean Movie Night 2014
Series One
Wild Days: Coming of Age in 2014
Friend: The Great Legacy
Directed by KWAK Kyung-taek
South Korea, 2013, 124 minutes
When: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 @ 7:00 PM
Doors open: 6:30 PM
Where: Tribeca Cinemas
54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, NYC
Near the A, C, E @ #1 Canal Street subway stops
Admission: FREE!!!

Synopsis: With no memory of his father, Sung-Hoon (KIM Woo-Bin) was raised and surrounded by gangsters. As he grew up, he fell into a life of crime. Now imprisoned, his only hope for survival is Joon-Seok (YU Oh-Seong), an unexpected role model. Feeling both admiration and jealousy towards charismatic Joon-Seok, a seventeen-year veteran of the penitentiary, Sung-Hoon’s friendship with him blossoms. Later, they find themselves freed from prison and joining Joon-Seok's gang, where Sung-hoon discovers that his mentor is somehow connected to his father's death.

I reviewed Friend: The Great Legacy (as Friend 2: The Legacy) when it opened theatrically in the U.S. this past December. Read my review here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

New international video distributor Kraken Releasing will be coming out with three classic Japanese kaiju films

Godzilla® vs.Hedorah™ (1971)
“Ebirah™, Horror of the Deep” & “GODZILLA® vs.GIGAN™”

1967 may have been the Summer of Love, but 2014 will be the Summer of Godzilla®, and Kraken Releasing is spreading the kaiju (giant monster) goodness with the first U.S. Blu-ray release of three classic films featuring the world’s most famous giant reptile. Also available on DVD, and including both the English dubbed and original Japanese versions with English subtitles, these are three of the big G’s wildest adventures ever and showcase why, sixty years after his atomic birth at Japan’s Toho Studios, Godzilla® is still one of the biggest names in the entertainment industry!

The fun begins as 1971’s Godzilla® vs.Hedorah™, released theatrically in the U.S in 1972 as Godzilla® vs. the Smog Monster, pits Godzilla® against the forces of pollution in the form of a constantly mutating, acid-spewing behemoth from outer space. With eye-popping 1970’s “mod” costumes, hairstyles and psychedelic visuals that include conventional cel animation alongside the special effects by Teruyoshi Nakano, Godzilla® vs. Hedoarh™ director Yoshimitsu Banno’s ecologically focused take on the world’s greatest monster is easily one of the most unique films in the series and required viewing for any giant monster fan or cult film enthusiast.

What happens when three major movie monsters slam dance in the South Seas? The answer is 1966’s Ebirah™, Horror of the Deep, originally released in the U.S. in 1968 under the title Godzilla® Vs. The Sea Monster. Pairing Godzilla® and another of Toho’s most popular kaiju, the giant moth Mothra™, against a wide variety of adversaries, including the titular sea monster, giant birds and a mysterious terrorist organization, the wet and wild widescreen spectacular was directed by Jun Fukuda.

Finally, 1972’s Godzilla® vs. Gigan™ ups the giant monster ante once again with a series of tag team battles featuring four classic kaiju. Released theatrically in the United States in 1977 as Godzilla® on Monster Island and again directed by Jun Fukuda with special effects by Teruyoshi Nakano, the film unites Godzilla® and spiny ally Anguirus™ against two of the series’ most popular opponents: the three headed monster King Ghidorah™ and the new alien cyborg Gigan™.

About Kraken Releasing:
Kraken Releasing is a new international video distribution label specializing in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror genre entertainment for mainstream audiences. Together with sister labels MAIDEN JAPAN (TOKYO MAGNITUDE 8.0, PAT LABOR, ROYAL SPACE FORCE) and SWITCHBLADE PICTURES (BIG BAD MAMA-SAN, ATTACK GIRLS SWIM TEAM VS. THE UNDEAD) Kraken’s goal is to bring the best filmed entertainment from around the world to our customers.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Free screening of THE BALLAD OF NARAYAMA at Asia Society NY

 The Ballad of Narayama / Narayama-bushi kô
Directed by Shohei Imamura
Starring Sumiko Sakamoto, Ken Ogata, and Aki Takejo 
Japan, 1983, 130 minutes
Color, 35mm
Japanese language with English subtitles
When: Saturday, January 24, 2014 at 6:00 pm
Where: Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue (at East 70 Street), NYC

Admission is FREE
But you must register for this event

“An ironic but life-affirming commentary on our so-called civilization by contrasting it with the manners and customs in a primitive Japanese mountain village 100 years ago.”
— Vincent Canby, The New York Times

Synopsis: In a remote village, an unusual custom is practiced: elders who have reached the age of 70 are taken to the summit of Mount Narayama, where they are left to die. Orin, 69, although still vital, is prepared to make this journey. But before she goes, she needs to identify a wife for one of her sons, find a woman to sleep with a younger son, and deal with a slew of messy troubles. All of a sudden, the solemn theme of death takes a backseat as human desires, animal instincts, and the forces of nature are fully experienced. This Palme d’Or winner explores the essence that binds human beings, animals, and nature in a passionate way that is uniquely Imamura. Print courtesy of Japan Foundation.

Imamura's film is actually a more realistically filmed remake of Keisuke Kinoshita's 1958 kabuki-flavored telling of a traditional Japanese folk legend. For those who are interested, Kinoshita's The Ballad of Narayama is available from The Criterion Collection as either a Blu-ray or DVD. I have the Blu-ray and highly recommend it.

Saturday's screening of The Ballad of Narayama is part of the film series Vengeance Is Shohei Imamura (January 17-February 1, 2014). The series is co-presented with Japan Foundation and is part of Citi Series on Asian Arts and Culture.

This is a fantastic opportunity to see this outstanding film in 35mm, and I urge all who can attend to do so.

Sentai Filmworks licenses Soni-Ani: SUPER SONICO THE ANIMATION

Worlds collide as an iconic Nitroplus mascot gets her day in the sun in Sentai Filmworks' latest acquisition, Soni-Ani: SUPER SONICO THE ANIMATION. This 12 episode romp in girl band wonderland is directed by Kenichi Kawamura (Rozen Maiden, Ninja Scroll), with scripts by Yousuke Kuroda (S-CRY-ed, BTOOOM!), art direction by Yoshito Takamine (Gurren Lagann, Broken Blade) and animation production by WHITE FOX (Persona 4, The World God Only Knows).

Synopsis: When Sonico wakes up every morning she sees big things on the horizon, but when she gets up gravity takes hold and she can focus on what’s directly ahead of her for the day. And that’s a good thing, because Sonico is more than just an attractive girl with a really huge set of… er… headphones. She’s also an incredibly busy young woman who somehow juggles modeling and working at her grandmother’s bar while attending college AND performing lead vocals and playing the guitar in the all girl band Fastest Speed In Space.

How she manages to squeeze it all in is as big a mystery as how she manages to squeeze into some of her outfits or paint her toenails without falling over, but somehow she always stays balanced and abreast of the situation. Well, most of the time, anyway, and when her workload does get a little top heavy, she can count on her fellow musicians Suzu and Furi for a little stabilizing influence.

Get ready for the bounciest adventure ever as this three girl band shakes, rattles, rolls and takes Tokyo by storm in Soni-Ani: SUPER SONICO THE ANIMATION.

Soni-Ani: SUPER SONICO THE ANIMATION will be available soon through select digital outlets with a home video release to follow.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN Z digital comic series coming March 18th


Comic-Inspired Action Title Confirms New North American Release Date

Team NINJA and Dark Horse Comics today launched the three-part YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN Z digital comic series, providing insight into the backstory in three revealing vignettes. Yaiba takes a break from slaughtering zombies in the debut issue to tell the tale of how his often bloody sword became to be known as “Heartless” as he recounts the story to Miss Monday. Initially released digitally with an all-new full color print comic to be available with the game, as it launches on its newly confirmed North American release date of March 18, 2014, the series is brought to life by Writers Tim Seeley and Josh Emmons, Artist Rafael Ortiz, Colorist Carlos Badilla with special cover art by James Harren. The comic will be available for free download at the Dark Horse Digital Store, www.digital.darkhorse.com, as well as through the Dark Horse Comics app (available through iTunes & Google Play). The comic can be found at: https://digital.darkhorse.com/profile/4128.yaiba-ninja-gaiden-z-1/

In YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN Z, players will battle fierce zombies as Yaiba, a cyborg ninja who will do anything to get revenge and stay alive. Cleaved in two, he is brought back to life with cyber-technology. Brandishing his ninja sword and the mecha weapons in his cyber arm, he slaughters zombies with brutal, over-the-top abandon. Step into a stylized living comic book where stunning graphics depict a world gone mad. Hordes of undead can only be stopped by Yaiba’s willingness to use any means necessary to get the job done. Will he kill by turning his cyber arm into a razor chainsaw for slicing up undead—or just rip off an opponent’s arms to use as zombie nunchucks? Both possibilities fill Yaiba’s heart with twisted laughter in this collaboration between famed developers Team NINJA and comcept’s Keiji Inafune.

YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN Z will be available for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, Xbox 360®  video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Steam® (PC) March 18, 2014. This title has been rated M (Mature) by the ESRB.

More information about YAIBA: NINJA GAIDEN Z can be found at www.YaibaNGZ.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YaibaNinjaGaidenZ and Twitter https://twitter.com/YaibaNGZ.
For more news about Team NINJA, visit http://teamninja-studio.com, “like” them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/teamninjastudio and follow them on Twitter @TeamNINJAStudio.

Osamu Tezuka’s PHOENIX included in VIZ's new digital offerings for second-half of January

WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP Starter Pack Cover: 
ALL YOU NEED IS KILL © 2014 by Takeshi Obata, Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Ryosuke Takeuchi, Yoshitoshi Abe/SHUEISHA INC.

Catch The Digital Debut Of Osamu Tezuka’s Manga Masterpiece

VIZ Media has detailed a host of new digital manga offerings as well as an update to the digital WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP Starter Pack to kick off the second-half of January. A new WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP Jump Pack, combining a 3-month WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP digital subscription, YU-GI-OH! Collectible Card, and print edition sneak peek of series featured in the anthology, is also now available in stores.

Casual and die-hard fans alike won’t want to miss the host of new digital manga updates available scheduled to debut today and January 28th on VIZManga.com and the VIZ MANGA App for the Apple iPad®, iPhone® and iPod® touch, Android-powered smart phones and 7” tablets. The digital manga titles are also available on the Nook, Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and GooglePlay stores, and readers can now explore and enjoy a wide range of new and classic series that spans more than 2,000 volumes across 170 different series.

An update to the popular and free WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP Starter Pack is also available at VIZManga.com; no subscription or purchase is necessary. The update also includes the first chapter of the new ALL YOU NEED IS KILL manga, by acclaimed creator Takeshi Obata (artist for DEATH NOTE and more), based on the bestselling novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. With the WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP Starter Pack, manga fans can get up-to-date on all current series featured in the world’s most popular weekly manga magazine before diving into the latest issue. WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP carries the latest installments of some of the world’s most popular manga series including ONE PIECE, NARUTO SHIPPUDEN, NISEKOI, BLEACH, TORIKO, and WORLD TRIGGER, released digitally by VIZ Media each week to English readers on the same day as their general release in Japan. For more information on WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP and exclusive subscriber offers, please visit shonenjump.viz.com.

YU-GI-OH! ZEXAL © 2010 by Kazuki Takahashi, Shin Yoshida, Naohito Miyoshi/SHUEISHA Inc.

Also new for the second-half of January is the WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP Jump Pack, which gives Shonen Jump fans an ideal way to access all of the publication’s great manga, secure collectable Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, and gain access to 3 months of digital WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP content in one convenient location. The first full issue for 2014 is now available, and features a Yu-Gi-Oh! "Archfiend Commander" Card along with a chance to win an extra “Slifer: The Sky Dragon” card. Complete details are contained in the new issue. The Jump Pack is rated ‘T’ for Teens, carries an MSRP of $19.99 U.S. / $22.99 CAN, and is available exclusively through retailers serviced by Diamond Comic Distributors. Interested fans should check with their local comics retailer for availability.

The second-half of January also sees the digital debut of Osamu Tezuka’s legendary manga masterwork PHOENIX, as well as updates to 17 other popular ongoing manga series, including the exciting conclusion to the action series BLACK CAT, and new multi-volume updates to other series including BABY & ME, BOYS OVER FLOWERS, FIREFIGHTER! DAIGO OF FIRE COMPANY M, KNIGHTS OF THE ZODIAC (SAINT SEIYA), MUHYO & ROJI’S BUREAU OF SUPERNATURAL INVESTIGATION, SKIP BEAT!, and YUYU HAKUSHO.

PHOENIX © 2003 Tezuka Productions

PHOENIX Vol. 1 • Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens • MSRP: $10.99 (U.S. / CAN)
Considered by many to be the peak of Osamu Tezuka's artistic achievement and called his "life's work" by the author, PHOENIX is composed of twelve complex stories linked by the presence of the mythical bird, an immortal guardian of the universal life force. Read in order, the separate stories jump across time, alternating between a distant future and a distant past, converging on the present, with characters from one story being reincarnated in another. With grand historical sweep, the self-contained opening volume of Osamu Tezuka's acclaimed PHOENIX saga gives an epic account of the human spirit in a time of chaos and warfare, where would-be warrior Nagi and his crew struggle against the elements, invaders, and history itself.

The free VIZ Manga App continues to be the top application for reading digital manga and features a massive library of the most popular series in the world. Through the innovative VIZ Manga digital platform registered users are able to use one account to view their purchased manga across more devices than ever. New series and volumes are added every Tuesday. Fans can also find these titles and more for the NOOK, Kindle Fire, and Kobo ereaders, as well as in the iBooks and GooglePlay Stores.

All manga volumes are generally available for purchase and download in the U.S. and Canada within the VIZ Manga application starting from $6.99 (U.S. / CAN) each and readers can also explore all titles with free Chapter 1 previews of every series. For more information, please visit VIZManga.com or www.VIZ.com/apps.

Download the free VIZ Manga App for Android and iOS devices at www.VIZ.com/apps.

To learn more about VIZ Manga, visit www.vizmanga.com.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

IRON GIRL is now available on DVD from Switchblade Pictures

Switchblade Pictures
Iron Girl / Aian Gâru
Directed by Masatoshi Nagamine
Starring Kirara Asuka
Japan, 2012, 92 minutes

On a lovely day in an unspecified era, Anne (Rina Akiyama) gathers some flowers. Unfortunately for her, they only place flowers grow is in District Alpha 109. It's an area controlled by a gang known as the Crazy Dogs, and three male members of the gang attack her. Fortunately, there happens to be one hard-as-nails female avenger who witnesses the attack, intervenes, and puts the hurt on the trio of assailants, thereby saving Anne. This is Iron Girl (Kiara Asuka). She sports an outfit that is every bit as hot as her fighting skills are awesome.

Her outfit may not be as well-equipped as Tony Stark's, but Iron Girl sure does fill it out nicely.

She accompanies Anne back to her "village," which is little more than an abandoned factory. There Wataru, who has a thing for Anne, refuses to believe that Iron Girl bested three of the Crazy Dogs. Other villagers are fearful that the gang, which periodically terrorizes them anyway, will come down hard on the villagers, seeking revenge for their humiliating defeat. On the other hand, the village Elder -- the only adult in evidence -- believes that Iron Girl is the "iron savior" foretold in ancient documents. For her part, Iron Girl has no memories of her past and believes that her only reason is to fight.

Crazy Joe, in black jacket and fur

When the Crazy Dogs return in force, she has plenty of opportunity to do so, especially when Crazy Joe (Mitsuki Koga), their leader, appears. He's evil personified: greedy, brutal and powerful. He also wears women's make-up, which leads Iron Girl to call him a "powerful faggot." (Viewer are advised to hold in check any political correctness they may possess before hitting the "Play" button on their DVD player.)

Love those crotch-shot kicks!

Kiara Asuka is quite good as Iron Girl. She convincingly pulls off the action scenes, for which action director Takanori Shibahara deserves a lot of credit. He has her doing a variety of kicks including low sweeps, straight-at-yous, & roundhouses, and some nice wire-work, some of which utilized an 80 foot crane. Asuka, who had never done an action film before, was initially nervous about doing wire-work, but came to like it. Personally I liked that she fought using the principles of Tai Chi Chuan and Akido by which one evades an attack rather than confronting it head on. This style makes sense for a female fighter who can't match male opponents in terms of size and strength.

Kiara Asuka displays two of her and Iron Girl's finest assets.

Having never heard of her, I did some research on Asuka and was rather surprised to learn that she's a Japanese AV (Adult Video) Idol, what we here in the States would colloquially call a porn star. Japan is one of the few countries I know of where female porn actresses can also have careers in non-porn films, although a bit of nudity often accompanies the transition. (Sora, a.k.a., Sola, Aoi is another such actress.) Asuka, it should be mentioned, is the only actress who shows skin in the film, but hers is quite enough.

A scene in the "making of" featurette shows the filming of the preceding image.

In addition to the feature, the DVD includes:
- The Japanese trailer
- "The Making of Iron Girl" - a remarkably good featurette
- Trailers for other offerings from Switchblade Pictures
- Disc Credits

While there is no "Settings" option, the English subtitles can be removed by using the "Subtitles" option on your player or computer. That's how I took the various screen captures seen in this review.

There is a place or two where the dialogue bogs the film down a bit, but overall Iron Girl is a very satisfying, sexploitation action flick.  I was impressed by it. The ending definitely allows for a sequel and I for one am hoping that there'll be one.

ACF Rating for Iron Girl: 3 out of 4 stars, solidly recommended.

HIMATSURI at Japan Society NY this Friday evening at 7:00 PM

Fire Festival © Kino Lorber
Himatsuri / Fire Festival
Directed by Mitsuo Yanagimachi
Japan, 1985, 126 minutes
35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles
When: Friday, January 24, 7:00 PM
Where: Japan Society
333 East 47th Street (between 1st & 2nd Avenues), NYC

Donald Richie on Himatsuri:
"A modern macho lumberjack faces vengeful nature—but such a one-line précis cannot begin to communicate the enormous potency of the film. With luminous photography by Masaki Tamura, a ravishing score by Toru Takemitsu, Kitaoji as the lumberjack, and Nakamoto as his shifty sidekick."


Following Mitsuo Yanagimachi's debut documentary God Speed You! Black Emperor (1976), Richie promoted this independent director by introducing his films and, in 1990, he presented a Yanagimachi retrospective at the Toronto International Film Festival. Himatsuri is set in the Kumano area, the locale of the Japanese myth of creation where the mountains meet the sea, and a lumberjack's love and despair merge with the fierce forces of nature surrounding him. 

The film will be introduced by Ian Buruma, Paul W. Williams Professor of Human Rights and Journalism, Bard College

Tickets: $12/$9 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. 

Friday evening's screening of Himatsuri is part of Richie's Fantastic Five: A Tribute to Donald Richie (1924-2013), Part 1, which is being co-presented with The Japan Foundation. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sentai Filmworks announces acquisition of MAGICAL WARFARE

Powerful magicians run rampant in the streets, and one more is about to enter the fray in Sentai Filmworks’ latest acquisition, Magical Warfare. This 12 episode magical action series is directed by Yuzo Sato (Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge, Kaiji)) with series composition by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu (Miss Monochrome, Princess Resurrection), art direction by Jirou Kouno (Phi Brain, Amnesia) and animation production by the iconic Madhouse Studios (High School of the Dead, Ninja Scroll).

Synopsis: The last few years haven’t been easy for Takeshi Nanase. His parents are remote and distant, his little brother seems to despise him and even his relationship with Kurumi, his so-called girlfriend, isn’t exactly romantic in nature. In fact, for two years the only real high point in Takeshi’s existence has been studying the Japanese sword-fighting technique of Kendo, and that’s unlikely to be something that will have any practical application in the real world. Or so he thinks until he discovers an unconscious girl in an unknown uniform in the school hallway.

Rushing the damsel in distress to the infirmary, he suddenly finds himself being held first at gunpoint and then in the middle of a battle as he attempts to defend the girl, Mui Aiba, from a group of teenagers using what appears to be magic! But as shocking as learning that magic is real may be, what’s even more stunning is the revelation that Takeshi’s been changed into a magician himself! Okay, so maybe those sword lessons are going to be relevant after all!

When the worlds of the mystical and the mundane collide, anything can happen in Magical Warfare.

Magical Warfare will be available soon through select digital outlets with a home video release to follow.

Free screening of VENGEANCE IS MINE at Asia Society NY this Friday

 Vengeance Is Mine / Fukushû suru wa ware ni ari
Directed by Shohei Imamura
Japan, 1979, 128 minutes
Color, 35 mm
Japanese language with English subtitles
When: January 24, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Doors open at 6:00 pm
Where: Asia Society
725 Park Avenue (at East 70 Street), NYC

Admission is FREE
But you must register for this event

“A portrait of a killer that is poignant, tragic and banal enough to deserve the comparison with Crime and Punishment.” — Roger Ebert

After about a decade making documentaries, Imamura returned to fiction with this film inspired by the true story of a gruesome 78-day killing spree and manhunt. In this career-defining film, Ken Ogata delivers an unforgettable performance as Iwao Enokizu, a con artist, thief, lady charmer, and murderer. The film begins with Iwao entering jail. A series of flashbacks take us back in time to revisit the murderer’s past and his horrendous crimes. Such a reverse chronological structure makes the film more of a character study than a suspenseful crime thriller. This intense portrait of a menacing mind is at once poignant and chilling. A Janus Films Release.

Friday evening's screening of Vengeance Is Mine is part of the film series Vengeance Is Shohei Imamura (January 17-February 1, 2014). The series is co-presented with Japan Foundation and is part of Citi Series on Asian Arts and Culture.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The latest on WEDDING PALACE

The arrival of my Wedding Palace DVD was cause for one of the few selfies I've taken

Yesterday my DVD of Wedding Palace arrived! I am so happy!!!!!

In other less "me specific" news, the Official Wedding Palace Website is up! There you can:

- Watch the trailer
- Find where you can watch the movie both online and on demand
- Find stores where you can buy the DVD and the soundtrack
- Learn more about Wedding Palace.

Special sale on a variety of SuBLime's yaoi print editions at Right Stuf

STARTING WITH A KISS © 2011 Youka Nitta /Libre Publishing

Diverse Yaoi Imprint Marks Second Birthday With Up To 50%
Off Selected Yaoi Manga Bundles And Individual Volumes

SuBLime, the global yaoi manga publishing initiative between VIZ Media and Japan’s Animate, Ltd. (Animate), marks its 2-year anniversary with the announcement of a special sale on print editions of a variety of celebrated yaoi manga titles from its catalog at leading anime/manga online retailer/distributor Right Stuf.

For a limited time through January 20th, yaoi readers can take advantage of 50% off select SuBLime manga bundles. This is an ideal opportunity to enjoy a specially curated selection of acclaimed SuBLime series for half-off their regular print MSRP. Access the complete list of SuBLime sale titles at RightStuf.com. For our global readers, RightStuf does ship internationally.

The following print bundles are available for 50% off:

AWKWARD SILENCE by Hinako Takanaga · Rated ‘M’ for Mature Readers ·
Bundle Set Includes Vols. 1-4 · MSRP: $25.98 (U.S. / CAN)
Satoru Tono is too shy to speak to classmate Keigo Tamiya. Instead he fills his sketchbook with drawings of the boy he likes. But perhaps Keigo has noticed him too...?

HIS FAVORITE © 2008 Suzuki Tanaka/Libre Publishing

HIS FAVORITE by Suzuki Tanaka · Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens ·
Bundle Set Includes Vols. 1-5 · MSRP: $32.48 (U.S. / CAN)
Yoshida is short, scrawny, and generally unattractive. To make matters worse, all the girls in his class hate him because Sato, the hottest guy in school, always uses hanging out with him as an excuse to turn them down. Is Yoshida just a convenient excuse or is there something more? Could this odd couple even make things work?!

PUNCH UP! by Shiuko Kano · Rated ‘M’ for Mature Readers ·
Bundle Set Includes Vols. 1-4 · MSRP: $25.98 (U.S. / CAN)
High-flying architect Motoharu Maki loves looking at hot guys, and where better to find a lot of good-looking, well-toned hotties than a construction site? But after one visit, Motoharu winds up with an unexpected commitment. Ironworker Kouta Ohki is young, foul-mouthed, and not at all Motoharu's type!

Also, don’t miss special savings on all bundled manga packages featuring multiple titles by these celebrated yaoi manga creators:

Yaya Sakuragi Bundle – SALE MSRP $32.48

Youka Nitta Bundle – SALE MSRP $27.98
EMBRACING LOVE, 2-in-1 Omnibus Edition, Vol. 1

**Titles are rated ‘M’ for Mature Readers.
Readers can also purchase individual print editions of the above mentioned series for $6.76 each – a 48% saving off regular MSRP (omnibus editions are $8.84).

Visit SuBLimeManga.com for an array of additional yaoi manga titles that are available digitally in a download-to-own format for $5.99 (U.S. / CAN) each and are viewable as a PDF on any enabled eReader device or computer, or also accessed via the online manga viewer found on the web site.

For up-to-date news and release information, visit the SuBLime website at www.SuBLimeManga.com, or follow SuBLime on Twitter at @SuBLimeManga and Facebook at facebook.com/SuBLimeManga.