0 Items | £0.00


Re-Agitator: A Decade of Writing on Takashi Miike

Wednesday 15th May 2013

Jonathan Clements reviews a new book on the prolific Takashi Miike

Re-Agitator: A Decade of Writing on Takashi MiikeTom Mes climbed aboard the Takashi Miike bandwagon early, arguing in his 2003 book Agitator that the poster-boy of straight-to-video schlock and shockers was much more than a journeyman director. Agitator itself was part of the message, a beautifully designed, heavily illustrated and weighty tome that still has pride of place on my shelves.

As Mes notes in his introduction to his latest book, the just-published Re-Agitator, even as his first Miikeathon was being published, the supposed maverick was getting selected for the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes, and while Miike has remained happily busy in the intervening years, his work has been increasingly highly regarded, even by those who once wrote him off. Audition already had a respectful following of chin-stroking cineaste apologists, and certain pundits (well, me) were pointing to Fudoh: The Next Generation as a triumph of manga adaptation, still rarely matched by other live-action attempts. The Bird People in China was a charming film that showed true versatility, and while Miike’s output remained somewhat scattergun, he really did seem to have done something for everyone, in a dizzying array of genres. And if you don’t like his latest movie… just wait a minute.

Miike’s sheer prolificity, and the relative ease with which his early bargain-bin output made it to foreign distributors, has created a momentum of its own, generating an archive of films ripe for academic dissection, many with elements that foreshadow his later, better-known works. Mes alludes to a growing number of student dissertations on Miike, for which this glossy collection of 35 essays will be a citational godsend.

As the subtitle “A Decade of Writing on Takashi Miike” makes clear, Re-Agitator collates whatever Mes has done Miike-wise in the last ten years, rather than whatever Miike has done himself. As a result, there are accounts of films already covered in the previous book, and a few regrettable omissions – I had really been looking forward to reading what Mes had to say about the bonkers Ace Attorney: The Movie, but with no DVD release abroad, nobody has yet paid Mes to put his thoughts down on paper. I confess to being a little crestfallen that Re-Agitator is not a sequel to the first book, going into similar depth about the thirty-odd films that Miike has made since 2002’s Deadly Outlaw: Rekka. My hopes, then, for close textual analyses of such recent oddities as the juvenile Ninja Kids, or the baffling K-tai Detective 7, have been dashed. But as Mes swiftly points out in his introduction, Agitator was a book of its time, written by an author who did not dare believe that anyone would ever get to see most of these films, and assuming that his account of them might be the only place their artistic heritage would be preserved in the English language.

A decade later, Miike’s works are not only well-represented on subtitled DVD in the West, but often with liner notes by Mes himself, many of which are collected in Re-Agitator. If you are interested in learning more about the guy who made Hara Kiri, then Re-Agitator is as good a place to start as you can hope for. The essays are often rather short, rarely taking up more than two pages, and eschew Agitator’s wordy plot synopses in favour of punchy, pithy assessments of each film within the context of Miike’s work as a whole. They jostle for space with witty accounts of adrenaline-fuelled film festival appearances and longer excursions into Miike’s use of sex, gore or violence.

Sukiyaki Western DjangoThe book is also lavishly illustrated on quality paper, with superb stills and production photographs, including a whole gallery of beautiful images from the set of Sukiyaki Western Django, donated by Miike’s long-time collaborator Christian Storms. Like Mes’s earlier book on Miike, it is shamefully gorgeous. I speak from bitter experience – the Japanese can be their own worst enemies when it comes to picture rights, and many a book on Japanese pop culture has been dragged, screaming, into text-only tedium by rights-holders who do not see the value in handing over decent images to plug their product. As with his other notable book on Shinya Tsukamoto, Mes goes the extra mile to put images on the pages, imparting a palpable classiness to Miike’s output.

Mes’s essays often assert that Miike has been misunderstood or misrepresented abroad, by both his supporters and detractors. It is interesting to read, for example, of the extended Japanese cut of his wonderful 13 Assassins, which Mes nobly argues is less high-brow, more scatological and humorous, and to my ears at least, somewhat less good than the acclaimed international version. There is an interview with the director himself about the ghostly Great Yokai War, and intriguing pieces on several Miike movies that I have never even heard of – it’s tough keeping up with them all.

The end result is a thing that borders on coffee-table beauty, although you might like to skip the foreword by the aforementioned Storms, which is by turns aggressive, defensive and condescending, and strikes an unnecessarily negative note at the beginning of an otherwise joyous book.

Re-Agitator: A Decade of Writing on Takashi Miike, by Tom Mes, is out now in hardback from FAB Press.

Buy it now


The Transformers - The Movie Limited Edition, 30th Anniversary Steelbook (2-blu-ray Set + Digital Copy)

was £29.99
The TRANSFORMERS – THE MOVIE 30th Anniversary Edition featuring the newly remastered movie from a new 4K transfer of original film elements.

The AUTOBOTS, led by the heroic OPTIMUS PRIME, prepare to make a daring attempt to retake their planet from the evil forces of MEGATRON and the DECEPTICONS. Unknown to both sides, a menacing force is heading their way – UNICRON. The only hope of stopping UNICRON lies within the Matrix of Leadership and the AUTOBOT who can rise up and use its power to light their darkest hour. Will the AUTOBOTS be able to save their native planet from destruction or will the DECEPTICONS reign supreme?

Bonus Content:
• ‘Til All Are One – A brand-new, comprehensive documentary looking back at TRANSFORMERS: The Movie with members of the cast and crew, including story consultant Flint Dille, cast members Gregg Berger, Neil Ross, Dan Gilvezan, singer/songwriter Stan Bush, composer Vince Dicola and others!
•Audio Commentary with Director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille and star Susan Blu
• Featurettes
• Animated Storyboards
• Trailers and TV Spots

For the ultimate fans and collectors, The TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE Limited Edition, 30th Anniversary Steelbook comes with highly collectible Steelbook packaging, 2 Blu-ray set of the newly remastered movie (Both aspect ratios), immersive bonus content including brand-new featurettes, plus many more. This is a must-own collection to every fan's library!        



The King and the Mockingbird

Andrew Osmond on Miyazaki’s love for a French classic
The King and the Mockingbird was one of the films which taught Miyazaki and Takahata that you could make an animated feature without following studio formulae – something they strove for themselves as early as Takahata’s 1968 Marxist epic The Little Norse Prince.

Hentai Kamen: the Movie

With great pants comes great responsibility...
Bruce Wayne has a kick-arse suit, perfectly apt for thwarting Gotham criminals; Peter Parker has arachnid-esque abilities that turn him into a neighbourhood icon following an incident with a radioactive spider; and when a certain Kyousuke Shikijou places ladies’ panties across his visage, it unleashes his inner potential as Japan’s most forbidden superhero – no one’s safe!
Discover the origins of the Halo series’ legendary Master Chief and the Spartan program. Based on the novel that has sold over one million copies by Eric Nylund, Halo: The Fall of Reach is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.

Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple

The first rule of Kenichi is: big eyes and kick ass.
In the real world, mastering a martial art takes years of devotion. All require a harsh physical regimen that pushes the body to the limit. Of course, we’re dealing with the world of anime, so we have a sneaking suspicion that Kenichi Shirahama might be able to go from shy, quiet bookworm to martial arts prodigy in a matter of weeks. All it takes to send him on the path to becoming Chuck Norris’ worst nightmare is falling for the new girl in class after he sees her single-handedly demolishing a group of thugs.

Godzilla: Too Soon?

When is it okay for a real-life disaster to become entertainment?
How soon is too soon? The question’s raised by the new Godzilla trailer, the first half of which seems to be all about recreating traumatic events as fantasy, just three years after they occurred. Specifically, the trailer opens with a disaster at a Japanese power station, before segueing into images of a giant wave sweeping into a town with devastating force. Both images seem less ripped than Xeroxed from the headlines of March 2011, when northern Honshu (Japan’s mainland) was struck by an earthquake which caused a tsunami, killing thousands, and the meltdown at Fukushima.

Cosplay Winners

Paul Jacques' pictures from the best of London's Comicon...
It's taken a while to shift through the paperwork and read all your indecipherable handwriting, but we've finally managed to sift through the London Comicon cosplay pictures and pick out our winners from a fantastic bunch. And with no further ado...

Big Hero 6

Andrew Osmond leaves his heart in San Fransokyo
You know Tokyo; you know Neo-Tokyo. Now welcome to San Fransokyo, the mashup metropolis imagined by Disney’s CG cartoon Big Hero 6, released in British cinemas today. It’s a city where the Golden Gate Bridge sports Shinto gates, where ramen bars and lucky cats are as common as Victorian residences and hill-climbing trams. All this is the stage for a team-superhero adventure, which is itself window-dressing for the tale of a grieving boy and a gentle, huggable, cushion-soft robot.

Attack on Titan: The Interview

Katsuhiko Kitada, Ryotaro Makihara and George Wada talk Titans
The cheering shakes the roof of the ExCel Centre. It’s October 2013, we’re at MCM London Comic Con, and the audience at the Attack on Titan panel has just been asked if they’d like a second season.
We are very excited to share with you more information on our upcoming releases!

One Piece: Crew Manifest 5

Brush up on this latest volume of nautical nonsense!
The Skypiea arc is well underway in the latest batch on One Piece, taking the Straw Hat Pirates to a floating island where danger and adventure abounds.
Contact Us   |   Refund Policy   |   Delivery Times   |   Privacy statement   |   Terms & Conditions
Please note your card statement will show billing by MVM. Re-Agitator: A Decade of Writing on Takashi Miike from the UK's best Anime Blog.