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Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2015

Tuesday 27th January 2015

Jasper Sharp on the movies coming to a cinema near you

Short PeaceIt is that time of year again, when the Japan Foundation treats audiences across the UK to their lavish smorgasbord of the latest and best in Japanese cinema, running this year from 30th January to 26th March. Its annual touring programme has snowballed in scope and ambition over the ten years, and has now expanded to a total of 13 titles shown throughout 11 venues across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, kicking off at its regular launch pad of London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts.

The organising principle of the programme of “Encounters” is looser than in previous years, focusing on “titles in which characters experience seemingly unusual meetings, plunge into unexpected circumstances and new environments, as well as collide with different generations, ideals and ideas – asking the question, does it really only happen in the movies?”

The range of movies shown covers dramas, crime movies and comedies and includes retrospective screenings of two seldom-shown Japanese classics, Seijun Suzuki’s giddy portrait of 1960s cabaret culture Carmen from Kawachi (Kawachi Karumen, 1966) and the celebrated auteur Mikio Naruse’s final film Scattered Clouds (Midaregumo, 1967).

Elsewhere there’s Yoichi Sai’s cross-generational saga of Koreans in Japan, Blood and Bones (Chi to hone, 2004), with its eye-popping central performance by Takeshi Kitano; Tsutomu Hanabusa’s comedy Handsome Suit (2008), in which the titular set of clothes magically transforms the life of its wearer; and Shinobu Yaguchi’s feel-good coming-of-age drama Wood Job! (2014), about a university dropout who learns some valuable life lessons when he embarks on a one-year forestry programme out in the sticks, with the London, Bristol and Sheffield screenings attended by Yaguchi himself.

Anime and manga fans are particularly well catered for this time round. Like last year’s Otakus in Love (Koi no mon, Suzuki Matsuo, 2004), Keisuke Yoshida’s My Little Sweet Pea (Mugiko-san to, 2013) similarly features Ryuhei Matsuda (of Gohatto, Nightmare Detective and The Raid 2) in a tale of an anime-obsessed aspiring voice-actor Mugiko (Maki Horikita) who travels to her estranged mother’s hometown. The film is of special interest due to its tender animated sequences from the legendary Production I.G studios.

The contemporary face of Japanese animation is represented by the UK premiere of another film by Production I.G, A Letter to Momo (Momo e no Tegami, 2012), a more family-friendly offering than its director Hiroyuki Okiura’s powerful debut, Jin-Roh (1998), which was more in the darker tones of its screenwriter Mamoru Oshii’s pioneering works as a director like Ghost in the Shell. As with My Little Sweet Pea, its character’s “encounter” is also prompted by the loss of a parent as, following the death of her father, the 11-year-old Momo moves from the big city to her old wooden family house situated on a remote island, where she is forced to adapt to more timeless, traditional ways of life.

For me, the one to watch out for is the Short Peace (2013) animated anthology, whose four segments are varied enough to appeal to all tastes. The top-billing, of course, goes to Akira director Katsuhiro Otomo, whose Combustible whisks us back in time to an ancient Edo consumed by a fiery conflagration. A Farewell to Weapons is redolent of anime’s 1990s heyday, its portrait of a not-so-distant future dystopia again scripted by Otomo, but directed by Hajime Katoki, the man responsible for the designs of Gundam and many another mecha classic, while Possessions, in which a solitary traveller is besieged by ancient spirits when he winds up at an abandoned shrine, earned its director Shuhei Morita a Best Animated Short nomination at last year’s Academy Awards. Hiroaki Ando’s Gambo, featuring an epic battle between a red demon and a phantasmagorical white bear that leaps to the protection of the royal family, completes the mix of ancient-meets-modern themes articulated using traditional pen-and-ink and cutting edge digital techniques.

Now here is a set of encounters to get really excited about.


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!        



Who's Who in Dragon Ball 1

Ever wonder just how Goku and friends became the greatest heroes on Earth?
Wonder no more, as the original Dragon Ball reveals the origins of Akira Toriyama’s beloved creations! The faces may look familiar, but everything else is different in this classic series!

Eureka Seven Ao

Kicking it old-school, with giant robots
Pacific Rim opened a new gateway to ’bot sagas for youngsters, and for oldsters too. They’ll see del Toro’s film, learn how much he was inspired by Japanese cartoons, and then check out the originals. If they choose Eureka Seven Ao, they’ll find elements also seen in Pacific Rim, embedded in a very different show.
Knights of Sidonia is a must watch sci-fi series, find out why.

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.

Fairy Tail Music: Idoling!!!

Tom Smith on the music to part nine
Even without the tie-in with anime, Idoling!!! had had a strong presence on television. After all, the group were created by a bunch of media moguls from Fuji TV. They figured out that by appealing to two of Japan’s more dedicated entertainment fangroups, idol fans and TV junkies, that they could be on to a winner.

Mysterious Cities of Gold: The Game

Some day we will find...
The game Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths is rolling out as a digital download across multiple platforms. This month it becomes available on the Nintendo 3DS and Amazon, following launches on the Wii U, iPad, iPhone and Steam.

Usagi Drop

The acclaimed anime born from a controversial manga
Produced for Fuji TV’s late-night, more adult-focused noitaminA slot by the legendary Production I.G, the 2011 anime could have been a disaster, with a first-time screenwriter in charge, a senior staffer debuting as director and a vocal fanbase awaiting it. Instead...
Another MCM London Comic Con has come to an end and we would like to say a huge thank you to all the fans that visited the Manga UK booth over the weekend!
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