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Thursday 30th October 2014

Andrew Osmond catches the live-action premiere of Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Kiseiju

KiseijuThe Tokyo International Film Festival closed with the live-action Parasyte, a superb blend of SF, comedy and primarily horror, where the levity of the early scenes freezes into a drama with an ice-cold alien grip.

For readers following the current TV anime season, the film – part one of two – is another version of the story being serialised as Parasyte – The Maxim. Both are adapted from an award-winning 1990s manga by Hitoshi Iwaaki about intelligent parasites that invade contemporary Tokyo, entering human bodies and mutating them into grotesque cannibal monsters – apart from one cuter organism which opts for co-existence with his unwilling schoolboy partner (Shota Sometani). Playing the part of the lad’s right hand, the creature quickly learns Japanese and grows a mouth to introduce itself as “Righty.” Amusingly, the first English-language edition of the manga, published by Tokyopop, was flopped Western-style, so Righty became Lefty for obvious reasons.

Considered just as horror, Parasyte would be a strong contender in any London Frightfest. Its obvious touchstones include Invasion of the Body Snatchers in its possession theme and John Carpenter’s The Thing in its body-horror visuals, though the echoes are drawn from a spectrum including the “splatstick” farce of Evil Dead 2 (the possessed hand’s possessed hand film); David Cronenberg’s gruelling early Shivers; and the mainstream high-school horror The Faculty (don’t trust the teachers!). But what’s especially impressive about Parasyte, and perhaps the most anime-like thing about it, is its slide from comedy, with the often cute presence of Righty, into heavy horror. Some of the most chilling moments come when you realise exactly what’s about to happen – and then it does and it’s still stomach-churning, though the level of gore is well under the Frightfest average.

While the special effects are most impressive, Shota Sometani carries the film as Shinichi, a schoolboy who starts out looking doughy and dopey – though dorkily attractive to a certain kind of girl – before being thrown into his shocking Cronenbergian journey. The script deftly dispatches obvious questions – such as why Shinichi can’t tell anyone about his infection by Righty – and sketches Shinichi’s domestic life. This domesticity collides with the emotional themes in a devastating way, defining Parasyte as both a very teenage film and a convincingly universal one. (Sometani was previously the lead in the lurid teen-angst manga adaptation Himizu, directed by Sion Sono.) The other cast are all strong, especially Bayside Shakedown star Eri Fukatsu as an eerie, ethereal chemistry teacher at Shinichi’s school.

ParasyteThe effects themselves are highly accomplished, partly because they concentrate on doing a little (by Hollywood standards) but doing it very well. There are occasional causes of complaint, such as a Parasyte-on-Parasyte hand fight that’s disappointingly simplistic, but it doesn’t dissipate the underlying suspense at all. Another moment involving a severed (but not dead) head feels like a direct nod to Carpenter’s Thing; it doesn’t have the original’s wondrous physicality, but feels like a fitting homage rather than a synthetic knockoff. For a long time, the rights to Parasyte were with Hollywood, with one version planned to have effects from the Jim Henson studio, but this iteration petered out long ago.

The setting is a very mundane Tokyo, eschewing Shibuya neon for washed-out neighbourhoods, centred around Shinchi’s increasingly vulnerable home and school. A bathtub-cum-larder is a central location for the Parasytes, chilling enough though we get only creepy hints of its contents. (“Women with heavy-make up leave an awful medicinal taste…”)

The film’s closing scenes – after an explosive, emotionally punchy climax – feel over-protracted as they set up the forthcoming sequel, but frankly Parasyte could stand up on its own. According to the festival press conference, the film was a labour of devotion for its director, Takashi Yamazaki, a long-time fan of Iwaaki’s manga. An effects specialist, Yamazaki has an eclectic filmography: he recreated 1960s Tokyo in the Always: Sunset on Third Street trilogy, helmed the live-action Space Battleship Yamato, and recently topped the Japanese box-office with films about wartime fighter pilots (The Eternal Zero) and cartoon robot cats (Stand By Me Doraemon, in CGI). At the end of Parasyte, Yamazaki has a joint credit for effects and directing, and richly deserves praise for both.


Akira (the Collector\'s Edition) Triple Play Edition (incl. Blu-ray, Dvd, Digital Copy)

was £29.99
Iconic and game-changing, Akira is the definitive anime masterpiece! Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark cyberpunk classic obliterated the boundaries of Japanese animation and forced the world to look into the future. Akira’s arrival shattered traditional thinking, creating space for movies like The Matrix to be dreamed into brutal reality.

Neo-Tokyo, 2019. The city is being rebuilt post World War III when two high school drop outs, Kaneda and Tetsuo stumble across a secret government project to develop a new weapon - telekinetic humans. After Tetsuo is captured by the military and experimented on, he gains psychic abilities and learns about the existence of the project's most powerful subject, Akira. Both dangerous and destructive, Kaneda must take it upon himself to stop both Tetsuo and Akira before things get out of control and the city is destroyed once again. 
AKIRA The Collector’s Edition features both the original 1988 Streamline English dub and the 2001

Pioneer/Animaze English dub!



Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.

Akira's Ancestors

Andrew Osmond on the unexpected forerunners of Neo-Tokyo
In Akira’s opening moments, a sphere of white light appears from nowhere in the centre of Tokyo, and swells to obliterate the city. Many Western critics saw the image as a symbol of the Bomb, like the earlier Japanese pop-culture icon, Godzilla. But the designer apocalypse could be taken as Akira’s own mission statement – to be a new kind of entertainment, blowing away its peers and reshaping the cinema landscape.

The Impact of Akira

Andrew Osmond reviews the reviews from 20 years ago.
On its explosive arrival in the West, Akira crossed the Pacific to catch the generation that grew up on the films of Spielberg and Lucas; it was also the generation that read adult superhero strips such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Akira, though, offered the shock-and-awe widescreen violence akin to that of enfant terrible live-action director, Paul Verhoeven. For example, both Akira and Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987) have a gory money-shot scene in their early minutes, in which a luckless bit-part player is graphically torn apart by a hail of bullets. Unsurprisingly, such imagery excited reviewers.

Akira 25th Anniversary Screenings

Your chance to see it in the cinema in the UK
Neo-Tokyo is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E. Katsuhiro Otomo’s debut animated feature AKIRA had its Japanese premiere on 16th July 1988. We are very proud to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of what is undoubtedly, one of the most celebrated animated movies of all time. Voted by Empire readers as one of the top 100 best films ever and cited by everyone from James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Daft Punk and Kanye West as a massive influence on their work, AKIRA kick-started the anime business all over the world, opening the doors for everything from Pokémon to Princess Mononoke.

The Art of Akira

Joe Peacock tracks down the original images from the anime classic
Watching Akira for the first time provokes a universal reaction of awe. And justifiably so: there’s often an overwhelming sense among audiences that this animated film is unlike any other they’ve ever seen. Casual viewers won’t be able to put their finger on it; they just know that Akira is visually striking. Art and illustration aficionados appreciate the intricacy of individual scenes, sometimes pausing the film to appreciate the detail in a particular frame.

Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.


The Comic Artist and His Assistants follows the adventures of a very perverted comic artist, Aito Yuuki. To celebrate the show's UK release, we decided to take a look at our favourite perverts from the anime world.

Mechademia 8: Tezuka's Manga Life

Jasper Sharp reviews a book-length collection on the “God of Manga”
Tezuka’s Manga Life is a scholarly and much-needed attempt to sort out the wheat from the chaff of the Tezuka myth, with its 22 contributors spread over 300+ pages attempting to put the vast output of the prodigious manga artist into context.

The Decline of the Japanese X Museum

Stephen Turnbull plays whack-a-mole with willies
The word hihokan is usually translated as ‘sex museum’, although most are best described as indoor sexual theme parks. Imagine that an anthropological collection has been bought by the London Dungeon and put on show there by the owner of a strip club with a degree in engineering and a penchant for voyeurism. The result would be the hihokan: a garish combination of serious museum and soft pornography in a bizarre and often haphazard blend.

The Weird World of Rotoscoping

Andrew Osmond on the history of animation’s corner-cutting secret
Rotoscoping and its descendants are an important part of American cinema, and recognised today. Many film fans know, for example, that Gollum, Peter Jackson’s King Kong and the rebel anthropoid Cornelius in the Planet of the Apes reboot are all based on physical performances by one actor, Andy Serkis. Again, it’s common knowledge that the Na’vi aliens in Avatar were human actors ‘made over’ by computer – the digital equivalent of those guys wearing prosthetic foreheads and noses in the older Star Trek series.

Yoshiki Sakurai interview

From a Hendon boys' school to writing Ghost in the Shell...
Yoshiki Sakurai has worked on everything from Stand Alone Complex to xxxHOLIC, from Evangelion to Redline. More recently he produced and co-wrote the acclaimed anime period drama Giovanni’s Island.


Hugh David calls Czechmate on the endgame
"The action scenes remain superlative, designed and executed in a way Western live-action directors would do well to study. The way character moments are woven within elevates them above mere technical exercises. The Prague shoot-out and Tokyo car chase are the sort of gems that prove that anime can still trump live-action in the same creative arenas when it wants to."


Andrew Osmond on the real “adult” manga
Eric Khoo's film focuses on one of the founders of gekiga, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who died on 7th March. The framing story is Tatsumi’s account of his life and development, growing up with a difficult family. He had none of the technology and luxuries that we take for granted, no reason to think he could ever make a living from the fledgling manga industry. And yet he was utterly driven to draw comics, like his hero Osamu Tezuka.

Comicon Pics

Just some of the Comicon cosplays, photographed by Paul Jacques
As promised, here are just a few of the pictures taken by our photographer Paul Jacques at the MCM Comicon this May. Some pretty amazing stuff on offer behind the LINK.
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