Tag Archives: Japan

Somebody call Security

19 Apr , 2011,
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SP: The Motion Picture - Poster Art

Because I’m about to butcher a Japanese movie.


When I discovered that Security Police, better known as SP, was going to be dramatized as a full length motion picture, I was quite excited. Having watched the drama series, which was all about close protection – escorting VIPs, keeping an eye out for assassins, terrorists, and other nasties – I was looking forward to watching Junichi Okada (former V-6er and star of the show) flex his acting muscle on the silver screen.

Sadly, there’s little praiseworthy about the film edition, and as much as it pains me to pan something outta Sushi Land, I just gotta.

SP: The Motion Picture opens at a charity rally – a rally where psychic cop Inoue (Okada) and his fellow SP officers are posted, and in true action fashion, something dramatic happens, and there’s a foot chase. I have to admit, the chase scene was one of the highlights of the show (the entire sequence was 20 minutes long), with some excellent camera work and choreography and fighting in the face of an oncoming train (which is awesome).

However, if a film starts out that strong, then there’s an expectation that it should continue to deliver, which is where the rest of the film falls short. It soon becomes evident that Inoue’s superior Ogata is involved in an Illuminati-esque conspiracy, and after he fails to recruit Inoue to the group, bad stuff happens.

And when I say bad stuff, I mean that it’s pretty much like an escort quest in World of Warcraft, with nasties that come in phases, and that alone takes up the second half of the show.

Sad to say, while something like this might have worked on the small screen (thanks to its episodic nature, and judicious use of cliffhangers), it’s a delivery that’s sorely lacking in a movie where the screenwriter’s got to get everything all sorted out by the 93rd minute.

That meant the plot ended up being ricepaper thin, with the only thread binding the narrative together being that one conspiracy, general emo-ness, and Inoue.

The acting was kinda… meh. Meh also describes the characterization, and the lack of screen chemistry between the characters. It’s obvious somebody dropped the directorial ball on this one.

I is disappoint. :/

She's a fine ship

24 Mar , 2011,
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Space Battleship Yamato - Poster Art

And she’s a grand old dame in Japan’s animation history, to say the least.

Having grown up watching Matsumoto’s series and the English dubbed Star Blazers, I was pleasantly surprised to discover last year that Space Battleship Yamato was hitting the big screen.

And true enough, after watching it on opening night, I have to say that this movie adaptation is not just a fun romp through space, but an evocative coming of age story – a story of hope that puts Battle: Los Angeles (for all its vaunted CG and ridiculously overpriced effects) to shame.

Starring Takuya Kimura in the lead role, the movie is an adept retelling of the animes first season, condensed into some 2 amazing, action packed hours.

The earth is threatened by radioactive fallout caused by the Gamilas, and the only way for humanity to survive is to travel 148,000 light years away, to the planet Iskandar, where there is hope for a cure. Susumu Kodai (Kimura), a former space ace, re-enlists with the Yamato crew, flying under the command of Captain Okita (played by the amazing Tsutomu Yamazaki).

Susumu matures throughout the story – finding love, experiencing loss, and making sacrifices along the way as he grows from a rowdy, hot-headed youth with a chip on his shoulder and a ton of past baggage into a shining example of a starship captain – something that, despite all the narm and angst in Hollywood movies with a similar premise, prove all too hard to accomplish.

Part of Yamato’s charm is that it’s unpretentious. It’s a story rife with heroic sacrifice and manly talk, but these elements are played straight, and in perfect keeping with its cultural context.

Visually, Yamato’s great, and the acting and direction are top notch.

You’ll find yourself cheering along with the cast when Okita yells “Yamato! Hasshin!” and the spaceship lifts off, shedding rock and sediment like a second skin, and shedding a tear each time someone vital in the crew goes out with a bang.  The zero-G dogfights are gripping, the alien and spaceship designs are arresting,  and who can forget the wave motion cannon sequence? It’s what makes or breaks a Japanese space opera.

Kimura’s flair speaks for itself. For a man approaching the big Four-Oh, he’s actually pretty versatile when it comes to acting half his age. Kuroki Meisa, who is actually half his age, sizzles up the screen with him, though with only 2 hours, you’re hard pressed to find more scenes that play up their chemistry. Yamazaki, with his grizzled looks and gravelly voice, was perfect as Okita, and chambara matron Reiko Takashima did a pretty stellar impression of the oft-inebriated, cat-toting Doctor Sado.

It’s a pity, though, that the story’s not quite as true to the series as I’d have liked it to be. If I said more, though, I’d be giving the game away.

Admittedly, if you’re not a fan of Asian cinema, you might find the overall treatment a little too camp and made-for-TV (I’ve heard whispers in the theatre that some sequences looked like they’d fit right in with Power Rangers,  the plebeians), but if you’ve been weaned on the stuff, then you’ll know it’s perfectly in keeping with genre conventions.

In conclusion, this movie might be the Yamato franchise’s finest hour just yet. If you’re a sci-fi fan, especially one that recalls the original, you will not be disappointed.

And hey, if you’re a Kimutaku fan like the googly eyed, squealing schoolgirls populating GV Plaza last night, this is his best performance yet.