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Japan-O-Rama

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Yakuza Apocalypse, frogman, 極道大戦争, Gokudō Daisensō, Takashi Miike, Yayan Ruhian, Rirî Furankî, Hayato Ichihara, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Riko Narumi, Pierre Taki, Ryushin Tei,

Yakuza Apocalypse: a virus that turns everyone into a yakuza mobster is sweeping through a sleepy Japanese town; along with some vampires, goths, and a ninja frogman. There are two fairly major signs that you’ll either love or hate this film: firstly, the ‘Mangalogo guarantees some mental Japanese stuff; secondly, Takashi Miike directing is another indicator of mental Japanese stuff. Suffice to say that there’s so much silly, random, and mental Japanese stuff (like a bird goblin man, kung fu frogman in a frog suit – mostly for no obvious reason) that it becomes a chore to keep up with. You get the feeling that Miike was going for a ‘Happiness of the Katakuris’ vibe, but got bogged down in the randomness and forgot about the plot. It opens with an ultra-violent bloodbath, but stalls immediately after and never really hits the top gear again: even the anti-fight at the end is a disappointing reductive idiom gag (massive build up / deliberately rubbish fight). A disappointing non-film from one of the most hit-or-miss directors on the planet. One for the Manga / Japanese / Miike fanboys only.

Score: 3.5/10

Yakuza Apocalypse, Boss Fight, Finale, 極道大戦争, Gokudō Daisensō, Takashi Miike, Yayan Ruhian, Rirî Furankî, Hayato Ichihara, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Riko Narumi, Pierre Taki, Ryushin Tei,

Yakuza Apocalypse, Poster, 極道大戦争, Gokudō Daisensō, Takashi Miike, Yayan Ruhian, Rirî Furankî, Hayato Ichihara, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Riko Narumi, Pierre Taki, Ryushin Tei,

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47 Ronin, Big Ninja Boss, Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki, Min Tanaka, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jin Akanishi, Masayoshi Haneda, Masayuki Deai, Togo Igawa, Gedde Watanabe,

47 Ronin [mild spoilers]: follows a group of disgraced samurai as they set out to avenge their murdered master. As it’s a Hollywood film it obviously contains every single ‘western portrayal of Asia’ pitfall imaginable – everyone speaking ‘Engrish’, exotic mystique, ninjas/samurai everywhere, forbidden gaijin romance, cherry blossom, western warrior, kanji writing, tradition, tradition, tradition… Because of this – and given the foul reviews this received – I was expecting something woeful, but this is pleasantly surprising. The visuals are fantastic: it is a touch over-styalised – some parts feel like Sucker Punch set in feudal Japan – but the costumes, textures, sets, CGI backgrounds are all eye-poppingly sumptuous: it’s up there with The Fall’s immaculate design. Story-wise, other than a few swashbuckling & sword fighting action set pieces, this is definitely more of a drama than you expect: the story arcs are all fairly standard until the ‘happy’ ending – a mass samurai suicide instead of a mass criminal hanging – yay! The biggest complaint you hear about this is that it’s nothing like the original story: WTF?! This is a blockbuster movie… and there are so many fictionalized accounts of this tale that there’s a specific entire genre term for it – Chūshingura! The weirdest thing about 47 Ronin is that it plays to two wildly different audiences – it’s half respectful and traditional samurai movie; and half Game of Thrones style middle-earth mayhem (battles, questing, magic & mythology). Overall, it’s an interesting, and beautiful, oddity that could have been great, but is by no means a terrible movie.

Score: 6/10

47 Ronin, Silhouette Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki, Min Tanaka, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jin Akanishi, Masayoshi Haneda, Masayuki Deai, Togo Igawa, Gedde Watanabe,

47 Ronin, Set Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki, Min Tanaka, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jin Akanishi, Masayoshi Haneda, Masayuki Deai, Togo Igawa, Gedde Watanabe,

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Tokyo Tribe Buppa Nana Seino, Ryōta Satō, Junsuke Daitō, Takuya Ishida, Yui Ichikawa, Mika Kano, Shoko Nakagawa, Shōta Someta, Denden, Yōsuke Kubozuka, Riki Takeuchi, Bernard Ackah, Yoshihiro Takayama, Arata Matsuura, Panda UnitedTokyo Tribe (AKA Tokyo Tribe2, トウキョウ トライブ トゥー, Tōkyō Toraibu Tū): near future Tokyo is divided into sections ruled by street gangs; but war is about to breakout when one gang tries to take over. Just when you think you’ve seen everything from Japan they throw out a West Side Story style film, acted out almost entirely though musical rap battles – a Hip-HOpera! It’s a sweet idea to begin with, but at two hours long it’s stretched to the limit; the continually repeated drum breaks become grating, and forcing the lines to rhyme means the dialogue feels clunky in parts – although it could be lost in translation. Also, because modern music videos have massive production, parts of this look a bit cheap in comparison. The set and character designs are impressive, epic sprawls of graffiti’d urban decay, futuristic nightclubs, and a grand dining room. Not that this needed it, but the manga origins give this licence to be crazy with some hammy acting (Buppa), big haircuts, robo-mecha babes… classic Japan! The action is well executed, and the large-scale finale battle is particularly impressive. It feels like the director knew that the rap-battles would only be novel for so long (it doesn’t help that the narrator / central character is uncharismatic) so he throws up something risqué every 5 mins or so to perk you up; gratuitous nudity and fondling, or provocative and controversial dialogue. From the director of Love Exposure and Cold Fish, this couldn’t be more different – but it’s an even more ambitious, unique, and admirable feat than those.

Score: 5/10

Tokyo Tribe Gang Leaders Nana Seino, Ryōta Satō, Junsuke Daitō, Takuya Ishida, Yui Ichikawa, Mika Kano, Shoko Nakagawa, Shōta Someta, Denden, Yōsuke Kubozuka, Riki Takeuchi, Bernard Ackah, Yoshihiro Takayama, Arata Matsuura, PandaTokyo Tribe Mika Kano Nana Seino, Ryōta Satō, Junsuke Daitō, Takuya Ishida, Yui Ichikawa, Mika Kano, Shoko Nakagawa, Shōta Someta, Denden, Yōsuke Kubozuka, Riki Takeuchi, Bernard Ackah, Yoshihiro Takayama, Arata Matsuura,Tokyo Tribe Gira Gira Prostitutes Dominatrix Whip Nana Seino, Ryōta Satō, Junsuke Daitō, Takuya Ishida, Yui Ichikawa, Mika Kano, Shoko Nakagawa, Shōta Someta, Denden, Yōsuke Kubozuka, Riki Takeuchi, Bernard Ackah, Yoshihiro Takaya
Tokyo Tribe Poster Nana Seino, Ryōta Satō, Junsuke Daitō, Takuya Ishida, Yui Ichikawa, Mika Kano, Shoko Nakagawa, Shōta Someta, Denden, Yōsuke Kubozuka, Riki Takeuchi, Bernard Ackah, Yoshihiro Takayama, Arata Matsuura, Panda Unite

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If you know any metalheads you’ve probably seen a few links spreading through social media about “The best band you’ve never heard of”. Here’s a brief rundown of the band, and their best songs for you to enjoy.

TL;DR – If you even remotely love Metal, and are open to other genres sneaking in this is absolutely a band you must try.

Listening to Maximum the Hormone is an experience that no other band comes close to. While you’d probably have to class them as a ‘Metal’ / ‘JMetal’ outfit, playing one of their discs is like sprinting through a music store, listening to as many genre sections as you can cram in to four minutes; everything’s covered, from funk and thrash through to pop and ska.

Maximum The Hormone

Maximum The Hormone MTH Rokkinpo GoroshiMost other genre-crossing bands usually stick to one combo – the burgeoning Dance / Metal genre being a popular one (Nine Inch Nails, Rammstein, Mindless Self Indulgence, Enter Shakari etc) – but where MTH stand out is that they do a whole raft of styles, yet they never come across as gimmicky or ridiculous; the switches between styles are all seamless, and ultimately it makes them impressive and admirable to listen to – it also helps that singing duties are split over three vocalists (One screamer, one rapper and a pop singer) and backing vocals done from the fourth.

 

Maximum The Hormone MTH buiikikaesuTheir ‘sound’ is massive; huge, broad and accomplished production that’s evenly split over all frequencies. Whereas most rock bands dial guitar and vocals to 11, the MTH bassist is their main producer, which helps to emphasise the lower range and rhythm tracks. It’s amazing what your ears can pull out of a well-mixed song!

 

Maximum The Hormone MTH Yoshu FukushuThe true beauty of their music is that their songs are packed full of great riffs (from a rock/metal perspective), yet they do justice to all of the genres mentioned above, and many more. Below is a whistle-stop tour of one of the best (Metal) bands in the world, and one that are criminally under-rated – alongside Hot Action Cop, Phil X and The Drills and Danko Jones.

 

Koi No Mega Lover I’d happily put this down as THE best Metal song of the 00s. This has everything that makes the band great: pop-hook vocals, crunching metal riffs, super-tight bass/drum rhythms, and a genre-bending structure. You just can’t help but be uplifted by the greatness of this track – and that’s without even understanding a single lyric. It’s way over five minutes long, but always seems to finish too quickly. (Bonus: Fake subtitle version)

Uehara~Futoshi~ (Apologies for the terrible Anime video) Named after the bassist, this song is raw, fast, angry and bassey, and with one of the most stand-out bass licks since Rancid’s Maxwell Murder. At 2:36 long, it’s one of the band’s shorter tracks, but it doesn’t half pack a punch. Sounds like RHCP in parts (if they were actually good). Signature pop/slap funk bass playing.

Buiikikaesu – a great album-into track that tries its best to prepare you for the rest of the album. It lulls you in with a soft – unassuming – guitar riff, then clobbers you over the head with a wall of Nu-metal riffage, rap rock, slap bass, and pop chorus. This is primal MTH, going from 1-100mph in 5 seconds.

Bikini. Sports. Ponchin’ Split in to several contrasting parts; starting at Emo/Metal with some screaming, an angry rock pre-chorus, which bursts into a disco-inflected funk chorus and middle-eight. On paper a song like this should be terrible; but as MTH prove over and over, any genre can be combined with metal.

A L I E N: sitting at the more extreme end of the spectrum. This one begins with thrash, nosedives into death/grind metal before pulling off one of the most powerful jumps into some bass showboating and short-lived rock riffs that most bands would regurgitate for a full five-minute entire song. Unfortunately, the end of this one digresses to a simple, repetitive power-pop chant for 2 minutes. Still, worth watching for the bizarre video alone.

Rokkinpo Goroshi: another absolute knockout of an opening track. This uses an Asian scale (and some old gongs) to let you know for sure that this is a metal band from the Far East. Twisting between rock, metal

Louisiana Bob: (another poor anime vid) If you ever wanted to here how some crunchingly good, full-bodied, rock production, then this is your track. Metal vocals, rock riffs, rhythmic breakdowns and pop chorus – you know the drill by now.

Chu Chu Lovely Muni Muni Mura Mura Purin Purin Boron Nururu Rero Rero: (again, rubbish video). Classic retro, almost ‘heavy surf rock’ bubblegum chorus hook. But being MTH it’s followed up with some coarse vocals and crushing riffs.

[Remotely decent video unavailable]

My Girl: no, not that one, although it is slipped in right at the end. One of the more steady and straightforward metal tracks in the band’s canon. A good sound mix, catchy vocals and the ‘headbangability’ make this one an instant classic.

JAPANORAMA - Seven Monkey BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA.jpgR100 Review Movie Film Nao Ōmori, Shinobu Terajima, Hitoshi Matsumoto, Ai Tominaga, Eriko Sato, Naomi Watanabe, You, Suzuki Matsuo, Atsuro Watabe, Gin Maeda R100: A quiet salaryman in Japan signs up for a year-long mysterious bondage contract with only one rule – you cannot cancel it. First thing you’ll notice is that this looks weird; the colours aren’t far off black and white and there’s a full-on noir aesthetic (clothes, props, etc). The next strange aspect is the editing: for no reason whatsoever the film keeps ‘stopping’ and cutting to some test viewers trying to figure bits out; and for no reason it dips in to ‘interview’ / ‘documentary’ formats – both tactics demolish the flow of the story. For a whacky, kinky S&M / Bondage comedy… there’s simply not enough laughs, one or two at most, which is unforgivable as a story like this has so, so, so much potential. Overall, R100 is far, FAR too eclectic and random for its own good; but instead of being cult, it’s TRYING to be cult, and falls short, landing up as more ‘rubbish’ than weird, even by Japanese standards.

Score: 2.5/10

JAPANORAMA - Kinkie BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMAAir Doll 01 Bae Doona, Arata, Itsuji Itao, Joe Odagiri, Sumiko Fuji, Masaya Takahashi, Susumu Terajima, Kimiko Yo

Air Doll (空気人形): a lonely singleton falls in love with the blow-up doll that has replaced his girlfriend; and one day she comes to life (this could only be Japanese). The first five minutes are an explosive combination of funny, creepy, peculiar and entertaining. The remaining two hours however is essentially a grating portrayal of childhood innocence, but here’s the kicker: it’s played through the eyes of a sex doll!omfg!! The moment you notice this is the moment this film bursts. It’s full of ludicrously whimsical and increasingly pretentious ‘life lessons’ about what makes humans human, played through a handful of seriously irrelevant stories and sub-minor characters (which I guess is to beef up the runtime). It also features one of my biggest pet hates: the doll gets a job in a DVD rental store so the director can crowbar in a bunch of his favourites / influences / kewl moviez. Worst. Trope. Ever. There are a couple of funny-ish cultural confusion moments, but they’re balanced out by several close-up shots of a removable rubber vagina being washed in a sink: can you say “shock value”? In fact, the only saving grace is the lead actress Bae Doona who does a great job and for the most part doesn’t feel the slightest bit human. Other than the first five minutes this is literally – and figuratively – as exciting as spending almost two hours watching something slowly deflating in front of you. Air Doll comes off the rails far too quickly, never picks back up.

Score: 2/10

Air Doll 02 Bae Doona, Arata, Itsuji Itao, Joe Odagiri, Sumiko Fuji, Masaya Takahashi, Susumu Terajima, Kimiko Yo,Air Doll 03 Bae Doona, Arata, Itsuji Itao, Joe Odagiri, Sumiko Fuji, Masaya Takahashi, Susumu Terajima, Kimiko Yo,

JAPANORAMA - SF WASABI RICE BANNERBabycart in Peril 01 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo

Lone Wolf and Cub – Baby Cart in Peril (AKA – 子連れ狼 親の心子の心  Kozure Ōkami: Oya no kokoro ko no kokoro, Shogun Assassin 3: Slashing Blades of Carnage): Ito’s latest contract is to assassinate a killer of many samurai, but to his surprise it’s a lady with outstanding short-blade skills, and in a similar situation to himself… Oyuki presents a very strong female lead, something that the previous movies have had – but not taken this seriously. The very first frame is a tattooed boob, so it starts off great! But soon after there’s a bit of silly magic (face mask magic guy), some sizable flashback sections, and a lot more talking than previous installments. However, as good as the story and premise are, the Babycart films are never better than their action set-pieces: with Wakayama hacking, slashing, and literally flying around the frame – he can’t half move around for a big bloke. The now customary ‘final battle’ with dozens of enemies and a few ‘bosses’ is also great, and for the first time we see him properly injured/vulnerable too. More than anything, the film is a little confused about who the baddie is: the girl? Her nemesis? Itto’s old foe? The big hairy guy? By the fourth movie it does feel a bit like more-of-the-same but the film still pushes the boundaries, and does well to set up the one-armed swordsman myth.

Score: 6/10

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades Review

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx Review

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance Review

Babycart in Peril 02 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo Babycart in Peril 03 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo Babycart in Peril 04 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo EndoBabycart in Peril 05 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo Babycart in Peril 06 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo Babycart in Peril 07 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo Babycart in Peril 08 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo Babycart in Peril 10 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo