Sunday Lists: Hayao Miyazaki, Directed Films Ranked

Hayao Miyazaki List

January 5th marked the 78th birthday of one of the best Japanese animator and filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki. I don’t watch a lot of Japanese stuff in general but I grew up with Studio Ghibli films so some of these hold very close to my heart. There is this fantastic magical and fantasy world that he manages to create.

With that said, there is no better way than to kick off this year’s first Sunday Lists with a list of Hayao Miyazaki’s Directed Films ranked from what I think is the best to the the not so great ones, because lets be honest, there is no worst. Even the last choice here wasn’t a bad film just didn’t execute as well as the others or connect as well with me.

There are a few films not seen yet. The list will be updated over time.

*Only full feature animated films DIRECTED by Hayao Miyazaki has been included here*

1. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

my neighbor totoro

My first Miyazaki film in my memory is My Neighbor Totoro and it has never stopped being my favorite. I know the movie almost by heart, the Cantonese dubbed version dialogue almost all memorized. Its about family and its charming. The little girls are adorable and the Totoro super cute. There are some heartwarming moments and some hilarious ones as well. It balances light-hearted and heartbreaking moments. Its cute and serious in equal measures. Plus, how do you beat a CatBus? You just can’t!

2. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

kiki's delivery service

I love cats and witches. Kiki’s Delivery Service is a well-rounded film as well. I remember there was a phase in the early stages when I had some crappy blogging server somewhere that I had used Kiki has my name. Watching this one when I was a kid was a ride for sure. Witches weren’t evil, they were nice and helpful. This one is  fun little trip full of charm whether its the people that Kiki meets on her deliveries or her learning how to be independent.

3. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

howl's moving castle

Howl’s Moving Castle is based on a children’s novel which actually diverts quite far from its source material a fair bit especially when interpreting Howl’s character. However, maybe it has to do with this being the first Miyazaki film that I saw in theatres and the enchantment that comes from the big screen but this is one film that I love watching over and over again. Because of that, this film is filled with charm. It does get a tad dark and scary here and there but its so magical as well.

4. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

nausicaa

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind that makes me think about how Miyazaki is quite before his time in story telling as you can see how this film set the bar for his career, whether its the female characters he uses or the world that he creates. At the heart of it all, Nausicaa is about a world that has fallen apart environmentally and Nausicaa is trying to find a way to revive it while at the same time, nature has revolted in an unexpected way and she needs to find a way to solve the mystery of what happened. Its such a beautiful film. The only reason its placed lower is because its one that took me a second or third viewing when I was older to fully appreciate its message and its story.

5. Spirited Away (2001)

spirited away

Spirited Away is what put Miyazaki on the map along with Studio Ghibli. Its quite a feat when we think about it. In fact, there is so much to love here. I like this one a lot also. It has dragons and fantastical creatures and some pretty hilarious moments intertwined with a story about reuniting family, gluttony and life in general. Its colorful and beautiful and there are such charming array of characters wrapped up in this one story.

6. Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)

laputa castle in the sky

I know a lot of people who would put Laputa really high up or even consider this one their favorite Miyazaki film. I don’t disagree with that at all. Laputa: Castle in the Sky is beautiful, especially once we arrive at the castle in the sky and all the events that happen from there on out.  It has a cast of silly bandits and a gentle robot and the castle design itself is so detailed and intricate. The only deal is that I’ve never been prone to watch this one a lot but I always enjoyed it whenever someone puts it on.

7. The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

castle of cagliostro

I saw The Castle of Cagliostro because of a blogathon a few years back when it was looking at a debut of a director. I always thought Miyazaki started out his career with Nausicaa but before the existence of Studio Ghibli, he had created The Castle of Cagliostro adapted/based on the Japanese manga Lupin III. Its crime and comedy mixed together for this film and boy is it an adventure. The debut of Miyazaki is a fine start. There are its flaws with this one in terms of storytelling and pacing but there is still a ton of heart and charm.

8. Ponyo (2008)

ponyo

Ponyo is something like Miyazaki’s version of The Little Mermaid fairy tale story which takes a little fish girl who becomes human and meets a little boy. Its so adorable and imaginative. It takes this angle of making the creative angle of the tsunami and then links the whole story together. It is actually quite clever.

9. The Wind Rises (2013)

the wind rises

I saw the premiere of The Wind Rises at TIFF a few years back, the same year that Miyazaki announced his retirement in 2013 (of course, now we know that he has decided to not retire and is working on his next film). Putting aside the ridiculous couple next to me who sobbed the entire movie from start to finish who was incredibly annoying, The Wind Rises is a passion project of  Miyazaki’s and you can see it by the subject he chooses to take as he tells the story of World War II engineer who designs the fighter aircraft. His love for aircrafts and his country and his admiration for Jiro Horikoshi is all highly visible in his work. My issue here is that I don’t share the same admiration and for that, the story falls a little short of what I liked. Its not a bad film in any means because the animation, the visuals, the character designs and the music all work well. I just failed to connect with it but that is the risk of making a passion project film.

Not Seen or Can’t Remember

Conan The Future Boy: The Big Giant Robot’s Ressurrection (1984)
Porco Rosso (1992)
Princess Mononoke (1997)

How would you rank Hayao Miyazaki’s film?
Which one of his directed feature films is your fave?

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Festival du Nouveau Cinema Wrap-up: Triple Feature

I don’t usually do double features for any movies that I see at Festivals, let alone triple features, however after having a hard time really fleshing out my thoughts and the festival already behind us almost 2 weeks, I decided that these three films that I saw at Festival du Nouveau Cinema actually is a great fit together as it looks at teens and friendships and coming of age in one way or another. All of them have a snippet of the lives of these characters in all three stories.

Sticks and Stones (2018)

Brakland Sticks and Stones

Director: Martin Skovbjerg

Cast: Jonas Bjerril, Vilmer Trier Brogger, Natalia Reyes, Patricia Schumann, Emma Sehested Hoeg, Benjamin Kitter, Laufey Eliasdottir

Simon arrives in Vesterby from Copenhagen. He is an outsider in a brand new place and alone until he meets Bjarke – Vesterby’s alpha male and heir to the local speaker factory. The two start challenging each other in intimate and transgressive actions as they forge a friendship. But when embezzlement forces Vesterby’s speaker factory to close, the town is bereaved of its livelihood, and Bjarke’s family is blamed. The anger thrust upon him by the locals triggers the beast in Bjarke, and Simon is faced with either having to turn away or save his friend from self-destruction. – IMDB

Its hard to put into words why I felt that Sticks and Stones is a really great film. In fact, I had such a blast being captivated by this friendship that started quite abruptly through being paired up for a project. Comparing everyday lives of grown-ups and the people around them to apes. At the same time, boys will be boys and these two definitely had their share of shenanigans as they go from a creative angle to going overboard in their video project. At the same time, reflecting possibly their feelings and contained emotions in their personal life. The two characters draw a parallel to what is going on in their lives and explains why their friendship works but it also highlights the differences in some friends cross our lives for a moment but can’t stay because of whatever reason and in this case, its a toxicity. Everyone sees it but themselves and you choose to put them behind or wait for them to constantly hurt you. Everyone has gone through friends like this, and its probably because of that, it resounds to me.

In the end, Sticks and Stones was able to channel some very intense feelings in whichever endeavors they were portraying. There is a lot of thought in using their documentary style filming for class and meshing it with the traditional filming as we watched the film unfold. There’s a lot of youth experiences and emotions especially with teens that go through sudden loss and other hard times. The acting is raw and it has to go to these young main actors, Jonas Bjerril and Vilmer Trier Brogger. There are situations of being a newcomer, being an alpha male, young love, family issues and so many conflicting issues that take these two for such a ride and in the end, one of  them needs to make a decision. Let me tell you, this film was a subtle hit for me. I didn’t really think I connected with these two so much as some of the things were over the top but in the final scenes, there was so much there that did hit me really hard emotionally.

Tourism (2018)

tourism

Director (and writer): Daisuke Miyazaki

Cast: Nina Endo, Sumire

Fun fact is that after I saw this movie, I have talked and tried to summarize this film to at least two other people and it turns out sounding so basic that it doesn’t quite seem to work as a movie.

During the opening message to the audience, Daisuke Miyazaki hoped that his film will make the viewers want to go on a trip or an adventure (I can’t remember the exact word). Tourism falls into this fun like day adventure. Just like how we see Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is very fun to watch, Tourism sees Nina, one of the girls on this trip to Singapore who loses her friend and her cellphone and ends up wandering around the city and meeting interesting characters but also being immersed in the culture and everyday lives. The way Miyazaki brings to life the characters is to take some time in the beginning to highlight these roommates and how the trip came out.

tourism

One of the best moments which hooked me in completely was how they chose their destination. There’s a joy in travelling with a companion (that you get along with) and seeing the landmarks but also another one when you wander the city alone and see the beauty and detail of the culture. That is the power of travelling and the adventure of communicating and meeting new people and learning more about the world around us. Sure, the story doesn’t sound like its anything intriguing but sometimes with all the technology and everything available at our fingertips, we forget the rush of beauty of the simple things in life. The hours Nina spends searching to get back to her friend or the hotel is not only a message about our reliance on technology but also the most entertaining parts of the film.

The premise might be simple but sometimes its in the simple joys that do pack in a lot of genuine feelings. This one is a pleasant surprise.

Firecrackers (2018)

firecrackers

Director (and writer): Jasmin Mozaffari

Cast: Michaela Kurimsky, Karena Evans, Callum Thompson, David Kingston, Tamara Leclaire, Scott Cleland, Dylan Mask

Lou and her best friend Chantal plan to get out of their isolated, run-down town and move to a city far, far away. When Chantal’s unstable and possessive ex violates her during a night of partying, the girls decide to exact their revenge on him through a night of vandalism and debauchery. The consequences of their actions are devastating, threatening the girls’ chances of ever leaving. The more Lou fights tooth-and-nail to save her friendship and hold onto her dreams, the more she spins out of control as she begins to realize that freedom will come at a high cost. – IMDB

I still remember the reason why I added this movie into my viewings despite its late hour and knowing that I had to run home in a hurry to catch the last bus home as it was compared to Fish Tank which is one of the movies that I like a lot. To be honest, there are some parallels to the film but in some ways, this one is a different movie. In fact, if you took something like Sticks and Stones and used it in a friendship between girls, you might arrive at this one. However, this one is about two best friends who want to leave behind their messed up lives in this small town. What turns out to be a perfect plan ends up having these bad turn of events. Lou is the main character here and we follow a lot of her character development with each road block that occurs and we see this coming of age development as she sees clearer the consequences of what she is leaving behind as well as the tough decisions between her friendship and also the teen angst as well as the sudden aggression or lack of thought in her actions.

Firecrackers takes on this snippet of Lou and Chantal’s life and their friendship in a genuine and raw way. It never feels over dramatic and honestly, makes us truly feel for these two girls on screen. It can remind us of the hurdles of growing up and wanting more and fighting for everything you can to make things better. There are bad decisions and bad life choices but its all part of growing up and these girls have it particularly hard but at least, they have their friendship.

This wraps up this triple feature and the Festival du Nouveau Cinema’s last three films I saw.
In some ways, this was the best way to talk about them as there isn’t much to say but rather its a movie experience.
There’s a lot to love about these films for both their similarities and their differences as it embraces this true and genuine snippet in each of these stories. 

Festival du Nouveau Cinema: Mirai (2018)

Mirai (2018)

mirai

Director (and writer): Mamoru Hosoda

Voice cast: Moka Kamishiraishi, Haru Kuroki, Gen Hoshino, Koji Yakusho, Kumiko Aso, Mitsuo Yoshihara, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Masaharu Fukuyama

A young boy encounters a magical garden which enables him to travel through time and meet his relatives from different eras, with guidance by his younger sister from the future. – IMDB

Every festival I like to add in an animated film in the middle. Call it the desire to cut through the depth in a lot of indie films or just to have a fun little family friendly experience. Mirai was my pick for this festival. I don’t watch a lot of Japanese animation outside of festivals (except for rewatching classic Studio Ghibli films). Mirai is a cute and funny one. Its charm is in its story which talks about a little boy and his inner conflict of accepting his little sister’s birth and how her existence suddenly means sharing his parents’ attention and patience and love. However, it is wrapped up in a cute adventure that values siblings and family as a whole as he finds his way through imaginative sequences from different past family members that helps him understand how to be a big brother.

The imagination here is grounded in a magical world because it reflects the idea of a family tree and how its roots affects how Kun is now. As we dive into the stories of the other members of his family, there is a reality to his little trips like past characters or younger or older selves taking him for a trip like the ghosts in A Christmas Carol. It reflect directly to the challenges and each of these bring us closer to his meeting with the future Mirai who strives for his acceptance as well to prove that she is worthy of their sibling love and the importance of it all while also teaching him a lesson on being understanding of his parents as well. And the scenes of parents and their pressures set in some scenes filled with familiar parental turmoil.

For the execution and colorful appearance and cute and funny ideas packed with a little drama and positivity, Mirai is a fun movie experience for both adults and kids. It has an imaginative and magical aspect that reflects into an familiar reality for both parents and kids and siblings.

Fantasia Festival 2018: Bleach (2018)

Bleach (2018)

Bleach

Director: Shinsuke Sato

Cast: Sota Fukushi, Hana Sugisaki, Erina Mano, Miyavi, Taichi Saotome, Ryo Yoshizawa, Yosuke Eguchi, Yu Koyanagi

For anime lovers, Bleach has been a long time in the making. It has an incredible amount of episodes in the original series itself and that isn’t counting the animated movies derived from it alone. However, even if you have no knowledge of Bleach from its source material, this live action adaptation starts at the beginning. It tells the story of a teenage boy called Ichigo (Sota Fukushi) who loses his mother at a young age and can see ghosts. Nearing the anniversary of his mother’s death, his sister is attacked by a being called a Hollow and a soul reaper girl Rukia (Hana Sugisaki) from the Soul Society comes to his rescue. In battle with the Hollow, she ends up being injured and out of desperation despite the strict rules, she notices his high spiritual powers and transfers her soul reaping skills to him. While he defeats the Hollow, she transfers more than she intends and turns into human form forcing her to become his classmate while she trains him to be strong enough to return those powers.

bleach

Starting from the beginning of its source material may be the saving grace for Bleach. In this way, they manage to pull of a film that introduces its audience to the world through the eyes of Ichigo as he first encounters it himself. Of course, there is still a lot to learn about Ichigo himself from how he lost his mother to how he can see ghosts, although the latter along with the high spiritual power elements are more of a between the lines connection. Even with 2 hours, Bleach merely skims the surface in demonstrating this world that has been built. Soul Society doesn’t get touched on a lot except for that one rule and the two men, Byakuya (Miyavi) and Renji (Taichi Saotome) who show up to track Rukia, on the other hand, a member of Quincy, Ishida (Ryo Yoshizawa) pops up which gets a brief backstory to his purpose with pursuing Ichigo. Lots of information to digest here and it is no surprise that the script chooses to bring in these characters to build up the main story. In some ways, it works out because the main story revolving Ichigo brings in family, ties into his history and ends up developing his character quite a bit. On that note, Fukushi takes the role and runs with it in a spectacular way. His portrayal gives Ichigo so much charisma that it’s hard to look away from what he goes through. Luckily, this approach keeps the story contained, and at the end of the day, the movie takes the step to wrap up the story as it ties up all the loose ends.

bleach

Bleach has some charms and some minor issues. In terms of charms, it does feel like you are watching a live action manga. The characters have the goofy manga reactions and in the live action version, it creates a lot of comedic moments to cut through the tension of fighting the mystical unbeatable Hollow. It even throws in some explanation in manga drawing form to probably give it some link back. The Hollow itself is some good CGI work there. The action is done fairly well and the weaponry is replicated really nice albeit some obvious CGI work as well. The best part of Bleach is the score and soundtrack. It is energetic in the hard rock music way that blends so well with the tone of the film as a while. However, its minor issues lie in the pacing where the middle lags a bit in development and sits are a weird transition point that takes a while to get there. Because of some lack of depth, some characters here feel disposable as their purpose feels merely to achieve something or another. That is price of placing the focus on the main story but only skimming the surface of the other arcs. However, this is a movie and the effort to keep it contained is admirable especially with how much Bleach has grown since it was first created. It is still an entertaining fantasy action adaptation that does a lot more right than it does wrong.

This review was posted also on That Moment In.

Fantasia Festival 2018: Fireworks (2018)

Fireworks (2018)

Fireworks

Director: Akiyuki Shinbo & Nobuyuki Takeuchi

Voice Cast: Masaki Suda, Suzu Hirose, Mamoru Miyano, Shintaro Asanuma

Fireworks is based on the 1993 live action TV series with the same name and produced by the producer of 2017’s Your Name. The primary story is an adolescent romance which starts from two school buddies, Norimichi and Yusuke who both have a crush on a quiet girl in class, Nazuna. Little do they know that Nazuna’s mother is planning to be remarried and she will be moving, however she has her own scheme to run away. In the moment, she places her courage to run away with whoever wins the swimming challenge she suddenly suggests using the excuse of the traditional fireworks event to go on a date with her. While Norimichi and Yusuke’s group of friends debate and bet on whether fireworks are round or flat from the side and set up to go to the light tower to settle it, the boys are caught up in being struck by whether to go on a date except there is a twist when Norimichi learns about the true abilities to turn back time from a glass ball that Nazuna had found by the ocean that morning. Here lies the central theme of this story as we take a look at what-if things were different and you could have a do-over of your choices.

Fireworks

Right from the opening credits of Fireworks, the soundtrack and animations are absolutely spectacular. Its sets the mood and tone of what is to come. The colorful world and the different filters used especially paired up with a charming story about young love and what-ifs. The twist to the normal formula is the groundhog day elements adding a  bit of science fiction to it all. There are little details like the transition of the rewind of the magical glass ball that lights up these coils which looks like the word “if”. There area few rewinds in the story and little subtle changes in the environment. One of the examples is after a rewind, there was a sketch filter over the scene for a while and it added such a beautiful detail to it. It made each rewind feel like it was in a fictional world and breaking away from reality but somehow into a wonderful alternate reality. It extends to the small things like when we see the different ways the fireworks are shown in the different possibilities. Its all these little details that make the a animation even more gorgeous to look at.

Fireworks

The story also has a lot of its charms in sharing this genuine and believable story despite all the groundhog day elements. The reason why its feels so close is in these believable teenage characters. They act like teenagers. The boys debate about silly things like whether the fireworks are round or flat and place bets on who is right as each of them believe that it can’t be the other way. Teenage boys are scared to share their feelings and when given the opportunity, they let their fear take over and run away from it. At the same time, it’s about finding the courage to do the more daring things and breaking out of the comfort zone. It is a nice dose of also seeing the different paths that the different choices would result in. All these elements make it feel like a natural teenage story.

Fireworks is a charming story in its genuine characters and the beautiful detail in every scene of the animation. It packs in a lot of adventurous moments while still having those heartwarming young romance elements. It never hits those sappy moments because the storyline also involves some family conflict as well as navigating the teenage friendships and jealousy. Fireworks finds a balance in telling a charming story packed with colorful and gorgeous animation while adding in that sci-fi element to make the what-if element blend so well together.

Fantasia Festival 2018: Laplace’s Witch (2018)

Laplace’s Witch (2018)

laplace's witch

Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Sho Sakurai, Suzu Hirose, Sota Fukushi, Mirai Shida, Hiroshi Tamaki, Lily Franky, Etsushi Toyokawa

An environmental analyst is asked by the police to determine if two deaths by hydrogen sulfide poisoning are an accident – or a murder. But when he meets a young woman at both sites, a scientific mystery begins. – IMDB

Based on the 2015 novel by Keigo Higashino, Laplace’s Witch takes its audience for a fantasy and scientific journey. With Takashi Miike at the helm, the accomplishment from his experience is the beautiful setting and the mood that the entire mood sets. The atmosphere and the shots are done incredibly well. It makes some slick moments that create the tension needed for the mystery. The rural Japan setting works great and many of the other backdrops used work beautifully to elevate the scenes even more. As with most Japanese movies, the humor they execute is still very familiar here with some comedic breaks in simple dialogues and expressions in the different characters. Its slightly dark and sarcastic but works with the tone of Laplace’s Witch.

Laplace's Witch

There is a certain charm to this novel adaptation. I have never read this novel before and know nothing about it. However, assuming its faithful to its novel as the screenplay writer is the author himself, this story has a lot of great elements. It has a strong scientific angle and also wraps in some supernatural aspect also. There’s a crime to solve which honestly is quite the head-scratcher seeing as any possibility has a near-zero chance of happening making it hard to determine. However, the introduction of the young woman who calls herself Laplace’s Witch aka Madoka (Suzu Hirose) is where the story brings in a lot of charisma. While her character feels rather simple and one-note whether in her expressions or her actions, Suzu Hirose ignites a convincing role which makes Madoka’s plight feels honorable and genuine and its makes us root for her. Paired along with the professor Shusuke Aoe (Sho Sakurai), they become quite the team especially since the professor is an oddball who shows genuine passion in his rare field of earth science that no one else seems interested in. There is some great charisma between these two characters. They are familiar characterizations but somehow work for this premise. In the spectrum of these two characters, a lot of scientific theories are put into the story including the main foundation of this movie being French mathematician Pierre Simon Laplace’s articulation called Laplace’s Demon.

Laplace's Witch

Disappointingly, where Laplace’s Witch starts to fall apart is in its pacing. The story while had its unique elements with the scientific aspects and discovering the root of the special abilities that Madoka possesses which leads to unveiling why she feels the urge to be involved in helping with the investigation alongside the professor. While the story itself has some nice twists and turns which are slightly fantastical and far-fetched, the fact that it is a Japanese film somehow makes these elements easily forgivable.  However, where this suffers is in its lengthy runtime of 2 hours and having its reveals set too early, making the final half feel dragged out. This lead to the well-developed first half to lose its intrigue quickly in the second half. There are some serious execution issues here that make the final thoughts of this movie feel simply bland and lackluster.

This review is also published on That Moment In.

Double Feature: Seoul Station (2016) & Audition (1999)

Welcome to a Friday edition of Double Feature!

My initial plan at the beginning of the year was that Fridays would be for sharing my dive into Asian cinema (more particularly Hong Kong films) but hey, I’m a fan of all kinds of movies so as I ease back into the Asian cinema world, I’m heading into another Shudder double feature with Audition (1999) recommended to me by my fantastic co-host Elwood and the prequel of one of my favorite zombie movies, Seoul Station. Japanese and Korean double feature. This one is all kinds of different tags for why it works as a double feature already.

I’ve heard good stuff for both of these movies so I’m excited to check them out!

Seoul Station (2016)

seoul station

Director (and writer): Sang-ho Yeon

Voice Cast: Ryu Seung-ryong, Shim Eun-kyung, Lee Joon

Several groups of people try to survive a zombie pandemic that unleashes itself in downtown Seoul. – IMDB

With the massive success of Train to Busan (review), its hard to pass up the prequel that started the story. Seoul Station takes us back to where it all started pretty much. Although, who did bite the poor homeless man? We never will know how it started but Seoul Station focuses on a few people whose lives are intertwined and are escaping for their lives as the people around them are infested and attack the people around them. These clueless characters learn about what the zombies are capable of and that well, they are actually the undead. Seoul Station has its good and bad. Is it quite as good as Train to Busan? No, its pretty far from the tension and the story pacing and characters. However, that isn’t saying that its a particularly bad animated prequel. It does a good job to set the stage of what its successor can go from and builds an understanding of how the zombies in this world work. Of course, there’s still a lot more to learn in Train to Busan as movies like to make zombies evolve.

Seoul Station doesn’t have quite the exceptional characters to love. The main girl is made to be weak and whiny but somehow makes it through a lot of close calls. Her boyfriend that is on a separate area as they track each other time to meet up is pretty useless as well and makes a lot of bad calls and doesn’t have the guts. However, he is paired up with an older man who is tough as nails. There’s a whole story behind this and that leads up to the plot twist at the end. The story is somewhat generic but the twist was a surprise although the final twist was quite predictable. Where I find it excels is in its art. The movement and speed of the zombies have this blur behind it which is a lovely touch added in to make something of a motion blur and that works wonders for the aesthetics and effect. The areas and the zombie itself are creepy to look at. The tone of the movie and the backdrop here are done incredibly well also.

Overall, Seoul Station might not offer a unique zombie story and has its surprises and some rather predictable moments. However, it delivers on its art and visuals in this animated feature. Not quite as memorable as its successor but still worth a watch to lay the foundation for the next film.

Audition (1999)

Audition

Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura, Renji Ishibashi, Miyuki Matsuda

A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all. – IMDB

In many ways, I can see how Audition is a great horror film. In fact, its quite the psychological journey. Messed up and what not the further you dive into the plot. In fact, the ending is so weird that it kind of goes through a confusing phase. I still can’t quit figure out what went on. As psychological as it all was, it was one of those situations that never felt right to begin with. Auditioning for girls for a role that fitted into what this widower wanted, not sure I’m okay with that since it feels pretty contrived and manipulative in the first place. Nothing good comes from that. Then the girl herself was really weird to begin with but apparently Aoyama (played by Ryo Ishibashi) saw something in her.

The story has many layers and to be fair, it works for the most part. I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of Audition. There are some solid atmosphere here and the pacing is fairly good. The cinematography and sound design is great in boosting the atmosphere. The star of the show probably did have to go to the girl here played by Eihi Shiina who was so creepy and mysterious. The final moments however kind of did it for me. What started out as psychological turned into this torture porn that turned my stomach a little and I’m usually not so easily disturbed by it. If that was the intention, it definitely achieved its goal but for myself, I felt like it didn’t fit in so well.

I can’t quite pinpoint what I felt let me down for Audition but it just didn’t feel like it ever reached the potential before heading in directions I wasn’t too fond of. I do acknowledge it has some great character and a lot of mystery and atmospheric horror. But something just didn’t work completely for myself.

That’s it for this Asian Horror double feature!
I anticipated watching both of these quite a bit but both of them let me down just a little.
I can definitely see their merit but it just wasn’t exactly for me particularly Audition.

Have you seen these two? Thoughts?