Ikigami イキガミ

March 20, 2010

Over the week, I had a chance to watch Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, a Japanese dystopian film that was released back in 2008. I came across this movie through my interest in Matsuda Shota, the actor who portrays the main character, Kengo Fujimoto. Matsuda is the son of the late Matsuda Yusaku, a famous Japanese actor who starred in Ridley Scott’s Black Rain. Sadly he passed away at the age of 40 from cancer. In his honour, his two sons Ryuhei and Shota also became actors and obviously have inherited their father’s talent.

Ikigami’s plot focuses on an alternate-reality of Japan, where the government has formed a law called the National Prosperity Law that sacrifices two to three people per day. Through this law, the government keeps a firm hold on its citizens by instilling the fear of death in them. As a result, work production rises and crime rates fall. The deaths are randomly selected everyday from people in the ages of 18-24. Fujimoto works for the bureau that is in charge of handing out letters to those who are chosen to be sacrificed, within 24 hours before their deaths they are free to do whatever the please besides crime. A pension is paid to the family of the deceased, however if they commit a crime before death, that pension goes towards the victim. The film is extremely similar to George Orwell’s 1984, as there are many shots through a surveillance camera. Those who disagree against the government are treated as thought criminals, and like 1984, they go through a process of brainwashing.

Though what interested me about this film, was not how the characters would cause a revolution through heroic actions. No, it didn’t go that direction at all.  It was a film about what a person would do if the inevitable faced them. We witness the lives of the victims, and their final decisions that they place before them. From a rising musician to a flawed son of politician to a caring older brother, the film has a tremendous human quality to it. Here is the trailer below:

the garden of everything

December 3, 2009

Another Yoko Kanno (Majority of the music I own is Yoko Kanno, so bear with me) production featuring her protegee, Maaya Sakamoto and Steve Conte from the New York Dolls (!!). The lyrics are written by the eccentric Tim Jensen, and it is a beautiful poem about parallels. The Garden of Everything was written for RahXephon, an animated series just as eccentric and surreal that deals with the theme of love in a post-apocalyptic world. Illustration and design was all by Yamada Akihiro, a artist previously posted.

The series still remains close to my heart through using music as a main element, and a universal tale told in a unconventional way.

go to “rakuen”

November 16, 2009

Go to “Rakuen” is a piece composed by the much beloved Yoko Kanno for Wolf’s Rain, one of the most touching animated stories I’ve ever watched. The series is produced by the powerhouse animation firm Bones, and the plot is simply amazing. The soundtrack for Wolf’s Rain is one of Kanno’s most famous works and was featured at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s “KRAZY” exhibition a few years back. I still remember sitting in that room for a good 2 hours just listening to the various soundtracks, but Wolf’s Rain was always my favourite.

Rakuen (楽園)translates to Paradise in Japanese  and throughout much of the story, that is what the characters are searching for. From beginning to end, the piece is like a journey and really reflects the trials and tribulations of the wolves. I still remember the first time I heard it, I was speechless and stunned and was left in tears.  Enjoy.

Nakamura Yusuke production, absolutely amazing illustrations.
Asian Kung-fu Generation music video – New World (Atarashii Sekai)

Goemon

October 14, 2009

After waiting for 5 months, I finally got to see Kiriya Kazuaki’s next film, Goemon. I’ve admired his work since high school, starting from his work on Japanese pop songstress Utada Hikaru’s music videos, and onto his first debut film, Casshern. Kiriya is well known for his incredible CG visions; he would spend about a month or two with the staff and cast directing in front of a green screen and then he would go and do all the CG/post-production work in his studio for another 6-7 months or so. I’m always incredibly amazed at what he can imagine and  Goemon really blew me away. I’ve never seen Japanese history told in such a epic fashion, and he also mixes western themes into the sets, decoration and costumes.

Goemon retells the story of the famous Japanese bandit, Ishikawa Goemon who stole from the rich to give to the poor. Literally, the asian version of Robin Hood. The nation is currently governed by a tyrant, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the successor of the famous conqueror of Japan, Oda Nobunaga. The movie kicks off with Goemon robbing a safe from one of Hideyoshi’s benefactors and steals a mysterious purple box that sets events in motion. Goemon soon discovers something sinister in the death of the late ruler, Oda Nobunaga. Using major events in Japanese history, such as the Toyotomi-Ieyasu battle as well as real people from history, Kiriya stylishly creates a beautiful story of a thief turned hero with his amazing CG skills. I literally had  to watch the movie with no distractions, attempting to absorb all the detail placed into the CG scenes.

The movie has no subtitles right now, but hopefully it will catch the attention of some North American producers and will be released over here. It is absolutely amaaaaaaazing. I’ve posted the trailer above along with the promo poster.