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February 2008 Archives

Good News for you my Friends,

According to the uncanny and undoubtedly accurate Blog Readability tool(s) which scan a blog's content and thereby gauge its readership's literary savvy, you, one and all, have proven yourself to be geniuses!

As proof of your grey matter pudding, here's Blog Readability's official award of this site:

blog readability test

I had no doubt you were otherwise. A hearty SaruDama Congratulations to you!

Ring: The Final Chapter [Ringu : Saisho shu´┐Ż]

Genre: Ringu-based TV series
Director: Hiroshi Nishitani, et al. (1999)

review in one breath

This is a 12-episode, 10-hour, made-for-TV adaptation of Koji Suzuki's now infamous novel, Ringu. This originally aired on Fuji TV in 1999 only months after the theatrical release of Nakata Hideo's genre-busting film. Loosely based on the original tale, this is a quasi-horror crime thriller which despite a far lesser shock value than the film, remains a very polished and entertaining series.

Apartment 1303 [1303 go shitsu]

Genre: Haunted House Horror
Director: Oikawa Ataru (2007)

review in one breath

One after another, a series of new tenants in an oceanfront apartment on the 13th floor leap to their deaths in what local police can only describe as "serial suicide". When the sister of the most recent victim decides to investigate, she discovers that Apartment 1303 holds a very dark, powerful and horrific secret.

Rinne [Reincarnation]

Genre: Supernatural Horror
Director: Shimizu Takashi (2005)

review in one breath

The concepts of reincarnation, curse and karma are explored in this tale involving a determined film director's attempt to base his new horror film on a grisly mass murder in a remote mountain inn more than 40 years prior. When he takes the cast for a film shoot at the actual location of the crime, the lead actress soon descends into haunting visions. This is the third film in the "J Horror Theater Series" and is directed by J-horror guru Shimizu Takeshi.

Mizuchi [Death Water]

Genre: Shinto-based Supernatural Horror
Director: Yamamoto Kiyoshi (2006)

review in one breath

An earthquake in a remote mountainous region unearths an ancient Shinto shrine dedicated to Yomotsu - Hirasaka, the mythical entrance to the Shinto underworld and its Fountain of the Dead. The discovery is significant both archaeologically and academically, but soon impacts surrounding residents as its terrible secret seeps into the local water supply causing horrific thirst, mind-bending visions and violent deaths.

One Missed Call: Final [Chakushin Ari Final]

Genre: Technology-Enabled Supernatural Horror
Director: Manabu Asao (2006)

review in one breath

DON'T ANSWER THAT PHONE!!! The cursed calls are back, this time decimating a group of high school students on a field trip to South Korea. Obnoxious screaming youth, a heart-wrenching tribute to the beauty of sign language, helpful tips on where to "hang" out in downtown Seoul, and a whole new way to be wrong about basic internet functionality are ALL included in this third and hopefully "final" installment of the One Missed Call saga.

Kokkuri-san [Kokkuri]

Genre: Ouija-Fueled Teen Angst Ghost Tale
Director: Zeze Takahisa (1997)

review in one breath

In the midst of dealing with boyfriends, secret lives and existential gloominess three high school girls decide to consult a Ouija board for insights into their futures. Little do they realize that Kokkuri-san, the guiding force behind their foray into spiritism, is ready to unleash a dismal, karmic, supernatural whirlwind which brings nothing but destruction to them all.

Sakebi [Retribution]

Genre: Supernatural Psychological Thriller
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (2006)

review in one breath

Soon after investigating the murder of a young woman, a hardened detective finds that he is haunted by the woman's ghost and discovers several inexplicable clues seemingly linking him to the crime. As he struggles to understand his nightmarish predicament, both inner and outer worlds collide in this disturbing and mind-bending morality tale.

EXTE [Ekusute]

Genre: Hair-Raising (!!!) Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

When a bizarre hair fetishist stumbles upon an eery corpse sprouting metric tons of hair, he euphorically shares his bounty by selling dark snippets to eager salons throughout the town for use in increasingly popular hair extensions (or as the Japanese call them, "exte"). Little do they realize that a malevolent retribution is meted out upon anyone coming into contact with the slithering locks of hair, possessing their scalps in a most hair-raising fashion!

Criminal Woman: Killing Melody
[Zenka Onna Karoshi Bushi]

Genre: Bad Girls Causing Yakuza Wars

review in one breath

After the ruthless murder of her father, Miki swears revenge against the Oba Yakuza Clan, but her reckless attempt only gets her locked up in jail where she is befriended by a number of socially delinquent females. After serving their time, the girls band together in order help Miki carry out her plot to take down the Oba gang. But problems quickly arise when they discover one of their toughest former cellmates is Oba's lover.

Ugetsu Monogatari
[Tales of Moonlight and Rain]

Genre: Classic Japanese Ghost Tale

review in one breath

This classic supernatural morality tale follows the path of two men who prioritize their ambitions above all else and inadvertently set aside their families and responsibilities. This 1953 ghost tale is arguably the FIRST truly Japanese horror film and is thus required viewing for anyone seriously interested in the whole of J-Horror.

Greetings one and all,

After lengthy deliberation and procrastination, I've finally rebuilt SaruDama's design and infrastructure utilizing MoveableType 4.1. This rebuild has both good and bad connotations, however.

First the Good News:

  • After an extended hiatus due to PBJFS (Post Bad Japanese Film Syndrome), SaruDama is now back in full swing and once again bringing you the quality and excitement you, well, have come to expect from us.
  • It currently looks like Barack Obama will win the Democratic Candidacy, thanks in great part, no doubt, to SaruDama's new site redesign.
And now the Bad News:

  • The "search" and blog "category" indexes/indices currently reflect only pages posted under the new system. Thus, if you click on a category link or search on a particular term,  your results will be limited to content I have added since the redesign -- which was about 15 minutes ago.

Most of the site's main navigational categories (movies, history, lore, etc) have their original indices with links to all prior content. The current shortcoming only has to do with the blog categories listed in the right hand column.

To overcome this, I will be incrementally adding prior content to the new system which will result in it being added both to the search results and the blog categories.

NOTE: In the meantime, if you are really hungry for a specific topic or review on SaruDama, go to Google and enter "SaruDama" along with your search term.

They Who Step on Tiger's Tail
[Tora no O wo Fumu Otokotachi]

Genre: Historical Samurai Tale (Kamakura Era 1185-1392 AD)

review in one breath

This very early Kurosawa film retells the historical tale of Yoshitsune's perilous and skillful escape from the hands of his warring brother. It is a legendary tale, well-beloved in Japanese history, here brought to the screen in a highly entertaining and effective way. This is truly one to check out.

Sukenban Deka
[Girl Boss Detective]

Genre: Yo-Yo Wielding High School Girl Saves the World (Again)

review in one breath

When a political revolutionary takes over a remote school in order to convert its students into terrorists, young Saki dusts off her killer yo-yo, enlists the help of long-time friends, and promptly proceeds to bring the school and its revolutionary leader to their knees. This film is based on the Japanese TV series and casts the same familiar personalities.

The Great Yokai War
[Youkai Dai Sensou]

Genre: Traditional Monster Explosion

review in one breath

After being singled out at a local Shinto festival, Young Tadashi finds himself in the middle of an epic battle between traditional youkai and the forces of Evil. This is a rather amazing tale utilizing nearly every traditional youkai known. Directed by Miike Takashi and tapping Mizuki Shigeru for creative design, this is a veritable smorgasbord of fun and nostalgia.

Kamikaze Girls
[Shimotsuma monogatari]

Genre: Very fun and cool female friendship adventure

review in one breath

Momoko is dainty, enjoys needlepoint and never goes out without a flamboyantly frilly dress. Ichigo is a rough-mouthed girl biker whose two predominant behaviors are spitting and head-butting. This unlikely pair collide and strike up an awkward friendship in the forlorn rural environ of Shimotsuma, Ibaragi. Their unusual adventures easily results in one the best recent films you can see.

Gakkou no Kaidan 3
[aka Gakkou no Kwaidan 3 or Haunted School 3]

Genre: Child-centric Ghost Story

review in one breath

Regaining some of the core, good-natured elements from the original Gakkou no Kaidan (which were unfortunately dropped from Gakkou no Kaidan 2), here director Kaneko takes a shot at conjuring up a school-aged horror taking place in the dark hallways of a large and foreboding elementary school building. The fruits of his efforts are both visually and narratively impressive, resulting in a highly recommendable ghost story for all ages which carries a meaningful humanitarian message.

Gakkou no Kaidan 1
[aka Gakkou no Kwaidan or Haunted School]

Genre: SUPERB Child-centric Ghost Story

review in one breath

This is a really a fun and effective movie. With the exception of a couple, less-than-perfect adults, the cast throughout are child actors through whose eyes and imaginations this wonderfully creative ghost story unfolds. The diversity of spooks presented here is quite impressive and makes this story more entertaining than merely waiting to see the same old ghost appear and reappear. This became an instant classic in Japan.

NIN x NIN : Ninja Hattori-Kun - The Movie [Ninja Star]

Genre: Comedic Contemporary Ninja Tale

review in one breath

This light-hearted and comedic story places Ninja Hattori-kun in a final "training mission" smack in the middle of contemporary Tokyo. A well-established and beloved character in children's books and anime, the adventures of pure-hearted Hattori will appeal to younger audiences and those interested in a good-natured and frequently funny humanitarian tale which packs a whole lot of ninja action and antics.

Stray Dog
[Nora Inu]

Genre: Post War Crime Thriller

review in one breath

When homicide detective Murakami's pistol is stolen, a rash of murderous crimes begins. Plagued with the knowledge that his own weapon is causing the harm, Murakami is driven to extreme lengths to track down the killer and recover his gun. But the closer Murakami gets to the killer, the more he realizes how much they have in common. This is a great film filled with early Kurosawa social commentary on the condition of postwar Japan.

The Hidden Blade
[Kakushi-ken: oni no tsume]

Genre: Existential Samurai Drama

review in one breath

Faced with declining social status in a quickly changing world, the samurai Katagiri gradually realizes that his personal purpose and meaning are slipping away. Although he tries to create for himself a situation of happiness, social expectations regarding the samurai class force him to abandon even that. Then, when Katagiri's contemplations are at their deepest, his superiors call on him to assassinate a political rebel, his closest friend.

Moon Child

Genre: Friendship Drama Involving Guns and Vampires

review in one breath

The year is 2014 and a young orphan in a squalid urban wasteland befriends a vampire! As the years go by, the young boy grows into a formidable ruffian capable of causing problems for the local yakuza thugs. Their violent lifestyle, however, puts their friendship to the test when ultimate decisions will need to be made. Starring pop rock stars Gackt and Hyde, this intentionally cute and weepy tale undoubtedly has mass appeal to high school girls throughout Japan.

Totsunyu seyo! Asama sanso jiken
[The Choice of Hercules]

Genre: Fact-based Police Drama

review in one breath

When student revolutionaries of the Red Army held a woman hostage in the remote and snowy mountains of Karuizawa, Nagano, the National Tokyo Police were called in to oversee the incident despite the objection of the local Nagano Police force. This film recounts the true events surrounding the 1972 Asama Sanso Incident and is based on the published memoirs of Sassa Atsuyuki, the Tokyo Police commander in charge of the hostage's rescue.

review in one breath

Here is a very recent and rare text covering many "fringe" Japanese directors of yakuza film whose work has become in the last decade increasingly popular amongst Western audiences. Each of the fourteen chapters deals with a seperate individual and consists of a detailed professional biography, a thorough exploration of primary/relevant films, and a transcript of an interview the author himself conducted with the director/actor.

Wild Life

Genre: Good Tough Guy Meets Bad Tough Guys

review in one breath

Ex-boxer Sakai now lives a normal life fixing pachinko machines under the friendly eye of his aging boss Tsumura. When their long lost mutual friend Mizuguchi suddenly shows up, their placid routine is soon overrun with yakuza gangs and corrupt police officials, all of whom become increasingly hostile to Sakai and Tsumura. Believing Mizuguchi passed along "the package" to Sakai, they abduct the elderly Tsumura and attempt to blackmail and physically harass Sakai. Things look pretty bleak indeed until Sakai begins re-evaluating his pachinko-mending ways.

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