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July 2008 Archives

After Dark
[Afuta Daku]

Genre: Zen-Like Contemplative Japanese Fiction
Author: Haruki Murakami (2007)

review in one breath

In the darkest hours of night, between midnight and the break of dawn, when humanity succumbs to its natural, evolutionary escape from life and work in the form of dreams, a potentially unnatural and dream-like Reality emerges, revealing a transient depth which most waking souls know nothing of. This is the latest national best-selling novel by ethereal Japanese author Haruki Murakami whose unique obsession and compelling explorations deftly capture the often blurred boundary between the conscious and the subconscious, the natural and the supernatural.

Inugamike no Ichizoku
[The Inugami Family]

Genre: Early Showa-Era Crime Mystery

review in one breath

When a powerful patriarch demands that the heir to his inheritance be decided in a competition amongst his three grandsons, a nervous lawyer promptly calls on the help of renowned and eccentric detective Kindaichi Kosuke. But no sooner does Kindaichi arrive than the strange series of murders commences. This is renowned director Kon Ichikawa's 2006 remake of his own earlier 1976 film, retelling the classic crime mystery originally penned by author Yokomizo Seishi.

Otaku Magazine: Kaidan Issue

Genre: Japanese Culture, Art, Manga and Film
Author: Otaku Staff & International Contributors

review in one breath

The new issue of Otaku Magazine, dedicated wholly to traditional Japanese Kaidan is now available. This highly-polished and glossy art magazine offers international purveyors and fans of Japanese art, manga and otaku-dom a very thorough and broad quarterly glimpse into the latest and greatest eye-candy from Japan. This is a bilingual publication catering to both English and Romanian audiences interested in the contemporary Japanese art scene. And dare I mention their Kaidan issue features an article by yours truly? (Apparently I dare.)

We here at SaruDama are all about global community and appreciation. This week's special emphasis is upon the widely misunderstood population of Zombies. We all know how Zombie-prejudice has led to a lot of highly degrading films and video games depicting this under-represented minority in a highly negative light. Zombie-advocate groups have rightly questioned whether immediate beheading or brain exploding is the most productive way to greet Zombies living in your neighborhood.

The following AFDS (Advocacy for Dead Sh*t) Promo attempts to breach the destructive living/non-living social divides which plague us all. I encourage you to gather your family and even your dead ancestors around the glowing LCD screen to view this heart-wrenching testimony to unity:

Honestly though, this zombie-fest is the creation of Matt Ficner Productions Inc

[GeGeGe no Kitarou]

Genre: Live-Action Children's Classic Yokai Tale

review in one breath

This is a live-action version of the VERY long-running and beloved Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro series developed by classic yokai-guru Mizuki Shigeru. The entire gamut of odd monsters and traditional Japanese yokai appear here in this humorous and humanitarian tale. This is undoubtedly aimed at younger fans, but will prove entertaining to older audiences as well, especially those already familiar with the exploits of Kitaro or with a curiosity regarding Japan's traditional cosmology of strange creatures.

One of the most notorious animals in the Shinto pantheon is the fox (kitsune). Throughout a millennia of japanese folklore, the fox is depicted as the epitome of deception, able to transform into any shape or form it strategically desires.

Due to its ancient mystique, the fox figures prominently, not only in popular folk lore, but also in formal Shinto mythology. Thus, should you walk through the rural forests of contemporary Japan, you will no doubt encounter shrines wholly dedicated to this semi-divine animal.

The following tale encapsulates this Shinto sensibility, depicting the species as wholly possessing (humanly) noble qualities and giving an account of the continued (spiritual) relevance of the primary (Shinto) Fox deity, Inari-sama (whose picture you see here).

[Strength of Faces]

Genre: Metaphorical Exploration into Cultural Alienation

review in one breath

A young japanese woman's decision to live abroad takes a terrifying turn for the worse when she wakes up within a world filled with hostile people whose faces are transformed beyond recognition. Issues of cultural alienation and the simultaneous loss and preservation of identity are explored in this short international film. This is an small independent, almost underground production which nevertheless carries a very clear and effective visual message. You can see this film (legally!) in its entirety online, and I encourage you to do so.

Doll Cemetery
[Occult tanteidan: Shiningyou no Hakaba]

Genre: Killer Dolls, Clowns from Hell, and ZOMBIES!!

review in one breath

A group of emo high school kids start an "Occult Detective Club" in order to explore and solve paranormal phenomena. No sooner do they set their minds to this than they fall headlong into into a supernatural abyss of vengeful zombie dolls intent on exacting fatal retribution for Barbie-neglect. This is the fourth tale in the "Hino Hideshi Theater of Horror" hexology.

Death Note
[Desu Noto]

Genre: Supernaturally-Fueled Crime Thriller

review in one breath

This highly involved and plot-twisting anime series revolves around a supernatural "Death Notebook" which falls into the hands of an over-zealous young man intent on bringing about a new, more "just" world order. Those whose names are written in the Death Note promptly die in a highly untraceable manner, creating the ultimate weapon against Japan's rising crime rate and ineffective judicial system. But the new found tool comes at a price, as soon the deadly line is blurred between justifiable corporal punishment and sheer Utopian ideology. This is the anime version of the highly popular manga and subsequent live-action film versions.

Otaku Magazine

Genre: Japanese Culture, Art, Manga and Film
Author: Otaku Staff & International Contributors

review in one breath

Otaku Magazine is a relatively new and visually stunning international publication dedicated to a fascination with Japanese art and culture. Published in both English and Romanian languages, each quarterly issue is brimming with top quality interviews, content and superb graphical layouts. From front to back, its glossy, colorful pages deliver a full and professional interaction with contemporary Japanese manga and artists. This thoroughly impressive and upcoming project deserves the recognition and support of the broader international community of Nippon fandom.

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