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GeGeGe no Kitaro 2: Sennen Noroi Uta
[Kitaro and the Millennium Curse]

Genre: Youkai-filled Supernatural Thriller

review in one breath

GeGeGe no Kitaro is back! And this time he must solve the mystery of a 1000 year old curse exacting its toll on humans and monsters alike. In a more adult-centric episode, with a darker storyline, a myriad of creepy creatures and more mature special effects, this live-action version of Mizuki Shigeru's beloved manga character will not disappoint. This is the second live-action film directed by Motoki Katsuhide focusing on the exploits of the half-human, half-youkai Kitaro.



Toire no Hanako-san : Kyoufu kousha
[Toilet Hanako-san: School of Fear]

Genre: School-Based Horror Story

review in one breath

Though far less than terrifying, this third version of the Toire no Hanako series opened up so much weird Japanese superstition that I can only stand in awe with jaw wide open. Exposure to this wholly foreign perspective of ghostliness thoroughly makes up for this film's lack of cinematic polish.



Toire no Hanako-san: Kieta Shojou no Himistu
[Toilet Hanako-san: Secret of the Disappearing Girl]

Genre: School-Based Horror Story

review in one breath

This is a creative and effective sequel to the 1995 Toire no Hanako-san about a ghostly young girl terrorizing the fleeing students of an elementary school. In this film, the horror moves to a high school where a spiritually sensitive student soon succumbs to a growing presence in the school. By the time she is able to convince her classmates of her premonitions, the formidable power of Hanako is in full swing.



Shizuka na Seikatsu
[The Quiet Life]

Genre: Autobiographical Family Drama and Coming of Age

review in one breath

This is not the type of movie I generally include among my reviews. (Just look at the "zero strangeness" score below!) But I've decided to list it here due to what might be worthy characteristics, namely the level of accomplishment by the writer and the fact that this is based on his own family's experience. Here I have only provided a brief overview of the film and some relevant information for those who have seen the film or wish to learn morn about it.



Hiruko: Goblin Hunter
[Hiruko: Youkai Hantaa]

Genre: Good-Natured, Traditional Monster Adventure

review in one breath

Hiruko - Goblin Hunter (1990) was immediately well-received among the Japanese public. The lead actor, Sawada Kenji, is far more well-known in Japan for his early days as the popular rock star Julie. His singing career easily segued into an acting career due to his personability. He has appeared in numerous films, often in leading roles, with great success and acceptance by Japanese audiences. His appearance in Hiruko was no different, and was a major factor in this film's mainstream popularity. In addition to Sawada, several other well-known actors appear herein, including Mirota Hideo and Takenaka Naoto.



Gakkou no Kaidan 2
[Haunted School 2]

Genre: Child-centric Ghost Story

review in one breath

The original 1995 version of Gakko no Kaidan, directed by Hirayama Hideyuki was an instant hit with Japanese audiences, resulting in a series of direct sequels, TV series, and a remake. Gakko no Kaidan 2 is also directed by Hirayama and, as the name implies, recreates the basic formula of the original, a haunted school which provides the setting for creepy and harrowing experiences. Apart from the director, however, there is very little overlap with the original. The sequel introduces an entirely new cast, again made up predominantly of elementary students. Even the haunted school itself is a different school from the original's.



Kitaro
[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.



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.



GTO : Great Teacher Onizuka (live action)

Genre: Full-Blast Live Action Version of an Exemplar Anime Series

review in one breath

This is the live-action movie based on the wildly popular manga, TV anime series, and TV live-action series, all by the same name, based on the creative manga by artist Fujisawa Tooru. This series has SUCH great appeal both emotionally and intellectually that I simply feel compelled to mention it. I wholeheartedly recommend you experience the rebellious yet wholly good-natured character Onizuka.



Salaryman Kintaro

Genre: Whoop-Ass White Collar Anime Series

review in one breath

When notorious bike-gang leader Yajima Kintaro abandons his gang to pursue a straighter path, he finds that even in the mundane world of white collar work there are plenty of times a man must either step up and confront injustice or acquiesce out of intimidation. Unfortunately for the bad guys, Kintaro has not forgotten his whoop-ass ways and brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "office power politics"! This is an infamously excellent and meaningful anime series for both youth and adults. Definitely a must see!


Alice
[A.Li.Ce]

Genre: Computer Generated Sci-Fi Eye Candy

review in one breath

After young Alice is propelled thirty years into to the future, the world she finds is horribly different from the one she left. Massive population decrease and mysterious mass removal of entire villages all point to the formidable and mysterious Nero who controls the entire world through a super-intelligent computer which is virtually impenetrable.



Gakkou no Kaidan 2
[aka Gakkou no Kwaidan 2 or Haunted School 2]

Genre: Child-centric Ghost Story

review in one breath

Less than one year following his smash hit Gakkou no Kaidan director Hirayama is back at it, this time with another creepy elementary school chocked full of ghoulies just waiting to scare the jello out a group of unsuspecting kids. Though the basic premise is the same, this sequel provides a much darker and dangerous tale than the original.



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