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Melancholia
[Merankoria]

Genre: DNA-fueled Doppelganger Slasher

review in one breath

Mirai's life suddenly seems headed into the crapper! First, her father throws himself in front of a train, then she has to move in with some increasingly strange relatives, then she starts seeing creepy things to the point of a nervous breakdown, and finally her best friends start showing up bloody red and DEAD. And then the real weirdness starts! This is a made-for-TV horror flick directed by Z-Grade maestro Ezura Takaaki.



The World Sinks Except Japan
[Nihon igai zenbu chinbotsu]

Genre: Cornball Parody and Political Satire

review in one breath

Due to sudden tectonic shifts which only the half-crazy Dr. Tadokoro can explain, all of earth's land masses have sunk into the sea with the exception (of course) of JAPAN turning the island nation into the global relief center for the world's population. How will Japan handle its new role as the earth's only government? Directed by Kawasaki Minoru, this film is a parody of the widely popular "Japan Sinks" novel and films.



Hellevator : The Bottled Fools
[Gusha no Bindume]

Genre: Bloody and Claustrophobic Social Satire

review in one breath

Luchino's routine morning elevator ride up from her subterranean home on level 138 to her school many stories above turns horrific when the elevator operator is ordered to pick up two passengers from floor 99, the maximum security level. What starts as psychological manipulation soon turns wholly physical as both the cruel convicts and Luchino's own dysfunctional past are unleashed. And then every passenger must fight for his or her survival.



MPD: Psycho 3
[Multiple Personality Detective 3]

Genre: Psychotic Thriller

review in one breath

These are the final two episodes of director Miike Takashi's truly bizarre and engaging psychotic thriller. Here the mind-bending nature of the detective Amamiya's schizophrenia and its relation to the Lucy Monostone Seven is finally divulged. This is a satisfying and eery finale to the very unique MPD Psycho series.



MPD: Psycho 2
[Multiple Personality Detective 2]

Genre: Psychotic Thriller

review in one breath

The mind-boggling bizarre murders continue as Amamiya Kazuhiko inches closer toward the psychically elusive masochist Nishizono Shinji. In this second of three installments of director Miike Takashi's visually hypnotic sci-fi crime thriller, we gain further insight into the past of Amamiya and his early relationship with his now nemesis Nishizono. The pace, visuals and pure intrigue of this series remains as high as ever, as does its completely baffling storyline.



MPD: Psycho 1
[Multiple Personality Detective 1]

Genre: Psychotic Thriller

review in one breath

Truly STRANGE goings-on permeate Tokyo in this eerily beautiful yet mind-numbingly mysterious psychotic thriller. By the deservedly notorious director Miike Takashi, this tale will undoubtedly capture both your intellect and imagination from the very start.



Yurika-chan

Genre: Psycho-babble Action Thriller

review in one breath

For starters we have to talk about the director's name. The kanji making up the name Saishu Kyoshi was more than a little difficult to decipher. Even my (college prof) Japanese friend couldn't read it. After spending about an hour trying to crack the Kanji mystery which is Saishu Kyoshi, I was startled by the results.



Returner
[Retana]

Genre: Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Action

review in one breath

Simply put, this is a very good movie which again renewed my respect for the ingenuity of Japanese film making. In addition to superb special effects, an excellent cast, and groovy soundtrack, Returner offers a veritable smorgasbord of storyline content.



Oshikiri
[The Strange Story]

Genre: Low-budget Sci-Fi Horror

review in one breath

Enter another bizarre world from the mind of manga artist extraordinaire, Ito Junji! Oshikiri is based on the Ito Junji manga of the same name and delivers his characteristic exploration of strange phenomena whereby the darkest side of human nature emerges.



Noroime
[Cursed Woman]

Genre: Psychic Sci-Fi Thriller

review in one breath

Things have not been easy for Michiko, who while not working in a standard OL job under a manager who bullies her, is home taking care of her twin brother Seiji who has been blind from birth. Michiko and Seiji have always been very close, particularly due to their mutual suffering at the hand of their psychotically abusive mother. Now, in their mid-20's, the twins continue to live together, occasionally visiting their docile, medicated mother in the psychiatric ward.



Malice@Doll
[Malice Doll]

Genre: Computer Generated Sci-Fi Horror

review in one breath

"Let me give you a kiss.
It's the only thing I can do."

Much more akin to the Computer Generated (CG) graphics of Final Fantasy than to a traditional "anime", Malice@Doll tells a dark and surreal tale which conjures up the darkest moments of Stanley Kubrick's vision in A.I.. Although not quite as lavishly realistic as Final Fantasy, which strove to depict such things as the independent movement of hair follicles, the graphics in Malice@Doll are nevertheless meticulously done and its environments are convincingly dismal and nuanced.



Nagai Yume
[Long Dream]

Genre: Low-budget Sci-Fi/Psycho Horror

review in one breath

One expects a sort of "double-whammy" from Long Dream. On the one hand it is based on an Ito Junji manga, and on the other hand, Long Dream is directed by Higuchinsky (aka Higuchi Akihiro), who is otherwise held in great reverence for his unparalleled recreation of another Ito manga, Uzumaki.



Kansen
[Infection]

Genre: Amoebic Horror

review in one breath

A mind-crushing viral infection is slowly spreading through the patients and staff of a small dismal hospital, causing all in its wake to disgustingly melt into green lime jello. By days end, Dr. Akiba thinks things couldn't possibly get any worse, until he learns the true mind-bending nature of this disease from hell.



Full Metal Yakuza
[Full Metal Gokudo]

Genre: Extreme Sci-Fi Yakuza Action

review in one breath

Full Metal Yakuza is a very effective blend of yakuza tale, science fiction and real comedy. The main character is Hagane Kensuke (played by former "Kodomo Band" rock star Ujiki Tsuyoshi), a young yakuza initiate whose good-natured, over-sensitive demeanor make him perhaps the most inept yakuza to hit the streets of Japan. When Hagane's child-like admiration for a yakuza strong man places him smack in the middle of a yakuza power struggle and betrayal, he is literally shot into pieces and considered dead. But Hagane is put back together and revived by a quirky, yet well hung mad scientist. When Hagane awakes, he realizes that he is now an assemblage of human and robotic parts with a variety of powers and strengths well beyond those of normal humans. As a Full Metal Yakuza Hagane can find solace in only one thing, seeking vengeance on those who had betrayed him.



Dragonhead

Genre: Sci-Fi Apocalyptic

review in one breath

Attention fans of the apocalypse! Coming to you live (!) from the FIERY END OF THE WORLD is the visually stunning Dragon Head!

Based on the long running manga series by Mochizuki Minetaro, director Iida Joji has created a thoroughly compelling vision of the decimation of civilized Japan. Dragon Head offers perhaps a thoroughly Japanese perspective of the nature of the End. Unlike most Western apocalyptic films which generally resolve (!) through either human ingenuity pitted against Mother Nature (ie "Armageddon" or "Deep Impact") or the triumph of the Terminator over Satan ("End of Days"), Dragon Head presents a world already utterly overwhelmed with catastrophe and the human race on the brink of self destruction, as the few remaining survivors kill each other off out of panic and hysteria.



Donor

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror (Schlocky Gore)

review in one breath

What a bizarro movie this is!

Young Yuka Yamanishi (Nakayame Shinobu of Gamera fame) has had a difficult life indeed. After the sudden, tragic deaths of both her father and mother, she was raised by her elder sister Eiko who worked as a nurse at a local private hospital. Then Eiko tragically died, leaving Yuka to her own devices for survival. Following in her sister's footsteps, Yuka has trained to become a nurse, and when we catch up with her, she is preparing for her first day on the job at the very same hospital Eiko had worked, the Kamioka Hospital. Never mind her persistent nightmares of being chased down darkened hospital corridors by a surgically garbed assailant into operating rooms adorned with horrific specimens ...



Cross Fire
[Pyrokinesis]

Genre: Fiery ESP Crime Thriller

review in one breath

Cross Fire (2000) is directed by Kaneko Shusuke whose other directorial work includes Gamera 1, 2 & 3 (1995, 1996, 1999), Gakkou no Kaidan 3 (1997) and Azumi 2: Death or Love (give me love, Azumi!). And if that list isn't diverse enough in terms of genre (ranging from large monsters to ghosts to sexy samurai), then add to that an ESP-fueled crime thriller under review here. Mixing ESP with crime drama is nothing new in Japanese film (see the bizarro Isola for evidence) but director Kaneko does bring to the scenario a satisfying degree of special effects and action. And by "special effects and action" I literally mean humans spontaneously bursting into immense balls of flame, screaming and flailing about in amazing duration until they are reduced to charred ash. Hell (no pun intended), this happens at least a dozen times in this film!



Bird People in China
[Chugoku no chojin]

Genre: Contemporary Fairy-Tale

review in one breath

Bird People in China is truly one of Miike's best films. Director Miike Takashi has always been a master of exaggeration and most notoriously so in the areas of extreme violence and sexuality. Here, however, he utilizes exaggeration in an utterly unique manner and leads audiences to an intersection of gritty realism and dream-like mythology. Though Bird People in China starts in rather familiar territory for Miike fans, with violent Yakuza lurking in the shadows, it soon departs from his characteristic formula and travels instead to the idyllic mountainous landscapes of remote China. There, far removed from the bustle of the city, Miike not only allows his characters to be completely transformed amid nature's grandeur and the smiles of gentle villagers, but also wraps the entire narrative within an ancient, inspiring mythology.



Another Heaven
[Anaza Hebun]

Genre: Inexplicable Sci-Fi Horror Crime Thriller

review in one breath

Grab your showercaps boys and girls! Tokyo is being plagued by brain-eating WATER FROM HELL and no one is safe! Especially not the hunky, brooding Tokyo cop Manabu Hayase and all the many cute girls who dig him!



Alive

Genre: Sci-Fi Action

review in one breath

Ryuhei Kitamura is undoubtedly one of Japan's stellar directors when it comes to contemporary Horror or Sci-Fi action. Alive is Kitamura's fourth film and thoroughly carries through with the evolution of his polished style, character development, and delivery of visceral action. This evolution can clearly be seen through the progression of Kitamura's prior three films, Heat After Dark (1996), Down to Hell (1996), and Versus (2000). In Alive, Kitamura channels his efforts into a cinematic recreation of the science-fiction manga by Tsutomu Takahashi of the same name. (Kitamura also later reproduced a TV series based on another manga by Tsutomu entitled Sky High (2003).) Kitamura brings to the project most of the star power of his earlier films, as well as few new (beautiful) faces including Ryo (who will later star in Kitamura's Azumi (2003)) and Koyuki (of Kairo fame). Yes, two beautiful women with no last names. Hmmm.



Karas : The Revelation
[Karasu]

Genre: Explosive Conclusion to this Kick-Ass Sci-Fi Samurai Epic

review in one breath

This final half to the visually explosive Karas storyline will certainly not disappoint. Rendered in both cell anime and crisp CG techniques, this entire tale of Shinto-esque resurrection and samurai-like vengeance is truly one to behold. Fans of (testosterone fueled) tales of revenge and vengeance will certainly get their fill here. And fans of redemptive, humanistic struggles and triumphs over moral ambiguities and wrong decisions will also be knee deep. If you can, certainly see this.




Paprika
[Papurika]

Genre: Psychedelic Sci-Fi Anime
Director: Kon Satoshi (2006)

review in one breath

Dreams and Reality collide with devastating consequence in this highly colorful and imaginative anime by director Satoshi Kon. After years of effort, a research team has nearly perfected a device which taps into a subject's dreams. The goal of the project is to use the device to help subjects overcome psychological obstacles and enhance the growth of consciousness. But it the wrong hands and quickly proves a malevolent weapon which not only melts the minds of its victims but soon overlaps objective reality with the subjective manipulation of Nightmare.



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.



Apple Seed
[Appurusheedo]

Genre: EXCELLENT (!) Sci-Fi Action CG Anime -- Please Don't Wake Me Up

review in one breath

With humanity on the brink of self-annihilation due to prolonged and numerous wars, human-like androids endowed with artificial intelligence are dispersed throughout the population to "balance" mankind's irrational emotionalism. But as the androids appear ready to surpass humanity on the evolutionary stage, a subversive movement is spawned to overthrow the new life forms, and with them the critical balance to humanity's darker side. This is such an incredible visual experience that I can only implore that you see it for yourself!



Ghost In The Shell 2 : Innocence

Genre: Surreal Futurist Vision of Mind Meets Machine

review in one breath

In this highly acclaimed sequel, not only has the technological bizzarities of the world gone rampant, but the producers have taken a qualitative evolutionary step in their anime rendering. This is an amazing piece of eye candy wrapped in an intellectually satisfying Sci-Fi tale. The futuristic vision presented here is quite impressive and often jaw-dropping.



Ghost In The Shell
[Koukaku Kidoutai]

Genre: Matrix Meets Blade Runner in an Existential Spiral

review in one breath

This "cyber-punk" animation follows the human-machine hybrids Major Kusanagi and Batou of the Anti-Terrorism Unit as they pursue a mysterious and formidable hacker known as the Puppet Master. In this futuristic world where computers blend effortlessly with the human psyche, human strength can be multiplied many times through robotic enhancements. Of course, it also means that one's mind is only as safe as the cyber-security surrounding it. This is a highly memorable film which held significant impact upon the anime community.



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.



Devilman

Genre: Damien Meets the X-Men Meets the END OF THE WORLD!!!

review in one breath

When a freak scientific exploration breaches the underworld, Hell itself soon floods the world of the living, transforming millions into gross demonic creatures and obliterating any remaining global social order. As humans turn against humans in a berserk and violent witchhunt for the demonic mutants, global war and chaos ensue as Satan himself scoffingly watches humanity self-destruct. And yet one frighteningly powerful creature cannot cast off his human heart and thus becomes the Devil/man intent on protecting those he loved. Based on the manga, this is an incredible visual explosion which puts any Western apocalyptic tale to shame.



Ghost System
[Gosuto shisutemu]

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Genre: Supernatural Sci-Fi Horror

review in one breath

After receiving a cryptic message from a long missing friend, Misako and Wataru go searching and stumble across a large abandoned facility deep within the forest. Inside they discover a research project gone berserk, tearing down the barrier between the world of the dead and the world of the living.



Marebito
[A Stranger from Far Away]

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Genre: Insanity Sci-Fi Horror

review in one breath

Videographer Masuoka is obsessed with capturing fringe psychological states on film, ranging from the quiet fear of the paranoid to the terror-filled eyes of the suicidal. Through footage he captured of the final moments of a horrified man's life, he finds clues which point him to the doorway into an underground labyrinth of madness and escape. There he finds a mysterious and beautiful being which gives him a renewed purpose for living while at the same time forces him to descend even deeper into the abyss of madness.



Gunhed
[Ganheddo]

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Genre: Giant Fighting Robot Snooze Fest

review in one breath

The year is 2038 and a rag-tag team of misfits must save the world from the doomsday plan of Kyron 5, the most advanced computer ever built. Their only weapon is Gunhed, a massive talking robot with a soft spot for baseball. This sci-fi film replaces kaijuu with robots but keeps all the miniature scale special effects and explosions.



Parasite Eve

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Genre: DNA-Morphing Sci-Fi Thriller

review in one breath

When the beautiful wife of DNA Researcher Nagashima is tragically killed, he attempts to recreate her using an experimental treatment. The initial results look promising but then quickly spiral out of control when an ancient consciousness within the DNA is awakened and seeks to birth a higher order of being in the evolutionary scale.



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