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Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis
[Teito Monogatari]

Genre: Battle Of White and Black Onmyoji Magic over Tokyo's Urban Development [Taisho Era 1912-1926]

review in one breath

This incredibly ambitious and well-cast film depicts a spiritualized version of Japan's gradual turn away from its ancestral religion and toward modernity starting in the early Taisho Era and ending in the Showa Era. Whereas actual secular history accounts for the great earthquake of 1923 and the subsequent rebuilding of Tokyo using modernized architecture and technology (such as a subway system), here we are told of both evil and benevolent spiritual forces at work behind all these events. Available now in subtitled Region 1 DVD and running at slightly over 2 hours, this is a highly involved and sometimes confusing tale of Japan's irrevocable turn toward modernity.



Peep "TV" Show

Genre: Almost Interesting Youth Angst Documentary

review in one breath

As the one year anniversary of the World Trade Center collapse approaches, a socially skeptical young man begins a web project entitled "Peep TV" which streams voyeuristic video, all in the name of showing "Reality". As the 9/11 anniversary draws closer, his projects turn darker and more serious, catching the eye of Moe, a Gothic Lolita who sees in his work an authentic expression of her own contemplations of isolation and identity.



All About Lily Chou-Chou
[Lili Chu Chu no Subete]

Genre: Youth Angst Amid Moral Chaos

review in one breath

This rather profound film follows a class of Japanese students as they transition from Junior High to Senior High and from optimistic childhood into the murky and tragic ambiguities of adolescence. The clarity and depth with which All About Lily Chou Chou plumbs the moral vacuum into which these kids fall is wholly mesmerizing and memorable. Eerily paralleling the narrative is the fan-based internet bulletin board to which students and others post using pseudonyms, allowing them to anonymously express their core intuitions and angst. Both beautiful and disturbing, this film is highly recommendable.



Shiryoha
[Dead Waves]

Genre: Supernatural Ghost Story in Techno-Babble parlance

review in one breath

When a television producer visits the home of a brother and sister to interview them for his series on paranormal phenomena, what first appears to be a simple case of psychopathology turns into a full-blown epidemic of demonic manifestation. To his horror he realizes that he is not only a witness to the blossoming insanity, filming each scream and horrific expression, but that he and his technology have been intricately tied to the cause and conduit of its spread.



Senrigan
[Clairvoyance]

Genre: Techno Thriller

review in one breath

Senrigan (which means "Clairvoyance") is a techno-thriller in which a mind-controlling doomsday cult threatens to blow up half of Japan in the hope of ushering in a new world order. I use the term "techno-thriller" quite loosely here, since you may find yourself searching hard for both the technos and the thrill...



Ring 2
[Ringu 2]

Genre: Supernatural Techno-babble Horror

review in one breath

First, it must be admitted that one will have absolutely no idea what is going on in Ringu 2 without first seeing Ringu. Basics such as character identity and Sadako's history fully assume familiarity with the original story.



Saint John's Wort
[Otogirisou]

Genre: Video Game-Based Mystery

review in one breath

In terms of video/PC games, I generally prefer those which focus on heavily armored robots with heat-seeking missiles. There is, however (and amazingly enough), another, entirely different genre of game which involves you exploring every nook and cranny of an environment to discover clues (which generally lead to keys which help you unlock further clues) into some over-arching sinister mystery. In the West, games like Myst or Riven, or more recently Syberia are exemplars of this genre.



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.




Ghost Train [Otoshimono]

Genre: Mass Transit Horror
Director: Takeshi Ken Furusawa (2006)

review in one breath

On any given day, the number of items turned into the Japan Railway's Lost and Found division is staggering. In most cases, such items are discovered and turned in by honest individuals who soon thereafter forget wholly about the incident. But in a few documented cases in a particularly remote mountainous region, those finding lost items soon go missing themselves.



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.



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.



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