I realize I’ve never actually reviewed any of his films on here, but know that I really love and respect the films of Makoto Shinkai. He’s a terrific animator and visionary artist, and I like how his works are all kind of sad and tinged with longing. It gets to me. His latest feature, Children Who Chase Lost Voices (aka Journey to Agartha) is a bit of a change for him in that it is mostly high fantasy, and works much more in the Miyazaki vein than his other films, but it still retains some of his signature as a storyteller and artist. The plot revolves around Asuna, a hardworking preteen loner who briefly befriends a mysterious stranger. She discovers he is from a mythical land known as Agartha, a kind of underworld where all the old gods fled after people stopped believing in them, along with some human groups who followed them.
Commissioned by my friend Ben to make a gig poster for Guitar Wolf, the band starring in Wild Zero, I was keen to see this film as soon as possible both for inspiration and because it sounded fucking RAD. Basically invading aliens are causing the human dead to rise (Plan 9-style) and it’s up to punk band Guitar Wolf, their biggest fan Ace (Masashi Endô), and badass arms dealer Yamazaki (Haruka Nakajo) to take down this unexpected zombie army.
So I’ve been working in a museum shop where we have a Japanese exhibit going, so we have some Miyazaki and Kurosawa DVDs for sale, and I’ve had The Hidden Fortress playing on silent on the tv behind me for a while which constantly reminds me I’ve never seen it. That, and the number of customers who sidle up to me to drop the “Did you know this movie is the basis for Star Wars?!” as if that bit of well-known trivia will impress me. Hah!
Set during a civil war in the fourteenth century, the film delves into the lives of those left behind when all able-bodied men were drafted into feudal armies. A mother (Nobuko Otowa) and her daughter-in-law (Jitsuko Yoshimura) have taken to slaughtering wayward soldiers who tread through their wetland community’s tall grasses, and selling off their armor and weaponry in exchange for food. They are hardened and cold-hearted, but they get by together. When male neighbor Hachi (Kei Satô) returns from the front claiming their man is dead, their dynamic gradually shifts.
About two years ago we decided to finally get into Neon Genesis Evangelion. As an anime fan it’s hard not to hear about it all the time because it’s one of the bigger series. We started with the new(ish) movie, part one of a tetralogy that condenses and somewhat re-writes the whole series. The second film in the tetralogy, Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance, continues this inscrutable story of whiny teenagers who pilot huge semi-organic mechs in a fight against “Angels”, who are huge monster things that attack Earth all the time. Everything is confusing but it’s really pretty. And my favorite character arrives! Well, second-favorite, after the penguin roommate obviously.