REVIEW: JAPANESE STORY

CAST

Toni Colleette (Krampus)
Gotaro Tsunashima (The Great Raid)
Matthew Dyktynski(Wil)
Lynette Curran (Bellbird)
Kate Atkinson (The Jammed)

MCDJAST EC001Sandy Edwards (played by Toni Collette) is a director in a company that designs geological software in Perth, Western Australia. Her business partner manipulates her into agreeing to act as a guide for a Japanese businessman visiting mines in the Pilbara desert, in hopes that he will purchase the software. When Hiromitsu Tachibana (Gotaro Tsunashima (ja)) arrives, he treats Sandy like a chauffeur, and he seems more intent on self-discovery in the wilderness than on buying computer software. At first, Sandy is angered by his reserved, demanding demeanor. On their first journey into the desert, Hiromitsu, feeling insecure, talks more on his phone with friends in Japan than he does to Sandy. He also insists that she drive farther than planned. The terrain proves too much for the pair’s vehicle, which becomes bogged down in the sand. After a series of desperate attempts to release the vehicle, including digging a dead man anchor, their winch burns out. Sandy wants to use Hiromitsu’s phone to call people who can rescue them, but Hiromitsu refuses. This forces them to spend the night stranded together. The next day, Hiromitsu, conscious that his refusal had placed them in danger, wakes up much earlier than Sandy and builds a track of sticks over which they can drive out of the sand. The manoeuvre is successful. Now that they are on the road again, the ice breaks and a friendship starts between them that, in isolated surroundings uninterrupted by their work, grows quickly and honestly. Later, at a motel, they have sex. Only after does Sandy learn that Hiromitsu has a wife and children in Japan.005CKE_Heather_Graham_164On another journey to scenic spots, Hiromitsu and Sandy share a quiet moment and kiss each other, eventually having sex again. Afterwards, Sandy runs into a swimming hole nearby. Hiromitsu follows her, diving into the shallow water before she can warn him, and disappears. Sandy frantically calls for him and, after a moment, his lifeless body resurfaces. In shock at his sudden death, Sandy struggles to deal with the situation, dragging his body into their vehicle and carefully washing it before driving for hours to the nearest town. Back in Perth, Sandy cannot comprehend the violent end to her journey. Reality intrudes in the form of Hiromitsu’s grieving widow, Yukiko, and Sandy tries to understand how Hiromitsu’s life had ended before she had understood his place in hers.005CKE_Heather_Graham_096An amazingly cinematic film. Beautiful shots of the Australian Outback, Superb acting, especially by Toni Collette, and an ultra efficient script where a few words of dialogue in the right places conveys a whole wealth of meaning and so much drama.

REVIEW: SAMURAI SENTAI SHINKENGER

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Starring

Tori Matsuzaka (Idaten)
Hiroki Aiba (The Prince of Tennis)
Rin Takanashi (Goth)
Shogo Suzuki (Kamen Rider Decade)
Suzuka Morita (Space Sheriff Gavan: The Movie)
Keisuke Sohma (Bad Boys J)
Goro Ibuki (Nichiren)
Runa Natsui (Kamen Rider Ex-Aid)
Kazuyuki Matsuzawa (Kitaro)
Mitsuru Karahashi (Ultraman X)
Rintarō Nishi (Cowboy Bebop)

Shinkenger_-_Cast_Poster_Crop_(583_x_557)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kanji Tsuda (Sonatine)
Ryo Kamon (Kamen Rider Fourze)
Yoshiaki Miyagi (Fish Story)
Reika Shigehiro (Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger)
Gotaro Tsunashima (Japanese Story)
Kayoko Shibata (Ju-On: The Grudge)
Rika Nakamura (Kotoko)
Kimito Totani (Kamen Rider Decade)
Kenichiro Kikuchi (Kinyoubi no shokutaku)
Masahiro Inoue (Kamen Rider × Super Sentai: Super Hero Taisen)
Kanna Moriya (Dear Sister)
Renji Ishibashi (Audiion)
Masashi Goda (Chouriki Sentai Ohranger)
Tetsu Inada (Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger)
Kazue Itoh (Juken Sentai Gekiranger)
Masaya Matsukaze (Denji Sentai Megaranger)

Shinkenger_-_Cast_Poster_Crop_(583_x_557)The 33rd entry in Toei’s Super Sentai franchise. For eighteen generations, the Shiba household have protected the world from the evil forces of the Gedoushu – monsters that enter our world through cracks and plan to flood the world with water from the Sanzu river (which is essential to their survival). In present day, their leader Doukoku Chimatsuri is freed from his seal and intends to continue this ambition. Takeru Shiba, the youngest head of the Shiba clan and ShinkenRed, must gather together his four vassals (servants from other households) to fight the forces of the Gedoushu. Initially Takeru maintains aloof and detached from his vassals, preferring to fight alone. But as the story progresses and Takeru’s childhood friend Genta joins the Shinkengers as ShinkenGold, Takeru becomes far more comfortable around people, beginning to treat them as friends. But Takeru is different from the lords that have preceded him, and the vassals slowly learn that his dark secret may be the reason for the way he has acted.

Before I begin dissecting the plot, I have to say that Samurai Sentai Shinkenger is one of the most visually pleasing series I’ve watched in a while. I’m a huge fan of the costumes themselves – which give off a nice Samurai flavour without being too heavy or over the top,  and each have an unique symbol for the visor. Each are very distinct from each other, but maintain a very nice sense of uniform. The origami mecha are also very well done, despite being restricted by the shapes each of them need to be able to transform into. Their combination, Shinken-Oh, has quickly become one of my favourite Super Sentai mecha. It’s a lot less universal than perhaps other series are, but one of its strengths lie in how uniquely Japanese it is. Aside from a few jokes which I found difficult to follow as a Westerner (Ebi Origami) it was still completely enjoyable and understandable, while teaching me a lot of new things about Japan and Samurai culture.

The plot itself is relatively serious, but is not opposed to diverging into moments of comedy relief now and again (Genta’s arrival really brings a new light to the series, and this firmly placed him as easily my favourite Shinkenger). The Shinkengers display a wide variety of character types, Ryunosuke (ShinkenBlue) as a loyal servant to his lord, competitive Chiaki (ShinkenGreen), big-sister Mako (ShinkenPink) and the clumsy but good-hearted Kotoha (ShinkenYellow). A few members of the Gedoushu even receive an ample amount of development – particularly Juzo, who is far more than a generic monster villain.

Because of the length of the series, its only natural that quite of the few of the episodes just come across as filler. However each of these episodes neatly manages to focus on one or two members of the main cast, and so none go without providing some form of character insight or development.

Another issue I found with the series was Doukoku, who in comparison to some of the other Gedoushu (particularly Juzo and Dayu, but later also Shitari and Akumaro) seems rather undeveloped. For the majority of the series he seems to do very little other than drink sake, shout a lot and occasionally moan about a hangover. When he suddenly appears on Earth for the first time toward the end of the series we finally get a look at how powerful he really is, but this is quickly dampened by him disappearing for several episodes so that Akumaro can take centre stage. Only in Shinkenger’s final acts does Doukoku really come into his own and seem like a true threat. While head monsters often don’t seem to do very much until the final episodes, atleast they’re usually calling the shots.

Shinkenger is  an excellent series that any fans of the genre should check out.