Japan

Fantasia 2016 Review: Too Young To Die!

Nana Seino, Tomoya Nagase, Ryunosuke Kamiki and Kenta Kiritani play musicians in the Japanese film Too Young To Die! which was shown at the Fantasia International Fim Festival in Montreal.

Nana Seino, Tomoya Nagase, Ryunosuke Kamiki and Kenta Kiritani play musicians in the Japanese film Too Young To Die! which was shown at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

Too Young To Die! is full of laughs, music, demons, and love. It’s educational, too!

I saw this raucous crowd pleaser in the very best circumstances possible, with hundreds of other enthusiastic film fans at the Fantasia International Film Festival, right here in Montreal.

Daisuke (Ryunosuke Kamiki) and his fellow high-school students are riding a bus home after a field trip. Earlier, Daisuke had bribed a friend to change seats with him so he could sit next to his crush, Hiromi (Aoi Morikawa). They are having a shy chat when the bus goes over a cliff.

Daisuke wakes up in Buddhist Hell wondering what he did to end up there and how he could be so much worse than his fellow classmates. None of them are there with him, even though initial reports say that all the students on the bus died, except one.

Daisuke tells Killer K (Tomoya Nagase) a long-haired, horned, fanged guitar-playing demon, that he wants to go wherever Hiromi is. (He hopes she’s alive but he assumes that she’s in Heaven.) When Killer K says that no one has ever gone from Hell to Heaven before, Daisuke vows to do his best to be the first person to do that.

In the film To Young To Die, Daisuke (Ryunosuke Kamiki) works really hard in Hell; he'll do anything for another chance to see his true love Hiromi.

In the film To Young To Die, Daisuke (Ryunosuke Kamiki) works really hard in Hell; he’ll do anything for another chance to see his true love Hiromi.

There will be many challenges ahead! Daisuke has to haul heavy loads AND attend Hell Agricultural High School, too!  He’ll have to work very hard in Hell to be re-incarnated on Earth. What kind of creature he will be depends on his own efforts and the whims of Lord Enma, who sits in judgement. I’d be going into serious spoiler territory if I mentioned ALL of his reincarnations, though they include a bird, performing sea lion, a dog, and a giant scorpion. It’s pretty hilarious to watch Daisuke, who returns to his family home as a pale blue parakeet, frantically trying to delete a naughty video from his smartphone, and send one last text message to Hiromi.

Daisuke will get seven chances to redeem himself, but if he fails, he will turn into a demon like Killer K. Already his face is getting a bit redder, his teeth are longer and sharper and he can feel little bumps on his head where his future horns might sprout.

Arata Furuta plays Lord Enma in Too Young To Die! Lord Enma sends Daisuke back to Earth as a bird, a dog, and a sea lion, among other things.

Arata Furuta plays Lord Enma in Too Young To Die! Lord Enma sends Daisuke back to Earth as a bird, a dog, and a sea lion, among other things.

Joining Hiromi is Daisuke’s main concern, but there’s a secondary plot line about a demonic battle of the bands. Killer K wants to recruit Daisuke for his group, Heruzu (Hells). This plot provides several tunes, some outrageous gags and an ultimate pyrotechnical showdown.

Despite the abundance of laughs and silly situations, Too Young to Die! is also a genuine love story. Years go by, but Daisuke’s love for Hiromi never wavers.  I found it very touching.

Writer and director Kankuro Kudo is obviously taking lots of liberties with his depiction of the Buddhist underworld, but he didn’t make it all up, either. Just Google Lord Enma and Ox-Face and Horse-Head for some background, and you’ll see. That’s why Too Young to Die! is also educational.

Musical Notes: Tomoya Nagase, who plays Killer K, is a musician in a band called Tokio. Director Kudo plays guitar in a band called Group Tamashii.  

Ryunosuke Kamiki, Tomoya Nagase, Kenta Kiritani and Nana Seino played the film’s title track at the Tokyo Metropolitan Rock Festival in May. If you like the songs in the film and you’ve got money to spare, you can order the film’s sound track from CD Japan.

Another film: Ryunosuke Kamiki and Takeru Satoh play high school students who write a manga in Bakuman, also shown at Fantasia this year. (You can read my review of Bakuman here.)

Interesting coincidence: Before the bus crash, Daisuke bought Hiromi an amulet at a temple. A few days after watching the film, I saw a guy on the metro with a similar amulet hanging off his knapsack. I would have liked to ask him about it, but I didn’t get the chance before I had to get off the train to watch another Fantasia film.

Too Young To Die!
125 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles
Director: Kankuro Kudo
Screenplay: Kankuro Kudo
Cast: Tomoya Nagase, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Kenta Kiritani, Nana Seino, Aoi Morikawa, Arata Furuta

Advertisements

Festival des film du monde review: Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)

Naoto Matsumura has a chat with one of the ostriches under his care in a scene from the Japanese documentary film Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima), which is being shown at the Festival des films du monde in Montreal. Naoto Matsumura looks after many of the animals that were abandoned after the 2011 meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Naoto Matsumura has a chat with one of the ostriches under his care in a scene from the Japanese documentary film Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima), which is being shown at the Festival des films du monde in Montreal. Naoto Matsumura looks after many of the animals that were abandoned after the 2011 meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima) is a documentary portrait of Naoto Matsumura, a man who voluntarily looks after the (mostly) four-legged victims of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March of 2011. These include dogs, cats, cows, and a pony. There are some wild boars prowling around, too, though they look like scroungers, not officially under his care. And then there are the two otherwordly ostriches, with their quizzical expression and powerful legs that can break ribs.

The nuclear plant went into meltdown after an earthquake and the resulting tsunami. Humans were quickly evacuated because the radiation leak made the area too dangerous for them to remain. Many people had no idea that they would be gone so long. They tied their dogs up and planned to come back for them within a day or so. But they were not allowed to come back, and shelters did not accept dogs and cats, in any case.

Some cattle were destroyed on orders of the government, others starved to death, but some were entrusted to Naoto Matsumura, and he continues to look after them to this day. In the beginning, he bought food for them with money from his small pension, now he also gets donations from supporters. He says he wishes the government would look after the animals, that would be the moral thing to do, and it would also increase knowledge about the effects of radiation. The animals are mammals, just like us, whatever happens to them might happen to humans, too.

On a technical level, Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima) is not perfect. Especially in the opening footage, some bright areas are bleached out, and throughout the film, the microphone picks up many distracting sounds – truck engines, and fierce winds among them. But heart is more important than technique – watch the film to see Naoto feeding and interacting with the animals and describing his feelings of obligation toward them. He tells us how the nuclear plant changed his town of Tomioka – at first it brought prosperity, and conspicuous consumption – a car for every family member! Then came the disaster. It could take 30 years to decontaminate the town; maybe it will never be safe again. He wonders if the decontamination work is really just for show.
Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)
Director : Mayu Nakamura
Cinematographer : Mayu Nakamura
Editor : Mayu Nakamura
Music : Saho Terao
Film production and Sales : Prod.: Mayu Nakamura, Omphalos Pictures,Tokyo 180-0002 (Japon), tél.: +80 (80) 3408 85 30 missyn510@aol.com.

Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)
Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 – 4 p.m. – Cinéma Quartier Latin 2, 350 Emery St., in Montreal. (Metro Berri-UQAM)

NYAFF and Fantasia 2015 Review: Battles Without Honor and Humanity

Bunta Sugawara as a gangster in the 1973 Japanese film Battles Without Honor and Humanity, which is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Film Festival.

Bunta Sugawara as a gangster in the 1973 Japanese film Battles Without Honor and Humanity, which is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Film Festival.

Battles Without Honor and Humanity! What an appropriate title! Many yakuza films would have us believe that there are rules to be obeyed, a code of conduct to be followed, that there is, in fact, honour among thieves. This film just laughs at such silly notions . . . beats them to a pulp, and throws them right out the window.

And the various rituals and ceremonies? When it’s time for someone to give up a finger, no one is quite sure how it’s supposed to be done. A woman says “I saw it in Osaka, once.”

Battles Without Honor and Humanity was made in 1973, though the story it tells begins just after World War II, in Hiroshima. Japan is under U.S. occupation, and U.S. soldiers are running wild and acting like animals. The local crooks almost look civilized in comparison, which is quite the feat.

The film mixes conventional scenes with parts that are like a vintage version of 60 Minutes, with a narrator describing feuds and alliances, and onscreen text telling us how and when certain people were killed.

Gangs struggle for supremacy within the city, and gangsters struggle for power within their gangs. A boss cries poor so he can get away with underpaying his underlings. There’s lots of yelling and arguing; fights are not elegantly choreographed. Not one of these guys seems like a criminal mastermind.

Frankly, I couldn’t keep track of all the lying, plotting and double crossing that was going on. I could have used a family tree and a score card. Maybe that’s because the film is based on the memoirs of a gangster and real life can be more complicated than fiction? Battles Without Honor and Humanity was also part of the lineup at the recent New York Asian Film Festival.

Battles Without Honor and Humanity

Crime / Thriller / Classic / Retro Japan 1973, 99 min., DCP, Japanese (with English subtitles)
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Screenplay: Kazuo Kasahara, Koji Shundo, Koichi Iiboshi
Cast:Bunta Sugawara, Hiroki Matsukata, Nobuo Kaneko, Kunie Tanaka, Goro Ibuki, Tatsuo Umemiya, Tsunehiko Watase, Seizo Fukumuto

Saturday, Aug 1, 2015, 2:50 p.m., Concordia Hall Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

 

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 5, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com