Manga

Fantasia 2016: Check out the manga film Bakuman on Saturday – you won’t be sorry!

In the film Bakuman, Moritaka (Takeru Satoh) and Akito (Ryunosuke Kamiki) play high-school students who want to get their manga into the magazine Shonen Jump.

In the film Bakuman, Moritaka (Takeru Satoh) and Akito (Ryunosuke Kamiki) play high-school students who want to get their manga into the magazine Shonen Jump.

I enjoyed Bakuman (バクマン。) very much. This Japanese film about breaking into the manga world has a good story, sympathetic characters, appealing actors, and lots of laughs. There are some lessons in friendship, co-operation and work/life balance, too, if you care to notice them; they didn’t seem heavy-handed to me, but feel free to ignore them if you’d rather.

And for the squeamish among you, no one gets any fingers cut off, either.

High-school students Moritaka (Takeru Satoh) and Akito (Ryunosuke Kamiki), try to create a manga AND have it accepted by the prestigious weekly magazine Shonen Jump. They aim high, these guys! Moritaka will draw and Akito will create the storyline.

There are multiple motives, including pride, the spirit of competition, money, and a desire for a future as someone other than an office drone. Moritaka’s main reason is to impress fellow student Miho (Nana Komatsu). He spends most of his class time sketching her surreptitiously. But the pure joy of creation is a very big part of it, too, and that’s a big part of the film’s appeal for me.

Moritaka can draw very well, but he must learn some new techniques, with pens and brushes, to make a manga. We learn these techniques along with him, and hear the scritch, scritch, scritch of his pen quite clearly. He already has a big advantage, since he spent many of his childhood years in the studio of his late uncle, who was a famous manga artist. In fact, that studio is still available for him to work in. (I didn’t quite grasp why that room had been left unused all that time. But never mind!)

The visuals in Bakuman are great. Facts about manga scroll across the screen; sometimes it’s like we’re inside a drawing, other times the characters are fighting like martial artists, with giant pens and brushes as their weapons. The newsroom of Shonen Jump is a sight to behold – it’s huge with lots of art on the walls and enormous piles of paper everywhere. Is that the real office, or a set? I won’t stop writing to find out right now, but I’m mighty curious! If it’s a set, what a job it must have been to create it. Fun, too, I imagine. (UPDATE: It is a set, but it does look like the Shonen Jump office.)

Moritaka (Takeru Satoh) and Akito (Ryunosuke Kamiki) wield their drawing instruments like weapons in Bakuman, a film about the world of manga.

Moritaka (Takeru Satoh) and Akito (Ryunosuke Kamiki) wield their drawing instruments like weapons in Bakuman, a film about the world of manga.

Takayuki Yamada plays Akira Hattori, the editor our guys meet when they visit Shonen Jump. His character is rather scruffy and subdued, but he’s impressed by their work and he offers solid support and advice.

Lily Franky plays an editor-in-chief who seems very mean at best and downright sinister at other times. Since I’ve seen him play gangsters and psychopaths in other films, the sinister part might just be in my own head.

Shota Sometani, who seems to be in half the films coming out of Japan these days, plays Eiji Niizuma, a rival manga artist, who is also still in high school. He dresses in all in black and scuttles around in a crab-like manner that recalls assorted horror movies like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera. He’s already ruined his body by spending so many hours scrunched over his drawings.

This film about manga artists is based on a manga itself. (Of course it is!) I can’t claim to know much about manga myself, but viewers who do will likely pick up lots of references and enjoy many inside jokes. Maybe they could share them with me!

Takeru Satoh was the star of the wonderful film If Cats Disappeared From the World, which had a sold-out screening at Fantasia this year. He was also the star of the live-action Rurouni Kenshin trilogy. Ryunosuke Kamiki was in two of the Rurouni Kenshin films, and in two other films in this year’s Fantasia selection, As the Gods Will, and Too Young To Die. He was in Poison Berry in My Brain, a hit at Fantasia 2015.

Bakuman
Directed by: Hitoshi One
Written by: Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata
Cast: Takeru Satoh, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Takayuki Yamada, Nana Komatsu
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Runtime: 120 min.
Distributor: Toho

You can see Bakuman as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival, at 6:40 p.m. Saturday, July 30, 2016, at the Hall Theatre of Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd W. Fantasia runs until Aug. 3, 2016.

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Fantasia 2015 Review: Princess Jellyfish is wonderfully cute and fluffy fun

Rena Nonen, left, and Masaki Suda are the main stars of Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime. Princess Jellyfish is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Inernational Film Festival in Montreal.

Rena Nonen, left, and Masaki Suda are the main stars of Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime. Princess Jellyfish is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Inernational Film Festival in Montreal.

NOTE: Princess Jellyfish will be shown at 4 p.m., Saturday, July 25, 2015, as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

OMG!!! The plot of Princess Jellyfish is as unbelievable as your average fairy tale (or Japanese or Korean TV drama) but who cares? It’s so much fun! I was happy to make the old “leap of faith” and just go along for the ride. I can imagine the laughs and cheers in the Hall Cinema right now! Go see it if you can!

Princess Jellyfish is based on Kuragehime, a 15-volume manga that first appeared in November 2008. (An 11-episode anime was shown on Japanese TV in 2010.)

OK, that plot, as briefly as possible. Several nerdy women of assorted ages and interests live in Amamizukan, an old Tokyo apartment building. They call themelves The Sisterhood, though they could also be called otakus and NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training.)

Tsukimi (Rena Nonen, centre) with her fellow nerds in the Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime.

Tsukimi (Rena Nonen, centre) with her fellow nerds in the Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime.

Our main character, Tsukimi (Rena Nonen) who wants to be an illustrator, is obsessed with jellyfish. The walls of her room are covered in sketches of them. Ms. Banba studies trains and their schedules. Chieko is interested in traditional Japanese culture and always wears kimono; Mayaya is into the epic Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms (and toys assocated with it). Lady Jiji likes “elderly dandies.” Mme. Juon Mejiro is the most important person in the building; she is a manga artist who is never seen. She’s like some kind of oracle – the residents slip questions under her door, and she answers the same way. She has banned men from the building. The others have no problem with that, because men make them so uncomfortable anyway. So do fashionistas. They turn to stone (petrify!) when in the presence of either.

Kuranosuke (Masaki Suda), the cross-dressing son of a politician, meets this gang after helping Tsukimi out of a jellyfish-related jam. She tells them that his name is Kurako; his clothes, makeup and wig are convincing enough that they accept him as a woman. Somewhat surprisingly, they don’t say anything about his deep voice until well into the film. Kuranosuke explains to Tsukimi that he wears women’s clothing because he cares about fashion and has no interest in going into politics. Under his wig he has fashionably blond hair; at school the girls flock around him, eager for his attention.

The nerds of Princess Jellyfish live here, in Amamizukan. Nice, isn't it? They have to band together to keep the building from being demolished.

The nerds of Princess Jellyfish live here, in Amamizukan. Nice, isn’t it? They have to band together to keep the building from being demolished.

Developers want to tear down Amamizukan, and other nearby buildings, to improve the area, and make it all shiny and modern. (Some might wonder, “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”)
Kuranosuke’s father assumes that supporting development will improve his political fortunes.

The Sisterhood is not happy about this at all, but they seem resigned to it; they have always felt powerless. Kuranosuke encourages them to make an effort to fight back, and not to just accept the decisions that others have made.

There are many themes in Princess Jellyfish. Among them: evil politicians and developers, which is connected to the old “you can’t fight City Hall” trope; feeling like an outcast, finding a place to fit in, the long-lasting scars of being bullied, longing for absent mothers. Some really old U.S. movies with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney had a “we’ll put the show on right here in the barn!” trope and Princess Jellyfish has a modern approximation of that.
Note for K-drama fans: Chieko is in charge of the building while her mother is in Korea. As Chieko puts it, “she went there to chase Lee.” That would be actor Lee Byung-hun. In the manga Chieko’s mother is chasing Bae Yong-joon (Yon-sama) who became a huge star in Japan and elsewhere, because of his role in the popular Korean TV drama Winter Sonata. The Korea Times has more information about the Yon-sama phenomenon.

BTW: Masaki Suda plays Karuma Akabane in Assassination Classroom, another film, based on manga and anime, that was shown at Fantasia this year.

PRINCESS JELLYFISH
Director: Taisuke Kawamura
Screenplay: Toshiya Oono, Akiko Higashimura
Cast: Rena Noonen, Masaki Suda, Hiroki Hasegawa, Chizuru Ikewaki
Company: Asmik Ace Entertainment

Saturday, July 25, 4 p.m., Concordia Hall Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

 

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com