Posts in: November, 2006

Exclusive Screening Report: Ten Nights Of Dream (Yume Juya) At TIFF 2006

By Jonah Morgan


After being the first English Language media to report (see our October 25th entry) Souseki Natsume’s novel Ten Nights Of Dream (Yume Juya) (www.yume-juya.jp) would be adapted to film back in 2005, catching the world premiere screening while attending the 19th Tokyo International Film Festival in October, 2006 was very high on my list of priorities.
This movie had simply not gotten 1/10th the attention I thought it deserved in the mainstream international entertainment press or even our own circle of anime and manga media. On the whole this has held true until this very writing 3 months later. In the interim, the theatrical opening in Japan has been planned for January, 27th, 2007. Its my hope that after it actually gets out into theaters where masses can see it, its notoriety will quickly grow. Ten Nights’ emergence should be highly significant to followers of Japanese Popular Culture, you need look no further than the panoply of eclectic crossmedia talent which has been assembled to be involved in the project.

Directors include: Jissoji Akio (Doomed Megalopolis, Ultraman), Ichikawa Kon (Harp Of Burma, The Maki Sisters, Dora-Heita), Shimizu Takashi (Juon, Grudge), Shimizu Atsushi (Snake Woman), Toyoshima Keisuke (Shin Mimi-Bukuro), Matsuo Suzuki (Otaku’s In Love), Amano Yoshitaka (Vampire Hunter D, Final Fantasy), Kawahara Shimmei (Andoromedia VFX Creator), Yamashita Nobuhiro (Linda, Linda, Linda, Ramblers), Nishikawa Miwa (Sway, Wild Berried), Yamaguchi Yudai (Battlefield Stadium). Actors and actresses include: Kyoko Koizumi (Choushojo Reiko, Onmyouji), Koji Yamamoto, UJIKI Tsuyoshi, ICHIKAWA Mikako, ABE Sadao, FUJIOKA Hiroshi, OGAWA Tamaki, Pierre TAKI, ISHIZAKA Koji, Kenichi Matsuyama (Death Note), Matsuo Suzuki (Night Head, Gensou Midnight, Koisuru Youchuu).

Producer Nikkatsu’s official writeup summary for the TIFF program book describes the film in the following way:“A hundred years ago Soseki Natsume challenged us all by saying “I am an ambitious man who wants the people of 100 years hence to solve my riddle” (Quoted from a letter to Sohei Morita on 22nd October 1906.) The resulting omnibus film “YUMEJUYA” brings forth an amazing labyrinth of entertainment brought to life by a selection of Japan’s greatest living directors of film. Their bold interpretations imaginative presentation and fantastic visuals actually solve Soseki’s century old riddle and present their audience with a beautiful world of immortal fantasy as so keenly depicted in Soseki’s masterpiece “Ten Nights of Dream.”

What really drew my attention going in was the fact that some of the 110 minute film’s 10 segments would use different techniques including silent film, black and white color and 2d+3DCG animation. Yoshitaka Amano and Simmei Kawahara jointly produced the most powerful of these in an utterly mind blowing example surrealistic animation. The version of Ten Nights screened at TIFF was qualified as the TIFF Special Version, this was because there were only 9 segments presented. The 3rd Night segment directed by Takashi Shimizu (Juon) was still in production at the time and would make it into the final cut. A number of the featurettes had been shot the year before in 2005.

The screening was held in the smaller Toho Roppongi Hills theater 7, to a capacity crowd. I actually noticed a few gaijin had strayed in to see this one. TIFF listed this movie as being in its Special Screenings section. Before the start though, an official stage greeting took place. 7 men and a woman filed onto the platform in front of the large movie screen. Sadly, Nobuhiro Yamashita, Akio Jissoji, Kon Ichikawa and Yoshitaka Amano were the only directors of the 11 who worked on the project not to appear here. 90 year old Ichikawa’s reason was because he was handling something at the festival related to his remade Murder Of The Inugami Clan (which also was showing there). Sadly, Jissoji’s reason was because of health and he ended up dying about a month later on November 26th, 2006 of stomach cancer.

The moderator welcomed everyone and even made a comment about the large number of tickets sold for the showing. He added the riddle posed by the original author 100 years ago would be answered tonight. Each director was asked to give comments on their respective segment and the original author’s fiction. Takashi Shimizu of Grudge fame said he had read the book along time ago and personally wanted to do an adaptation the 3rd night story. Simmei Kawahara who co-directed the 7th night story with Yoshitaka Amano said the original plot was able to transferred fairly easy to animation.

The movie itself is wonderful, and a truly powerful assembly of so many different types of Japanese storytelling. An underground sleeper… cult classic in the making…. although mostly live action, manga and anime fans around the world will really get into this one when given the chance. You can view the original trailer in Windows Media format here and the second more revealing trailer at Internet TVMovie Guide here.


Exclusive Report: GR-Giant Robo At TIFFCOM 2006

By Jonah Morgan

After publishing (see our October 10th, 2006 entry) details Soft Garage was going to hold their major production announcement event for the new GR-Giant Robo TV Animation during TIFFCOM at the 19th Tokyo International Film Festival, the company’s booth was one of the first on my list to visit. The visual entertainment tradeshow opened its doors on Monday, October 23rd, 2006, occuring on the 49th floor of the Mori Tower in Roppogi.SG’s cubicle was richly decorated with various art, exclusively dedicated to the new GR release. An LCD video monitor tied to a DVD player was looping the first episode which I was told, had recently just been completed. High quality canvas prints, posters, alloy figures, papercraft busts and other merchandise examples were on display. I was greeted by international representative, Mr. Tatsuro Saito and project executive director, Mr. Ren Usami who had previously been the executive producer on Initial D: 4th Stage. Being invited to sit down, I took a seat at a small table inside the booth.
Usami-san explained his deep desire to have the new series positively received in countries around the world. It was with this goal in mind that the idea of international distribution and consumption was built into the promotional activities from the conception. This extended to their unusually rare all English web presence (posted before even the official announcement) and a beautifully illustrated all English pamphlet being handed out (to mostly licensing agents from around the world) at the show. Breaking further with traditional Japanese animation TV series rollout plans, SG would tease viewers with a freely available first episode in January, followed by a more traditional Pay Per View satellite broadcast via Animax in February. (Since October, the sat-broadcaster has changed to SKYPerfecTV! Ch.160 Perfect Choice, broadcast start is slated for Friday, February 9, 2007.) Advertisements for the R2 DVD would follow in April.
Another important factor of the production is that on the occasion of the 40th anniversary, preserving Mr. Yokoyama Mitsuteru’s 1967 original manga vision while presenting it in a package facilitated by modern animation production techniques and storytelling methods. Yokoyama first said that he wanted to see a new Giant Robo anime 8 years ago and began laying the foundation for this start-up project at that time. He unfortunately died on April 15th, 2004. “How does a person’s mind change when the ultimate power of GR is obtained?” is a main theme. I reassured them that the existing fanbase for Giant Robo in the English speaking world would more than adequate to facilitate financial success there where the series is widely regarded as an anime classic. Saito-san added the initial number of episodes planned in the first series are 13. A second season of 13 episodes is already being planned and scheduled for a 2008 broadcast. A third season may be produced as well. I was handed a numbered oversized postcard-like invitation for their production symposium to be held the following day.
Because of the Tekkon Kinkreet screening, the next day I was about 40 minutes late for the event which was being held in a small presentation room in the Mori Tower. The sheer number of greeters (more than 10) male and female, all wearing 3 piece suits posted up along both sides of the hall leading up to the door was unreal. I proceeded through a human tunnel of Japanese verbal greetings and deep bows. A shock to me, I was told the event had not even started yet. Handing in my numbered invitation, rather shamefully I was forced to wonder a) if this because they were specifically waiting for all invitations (ie: ME since I ended up handing in the last one) to start or b) if, similar to the film screenings, they usually would wait 30 minutes to begin something like this.
Taking a look around the presentation room, it was filled to overcapacity, there were about 100 people here seated and lining both walls leading up to a central stage and projection screen. Glancing about I realized something else too, I was the only non-Japanese person here. Not more than 5 minutes after taking a seat a file of people took the stage. Among them were Soft Garage Representative Takumi Ogawa, Director Masahiko Murata, Opening Theme “Answer” performer Rockwell, Ending Theme (entirely in English) “it was yesterday” performer Youna, and several members of the voice cast: Daisuke Namikawa and Romi Paku.

Mr. Ogawa took the stage saying “This project is single-mindedly focused on preserving Mr. Yokoyama’s Original Story. The staff is united behind the goal of making this series a success.” Masahiko Murata followed by saying: “Everyone in the staff is a fan of the original manga.” About halfway into the presentation 2 well known members of the American anime industry bumbled their way into the room, indicating possible licensing interests.
After a few more statements and posing for press pictures, the first episode was screened in its entirety. The story opens with alot of action. GR-2 is being barraged on air and land by military forces. The focus switches to the Japanese island of Yonaguni near Okinawa. Main characters Daisaku Kusama and Alex Mckenzie are established. Their relationship reminds me of Shinji and Misato’s in Evangelion. Daisaku goes diving at some of the supposed manmade ruins off Yonaguni and finds his way into a chamber containing Giant Robo (aka: GR-1). The episode ends with a lot drama as Giant Robo reveals himself to the outside world and UNISOM forces. 3DCG and SFX integration is quite good, as is the musical soundtrack. Definitely a series I will be highly anticipating to see more of!