All but unseen by Western audiences, this breezy, bracing 1957 comedy cross-sections Japanese society at a turning point, for both fast laughs and wise insights
A real treat: a made-for-TV historical fantasy, by way of some Studio Ghibli regulars, that starts lighthearted and in time becomes genuinely ambitious
Almost forty years later, this jet-black comedy about a one-man nuclear terrorist ring remains an absurdist masterwork
Here is a work of art, a great one even, about a man who tried to make himself into a work of art — but perhaps not a great one, and at the cost of no small part of his humanity. Yukio Mishima was not content merely to be a post-WWII literary figure of Norman Mailer-esque proportions: novelist, playwright, filmmaker, actor, cultural gadfly, social butterfly. He wanted to carve himself into the cultural consciousness of the world or die trying. He achieved both.
It helps to talk about Mary And The Witch's Flower, from an ex-Studio Ghibli outfit named Studio Ponoc, by way of its two most likely potential audiences: kids and parents generally, and people specifically looking for a Studio Ghibli-related product. The first group will be quite happy; this is a sprightly, diverting, lavish-looking movie with an intriguing moral undertone. Group #2 will be counting off on their fingers the number of outward references, aesthetic and explicit, to both other Ghibli productions and other anime. But while this movie doesn't break ground aesthetically, it breaks rank with other stories in its vein aimed at young viewers, and reminds us that the best magic of all is the most commonplace kind that exists between friends and beloveds.
I'm drawn to specific record labels the way some people are drawn to specific cuisines or specific neighborhoods. If you say the words "Stax" or "Motown", you can communicate with those single words a whole flavor of music. Japan's long been a hotbed of indie labels catering to amazingly specific and narrow tastes — e.g., the late Hideo Ike'ezumi's P.S.F. label, immortal forever for having brought us the likes of Keiji Haino and Fushitsusha.
Now I'm delving — slowly — into the treasure trove that is Edition Omega Point, a label all but unknown in the West but deserving of wider appreciation thanks to its mission: to document the amazing electronic, experimental, and avant-garde music found in Japan's underground and academic circles. Catnip for an ecletic like me; the sheer unheard-ness of this music automatically makes it an object of fascination. Like many tiny labels, EOP presses few copies of each title — often no more than a few hundred — but that still makes those discs easier to track down than the original issues of that music. Assuming there was ever one to begin with, that is.