February 11, 2024

It's time for another round-up! I saw two major Oscar nominees, some amazing 35mm screenings, and continued my Shenmue journey!

American Fiction (2023 Movie)

Image credit to IGN

Entertaining, but not really much more than that. I’m honestly worried about a classist sentiment behind the message of American Fiction although that may just be me reading into it too much. I do think the family drama running parallel to the satirical highlight decently emphasizes that black people have stories to be told outside of ghetto violence. It’s a more biting message for 2001 (when the book this film adapts was written) and really doesn’t seem like something that’ll enlighten any modern audiences. Bamboozled this is far from.

Black Magic M-66 (1987 Movie)

Image credit to Dissidencia Pop

The most involved Masamune Shirou has been with an anime! He’s the director and screenwriter for Black Magic M-66. The final product is a fun time. Enjoyable feature-length OVA with strong Terminator influence. Nothing all that remarkable.

Days of Heaven (1978 Movie)

Image credit to Dallas Morning News

Not to be confused with Perfect Days. Terrence Malick’s sophomore film is an absolute audiovisual triumph. Between Néstor Almendros’ cinematography and Ennio Morricone’s music, watching Days of Heaven in 35mm is incredible. If I’m going to be honest, I’ve seen this movie twice now and I always lose track of the story early on somehow. I don’t know why it happens, but my attention always deviates from this narrative. However, everything else about the experience is so captivating that I don’t really care.

Hotori: Tada Saiwai wo Koinegau (2005 Movie)

Image credit to Philosophist’s Camp

Hotori is a lovingly subdued feature-length TV special… I think? It’s forty minutes and one second long, and a feature film is supposed to be over forty minutes, so I guess it counts? Whatever. Either way, this is a beautifully told story and a strong meditation on memories & artificial intelligence. Contains absolutely amazing music, too.

Perfect Days (2023 Movie)

Image credit to The Guardian

Not to be confused with Days of Heaven. Wim Wenders’ latest feature is entirely Japanese, essentially serving as a showcase of Kouji Yakusho’s phenomenal acting. He’s in almost every shot and always a joy to watch. Overall, Perfect Days is about embracing stability. It’s about how growing up means that you don’t always need to chase a dream. A slice-of-life film about why accepting that mundanity is a natural part of human growth. Incredibly lovely and one of the best releases in a year packed with amazing films.

The Thin Blue Line (1988 Movie)

Not to be confused with William Friedkin’s other documentary of the same name, The Thin Blue Line makes incredibly clever use of recreations to replicate the sensationalized nature of true crime in the name of commentating on the current state of our police force. Truth and fiction slowly become more muddied, until the end when you realize that the authorities are even more caught up in this trap than we are. Not a film I thought I’d like all too much, but it turned out to be pretty brilliant.

Woman in the Dunes (1964 Movie)

Image credit to Roxy Cinema

Teshigahara’s most well-known film in the west, Woman in the Dunes is a staunch thriller about imprisonment and sand. Mostly sand. Seriously, everything in this film revolves around the dunes and how its prisoners interact with it. It’s what allows them to live and what works them to the bone. There’s an incredibly profound, broad metaphor to be found here about the ways we end up becoming trapped within our own lives, as well. As beautiful as horrifying gets.

Cypher Academy (2022-2024 Manga)

Image credit to Comic Book Revolution

Nisio Isin’s latest work found itself in Weekly Shounen Jump back in 2022, and it finally concluded last week! Cypher Academy’s logic puzzles are sadly somewhat lost in translation as an English reader, but the writing is incredibly witty and fun nonetheless. Tons of that playful banter Isin knows so well along with some truly clever scenarios for the characters to work their way out of. Glad it ended on a high note, even if it means it only ran for a year and a half.

Dementia 21 (2011-2013 Manga)

Image credit to Anime UK News

Shintarou Kago at his nuttiest! Dementia 21 lacks the genius’ trademark ero-guro, but that doesn’t stop it from being some utterly insane, mind-bending stuff. With his regular tinge of social satire and fantastic artwork, Kago has crafted the most hysterical and exciting portrait of elderly care in any medium so far. From impossible architecture to world-ending scenarios, this isn’t a manga that pulls any punches! A new favorite.

Fraction (2009 Manga)

Image credit to books, yo.

Another Kago work! I love this man’s mind so much! Also relatively tame for the author, Fraction makes a name for itself through its highly meta first half. There’s a reveal near the end that’s so outrageous and clever that it may just be my favorite conclusion to any murder mystery ever! The second half is an interview and a couple of short stories, all of which make for good fun.

Beeswing (2014 Video Game)

Image credit to Steam

A deeply melancholic, earnest experience. Beeswing beautifully captures nostalgia as a series of hazy memories; not particularly delightful nor dreary, yet engrossing nonetheless. It feels more like a diary than any other game I’ve played. There’s something genuinely profound within its many simple dialogues that just rings true to me. RPGMaker can be an incredible tool for storytelling.

Kichikuou Rance (1996 Video Game)

Image credit to X

Okay, we’ve really hit the big leagues, fellas. When people called Kichikuou Rance a monolith of eroge they were not fucking playing around. The amount of freedom given to the player here is absolutely insane even as far as recent releases go. There are so many characters each with their own little tales to follow along with good and bad outcomes for all of them. Every scene is an opportunity to mess up horribly or claim a brutal victory. And it’s good! It’s all really, really good! The writing is strong, the combat is addicting, and the narrative is structured pretty much flawlessly (which is essentially remarkable considering how many lasting choices you’re given). Lives up to its reputation as a kamige through and through.

Shenmue II (2001 Video Game)

Image credit to Medium

The larger world and lack of overwhelming detail make Shenmue II lack the intimacy of its predecessor, it’s no less magical. Despite being developed at the same time as the first game and releasing only two years later, this one lines up a lot more with modern open world tropes and vibes… or so I thought when I first stepped into Wan Chai. The game just kept surprising and astonishing me for twenty hours! Kowloon and Guilin were even more incredible, and I got completely engaged with the narrative in the way I hoped I would. Shenmue III better deliver considering that so many fans had to wait eighteen years to see the story continue!

Lots of great stuff this week! Loved seeing Woman in the Dunes, Days of Heaven, and Perfect Days in theaters. All three video games I played were fantastic and so were both Shintarou Kago manga. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for me next!


Previous posts

February 18, 2024

Back yet again... as always. Every single Sunday. The cycle of death and rebirth must occur!

February 4, 2024

More movies! More anime! More games! More books! All of them good! Well, almost all of them, at least. Thankfully there weren't any stinkers this week.

January 28, 2024

Yo, yo, yo! It's Sunday yet again! I got to see Gurren Lagann in theaters and it was utterly amazing! Got plenty more to share, as well!