Archive for tezuka

Review – MW (2009)

Posted in anime, cinema, manga, osamu tezuka, rants, reviews/opinions with tags , , , , , , , on June 25, 2009 by reccaphoenix

News has been circulating around the internet for a while about the live-action adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s mature manga masterpiece MW (pronounced “moo,” like a cow), created to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Tezuka.  I was able to see this film in an advance screening last night and have been itching to share my thoughts.

Being a huge fan of both Osamu Tezuka and MW, I was anxious to see how this film would turn out.  Not surprisingly, I found myself with a graveyard of bones to pick after seeing it.  It’s hard for me to separate this film from the manga it’s based on and review it fairly.  Rather than a straight-up review like those I usually write, I do want to bring my Tezuka knowledge to the discussion, but I’ll try not to digress into fangirlish ranting.

MW (Japan, 2009) dir. Hitoshi Iwamoto. Color, 35mm.

Putting the manga it was based on aside, MW is overall a standard action film, about on par with most of Hollywood’s recent offerings, but nothing special.  A little lacking in the CG department, but a worthy effort nonetheless.  Hiroshi Tamaki, the actor who plays the main villain Michio Yuki, did a great job with the material he was given.  He lost quite a lot of weight for the role to give Yuki a skeletal and hollow appearance, and the effect is quite powerful.  The characters in the film are not all that well-developed or interesting, and as little as that matters in an action film, the action alone here doesn’t make up for everything else that is lacking.  I believe I might have enjoyed this film more were it not “based on” MW and given the same title.  But alas, it is, and comparisons are almost unavoidable.

That being said, I’d like to give my opinion on many of the changes in the movie.  *Cue disorganized rant*

The film character of Yuki comes nowhere near the complexities of manga Yuki.  Yes, he is “pure evil,” but he does not have the dualities and childlike moments of Yuki in the manga.  Part of what made Yuki so interesting was his total lack of remorse juxtaposed with his playful side.  Film Yuki comes off as more of a typical “evil” villain – cunning and remorseless, but also without emotion.
The same can be said of Garai and the other characters adapted from the manga.  A female reporter character added for the film comes off as uninteresting and completely useless.  Many characters are missing, which is not a bad thing on its own, but the characters which ARE there lack good characterization.

Characters’ actions and other things don’t make much sense.  The reporter and Garai help Yuki find MW on the island for no apparent reason.  Why were they helping him?
Garai’s inner struggle is almost nonexistent as well.
The backstory is drastically simplified.  In the film, Garai and Yuki are boys who grew up together on the island and escaped together when the military was killing off the survivors of the MW incident.  This makes Garai’s later “repentance” less dramatic and once again, downplays the relationship between the two.
The film basically turns into a straight action film.  Superficial suspense and chases make up the first half-hour.  It was exciting, I have to admit.  But MW the manga was already full of suspense that would have come across just fine in the film – were all these big-budget action scenes really necessary?
The sexual content is also completely absent.  This is not a bad thing, either, but extends to a ridiculous extent in the fact that the relationship between Garai and Yuki is barely even a subtext.

Sorry for the ranting.  I could go on forever about what’s different in the manga, but when it comes down to it, the film dilutes the manga’s plot and characters to fit an action-movie mold and adds its own ineffectual material.
It’s not that I’m against deviation from source material.  In fact, it can often be a good thing (why make a film if it’s the exact same story?  Use the medium!).  Take, for example, the Metropolis anime – though it went against Tezuka’s wishes and fundamentally altered much of the manga, it did so well and in the spirit of a Tezuka work (the extra characters mainly came from other Tezuka works).  Most importantly, it held up brilliantly on its own.  Though I still prefer the manga, I like the film.  It’s an original work.  With MW, however, I felt that the film was using a Tezuka name to sell a generic, uninspired action movie; it succeeds as neither a good action film nor a Tezuka film.

In one sentence: I’m disappointed.
In another sentence: They could have done so much better, even with half the budget.

Rating: 4/10

Trailer: http://mw.gyao.jp/ (official site)

P.S.: A tie-in MW TV drama (oneshot) is going to air on TV in 4 days.  I’ll try my best to watch it and post my thoughts if I find anything worth mentioning.

P.P.S.: I was so utterly disappointed with the film I had no interest in watching the tie-in drama.

Advertisements

“Human Metamorphoses” 「人間昆虫記」by Osamu Tezuka

Posted in anime, japan, manga, mod, movie posters, osamu tezuka, reviews/opinions with tags , , , , on May 26, 2009 by reccaphoenix

**UPDATE (12/29/10): Vertical has announced at Comic-con that they are translating Human Metamorphoses (they’re calling it “Book of Human Insects”….subtle….), so you can look forward to an English version soon-ish!**

Osamu Tezuka, my favourite comic artist of all time, the father of all Japanese comics and animation, branched out a lot in the late 1960s and 1970s.  At a time when many manga artists were moving towards more serious, sexually explicit, and violent subjects, Tezuka also wrote many of his most dark, mature, and psychologically profound works: Yakeppachi no Maria (a strange, sexual, pseudo-educational manga about which I will probably write another time), MW [Muu] (Tezuka’s darkest work in my opinion), Barbara, Ayako, I.L., and several others were all written by Tezuka between 1969 and 1978.  Though I love almost all of Tezuka’s work, this period is particularly interesting to me for many reasons.  Tezuka not only began to experiment with art style, layout, content, and presentation but also integrated some of the aesthetics of the times into his work.  As a fan of 1960s and modernist aesthetics, I find it fascinating to see ’60s and ’70s styles reflected in the medium of manga.  Furthermore, these works allow a glimpse into Tezuka’s true artistic talent; though he stuck to “cartoony,” Disney-like characters for much of his career, he was highly skilled at more realistic rendering and at adjusting his style to different genres and situations.

konchuki0Tezuka wrote Human Metamorphoses (「人間昆虫記」Ningen Konchuuki) in 1970-1, during this same fascinating period of experimentation.  It is unfortunately not available in English translation, but I recently finished reading it in Japanese and wanted to share my opinions.

I only wish I had a scanner at the moment, as the artwork and layout in many of the page spreads is fantastic; it’s hard to convey just how awesome this manga is without the images to back it up.  For now, you’ll have to settle with scans found on the internet.  Images that some may find objectionable due to mature content will be linked to off-site.

Human Metamorphoses, like another famous Tezuka work called Birdman Anthology, draws parallels between humans and animals – in this case, insects.  Many of the characters even have the kanji of the insect in question in their name.  The main character is the beautiful, fashionable Tomura Toshiko, likened to the haruzemi (the terpnosia vacua cicada), moves through life constantly reinventing herself amid a succession of lovers, shedding her previous identities like the cicada sheds its shell.  Toshiko is ruthless yet subtle, convinced that her actions are justified.  Most of her successes rely on plagiarism and blackmail, yet she is able to Continue reading

Tolen (“The Knack…and How To Get It”) and Tezuka

Posted in animation, anime, cinema, manga, mod, osamu tezuka, reviews/opinions, television with tags , , , , , on February 21, 2008 by reccaphoenix

Two characters that seem to share a lot of similarities….

Exhibit “A”, Rock (a.k.a. Rokuro Makube):

rock

Exhibit “B”, Tolen (“just Tolen.” ):

out for a motorbike ride with ANOTHER bird...

Tolen is from The Knack…and How to Get It, one of my all-time favourite films. It was made in 1965. Rock in his evil-with-sunglasses incarnation was inaugurated in The Vampires starting in 1966. Coincidence? Maybe. We also have to consider that The Knack didn’t premiere in Japan until February of ’66, so Osamu Tezuka would have already been working on Vampires for quite some time.

But it’s fun, huh? They both wear suits and ties. They both have ’50s-like haircuts. They both wear dark sunglasses and are “bad.”

So maybe Tezuka didn’t base Rock on Tolen, but I’ve found an even crazier coincedence in MW. When Father Garai asks Yuki about the girl’s necklace, Yuki reveals that he keeps a bunch of them “on hand…to give to girls, of course,”:

mw

Tezuka, Osamu. MW. New York: Vertical, 2007: p. 126. [Originally published 1976-8]

Tolen not only also keeps necklaces around to give to his girlfriends, they look almost exactly the same as Yuki’s. They’re hanging on a peg on the wall in this photo:

necklace time ;)

Coincidence? I think that aside from Rock’s most likely incidental similarity to Tolen, this scene in MW strongly suggests that Tezuka had at least seen “The Knack,” unless the whole necklace thing was a custom of the times.

Here’s something about Tolen that bothers me, though. He can’t seem to make up his mind about whether he’s a mod or a rocker. It was 1965, he had no excuse for not having made up his mind 😛 He has a big motorbike, a ’50s haircut, and leather gloves….but he also wears a suit and Chelsea boots, listens to jazz, and has a cool, detached attitude. So which is it, Tolen?! Maybe he figured that if he was ambiguous enough he could pick up mod girls and rocker girls. Opinions?

Maybe Tolen’s actor should have played Rock in the live-action TV version of The Vampires……

John Lennon manga – 1st page up! PLUS, Tezuka’s MW (ムウ)

Posted in japan, manga, merchandise, osamu tezuka, reviews/opinions with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2007 by reccaphoenix

reccaspriteSee the John Lennon manga page for more information.

It’s only the prologue, and it’s only one page. But I figured it was better than nothing…

Oh, speaking of Tezuka-related things, I just got the recent translation of MW (Muu), great translation by VERTICAL, who have decided to translate all of Tezuka’s more “serious” works. (Please please please do Alabaster next!) They have already done Buddha, Ode to Kirihito (a.k.a. Eulogy for Kirihito) and Song of Apollo, but I haven’t read any of those yet. I applaud VERTICAL over and over, 1) for translating Tezuka manga, 2) for translating the more obscure/dark Tezuka manga, and 3) for GREAT packaging and reasonable pricing. MW came in a single thick hardcover volume (how convenient!) with a dust jacket PLUS different art on the actual hardcover! It’s fuschia (barf) but still very sleek and modern-looking. Only problem – it has a picture on the spine of Yuki having sex with a girl. Not explicit, but it makes it look sort of hentai-esque on your shelf there. If you remove the dust jacket, no problem, but still…maybe they were looking to lure the potential hentai buyer at Barnes and Noble?

But MW….it’s reportedly one of Tezuka’s darkest and most “adult” manga. I agree. It’s also a masterpiece of suspense, my heart was pounding away at several moments. If you want a good manga to write an essay/thesis on…..look no further! MW covers political, religious, and moral issues aplenty, many of which mirror actual issues in Japanese society. College Students and bored intellectuals….get on that!

This is NOT for children and definitely not for the faint of heart. They give it a “16+” rating, which seems okay to me I guess. But here’s a rundown of what happens here for those who are wary: genocide, rape, murder, extortion, homosexuality, manipulation, government scandal, less-than-desirable portrayals of the United States, extramarital affairs, priests involved in several of the above, torture, etc.

At times I couldn’t believe it was a Tezuka manga. This is what Tezuka wrote after “The Vampires” to more fully express a story about true evil, not bound by the limits of writing a children’s manga. True, Rock in “Vampires” is “the most evil man in the world,” but Yuki in MW makes Rock look like the boy next door. If I had to draw up some kind of “scale of evil,” with 1 being naughty, 5 being bad but still appealing, and 10 being pure, unadulterated evil, here we would have….

<<—-Tolen from “The Knack” (1) —-Rock (5)—-Alex from “A Clockwork Orange,” pre-reform (book Alex, not movie Alex) (7)—–Yuki (8)—Hannibal Lecter (9)—-Satan (10)—->>

Damn, that sounded better in principle. But yeah, something like that. Boy oh boy, would I like to see Hannibal Lecter and Yuki try to kill each other off…..fanfiction writers: *wink wink nudge nudge* No way, it would probably end up horribly badly written. So scratch that.

There are many similarities between “MW” and “Vampires”, but MW has no elements of fantasy, and much more politics, controversy, philosophical issues, and evil. Even the style itself is almost “manga realism,” with the exception of the obligatory “weird gourd character” appearance and a few gag panels here and there. This makes it really weird for me to see Higeoyaji (Moustachio/Mr. Mustache) in this manga, though he plays a very minor role. Even when drawn more “realistically,” he still sticks out as a cartoony-looking Tezuka character.

I won’t give away anything, but I found the ending rather disappointing. The more I thought about it though, the darker a message it seemed. Why would Tezuka think this *message which I won’t mention here*? Damn.

Tezuka’s “Vampires”. Rock.

Posted in animation, anime, osamu tezuka, reviews/opinions, television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2007 by reccaphoenix

the vampiresSee here for the details.

Awesome, AWESOME manga.

I know you can buy this manga in French and maybe Italian.  Tezukainenglish.com has all the details, as well as a sweet essay on Rock (one of my favorite recurring Tezuka characters) and his descent into evil and subsequent redemption. He is the main character of the Vampires, in the words of Toppei, “the most evil person in the world.” Not bad for a middle school kid, eh?  And all the while, he retains that little-kid Tezuka innocence that all his characters seem to have.

There was a live-action + animation hybrid television show of “The Vampires” made by Tezuka Productions in the ’60s. The people were played by live actors, and the animals were animated. I have never seen the show, so I don’t know if it’s any good, but there are several websites you can order the box set from if you have a region-free or region 2 DVD player. Again, tezukainenglish.com has links to where you can buy the DVDs.

Osamu Tezuka is a main character in the story (both the manga and TV show), yet somehow this doesn’t come off as Mary Sue-ing (to use fanfiction terms T_T) or being cocky. He does this in a lot of his works, actually, but the character in “Vampires” is blatantly an Osamu Tezuka who works at Mushi Productions making anime…. Sort of amusing to think that Rock was trying to kill his creator at one point during the story.

Anyhoo, Tezuka plays himself in the TV show!

Tezuka Osamu as himself.

One main story thread of “The Vampires” is based loosely on Macbeth, and Rock’s full name in the manga, “Makube Rokuro” sounds sort of like “Makubesu,” the title of Macbeth in Japanese. Macbeth is my #1 favorite Shakespeare play of all time, so that’s only further reason for me to love this manga…which is not about vampires, by the way. Technically, the group referred to as “BANPAIYA” (Vampires) in the story are were-animals (werewolves, were-tigers, were-snakes, even a were-alligator!) Kitsune (fox spirits) and some other Japanese youkai are mentioned as part of the group too in part of the story. Quite interesting.