Tag Archives: Masaki Suda


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Kimitachi wa dô ikiru ka



FEATURING: Voices of Soma Santoki, , , Aimyon, , Shōhei Hino, (Japanese); Luca Padovan, , Gemma Chan, , Karen Fukuhara, (English dub)

PLOT: A Japanese boy who has lost his mother during WWII meets a mysterious heron who guides him into a fantastic netherworld where the living and dead co-exist in a bizarre ecosystem.

Still from The Boy and the Heron (2023)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: It’s got that otherworldly Miyazaki character design, and enigmatic surprises galore. My high hopes were met in an early scene where the heron conjures a choir of fish and a cloak of frogs; once the protagonist enters the tower, the strangeness doesn’t let up.

COMMENTS: The venerable Hayao Miyazaki may be the only man alive still building new Wonderlands, making animated movies that feel like children’s literature. Disney/Pixar has a clear format: pick a clear theme—high fantasy, the four classical elements, Day of the Dead—add clear villain and clear comic relief, along with a clear moral to nod at. Miyazaki’s stories are psychologically complex and character driven, with bespoke worldbuilding that borrows from nothing but his imagination and the story’s demands. His hand-drawn animations are artistic rather than technically dazzling, and although he directs action nearly as well as his Western peers, his spectacles arise naturally rather than in response to script beats. While perhaps not quite up to the exemplary standard set by Spirited Away, The Boy and the Heron is a welcome return to the “big fantasy” genre, and sits comfortably alongside Miyazaki’s best work.

But, it must be said that The Boy and the Heron is oddly paced. The movie spends the first 45 of its 120 minutes in the real world. This drawn-out prologue is not at all unpleasant; we get to know Mahito extremely well, his relationship with his kind but distant father and his polite resentment towards his new stepmother (formerly his aunt). The seven old women who attend on the family at its estate and squabble over rare tobacco provide comic relief; whereas the other characters are drawn naturalistically, these old ladies are kindly caricatures, squat, with trademark features like bulbous red noses or eye-doubling spectacles; their cartoonish co-existence alongside the more elegant characters makes them resemble Snow White‘s seven dwarfs. Most importantly, this section develops Mahito’s relationship with the titular heron. At first, it is a rare and noble bird that takes an unusual interest in the boy. It gradually becomes an annoyance, slowly learning to speak, mocking Mahito while drawing him towards the mysterious sealed tower. The heron’s appearance also grows increasingly grotesque, as he reveals rows of Continue reading APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: THE BOY AND THE HERON (2023)


立方体一度 は言ったら、 最後 ; Cube: Ichido haittara, saigo

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DIRECTED BY: Yasuhiko Shimizu

FEATURING: , Masaki Okada, , Hikaru Tashiro, Kôtarô Yoshida, Anne Watanabe

PLOT: Six strangers awake in a cubical maze filled with deadly traps and work to find a way out.

Still from "Cube" (2021)

COMMENTS: In most ways, this movie has already been reviewed here. Twice, actually. So the question is, what does Yasuhiko Shimizu’s version bring to the table? There’s the same aesthetic, the same deadliness, the same mystery—indeed, as far as can be seen, there’s the same titular construct. The original director is on the production team. But as retreads go, this film holds its own, and even features a denouement justifying further installments of what the Cube does best: provide a ropes-course-from-Hell to explore social dynamics.

This Cube‘s main thrust is dissecting inter-generational tensions. The six (seven, if you include the requisite doomed rando in the introduction) people assembled this time around come in three age groups. At one end is Kazumasa Ando, the eldest of the troupe, an unspecified businessman type. At the other is Chiharu Uno, a boy with a knack for mathematics. In between are a young engineer, a grizzled guy, a ne’er-do-well store clerk, and a young woman. Kazumasa’s assemblage goes through all the Cube-y motions, with all the same schematic shenanigans, but this assemblage allows the filmmaker to wonder about the burdens and responsibilities each generation owes toward the other. Maintaining a low profile amidst this pointed drama is the one woman in the film, who kept my curiosity through her seeming superfluousness.

No new ground is broken here, at least not plotwise. But I was entertained enough to feel new-Cube is worth the time. The traps remain a delight to gawk at—particularly the opening bit of grisliness in which, instead of dicing the nameless wanderer, a bladed mechanical arm cuts out a square-shaped section of his torso. And aside from some heavy-handed melodramatic musical cues, the emotional tension is believable. But there isn’t much to say beyond that. If you liked the first Cube, and recognize it as a legitimate plot playground in which to square different archetypes against each other, Kazumasa did no bad thing in putting that sinister facility to use once more.


“… if you expect a crazy J-Horror version of the 1997 Canadian cult classic horror movie, you should consider yourself warned…. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Just appreciate and honor it, which is exactly what this remake from Japan does.” — Karina Adelgaard, Heaven of Horror (contemporaneous)