Well, I’m about one truckload away from being completely moved to the town where I’ll be spending the next two years, and after a bit over a week with no internet connection I’m back on line. Life is good.
I do have an interview with the East Asian Languages and Literature department head tomorrow to determine whether I’ll be able to take the classes I want to in the fall, which I’m a bit worried about, but which I’ve been doing some studying for.
Part of that studying consisted of buying the class material for the university’s Japanese 203 course, reviewing it, and realizing that the 203 course I took, while using the same textbook, stopped about a chapter shy, so I’ve gone over that chapter fairly well and can probably fake it.
Another part has been watching Japanese movies, which I am defending as “supplemental study aids”, a defense which would probably be more practical if I hadn’t been choosing some really bad examples.
Warning here: Most of these are several years or even decades old, so I’m not going to be too nice about avoiding spoilers. If you are worried about seeing spoilers for In The Realm Of The Senses / Ai No Corrida, Dark Water, or the Eko Eko Azarak movies, you should probably stop after the following short comments:
In The Realm Of The Senses: Painful.
Dark Water: Rather good.
Eko Eko Azarak 1 : Wizard of Darkness : 90 minutes of your life you won’t get back.
Eko Eko Azarak 2 : Birth of the Wizard : Reasonably watchable
Eko Eko Azarak 3: Misa the Dark Angel : Another 90 minutes of your life you won’t get back, and a miserable DVD transfer to boot.
Now on to the more in-depth reviews.
In the Realm of the Senses / Ai No Corrida:
I bought this movie based solely on reading an article in which it was compared to Tampopo, which was an excellent movie with a bit of gratitutious nudity thrown in.
This is more like a lot of gratituitous nudity with a little bit of movie thrown in. It wasn’t until after I had suffered through it and then gone to Wikipedia to find out what the hell it was all about that I found that it was based on an actual woman who had an affair, went bat-shit crazy, strangled her lover, cut off his man parts and carried them around in her purse.
In the movie, as you might expect, she has an affair, goes bat-shit crazy, strangles her lover, and cuts off his man parts – in, by the way, extreme close-up. I am given to understand that this movie has recently been released on Blu-Ray. I don’t think this movie needs to be seen in 1080P, or for that matter even 480P. This film might actually benefit from being watched on a third-generation bootleg VHS copy.
The movie has a bit of claim-to-fame in that it’s not available uncensored in its home country. I think I should have taken a moment to remember exactly how liberal the Japanese are when it comes to certain things and taken that as a warning.
Moving along, we come to Dark Water, a movie which got adapted into a Major Hollywood Picture, which was almost certainly responsible for the release of the original film in a reasonably decent DVD version.
It’s quite watchable. The movie’s pacing is, to put it charitably, slow, and you’ll want to slap the main character after about her third tantrum, but it delivers a good couple of stings toward the end that make the buildup worth it.
Also, it’s completely bereft of gore, which is surprising for something billed as a horror movie. There’s one major “ewwww” moment, but it’s more in the realm of “wow, that’s extremely unhygenic” than “wow, her whole face just melted!”
Speaking of which, that brings us to Eko Eko Azarak 1, in which, yes, someone’s whole face does melt.
We find out in the first few minutes of Eko Eko Azarak that Misa – the main character of this trilogy of movies – is a grade-A mystical badass, the sort of witch you don’t want around if you’re up to No Good. It’s good that we find this out in the introduction, because she doesn’t actually do anything that’s all that badass in the actual movie.
To summarize the plot, there’s a cadre of creepy guys in robes who want to summon nasty demons into our plane of existance in an attempt to blah blah blah blah blah rule the world. This of course requires sacrificing young innocents at the local high school, and Misa transfers in with the intent of stopping the sacrifices, beating up the creepy guys in robes, in general striking a blow for Truth, Justice, and Mom’s Apple Pie.
I’m not entirely sure what the Japanese version of apple pie is in that last sentence, but roll with me here.
To sum up her actual effect: All of her classmates die anyway, we discover that the whole reason for all the killing was just to draw Misa to the school, and the Big Bad Guy accidentally kills HIMSELF by trying to perform too powerful a spell.
Misa, on the other hand, casts a total of one spell with any effect during the movie, and all it does is give a perverted science teacher a really nasty case of intestinal discomfort, making him take a HALF-DAY off work.
Not what you’d call a really good day for a mystical protector witch.
The second Eko Eko Azarak movie is a prequel in which we learn how Misa changed from a Perfectly Normal High School Girl into a Badass Witch, and she actually demonstrates some Badass Abilities during the course of the movie. I actually quite liked it, which leaves me with little to say.
It’s a shame that the third movie returns Misa to her status of “rather useless”
The last line of the blurb on the back of the DVD package reads, and I quote:
“Will she be able to save the Drama Club from the bloody slaughter that awaits them?”
Answer: Nope. If you were hoping for Badass Witch Mayhem, go back to the second movie, because Misa’s efforts to save the Drama Club are an 87.5% failure.
Oh, and to add insult: the DVD transfer is awful. The first two movies at least got anamorphic transfers, the third is letterboxed inside a 4:3 frame and the movie is so dark in places that the only thing you see on screen is the actor’s teeth.
The Eko Eko Azarak movies DID have one thing going for them, from my point of view: The actors all enunciated fairly well, so I felt like I was getting some quality Supplemental Study.