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The Asian ApertureTokyoscope
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, May 27, 2012    Share

Recently I finished reading, Tokyoscope: The Japanese Cult Film Companion, that is filled with good stuff covering many different Japanese movies. There is something here for cult fans, martial arts fans, gangster movie fans, and horror fans, (for people like me.)
During the prologue author Patrick Macias, discusses the importance of the big names in Japnaese film, Kurosawa, Ozu, and Mizoguchi, that most film critics respect, however it is the interesting twists and turns of the B-picture directors that are more fun to watch. The main reason for this is that on a double or triple feature bill, those movies had to be made cheap and entertaining. Young aspiring filmmakers that began making these movies had so much creative freedom to work in. As a result, for every Seven Samurai or Tokyo Story, there were all these wonderful B-movies, catering to the blue collar working class, coming out at the same time, that fueled the imagination and kept young filmmakers working.

There were so many theaters, in Tokyo alone, before streaming, DVDs, and VHS, that you could spend an entire Saturday at the movies watching a triple bill for one price. These theaters became Grindhouse theaters. You can still visit a few that are still in operation today. Mostly, the audience consists of middle aged men. You can still see vintage Yakuza movies on film and you don’t have to give in to digital. The projectionists are trained on how to quickly repair film breaking to keep the audience content. This is a lost art in an era where film is fading. The theaters are easy to find, just look for old posters hanging up outside.

First up, Macias covers my personal favorite genre, Kaiju, or Giant Monster movies. One of my favorites is Ishiro Honda’s eternal classic from 1954, Godzilla. This movie brought to life the fear of atomic destruction in the form of a giant reptile that breathed fire, smashed buildings, and caused everyone to run in fear. Thus an entire genre was launched that included Gamera, Gappa, and even the Frankenstein monster.

Moving away from monsters, because who really wants to get stepped on, is Sonny Chiba. He was more then the 70’s Japanese Bruce Lee, because Chiba was an original. He could beat down rivals in gory combat in the Street Fighter series, and also appear as celebrated Korean martial Artist, Mas Oyama. Quick side note, Oyama used to train by punching bulls. My only regret is that Sonny Chiba and Bruce Lee were working on a project that never happened because of Lee’s death. That would have been a great. Imagine those two icons fighting.

Ok, the subject that is near and dear to me is horror and Macias talks about movies that every genre fan should have seen by this point, The Ring, to lesser known movies. It is those movies that I want to see out and find on DVD or Blu-ray, (yes, I too have succumbed to digital.) Japan has had a long history of making horror movies from 1912’s Yotsuya’s Ghost and continuing today with Sadako 3D. You can watch J-horror as a genre fan and still get something out of it. You can also put in the work and read up on and learn about Japanese supernatural concepts, monsters, ghosts, cultural insights to gain a better knowledge and have a better shocking experience. If you find yourself complaining that the movie wasn’t scary or you were confused, then brush up on the subject and return for a revisit.

There are also chapters on Yakuza movies like genre favorite Battle Without Honor and Humanity by Kinji Fukasaku and lesser known titles that will have movie fans seeking out lost treasures.
Kinji Fukasaku gets his own chapter. I love his old work and recent hits like Battle Royale, a film that terrified Eirin, the Japanese equivalent of MPAA, and politicians, who really didn’t get the movie’s message. Read Tokyoscope to find out why.

The reminder of Tokyoscope is about banned movies, pink movies, (movies with sex scenes and sometimes violence,) and the hottest director to erupt from Japan in years, Miike. Just take a look at his Audition to see why. Audition caused so many people to walk out of theaters in many different countries, including the US. However, Miike also proved that along with scaring an audience, he is versatile enough to direct other movies like Sukiyaki Django Western, Yokai Wars, (great movie for children,) and even Ultraman Max on TV. Miike doesn’t like to subscribe to just one genre be it horror or gangster movies, and that makes him a cut above all others. You really need to put yourself out there and dare to come up with something different that is also entertaining.

Sandwiched between chapters is excellent comic art and supplemental interviews that make Tokyoscope such an interesting read.

Tokyoscope has something to offer Japanese movie fans from novice to self-proclaimed experts.

This is the one book that I want with me inside a video store in Japan and the US.

The only drawback is that it is out of print. It took me a couple of months find a copy at a good price.

Highly Recommended

5 out of 5 Stars

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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