Japan Cuts 2016: Nagasaki: Memories of My Son and Bakuman Reviews

Japan Society’s annual Japan Cuts Film Festival for 2016 started on July 14th and is running through July 24th. My thoughts on last year’s festival can be read starting here.

My thoughts on Bitter Honey and Lowlife Love can be read here.

 

Nagasaki: Memories of My Son

“Of course I’m not ok. I’m dead.”

nagasaki

Nagasaki: Memories of My Son is the story of those left behind after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. It’s a tightly focused, personal tale centered on the mother and fiance of a medical student killed in the attack and their daily lives three years after his death.

The skill on display in every aspect of the film’s construction and the seamlessness with which they come together is phenomenal. From the striking opening scenes alternating between the cockpit of the bomber and the son staring his day and going to class, to clever techniques surrounding Kazunari Ninomiya’s status as a ghost and use of flashbacks, to an absolutely haunting score and  breathtaking performances, it’s all amazing. The composer of the exquisite music featured in the film gave a nice introduction for the screening.

Incredibly beautifully shot and acted, the film provides a powerful and touching personal story while giving an ongoing glimpse of life during and after the war that all feels natural and real. Universal themes of loss and moving on are explored both in general and with specific ties to the bombing, and difficult subjects like survivor’s guilt and jealousy are handled with a deft and genuine feel. Numerous scenes are absolutely devastating in their emotional impact, yet the love underlying all the feelings of loss is given equal weight and woven throughout the movie perfectly. I wanted something slightly different from the ending, but it was extremely fitting as it was none the less.

Though completely different approaches to the material, the film was somewhat reminiscent of the equally incredible manga Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms. Both are powerful examinations of the effect of the atomic bomb on everyday people’s lives.

Though a period tale of the ripples of a specific horrific event, the themes and story are impressively timeless. Simultaneously heart breaking and heart warming, I’ve never been so content to cry so much. Nagasaki: Memories of My Son lives in the shadow on tragedy, but contains an inextinguishable light at its core. Highest possible recommendation.

Bakuman

bakuman

The live action movie adaptation of a manga about making manga.

Featuring two high school students who decide to team up with the goal of getting published in the premiere manga magazine in Japan, Bakuman using innovative filmmaking techniques and expert touches of comedy to provide a wonderful adaptation of the story of their quest while giving great insight into the industry the characters love. The focus on the often overlooked difficulties of both making art and turning it into something commercially viable, shining a light on the creative aspects and associated hard work and harsh realities on competition in entertainment fields as well as on the editorial process, is fascinating.

The visual style and feel of the movie is phenomenal, with a multitude of imaginative ways of representing the writing and drawing processes in striking, engaging ways which are further enhanced by pitch perfect comedic acting that makes it impossible not to get pulled in for the ride. Though overused, the phrase “love letter to the industry” exactly describes how this film represents the creation of manga, though it pulls no punches with the hardships involved.

There are key dramatic moments, and the general tone is so light and breezy they hit like a tons of bricks and their impact is felt throughout the film. The romance aspect felt short changed and it needed more time devoted for the developments to play out properly, but everything else came together strongly and overall this was an amazingly high quality not only as an adaptation, but as a film in general.

The director made a surprise appearance and his short Q&A after the screening was extremely interesting, talking about the changes made in changing mediums, some of the nods and references to other manga, and the impressive amount of work the actors put into being able to do the drawing scenes.

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Fantastic stuff. Will be back with more reviews as Japan Cuts continues. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Japan Cuts 2016: Nagasaki: Memories of My Son and Bakuman Reviews

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