Categories
Film Japan

Japan Cuts 2015 Retrospective part 1

Japan Society’s annual Japan Cuts Film Festival for 2015 ran from July 9th to July 19th. It featured a wide variety of engrossing movies and was a great event overall. I attended 7 of the 29 showings, including US premiers and spotlight screenings with directors, actresses, etc as special guests to introduce their movies and participate in q&as afterwards.

Here’s a look at a few of them.

Makeup Room

An amazingly funny low budget movie about the making of a low budget movie. Set entirely in a single room, the makeup room for a porn shoot, Kei Morikawa’s minimalist endeavor takes full advantage of his experience in the industry, actual adult video actresses, and a brilliant performance from non-AV actress Aki Morita as the makeup artist to create a unique comedy with touches of authenticity and drama. The sex is always just off-screen, but the consequences of each scene bounce hilariously back to the room we’re stuck in. It’s a close call, but this was my favorite of the festival.

Strayer’s Chronicle

One of the few films this year to venture into science fiction, Strayer’s Chronicle features two groups of young adults who were experimented on as children resulting in special powers with dangerous side-effects. The premise itself isn’t terribly original, but I found the execution refreshingly different. This was not the full blown action movie a lot of the audience seemed to expect, and opinions seemed very mixed as the theater emptied. However I enjoyed it for what it was and found the foreboding atmosphere, conflicted characters and moral questions raised made up for the plot not being as tight as it could have been. This was another win for me.

100 Yen Love

Sakura Ando received the festival’s Cut Above Award for Outstanding Performance in Film directly before this screening, and it’s easy to see why. Her startling yet logical transformation from unmotivated slob to driven boxer was amazing to watch and 100% believable. There were small pieces of the plot that bothered me, but overall the movie worked wonderfully and Ando’s powerful performance more than compensated for any small missteps. The q&a after the movie with Ando was both informative and fun, as she was clearly excited to be there and her energy was contagious.

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I’ll continue with the rest of the films I saw later this week.

Categories
Food Japan Mystery Boxes Reviews

Japan Crate: July 2015

The mystery box phenomenon is in full swing, and one of the most intriguing ones I’ve heard of is Japan Crate, packed with an assortment of candy and snacks from Japan. I decided to try their “Premium” crate, and my first delivery was the July 2015 edition.

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As advertised, the crate is certainly packed with unique and varied edibles from Japan. It also includes a mini-manga that explains what each item is and has instructions for the DIY kit (both EXTREMELY useful) as well as some additional context, pictures and promotion. Cute and helpful.

July’s crate came with 12 items. I haven’t done the DIY kit, so here’s a look at the other 11:

The Excellent

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The big difference between the Original and Premium crates is the inclusion of a drink and a bonus item. This month had a “Kid’s Beer” (apple soda) and Corn Potage Chips. The drink was perhaps the most normal item in the box, and tasted as expected for apple soda. The “chips” were akin to cheese puffs in texture and actually did taste like corn soup, which still kind of boggles my mind. The other Premium exclusives were a cola-flavored taffy called Kajiri Chew and some extremely Sour Lemon Gum. These were all among my favorites in the box, so the $5 upgrade from Original was well worth it.

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The other things that wowed me were Choco Bar Z Kinako and Potekoro Cubes. The description said the Choco Bar Z was back by popular demand, and I can see why. It’s a wafer bar infused with chocolate flavor and tasted divine. Best of the box. The Potekoro Cubes are a savory snack flavored with black pepper. Like the corn soup puffs, I was beyond skeptical when trying these. I was wrong – they were surprisingly fantastic.

The Decent

Maken Gummy is a firm gummy candy shaped like rock, paper, or scissors. Fairly generic. Lifeguard Paste is a semi-liquid sticky candy apparently based on a soda. Tasted like mountain dew to me and the texture took getting used to. Chameleon Candy are standard hard candies that change color. The one with the red interior is supposed to be good luck.

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The Meh

I think I’m discovering that Japanese jelly candies aren’t for me. The Chu Grape Jelly and Adzuki Mizu Yokan (red bean snack with a gel texture) weren’t bad in quality, but neither taste nor texture were to my liking in either.

Conclusion

I didn’t like everything here, but the quality of the things I did and the overall variety gave me my money’s worth. And even the things I didn’t care for were interesting to try. Going to call this month’s Japan Crate a success and am looking forward to the next one.