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KITARO (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 7, 2009 by  



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“A modern film based on a popular classic manga and anime series.  Starring well-known names in the pop-culture world, ‘KITARO’ features monsters in CGI and in rubber suits and a touch of that Japanese humor, yokai spirits and monsters and sci-fi campiness.  Overall, enjoyable and very fun!”

TITLE: KITARO (Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro)

DURATION: 103 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Color, 1080p High Definition (Anamorphic Widescreen 1:85:1) , English 6.1 Dolby EX and 6.1 DTS ES, English Dubbed (5.1 Dolby Digital)

COMPANY: RONIN Entertainment/BCI

RATED: Not Rated

Based on the Comic Book by Shigeru Mizuki

Theme Song by Eiji Wentz – “Awakening Emotion 8/5”

Directed and Co-Written by Katsuhide Motoki

Co-written by Daisuke Hadara

Cinematography by Yasushi Sasakibara (JSC)

Lighting by Kenji Ushiba

Editor by Isao Kawase

Sound Recording by Yutaka Tsurumaki

Music by Yutaka Nakano/Tucker

Cix Supervisor by Yasushi Hasegawa

Action Coordinator by Yuta Morokaji

Casting by Kei Kawamura

Special Make Up by Etsuko Egawa

Costume Design by Kodue Hibinio

Beauty Director: Isao Tsuge

Music Producer: Shin Yasui

Starring:

Eiji Wentz (as KITARO)

Mao Inoue (Mika Miura)

Lena Tanaka (Neko Musume)

Yo Oizumi (Nezumi Otoko)

Kanpei Hazama (Konaki Jiji)

Koyuki (Princess Tenko)

Shido Nakamura (O-Tengu)

Ruka Uchida (Kenta Miura)

Kei Tani/Yu Tanonaka

Go Riju (Haruhiko Miura)

Satoshi Hashimoto (Kuko)

You/Shigeru Muroi (Sunakake Baba)

Toshiyuki Nishida (Wanyudo)

In a modern day Japan, the worlds of the humans and the yokai (spirits) often collide and usually not in the most pleasant of manners.

Half-human and half-yoku, one-eyed Kitaro (Eiji Wentz) lives with his eyeball father and his bickering friends, Nezumi Otoko (Yo Oizumi) and Neko Musume (Lena Tanaka), in Gegege Forest where he dedicates his time to maintaining peace between humans and yokai.

But when a magical ball of power ends up in the wrong hands, Kitaro must recover it or both worlds could fall into grave danger.

A classic manga series in Japan, “Gegege no Kitaro” has spawned many television series, animated series, films and video games but this time, the popular series gets a modern adaption which stars pop singer Eiji Wentz (of the group WaT) as the main character KITARO, popular Japanese actress Lena Tanaka as Neko Musume, KOYUKI (The Last Samurai) and many others for this 2007 Japanese summer blockbuster.

The film starts off with a young Kenta.  A boy who’s mother has passed away and is scared that monsters are haunting his apartment complex.  He and his friends look for a mailbox in the forest for KITARO, who is a legend that supposedly gets rid of these yokai (spirits) from the human world.  Meanwhile at home, Kenta’s father Haruhiko is unemployed and his family is losing money quickly that he considers pawning off his deceased wife’s wedding ring to take care of the family.  Meanwhile, while his father is gone out looking for a job or trying to take care of family matters, Kenta is taken care of by his sister Mika.

Meanwhile, you learn that the monsters at the apartment complex was hired by a greedy human who has hired the rat spirit to find other spirits to scare tenants out of the apartment complex.  KITARO who has received the letter goes to the human world and eliminates the monsters and therefore helping KITARO.  His sister is not so thrilled that her young brother is hanging out with this weird guy whitish/black hair and wears wooden slippers.

The mischievous rat spirit, not so happy that KITARO foiled his plans somehow ends up underground in a hidden cavern and steals a glowing rock.  He tries to pawn the rock for money and while at the pawn shop, Kenta’s father sees the rock and steals it.

Kenta’s father then gives the rock to Kenta and tells him to not reveal to anyone that he has it.  But unknowingly, the rock is actually is quite powerful and can make a weak person do evil things.  It can also make a spirit much more powerful and thus the fox spirit and his minions go after Kenta’s family.  While KITARO tries to protect Kenta, somehow Mika and Kenta’s father dies and they are left alone.  KITARO now wants to protect the two but now with the powerful rock missing, it makes the spirit world unbalanced and rat spirit tells the judge O-Tengu (Nakamura) that KITARO is reponsible for stealing it.  Thus a court proceeding is done and KITARO may be punished severely for a crime that he did not do.

With the human world and the spirit world in a state of potential chaos, who can save Kenta and his family and how will KITARO save them if he’s being punished?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

The picture quality for “KITARO” is featured in 1080p (1080p High Definition Anamorphic Widescreen) and the Blu-ray transfer was nice but not eye-popping spectacular.    I didn’t see any artifacting or dust or scratches.  As for the audio, audio is featured in 6.1 Dolby EX and 6.1 DTS ES.  Although not provided in TrueHD, for those with a home theater receiver that can play DTS will get a good output in their speakers during the action scenes and also during the musical segments of the film.  I did not listen to the English dub (I prefer not to watch Asian films with an English dub), so I can’t tell you how the voice acting is.  But I can tell you that the English dub is in 5.1 Dolby Digital.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“KITARO” has several special features included on the Blu-ray disc:

  • Theatrical Trailers – Subtitled theatrical trailers
  • TV Spots – Subtitled TV commercials featuring various TV spots focusing on a character in the film.
  • The TV Special “Yokai in the City” – This 35-minute featurette (perhaps in collaboration with the Japanese YouTube due to the logo in the bottom right corner) is a campy introduction to yokai (spirit) monsters and I guess you can say it’s targeted for children, as these monsters look like a monster you would see on a Power Ranger TV series and they are at the Playground or somewhere in Tokyo with kids and their families in awe while watching these monsters fall or act quirky.
  • The “making of” “Yokai in the City” – A 10-minute making of which features the actor and actresses who don the various monster costumes for the special.

I have to admit that I was quite surprised that this film was released in the US.  With most Japanese films typically samurai or action-based films, “KITARO” is a film that is a true Japanese film that it has that Japanese humor and even the element of yokai (spirits) with the tengu’s and the various type of monsters of Japanese folklore.

The film will definitely satisfy popular among anime and manga fans of the series and a film that carries the quirkiness of Japanese monster fighting of monsters made out of rubber suits but also a good deal of CGI work as well.

Personally, I found it entertaining and to see Eiji Wentz in his first major character role as KITARO was quite amusing since I’m more familiar with his musical work.  Lena Tanaka is one of the highly demanded young actresses in Japan and although her role was quite limited as Neko Musume (a character who likes KITARO but he doesn’t feel the same way about her), she was charming as always.  Also, to see KOYUKI (as Princess Tenko) and Shido Nakamura (as O-Tengu) make appearances in this film, also gives appeal to the non-child demographic who wanted to see the film.

Is this a children’s film in the essence of a “Chronicles of Narnia” type of film?  The film starts off that way focusing on the young Kenta’s character but it starts to focus more on KITARO and him wanting to help Mika and Kenta and him starting to care for a human (which the spirit world forbids).  Also, is it as good as a “Chronicles of Narnia” or “Spiderwicke Chronicles”?  As mentioned, there are quite a few monsters in the rubber suits in this film and their is a slight campiness that I am privy to these type of Japanese films and television shows (having watched many “sentai” Ranger or Kamen Rider-related shows), something that may turn off American’s who are used to seeing their monsters CGI’d and much more threatening.  So, it does have that sci-fi campiness of a Sentai film but with bigger names and a popular series with nearly 50 years behind it.

I was familiar with previous incarnations of the series and even own the soundtrack for the “Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro” song (albeit for the 2008 film).

As for the Blu-ray, the video quality was gorgeous and the sound was very well done through the 6.1 DTS track and from KITARO shooting out his hair needles to some major thump in the action sequence, it sounds great and of course, the music sequences came out clear.  I do wish there were cast interviews or something else included on the Blu-ray instead of the “Yokai in the City” but nevertheless, for those who want to see more of the actors in rubber monster suits, then you have a 35-minute featurette to keep you entertained.

But all in all, I could have never anticipated a modern film being created that would be based on this older manga and anime series and watching it, it does capture the imagination and the heart and soul of the original manga and anime series and I enjoyed it.

I’m not sure if the film would attract American or International audiences but for those who are familiar with Japanese film and television especially the sentai shows and watching actors in monster suits or get-ups, then the film can be enjoyable.  Otherwise, during this time where monsters are typically CGI’d some may find this film a bit campy.  So, it depends on the viewer.

But I really am happy that Ronin Entertainment/BCI did release this in the United States and can only hope that they release more Japanese films (that you would never expect to be released outside of Japan) stateside on Blu-ray.






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