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Japan Now: Muses of Japanese Cinema 30th TIFF to Celebrate Four Iconic Actresses: Sakura ANDO, Yu AOI, Hikari MITSUSHIMA, Aoi MIYAZAKI

May 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Japan Now: Muses of Japanese Cinema

30th TIFF to Celebrate Four Iconic Actresses: 
Sakura ANDO, Yu AOI, Hikari MITSUSHIMA, Aoi MIYAZAKI
Also: Artist and Director Mika NINAGAWA Creates 30th TIFF Visuals


The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) is pleased to announce that we will be highlighting the work of four iconic actresses in this year’s Japan Now section. This is one of the special programs planned to celebrate our 30th anniversary.  Sakura ANDO, Yu AOI, Hikari MITSUSHIMA and Aoi MIYAZAKI have been chosen as the Muses of Japanese Cinema in honor of the powerful sparks they generate on screen, their collaborations with renowned directors and their increasing international stature.In addition to the Muses of Japanese Cinema screenings, panel sessions with special guests will also be held.

TIFF is also pleased to unveil striking anniversary visuals by creative director Hiroshi SASAKI and art director Akihiro HAMABE — who served as the creative supervisor and chief art director, respectively, of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics performance at the Rio closing ceremony — in collaboration with acclaimed photographer and film director Mika NINAGAWA, known for her brightly colored photographs.

TIFF is dedicated to discovering and cultivating new filmmakers from around the world, whose work is highlighted in our Competition section, as well as to presenting internationally acclaimed titles during our 10-day festival.The 30th TIFF will take place from October 25 – November 3, 2017 at Roppongi Hills and other venues in Tokyo.

The Boy and the Beast (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

boyandthebeast

Mamoru Hosoda has once again created a delightful and entertaining film that is destined to become another classic!  Great storyline, gorgeous art and animation and wonderful performance by both Japanese and English voice talent, “The Boy and the Beast” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Boy and the Beast Film Partners.  All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Boy and the Beast

DURATION: 119 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen), English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: PG-13

Release Date: June 7, 2016


Directed by Mamoru Hosoda

Script by Mamoru Hosoda

Original Story by Mamoru Hosoda

Producers: Takashi Watanabe, Yuichiro Saito

Character Designs by Daisuke Iga, Mamoru Hosoda, Takaaki Yamashita

Art Direction by Takashi Omori, Yohei Takamatsu, Youichi Nishikawa

Art Design by Anri Jojo

Music by Masakatsu Takagi

Anime Production: Studio Chizu


Featuring the following voice talent:

Aoi Miyazaki/Luci Christian as Kyuta (Young)

Kōji Yakusho/John Swasey as Kumatetsu

Shōta Sometani/Eric Vale as Kyuta (Teen)

Haru Kuroki/Morgan Berry as Ichirohiko (Young)

Kappei Yamaguchi/Austin Tindle as Jiromaru (Older)

Kazuhiro Yamaji/Sean Hennigan as Iozan

Lily Franky/Alex Organ as Hyakushūbō

Mamoru Miyano/Austin Tindle as Ichirohiko (Older)

Masahiko Tsugawa/Steve Powell as Grand Master

Momoka Ono/Brittney Karbowski as Jiromaru (Young)

Sumire Morohoshi/Monica Rial as Chiko

Suzu Hirose/Bryn Apprill as Kaede

Yo Oizumi/Ian Sinclair as Tatara


The Boy and the Beast is the latest feature film from award-winning Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, Wolf Children): When Kyuta, a young orphan living on the streets of Shibuya, stumbles into a fantastic world of beasts, he’s taken in by Kumatetsu, a gruff, rough-around-the-edges warrior beast who’s been searching for the perfect apprentice.

Despite their constant bickering, Kyuta and Kumatetsu begin training together and slowly form a bond as surrogate father and son. But when a deep darkness threatens to throw the human and beast worlds into chaos, the strong bond between this unlikely pair will be put to the ultimate test- a final showdown. Can the two finally work together using all of their combined strength and courage? Don’t miss the critically acclaimed film The Boy and The Beast!


It was the animated film that would take Japan by storm.

In 2015, the animated film “Bakemono no Ko” (The Boy and the Beast) which was written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda (“Summer Wars”, “Wolf Children”, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”) and produced by Studio Chizu, would go on to earn over $48 million in the box office.  And would be released in the the theaters in the US in March 2016.

And now, “The Boy and the Beast” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation.

The film revolves around a homeless nine-year-old named Ren.

Ren’s parents are divorced and he has not seen his father, while his mother has passed away.

Refusing to live with his legal guardians, Ren has been living in the streets of Shibuya.  Stealing food and sleeping the alley ways, he thinks about the moments in his life after his mother died.

Meanwhile, in the Beast Kingdom known as Jutengai, the lord has announced that he will retire in order to reincarnate as a deity and is looking for two successors.  It would be either the popular Iozen, father of two kids or the powerful but lazy Kumatetsu.  But the Grandmaster suggests to Kumatetsu that he needs to find an apprentice/disciple in order to succeed him.

Back in Shiibuya, as Ren is trying to survive and avoid the police (who want to send him back to his legal guardians), one day, two hooded figures approach Ren and it happens to be Kumatetsu and his companion, Tatara.  Tatara jokes around that Kumatetsu should take a human to become his apprentice.

Ren is shocked to see that the individuals are not human and Kumatetsu asks Ren if he is willing to become his apprentice.  While not willing, Ren still follows Kumatetsu and he finds himself in the Beast Kingdom and unable to go back home.

Ren is taken by Hyakushubo, an apprentice monk and finds Ren and worries that he accidentally came into the Beast World.  But Kumatetsu shows up and tells Hyakushubo that Ren is his new assistant, shocking both Hyakushubo and Tatara, because no one brings a human into their world, let alone take him as an apprentice.  And Kumatetsu allows Ren to stay at his place.

One day, a battle begins between Iozen and Kumatetsu and Ren sees how everyone is supporting Iozen and Kumatetsu is alone.  Feeling the same as Kumatetsu, Ren cheers for him, despite Kumatetsu losing in the battle.  But because the actual duel of succession has not been officially announced, the battle does not count.

Ren takes in Ren, but because Ren won’t give out his real name, Kumatetsu names the boy, Kyuta.

Ren and Kumatetsu are like oil and water, they often argue and do not get along.  But in truth, both are very similar.  They grew up without parents, they grew up alone and both can understand each other’s pain.

But when the kids from the Beast Kingdom start teasing Kyuta as being weak, Ren decides to follow Kumatetsu’s lead and train together.

Fastforward eight years later and Kyuta has become a wonderful assistant for Kumatetsu and because Kyuta has become stronger, many people want to be trained by Kumatetsu.

But one day, while walking in the Beast Kingdom, Ren finds a way to go back to the human world.  How will life change for him?

And with the big battle between Kumatetsu and Iozen coming soon, who will be the next successor for Jutengai?


VIDEO:

“The Boy and the Beast” is presented in 1080p High Definiton (16:9 anamorphic widescreen). The animation features designs that are helped by the talented character designers Daisuke Iga, Takaaki Yamashita and of course, Mamoru Hosoda.  The beautiful, lush backgrounds courtesy of the art direction by Takashi Omoro, Yohei Takamatsu and Youichi Nishikawa. And with Studio Chizu responsible for the animation production, I was very impressed with the overall look of the film.  Gorgeous!

I was struck by how detailed the background art was. How beautiful these painted backgrounds looked and how it complimented the characters. Also, how vibrant colors were, from the blue skies, to the sun going down with the reddish purple haze over the horizon.  Even small details such as flies flying around the light and picture quality is amazing!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Boy and the Beast” is presented in English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  As for the lossless audio, both Japanese and English soundtrack produced the same results when I was testing scenes. Action sequences utilized the surround channels very well and the voice acting for both soundtracks are fantastic.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Boy and the Beast” contains the following special features:

  • Original Teaser
  • Japanese Trailer #1 and #2
  • U.S. Trailer

EXTRAS:

“The Boy and the Beast” comes with a slipcover and both the Blu-ray + DVD discs of the film. The Blu-ray also comes with an UltraViolet code for those wanting to watch the film on their PC/Mac, tablet or cell phone via Digital HD.


I think that enough years have passed that I can easily say that whenever there is a film that Mamoru Hosoda is part of, especially in a writing and directing capacity, it’s no doubt something special.

You usually see the high expectations of an animated film when it is Studio Ghibli or Makoto Shinkai related but I can easily say that Mamoru Hosoda has earned it with a string of successful films from “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, “Summer Wars” and “Wolf Children”, the same can be said about “The Boy and the Beast”.

From a wonderful, captivating story and gorgeous animation and background art, Mamoru Hosoda has no doubt achieve the respect of viewers that his films are successful in Japan.

And with “The Boy and the Beast”, it’s an inspirational tale about a runaway 9-year-old, living on the streets and is given a chance to become an apprentice for the strong, lazy and loud Kumatetsu.

Both have a similar upbringing, brought up alone and no one to be there for them.  But now these two lonely souls have each other, and as much as they are different and are often screaming and arguing at each other, both know that they need each other.  And despite not being human, Kumatetsu is more like a father to Ren (Kyuta).

And their friendship or relationship is no doubt put to the test as Kumatetsu is training for a major battle to become the next lord, Ren finds a way to go back into the human world and discover that his real father is alive but also a twist that leads to a chaotic ending that I never saw coming.

It’s no doubt a wonderful and delightful film that I was quite impressed with its characters and touching storyline.  Granted, the conflicts and characters are not as intricate if compared to Miyazaki film, but nevertheless, I do believe that Mamoru Hosoda manages to capture something magical with “The Boy and the Beast”.

And as the Blu-ray release, the animation for “The Boy and the Beast” is fantastic.  The background art is very detailed and looks gorgeous, while animation as well as character design is on par with other Mamoru Hosoda works.  As for the lossless audio, both soundtracks are fantastic.  Action sequences and crowd ambiance utilizes the surround channels effectively and there is also good use of LFE.

As for special features, there aren’t that many aside from the original teaser and Japanese and U.S. trailers.  The Blu-ray does include an UltraViolet code, which you can watch the film on your PC/Mac, Tablet or phone (as long as you can access Vudu).

As for the PG-13 rating, it’s because there is violence. Actually towards the final half hour of the film, the violence escalates and one of the primary protagonists gets injured badly.  So, this film is surely not appropriate for young children.

Overall, Mamoru Hosoda has once again created a delightful and entertaining film that is destined to become another classic!  Great storyline, gorgeous art and animation and wonderful performance by both Japanese and English voice talent, “The Boy and the Beast” is highly recommended!

 

Wolf Children (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

fairytail-v5

“Wolf Children” has turned out to be a magnificent, touching and gorgeous film on Blu-ray!  Mamoru Hosoda’s films have always been about quality, from its overall look but most importantly,  storytelling that is absolutely captivating.  If you are looking for an animated film on Blu-ray, “Wolf Children” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Wolf Children

ANIME THEATRICAL RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: 117 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), DolbyTrue HD 5.1, Japanese DolbyTrue HD 5.1, English subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation

Release Date: November 26, 2013

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda

Screenplay by Mamoru Hosoda, Satoko Okudera

Music by Masakatsu Takagi

Animation Director: Takaaki Yamashita

Art Director: Hiroshi Ohno

Anime Production: Studio Chizu

Featuring the following voice talent:

Aoi Miyazaki/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Hana

Takao Osawa/David Matranga as Ookami/Wolf Man

Amon Kabe/Alison Viktorin as Ame (Child)

Haru Kuroki/Jad Saxton as Yuki

Momoka Ono/Lara Woodhull as Yuki (Child)

Takuma Hiraoka/Jason Liebrecht as Souhei

Yukito Nishii/Micah Solusod as Ame

Experience the latest masterpiece from the internationally-acclaimed, award-winning director of Summer Wars.

Hana was a student before she was a mother. She was bright and pretty, and her future held endless possibilities. Then she met a man, who turned out to be a wolf, and together they built a family.Hana loved her mate fiercely, but fate took him from her, leaving her alone with two unusual kids she didn’t know how to raise. Frightened of being discovered, Hana and her wolf children fled to the countryside to build a new life. Raising her little wild things was an adventure. It left Hana bruised, scratched, exhausted, and joyously overwhelmed as her pups grew stronger and wandered further every day. This is a mother’s journey. Teach your children to chase their dreams – and smile through the tears as they disappear into the world in search of who they will become. Hana wasn’t always a mother, but it was always what she was meant to be.

From filmmaker and animator Mamoru Hosoda, founder of Studio Chizu (“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, “Summer Wars”) comes his latest film “Wolf Children”.

A box office success in Japan, the film would feature technical and star talent.

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda and co-written by Hosoda and Satoko Okudera (“Summer Wars”, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”), character designs by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (“Evangelion”, “Gunbuster”, “.Hack” series, “FLCL”), background art by Hiroshi Ohno (“Akira”, “Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”) and animation direction by Takaaki Yamashita (“Digimon” films).

Talents of the Japanese version of the film would feature big screent alents Aoi Miyazaki (“Nana”, “Solanin, “Colorful”, “Honey and Clover”) and Takao Osawa (“Hoshi no Kinka”, “Utsukushi Hito”, “Dessin”).  The film would also feature first time voice talents Amon Kabe, Haru Kuroki, Momoka Ono, Takuma Hiraoka and Yukito Nishii.

The film was released on Blu-ray on November 2013 courtesy of FUNimation.

“Wolf Children” begins with a narration by a young woman named Yuki who tells a story about her mother Hana and how she fell in love with a man named Ookami who was actually a wolf and can transform to human or wolf form. And despite his appearance, Hana accepted him for the way he is and loved him unconditionally.

Yuki and Ookami would eventually have two children and like father, they can also transform into a wolf.

Ookami and Hana were proud parents of Yuki and a son named Ame.  Yuki was always mischievous as a child.  Each time she would get frustrated or upset, her wolf characteristics would always come out.  While young Ame, was a baby at the time.

Ookami would usually hunt for food to feed his family, but one day, Ookami never came home.  As Hana with her two children along with her, she goes to look for Ookami and in the middle of a street is a dead wolf, who happened to be Ookami in wolf form.

And as Hana struggled to keep her children’s wolf existence a secret, the Japanese child protection service wanted to see the children because Hana never had them receive their immunization shots or had them seen by a doctor.

And because Ame was a baby, his crying would lead to complaints from the neighbors and their howling would eventually lead the landlord to believe that Hana was illegally having dogs in her home.

Wanting to protect her children and to get away from any trouble for her children, Hana Yuki and Ame move away from the city to live in the rural countryside and takes an old, dilapidated home that would be rent-free but would require renovation.  And to make things even better for Hana, no one lives close to her home.

And as Hana tries to raise her two children by herself, she tries to learn about how to repair her home, how to grow vegetables in her yard.  But to her surprise, her vegetables die from disease.  But her neighbors eventually come to help her grow crops.  But as Yuki has come to love her new environment, Ame doesn’t really like it.

Seen as weak by her sister, Ame wants to toughen up and during a cold snowy winter, he decides to go after a fish but instead, loses his footing in the moving river and nearly drowns but is rescued by Yuki in wolf form.  Feared to be dead, Ame is fine from his accident but from that day forth, because of that incident, he has grown.

Meanwhile, as Hana is older, her mother wants both children to grow up normally and enlists them in school, as long as they can keep their wolf transformation a secret.  Something that Hana is really looking forward to, unlike Ame who is not too interested in school.

And as Hana tries to fit in with the other humans, Ame starts to develop a closeness towards the countryside.  But as Hana has given her children some freedom, what happens when Ame is tested to hide her wolf-side from her classmates and what happens when Ame is not interested in going to school and is inspired by something out in the wilderness?

This is a story about a mother and her children and a coming-of-age story for both children through their years living with their mother.

VIDEO:

“Wolf Children” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1).  There are a few things that I must point out about this fantastic film when it comes to its look and character designs.  Despite having a Studio Ghibli flair, this is not a Studio Ghibli film.  This is a film that utilizes Mamoru Hosoda’s direction and writing, the character designs by Evangelion’s Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and a dedication to art especially backgrounds thanks to the crew of Studio Chizu.

The film is absolutely beautiful too look at.  Striving to have the same quality of Studio Ghibli films, the art background and detail of environments and objects is magnificent.

“Wolf Children” is colorful, vibrant and one can easily appreciate the film’s character designs but also its lush backgrounds with greenery of the countryside, blue skies or even the weather changes of the area outside of Hana’s home.

Contrast is strong, I detected no banding or artifacts.  “Wolf Children” looks amazing on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wolf Children” is presented in English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and the lossless audio is quite impressive.  From the first half hour featuring the family in the city area and hearing cars passing by, there is good use of the surround channels for cars speeding by and the direction the audio pans for those scenes.  While the countryside captures the sounds of the streams, the wind, the rain and storm and more.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear and for both Japanese and English soundtracks, both are well-acted and I was quite pleased with the lossless audio soundtrack for both tracks.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Wolf Children” features the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary  – FUNimation ADR director Mike McFarland interviewing voice talent Colleen Clinkenbeard, David Matranga, Alison Viktorin, Jad Saxton, Lara Woodhull and more.
  • June 18, 2012 – Japan Premiere– (16:02) Featuring a premiere in Japan with director Mamoru Hosoda, Aoi Miyazaki(voice of Hana), Takao Osawa (voice of Wolf Man), Amon Kabe (Child Ame), Yukito Nishii (Ame), Haru Kuroki (Yuki) and Momoka Ona (Child Yuki).
  • June 25, 2012 – World Premiere in Paris – (7:04) Featuring the world premiere in France with director Mamoru Hosoda and actress Aoi Miyazaki.
  • July 16, 2012 Theme Song Premiere & Stage Greetings – (9:55) Ann Sally and composer, Masakatsu Takagi, Mamoru Hosoda and Aoi Miyazaki.
  • July 21, 2012 Opening Day Stage Greetings – (17:19) Featuring Opening Day in Japan with director Mamoru Hosoda, Aoi Miyazaki(voice of Hana), Takao Osawa (voice of Wolf Man), Amon Kabe (Child Ame), Yukito Nishii (Ame), Haru Kuroki (Yuki) and Momoka Ona (Child Yuki).
  • August 7, 2012 “Hana’s Day” Appreciation Stage Greetings – (6:40) Featuring “Hana’s Day” appreciation with Aoi Miyazaki, Takao Osawa and director Mamoru Hosoda.

EXTRAS:

“Wolf Children” Blu-ray also comes with the DVD version and a slipcover.

A beautiful film from Mamoru Hosoda and the crew of Studio Chizu, once again Hosoda manages to deliver another beautiful and brilliant film.

For longtime viewers of animated films, there are too many banal films that come out in Japan but what you want to see are films that can have the same quality in visual presentation but also when it comes to storytelling and as always,  Studio Ghibli is a company that many other films from different studios are often compared to.

Almost similar to the U.S. when there is a CG animated film and often a response is how it compares to a Disney Pixar film, the same can be said to any Japanese animated film with high production quality. Is it as good as a Ghibli film?  And I happen to like this type of push because it inspires creativity but also better storytelling.

We have seen fimmakers such as Hosoda and Makoto Shinkai, two men who are dedicated in having a balance of beautiful imagery but also storytelling.  In fact, for Hosoda, what he has been able to accomplish in films such as “The Girl Who Leaped Through Time” and “Summer Wars” is the ability to add sci-fi elements combined with dramatic themes.

Similar to Studio Ghibli films (albeit not getting into the more deeper subjects that affect humanity or the planet which Miyazaki was always going for in order to send a message), for “Wolf Children” it’s first and foremost a film about nurture and nature.

A mother wanting to protect her wolf children from harm, but learning to give them the freedom to choose what side of life they are most comfortable living.

Children who were born with wolf characteristics but must hide it from the public and for Yuki, she is one to accept humanity and to live the life of a normal girl while trying to maintain her secret.  While Ame is not like his sister, not too thrilled about life in the country, not to thrilled to be among the other kids and just not fitting in.

But for Yuki, life as a student is made much more difficult when a boy who has moved to the area, wants to get close to her.  Meanwhile, for Ame, since exposing himself to hunting for fish and feeling comfortable as a wolf than a human, he loves being part of the wild.

And this begins a conundrum as Mother wants her children with her but knows deep inside that her children see life differently from each other.  And for Yuki, it’s one thing to hide her secret but she wants her younger brother to be human, while Ame wants Yuki to accept her wolf-side and not try to be so human.

It’s a fascinating conundrum and to see how things begin to spiral out of control for the family especially as wolf years versus human years are much different.  And a mother who has protected them from the beginning, knowing that her children are growing older and the idea of losing her children is very difficult for her to bare.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality for this film is fantastic.  A vibrant, colorful film with amazing detail on painted art backgrounds and an interesting style of character design from Evangelion’s Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, the film has a taste of classic Ghibli but also seeing how Studio Chizu’s focus of maintaining quality, this is a beautiful animated film with amazing detail and clarity.  The lossless audio is also wonderful with crystal clear dialogue and soundtrack, both English and Japanese soundtracks are great and they are both well-acted.

You also get an insightful audio commentary for the English dub soundtrack and several screening events for “Wolf Children” in Japan.

Overall, “Wolf Children” has turned out to be a magnificent, touching and gorgeous film on Blu-ray.  Mamoru Hosoda’s work has always been about quality, from its look but most importantly, the storytelling.  If you are looking for an animated film on Blu-ray, “Wolf Children” is highly recommended!

New People Artist Series 001: Traveling with Yoshitomo Nara (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

“For those who appreciate the art of Yoshitomo Nara, ‘Traveling with Yoshitomo Nara’ features a rare behind-the-scenes look at the life of Nara as a man, as an artist, a creator and also seeing how many people have come to love his work.  A wonderfully hip and cool documentary featuring the not-so-public, world acclaimed artist Yoshitomo Nara and the creation of  his unique gallery AtoZ.”

Images courtesy of © 2007 Tohokushinsha Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: New People Artist Series 001: Traveling with Yoshitomo Nara

DURATION: 93 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16×9 Anamorphic Widescreen, Color,

RATED: NOT RATED

COMPANY: Viz Pictures

RELEASE DATE: September 15, 2009

Directed by Koji Sakabe

Produced by Ryuichi Tokuama

Executive Producer: Kiyotaka Ninomiya

Director of Photography: Koji Sakabe, Mitsuru Komimiya, Hideo Saksaki

Music by Jeiichi Ito, Eiji Ida

Animation by Studio 4°C

Starring

Yoshitomo Nara

traf

Narrator: Aoi Miyazaki

Traveling with Yoshitomo Nara is the first documentary featuring world-renowned Japanese modern artist Yoshitomo Nara.  The film follows the artist’s life journey, from London to Bangkok, as he travels for his exhibitions and workshops.  His latest attempt at creating a “collaboration” leads to a surprising outcome for both his artwork and himself.

Yoshitomo Nara, the well-known, world acclaimed artist whose work has been featured in Asia, Europe, the US and has literally captured the attention of art lovers through his paintings and his unique exhibits.

In 2001, his exhibit “I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me” was featured at the Yokohama Museum of Art and traveled across Japan.  In 2004, “From the Depth of My Drawer” was featured at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art and traveled nationally and in Korea.  In 2003, his exhibit “Nothing Ever Happens” was featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, Ohio and would be featured across the country.

But if there is one thing that is known about Yoshitomo Nara, he is a very private man.  Although almost regarded like a rockstar because of his famous artwork, he’s a very quiet and reserved man who has remained quite mysterious to the outside world.

That was until 2005 when Director Koji Sakabe received word that Nara was working on a spectacular project known as “AtoZ”.  Having followed Tomio Koyama for a TV documentary, knowing that Koyama is a curator of Nara’s art, Sakabe submitted his proposal and within a month, Sakabe’s film project on Yoshitomo Nara would begin.

And what Koji Sakabe was able to capture in 600 rolls of film from four countries of Yoshitomo Nara within 2005-2006 is absolutely amazing.  Considering that Nara rarely lets people into his personal life, let alone, giving people the opportunity to see him work on his art.  In fact “”New People Artist Series 001: Traveling with Yoshitomo Nara” features Yoshitomo Nara working on a project and is the first time, a complete creation process was ever captured on film.

Throughout the documentary, we get to see the creative side of Yoshitomo Nara, how he thinks but also a sense of discomfort being around people, let alone people recording him.  In a four-page pamphlet included in the DVD, Director Sakabe actually mentioned that in one instance during the Winter of 2005, Nara would not allow cameras to enter his place and even told the director that he moved away so he could not be distracted.

Needless to say, Yoshitomo Nara is captured on film.  But not just Nara but also those who are enamored with his art.  From the seven-year-old girl who loves Nara’s artwork and is inspired to draw, to the countless female fans that he has that want to know when he will get married or if he’s dating anyone.  But most of all, it’s about the creation of “AtoZ”, an amazing project that feature Yoshitomo Nara + graf and featured traveling to various countries where he would showcase his art through his exhibit but his team would create a world by building mini-like home areas where his artwork would be kept and can be viewed by the public.

At over 90 minutes, this is probably the most we will ever see of Yoshitomo Nara.  This is indeed a rare glimpse of the popular artist and the fact that cameras were able to capture the very private artist is amazing.  And now “Traveling with  Yoshitomo Nara” is available on DVD in the US courtesy of Viz Media’s New People Artist Series.

The documentary is narrated by actress Aoi Miyazaki.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“”New People Artist Series 001: Traveling with Yoshitomo Nara” is a documentary featured in 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen.  For a documentary, picture quality is a clear and colorful look into the artist’s world.  At home, at various galleries in different countries and more, I was absolutely pleased with the picture quality of this documentary.  And at the same time, it’s hard to complain because we are given a rare insight to Nara’s work.

Audio is in Dolby Digital and there is quite a bit of Japanese Indy rock music utilized in the documentary.  With the use of the music, it definitely gives a hip and stylish feel to the documentary.  Audio is in Japanese with English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“New People Artist Series 001: Traveling with Yoshitomo Nara” comes with no special features but trailers for Viz Pictures.  A 4-page booklet with notes titled “Notes on the Journey with Yoshitomo Nara” by Dirctor Koji Sakabe  is included with the DVD.  The notes are about Sakabe’s experience of working with Yoshitomo Nara and becoming part of this project and experiencing the creation of “AtoZ”.  Interesting insight by Sakabe.

I have been following Yoshitomo Nara’s works for years and I absolutely love his creations and you often wonder, what goes through his head when he creates his artwork.  Needless to say, this first volume from the New People Artist Series definitely gives us that personal insight of the world acclaimed artist.

Although not surprised, one thing that was great to see is the fandom.  Even Nara seems bewildered of the people who love him and his work and his reactions are of a shy man but is very grateful to his fans.  In fact, the people who are there that touch his life, he has created artwork in their name and it’s just that appreciation for his fans and his supporters, definitely shows you a humble man who does care.  It’s one thing for an artist who paints because that’s their livelihood but this documentary gives us that additional insight to how his mind works, even though he is not a man that is good at expressing his emotions (which he explains in the documentary).

But what I enjoyed also about “Traveling with Yoshitomo Nara” was the creation of “AtoZ”.  The man power, the many hours that went into creating it and then to watch everyone who contributed, say goodbye to the exhibit when everything was all done.

At the end, I came off feeling even more appreciation for Nara.  It’s one thing to appreciate one’s work but finally getting that rare glimpse of the artist at work and getting that opportunity to see part of his world is just fantastic.

I applause Viz Pictures for releasing this documentary on DVD and also for planning more New People Artist Series releases as well.

Yoshitomo Nara fans… this is simply a no-brainer, “New People Artist Series 001: Traveling with Yoshitomo Nara” is highly recommended!

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