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Gantz II: Perfect Answer (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The sequel and conclusion to the “Gantz” films, “Perfect Answer” is more exciting and features a lot more action than the original film and a more engaging storyline with plenty of twist and turns.  The Blu-ray release features a fantastic lossless and immersive soundtrack that compliments the action onscreen.  Fans of popcorn sci-fi action flicks will enjoy “Gantz II: Perfect Answer”.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © Hiroya Oke/Shueisha, 2011 “GANTZ” Film Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Gantz II: Perfect Answer

FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 142 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: New People Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: January 17, 2012

 

Directed by Shinsuke Sato

 Based on the Manga by Hiroya Oku

 Screenplay by Yusuke Watanabe

Supervising Executive Producer: Hiroshi Miyazaki

 Produced by Takahiro Sato

 Music by Kenji Kawai

 Cinematography by Taro Kawazu

 Edited by Tsuyoshi Imai

 Casting by Yumi Minamidani

Production Design by Yasuaki Harada

Starring

Kazunari Ninomiya as Kei Kurono

Ken’ichi Matsuyama as Masaru Kato

Yuriko Yoshitaka as Tae Kojima

Kanata Hongo as Joichiro Nishi

Go Ayano as Kurofuku-Ichi

Ayumi Ito as Eriko Ayukawa

Takayuki Shiada as Masamitsu Shigeta

Natsuna as Kei Kishimoto

Tomorowo Taguchi as Yoshikazu Suzuki

The GANTZ saga meets its ultimate conclusion in GANTZ II: Perfect Answer, which offers an intensely gripping story-line yet to be known to even readers of the original manga series. Determined to resurrect his friends who have died on previous missions, Kei and other members trapped in the world of GANTZ aim to score the 100 points needed to break through and regain their freedom. But with the emergence of a mysterious man investigating the Gantz members, Gantz begins to act up and the next target shocks the members. Some fight for love, some for justice but what will each member sacrifice?

In 2000, mangaka Hiroya Oku created the “Gantz” manga series.  A series which is still ongoing to this day.

The 26-episode, two season anime series was released in 2004 and for many Americans, it was among the popular series to be released on DVD due to its sci-fi action, adult humor and violence.

Five years later, it was announced that two live action “Gantz” films were being created and starring in the film is actor and idol singer and ARASHI member Kazunari Nonomiya (“Letters from Iwo Jima”, “Yamada Taro Monogatari”, “Ryusei no Kizuna”), actor Kenichi Matsuyama (“Death Note” films, “L: Change the World”, “Kamui Gaiden”) and the film would be directed by Shinsuke Sato (“The Princess Blade”, “Tokyo Lullabye”, “Sunadokei” and also character and scene developer for the video game “Tekken 4″).

The film was shown in America first as it was simulcast in theaters in 46 states, in Japan, the first film was released in theaters on Jan.2011 and followed with a Blu-ray and DVD release in the U.S. courtesy of New People Entertainment.  Now the second film “Gantz II: Perfect Answer”, the conclusion of the film series, will be released on Blu-ray on Jan. 2012.

It’s important to note that the films are loosely-based on the manga and anime series.

A summary of what Gantz is about

“Gantz” begins with college student Kei Kurono (played by Kazunari Ninomiya) awaiting a train as he prepares himself for a job interview.  While waiting, he sees an old friend of his, Masaru Kato (played by Kenichi Matsuyama) awaiting for the train.

When a drunk man falls over to the train tracks, Kato goes to help him back up.  He screams for Kurono to help him but he pretends he doesn’t know the man.  But with the help of bystanders, the drunken man is saved but with the train coming, Kato needs help getting back up the platform.  Kurono tries to help him back up but instead is pulled down and both are in the direct path of the oncoming train.

Next thing you know, both re-materialize in a room with a few people watching them and a black orb sitting in the middle.  After the two arrive, a woman named Kei Kishimoto (played by Natsuna) rematerializes in the room without any clothes on.  Kato covers her up and tries to protect her from a yakuza looking man who tries to approach her.

Immediately, they see the orb start playing music and telling them to prepare for their new lives.  Everyone in the room at first are thinking they are dead, because their last memories were either being hit by a vehicle or trying to kill themselves but others think they were drugged in a hospital and are now part of a group experiment.

Meanwhile, the orb known as “Gantz” opens up and inside are suitcases with the names of the people inside the room, as well as weapons.  Inside is a live being, that is on a breathing apparatus.  No one knows what is going on but they are told they must kill an alien child who eats green onions.

While Kei Kishimoto puts on her Gantz outfit, the others are not so sure if they should wear it.

Each of the people inside the room materializes to a new destination and they spot the alien child.  One of the people of the group, Nishi (played by Kanata Hongo), tells them that it’s all part of a game show and whoever catches the kid will win a lot of money.  With many of the men unemployed and needing the money, they go after the kid with their weapons.

And the three of the men end up killing the child.  But not long after, a huge alien man comes  (who appears to be the brother of the alien child) and he begins to brutally kill each of the people of the group.  Kato who tried to stop the people from shooting the alien child is left panicking.  Meanwhile, Kurono just looks from afar and not sure what is going on.

As the alien tries to kill Kato, Kishimoto kicks him and sends the alien behemoth flying.  They then know that the suits given to them by Gantz is quite powerful and gives them some special abilities.

Nishi comes and kills the alien and now everyone who survived the fight rematerializes back into the room.  Everyone is frustrated and shocked of what happened and Kato is angered that Nishi didn’t come to save the others who were killed by the alien.  But Nishi tries to explain to them that they are part of a game, where many have been killed.

Eventually, the group learns from Nishi that with each battle of eliminating aliens, Gantz chooses the individual and give them points.  The overall goal is to reach 100 points. With 100 points accumulated, they can be set free and their memory of Gantz wiped out.  Or they can revive another person that has been killed.

With every night, each of them having to be sent to the battlefield, they are joined by other people who have recently been killed or just died and try to prepare them for the battle that awaits them.  But with each battle, these alien beings become more deadly.

With “Gantz II: Perfect Answer”, the film is set five months later after many of the people were killed including Masaru Kato, Megumi Kishimoto and other friends of Kei’s.

Those who survived to fight for another day includes Kei Kurono and the older Yoshikazu Suzuki.  For Kei, his goal is to revive his friend Masaru Kato but also to fight as long as he can and revive everyone.

But unusual situations have been taking place as Masaru Kato has been revived but according to Gantz, he is still dead.

Also, battles are now taking place in public places instead of the dimension that the group have been fighting in, so now anyone innocent can be slaughtered during the battles.

Meanwhile, as Kei and Tae begin to get closer, all hell breaks loose when a few of the top members who were able to escape Gantz (by reaching 100 points) are all brought back into Gantz together for some unknown reason.  And to make things worse, their target are not just aliens but Kei’s friend Tae Kojima.  To make things much worse, there has been an appearance of a smaller version of Gantz which is in the possession of a group of aliens and their instructions were also to kill Tae Kojima.

As Kei tries to protect the girl that he loves, that means he must fight against the powerful aliens but also his fellow members.

Will Kei, Tae , Masaru and Kurofuku-Ichi survive this onslaught?

VIDEO:

“Gantz II: Perfect Answer” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1).  The picture quality for the film is actually very good.  The picture quality features cool colors leaning to more blues and blacks, detail is very good and there is a fine layer of grain that can be seen.  Some scenes are darker than I would have like but there is a good amount of detail on closeup shots.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Gantz II: Perfect Answer” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and I have to say that the most shining aspect of this Blu-ray release is its lossless soundtrack.  The soundtrack is absolutely immersive as this second film is action-intensive and there are explosions, gun shots, sword fights and destruction galore in this film.    The surround channels and LFE are heavily used throughout the film and for the most part, fans with a solid home theater setup will no doubt enjoy this film’s soundtrack.

As for the English dub, I prefer to watching live action Asian films in their original language but with that beings aid, New People Entertainment and Viz Media are known for hiring the most talented voice actors in the industry and I’m sure the English dub will appeal to those who prefer an English dub.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Gantz II: Perfect Answer” features a third bonus DVD featuring special features such as:

  • Exclusive Director’s Interview 2 – (22:01) Behind-the-scenes footage and an in-depth interview with director Shinsuke Sato.
  • Cast Profiles – text biographies on the cast.
  • Trailers – (4:04) Original “Gantz: Perfect Answer” theatrical trailers from Japan.
  • New People Presents –  New People trailers.

EXTRAS:

“Gantz II: Perfect Answer” comes with a DVD version of the feature film.

Exciting and more action-packed and satisfying than the first film, the sequel “Gantz II: Perfect Answer” is a popcorn action-flick with a lot of twist and turns.  A fitting and exciting conclusion to the “Gantz” films.

What one can expect from a popcorn action film starring a few of Japanese top young talents!  “GANTZ II: Perfect Answer” features constant action that will thrill you!  Definitely one of the better film adaptations from a manga series in terms of visual effects and costume design.

I personally enjoyed “GANTZ” for the reason that I’m familiar with the talent on the film.  Kazunari Ninomiya of ARASHI fame is very popular as with actor Kenichi Matsuyama, but even before I watched this film, I always felt that the costumes of “GANTZ” was the coolest costumes since the Matrix!

But with that being said, this is a popcorn action film with a lot of action and visual effects but at the same time, it’s a film that is quite different from the manga/anime series.  There is a lot of violence, even sexual perversion in the original manga release but because the manga is ongoing in Japan, for the film, things had to be different.

The first film featured a lot of time showing the viewers of the relationship between Kei and Kato and how they were good friends and how they stopped being friends and then trying to become friends once again.  But most importantly, there was a bit of ego stroke on Kei’s part as he was the person that is typically not seen as a hero and thus, granted powers via the suits from Gantz, he started to gain an ego but learned a big lesson.

In the end of the first film, the major characters were killed after fighting a killer Buddha.

But in “Gantz II: Perfect Answer”, we know with the big Gantz, he sends out people who were just killed, on missions of killing of an alien.  It’s part of their mission in order for them to survive but also to gain points necessary to live a free life once again or to resurrect someone. And with Kei now nearing 100 points, he intends to bring back his friend Kato.

But what happens when he comes face-to-face with Kato, who revived him?  Obviously Kei didn’t, so who did?  Or is it Kato?

And as Kei and the others take order from Gantz, we are introduced to a group of aliens who also take orders but this time, a smaller version of Gantz and similar to Kei and the others, they must kill as part of their mission.

And possibly taking a page from terrorist attacks that would seem more fitting for a “Call of Duty” film, “Gantz II: Perfect Answer” has one of the most violent scenes in a Japanese film (which no one hopes will happen ever in Japan) as Kei and the others are transported into a train, but instead of taking place in an alternate dimension, they are put into the public.

And when the Gantz group and the aliens are battling, there is always massive destruction.  So, you can imagine how chaotic things get now that the battles are taking place in areas where a lot of people are.

To make things much more interesting, both the aliens and the Gantz group receive a mission but it’s to eliminate Kei’s girlfriend (or female friend that he is trying to get close with).  You know Kei is not going to let that happen and it becomes a chaotic slaughter-fes.

While Kei is the character that is focused on in the sequel, Actor Ken’ichi Matsuyama as Masaru Kato plays a different type of role in this second film.  As Kato, he is much more restrained, but when his other self is revealed to be an imposter alien, Matsuyama plays a crazy killer.

We also get more of actress Yuriko Yoshitaka (who plays Tae).  In the first film, she was interesting because she was the manga fan who secretly likes Kei.  In the sequel, their friendship is now growing to the point where they start having feelings for each other.  But when orders are given by both Gantz to have her eliminated, you can only hope that her well-liked character survives.

Last, we are treated with a storyline with an investigator named Masamitsu Shigeta, who is trying to find out how these dead people are coming back alive.  While the character adds some drama in the film, we know that he’s just human and compared to those in the Gantz suits and the aliens, he’s just not strong enough.  And his storyline is possibly the weakest in the film.  As the screenplay utilizes him more to give a break to the action.

But “Gantz II: Perfect Answer” is in-your-face, all-out action that fans will probably enjoy much more than the first film.  The first film tried to play more on character development and relationships and establish Gantz and the missions but with that part being over, it’s all about the actions and missions this time around.  And with the twist and turns in the storyline, you can’t help but be captivated with all this crazy action and this destruction happening in the film.

It’s important to note that while this film is not rated, this is a violent film.  You see people being stabbed and cut up with swords, a woman getting shot point blank in the head, it’s a violent film.  So, definitely don’t have your children around while watching this movie.

But for fans who enjoy popcorn action films, the sequel to “Gantz” is much better this time around. While manga/comic book film adaptations are never exact, still..I can’t but help but saying that I enjoyed the “Gantz” films.  Yes, they are different and while I thought the first film was OK, I enjoyed the sequel even more.  Much more to be exact!

As for the Blu-ray release, you get the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film and several special features as well.  The picture quality is good (sometimes too dark) but the best part of this Blu-ray is its lossless immersive soundtrack which is fantastic!

Overall, fans of the first film, those who are looking for an exciting Japanese popcorn action film or people who are fans thatcan separate themselves from the original storyline of the “GANTZ” anime and manga series will enjoy “Gantz II: Perfect Answer”.

Recommended!

GANTZ (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are looking for an exciting Japanese popcorn action film or you are a fan who can separate themselves from the original storyline of the “GANTZ” anime and manga series, then definitely give the first “GANTZ” film a try!

Images courtesy of © Hiroya Oke/Shueisha, 2011 “GANTZ” Film Partners. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: GANTZ

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2010

DURATION: 128 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Two-Disc, Japanese and English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Anamorphic Widescreen

COMPANY: New People Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: August 30, 2011

Directed by Shinsuke Sato

Based on the Manga by Hiroya Oku

Screenplay by Yusuke Watanabe

Produced by Takahiro Sato

Music by Kenji Kawai

Cinematography by Taro Kawazu

Edited by Tsuyoshi Imai

Casting by Yumi Minamidani

Production Design by Yasuaki Harada

Starring:

Kazunari Ninomiya as Kei Kurono

Ken’ichi Matsuyama as Masaru Kato

Yuriko Yoshitaka as Tae Kojima

Kanata Hongo as Joichiro Nishi

Natsuna as Kei Kishimoto

Tomorowo Taguchi as Yoshikazu Suzuki

Kei Kurono and his childhood friend Masaru Kato attempt to save a man who has fallen onto the train tracks, but are run down by an oncoming train. However, rather than finding themselves dead, they are transported to a strange apartment in which they find a mysterious black orb known as “GANTZ.” Along with others there, they are provided weaponry and sent on missions to battle alien beings. Is this world, which tests your will to survive, a game or reality?

In 2000, mangaka Hiroya Oku created the “Gantz” manga series.  A series which is still ongoing to this day.

The 26-episode, two season anime series was released in 2004 and for many Americans, it was among the popular series to be released on DVD due to its sci-fi action, adult humor and violence.

Five years later, it was announced that two live action “Gantz” films were being created and starring in the film is actor and idol singer and ARASHI member Kazunari Nonomiya (“Letters from Iwo Jima”, “Yamada Taro Monogatari”, “Ryusei no Kizuna”), actor Kenichi Matsuyama (“Death Note” films, “L: Change the World”, “Kamui Gaiden”) and the film would be directed by Shinsuke Sato (“The Princess Blade”, “Tokyo Lullabye”, “Sunadokei” and also character and scene developer for the video game “Tekken 4″).

The film was shown in America first as it was simulcast in theaters in 46 states, in Japan, the first film was released in theaters on January 29th.  With the second film being screened in July  at San Diego Comic-Con, the film makes its debut on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of New People Entertainment.

It’s important to note that the films are loosely-based on the manga and anime series.

“Gantz” begins with college student Kei Kurono (played by Kazunari Ninomiya) awaiting a train as he prepares himself for a job interview.  While waiting, he sees an old friend of his, Masaru Kato (played by Kenichi Matsuyama) awaiting for the train.

When a drunk man falls over to the train tracks, Kato goes to help him back up.  He screams for Kurono to help him but he pretends he doesn’t know the man.  But with the help of bystanders, the drunken man is saved but with the train coming, Kato needs help getting back up the platform.  Kurono tries to help him back up but instead is pulled down and both are in the direct path of the oncoming train.

Next thing you know, both re-materialize in a room with a few people watching them and a black orb sitting in the middle.  After the two arrive, a woman named Kei Kishimoto (played by Natsuna) rematerializes in the room without any clothes on.  Kato covers her up and tries to protect her from a yakuza looking man who tries to approach her.

Immediately, they see the orb start playing music and telling them to prepare for their new lives.  Everyone in the room at first are thinking they are dead, because their last memories were either being hit by a vehicle or trying to kill themselves but others think they were drugged in a hospital and are now part of a group experiment.

Meanwhile, the orb known as “Gantz” opens up and inside are suitcases with the names of the people inside the room, as well as weapons.  Inside is a live being, that is on a breathing apparatus.  No one knows what is going on but they are told they must kill an alien child who eats green onions.

While Kei Kishimoto puts on her Gantz outfit, the others are not so sure if they should wear it.

Each of the people inside the room materializes to a new destination and they spot the alien child.  One of the people of the group, Nishi (played by Kanata Hongo), tells them that it’s all part of a game show and whoever catches the kid will win a lot of money.  With many of the men unemployed and needing the money, they go after the kid with their weapons.

And the three of the men end up killing the child.  But not long after, a huge alien man comes  (who appears to be the brother of the alien child) and he begins to brutally kill each of the people of the group.  Kato who tried to stop the people from shooting the alien child is left panicking.  Meanwhile, Kurono just looks from afar and not sure what is going on.

As the alien tries to kill Kato, Kishimoto kicks him and sends the alien behemoth flying.  They then know that the suits given to them by Gantz is quite powerful and gives them some special abilities.

Nishi comes and kills the alien and now everyone who survived the fight rematerializes back into the room.  Everyone is frustrated and shocked of what happened and Kato is angered that Nishi didn’t come to save the others who were killed by the alien.  But Nishi tries to explain to them that they are part of a game, where many have been killed.

Eventually, the group learns from Nishi that with each battle of eliminating aliens, Gantz chooses the individual and give them points.  The overall goal is to reach 100 points. With 100 points accumulated, they can be set free and their memory of Gantz wiped out.  Or they can revive another person that has been killed.

With every night, each of them having to be sent to the battlefield, they are joined by other people who have recently been killed or just died and try to prepare them for the battle that awaits them.  But with each battle, these alien beings become more deadly.  Will Kurono, Kato or Kishimoto survive?

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

It’s important to note that if one wants the best picture and audio quality of “Gantz”, a Blu-ray version of the film is available.  As for the DVD, the film is presented in anamorphic widescreen and presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital Japanese and English.

As for picture quality, as expected for a DVD, you do see some artifacts but for the most part, the good news is that New People Entertainment decided to put the special features on a second disc in order to give the film better PQ.  Again, the Blu-ray version is the one to go with for better picture quality but the DVD is good.  It’s important to note that while the film is bloody, to not make it so violent, the blood is darkened to black.

As for the audio, the film has quite a bit of action, so I did notice a good use of the surround channels.  From explosions to metal upon metal clanging (especially Kato vs. the 100-arm Bhudda), the action sequences do sound great on DVD.  But of course, nothing beats lossless and if you have a Blu-ray player, Blu-ray and HD is the way to go!

As for the dialogue, I prefer to watch films in their original language and don’t listen to the English dub.  But for those who refuse to watch a film with English subtitles, you do have the choice to watch it with an English dub.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gantz” comes with the following special features on Disc-2:

  • Gantz Japanese Original Trailers – Featuring several GANTZ TV commercial and movie trailers.
  • Director’s Profile & Interview – (28:51) Interviews with filmmaker Shinsuke Sato talking about the first film and how it leads to the second film.  As well as the challenges of shooting the film and casting decisions.
  • New People Presents – A trailer for previously released New People entertainment films.

What one can expect from a popcorn action film starring a few of Japanese top young talents!  “GANTZ” features constant action that will thrill you!  Possibly one of the better film adaptations from a manga series in terms of visual effects and costume design.

I personally enjoyed “GANTZ” for the reason that I’m familiar with the talent on the film.  Kazunari Ninomiya of ARASHI fame is very popular as with actor Kenichi Matsuyama, but even before I watched this film, I always felt that the costumes of “GANTZ” was the coolest costumes since the Matrix!

But with that being said, this is a popcorn action film with a lot of action and visual effects but at the same time, it’s a film that is quite different from the manga/anime series.  Granted, there was quite a bit of perversion with the original series…let’s just say it involves a dog and Kishimoto.  But of course, the heart of this series was the mysterious game and the amount of violence shown for an animated series.

When these humans, many who refuse to wear the suits that Gantz gives them, suffice to say, in the series they are slaughtered to death, blood and carnage everywhere.  In the film, there is carnage but the director makes things so dark, especially darken the blood that no one gags while watching.  You know that these poor people who lost their life are dead, but how badly…that is where the film doesn’t go far into.

And for fans of the series, the lack of the sex and bloody violence in the film may be a bad thing.  For me, with any comic book adaptation, you know there are going to be changes.  “Death Note” was very different from the original series and since this film is from the producers of the “Death Note” films, who pretty much had to take the long story of the series and very loosely, create an adaptation to make two films out of it, the same can be said with Gantz.

It’s loosely based on the series and if anything, the characters from the series are there and very few situations remain the same, but for the most part, its an entirely different story when compared to the manga and anime series and similar to “Death Note”, the live-action films, you have to separate the live films from the manga/anime series.

As for the DVD, I did like the fact that they kept the special features separate on another disc but if you have a Blu-ray player and really want very good picture and audio quality, the Blu-ray release of “Gantz” is the way to go.  Otherwise, if you don’t plan to upgrade to Blu-ray, “Gantz” still looks good on DVD and not everything is crammed to one disc.

As mentioned, they try to squeeze a lot into one film, especially the action sequences.  So, the character developing part of Kurono, Kato and Kojima, while we do understand Kato’s connection to his brother, there is more to the Kato storyline than what was shown in the film and it’s rather unfortunate that the film does lose the storyline connecting the viewer to these characters.  It’s something that a manga series can focus on, especially a 26-episode anime series, but for a two-hour film, there is only so much you can incorporate and thus, the screenplay tries to fit in as much character development plots but focus primarily on the action.

And criticism of film adaptations of manga series is not just for “Gantz”, it extends farther to other live action films including “20th Century Boys”, “Maison Ikkoku”, “Video Girl Ai”, “Honey and Clover”, “Death Note”, etc.  There is only so much you can incorporate into  a two-hour film and something has to suffer.  Fortunately, for Gantz, the film relies on its action than the dramatic elements of the series.

So, that is one positive for this film.  Focus on the action and if fans are able to separate themselves from the anime or manga series, then everything seems to work out OK.

Overall, “GANTZ” may not be the best film adaptation on a manga series but I have to admit that I had a lot of fun watching the film adaptation.  The fight against the alien in the car garage or the 100-arm Buddha, that was quite exciting.

If you are looking for an exciting Japanese popcorn action film or you are a fan who can separate themselves from the original storyline of the “GANTZ” anime and manga series, then definitely give the first “GANTZ” film a try!

Kamui Gaiden (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

An exciting, action-packed yet sad and tragic ninja film.  Ken’ichi Matsuyama (“Death Note” films) does a great job playing the wanted ninja who has escaped from his clan and a good number of characters who definitely compliment the lone ninja.  If you have familiarity with anime, manga and video games with a  ninja storyline, “Kamui Gaiden” will definitely entertain you!

Images courtesy of © 2009 Kamui Film Partners . All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kamui Gaiden

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2009

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition 16×9 HD Native, Dolby TrueHD Japanese 6.1, Dolby TrueHD English 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: December 28, 2011

Based on the comic by Sampei Shirato

Directed by Yoichi Sai

Screenplay by Kankuro Kudo, Yoichi Sai

Produced by Akira Morishige, Yui Tamae

Executive Producer: Nozomu Enoiki, Naoya Kinoshita

Music by Taro Iwashiro

Cinematography by Tomoo Ezaki, Junichi Fujisawa

Edited by Isao Kawase

Production Design by Tsutomu Imamura

Starring:

Ken’ichi Matsuyama as Kamui

Koyuki as Sugaru

Kaoru Kobayashi as Hanbei

Koichi Sato as Gumbei

Hideaki Ito as Fudo

Sei Ashina as Mikumo

Ekin Cheng as Dumok

Yuta Kanai as Yoshito

Suzuka Ohgo as Sayaka

Panta as Eshi

Anna Tsuchiya as Ayu

Tsutomu Yamazaki as Narrator

Cruelly shunned by his people as a child, Kamui trusts no one. Now a solitary warrior, he wanders Japan, using lethal skill and instinct to evade countless violent attacks from the ninja clan he left behind. A turn of luck introduces a band of fugitive ninjas who offer Kamui a new life amongst them as a pirate, killing sharks for suffering fishing villages. While the tempting promise of respect and protection leaves him conflicted, the merciless members of his former clan are closing in, and his deadliest foe is poised to strike. The battle is never over for Kamui, the ninja who stands alone.


Considered a manga classic, “Kamui Den” (The Legend of Kamui) is a manga by mangaka Sanpei Shirato and was published in the monthly gekiga (dramatic pictures) magazine “Garo” from 1964 through 1971.  And would inspire several spinoffs such as “Kamui Gaiden” (1965-1967) and “Kamuiden Dai 2 Bu” (1982-1986) and would inspire anime TV series “Kamui the Ninja” (1969).

During the late ’80s, American comic book collectors had their taste of “The Legend of Kamui” as it was one of the first manga printed in comic-book format in English by Viz Comics.

In 2009, the spinoff “Kamui Gaiden” received a live film adaptation which was directed by Yoichi Sai (“Quill”, “Art of Revenge”, “Blood and Bones”) and co-written with Kankuro Kudo (“No More Cry”, “Zebraman” and “Ping Pong”).

The story of “Kamui Gaiden” continues the adventures of a ninja named Kamui.  Long ago, he was a lone child who was taken and raised as a ninja.  When he was a young teen, he was taken on a mission to kill a female ninja named Sugaru (played by Koyuki, “The Last Samurai”, “Blood the Last Vampire”).  Sugaru battled Kamui’s master and in the end, Sugaru was fell over a cliff and was thought dead.

His masters words were that anyone who plans on leaving their ninja clan will be pursued wherever he went as he would be considered a traitor.  Also, to try to keep their secrets within their clan, that traitor must be killed.

Fast forward years later and Kamui is now an adult.  We see Kamui (played by Ken’ichi Matsuyama, “Death Note” films) and several other ninja who have escaped the tribe and are being pursued.  Kamui manages to use his special ninja techniques to defeat his pursuers but his friends weren’t so lucky.

As he continues to run and escape, the lord of the area is out hunting with his men.  While one of the servants for the lord is taking care of a horse, a man named Hanbei (played by Kaoru Kobayashi) comes out of nowhere and cuts off the horse’s leg/foot and runs off with it.  The lord and his men now what to punish the man who did such an act and intrigued by the fearlessness (and carelessness) of Hanbei, Kamui goes to help him and to make a mockery of the lord’s men.

The two escape by boat and are off in the ocean where a violent storm has come.  Next thing you know Hanbei pushes Kamui off the boat and we see what looks like Kamui drowning in the ocean.

We see Kamui now waking up in a land and the villagers trying to rescue him.  Apparently, the rescuers on the land are Hanbei and his family.  We also learn that he has married Sugaru (the escaped ninja).

We also learn the reason why Hanbei had cut off the foot of the horse that belonged to the lord and that is because it’s hoof can be used as bait to catch more fish.  And sure enough, both Hanbei and Kamui grow closer as Hanbei shows him how to fish and his lucky bait made from the hoof can lead to them catching enough fish for the entire village.  But most of all, a friendship is developing between the two.

Kamui ends up getting closer to Hanbei’s family and feels that he has started a new life without any ninja pursuers after him.  Hanbei’s teenage daughter Sayaka (played by Suzuka Ohgo) has fallen for him, his two children love Kamui being there and Hanbei knows that wherever Kamui came from, that is where his wife Sugaru came from (as they smell the same).  But he feels that he can trust Kamui with his life.  He asks for Kamui to please not reveal Sugaru’s presence.

As for Sugaru, she wants nothing but to kill Kamui as she is paranoid that his presence in the village is to impersonate a villager in order for him to pursue and kill her.

Will Kamui be able to convince Sugaru that he’s not after her.  And what will happen to Hanbei, when one of their own villagers, a teen named Yoshito (played by Yuta Kanai) who is jealous of the attention Sayaka is giving Kamui, notices a wanted poster for Hanbei’s capture (for the death of the lord’s horse) and rats on him?

VIDEO:

“Kamui Gaiden” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  First the good news.  The good news is that one will be able to see clear details of rocks, trees, the ground, leaves, blue water and sky. There are scenes that look absolutely fantastic.  You can see the grain of the wood, you can see the details of the cloth in the clothes of people.  There are scenes with wonderful detail.

But…It appears that Yoichi Sai and cinematographers Tomoo Ezaki and Junichi Fujisawa wanted to create different moods with the different villages featured.  When referring to Kamui’s past, there is a use of blacks and darker grays.  When featuring Kamui on the run, there is more use of earth-tones and when they are in the seaside village, a brightness that makes the oceans blue waters come alive.

There is definitely nothing wrong with showcasing different colors of setting moods but there is a bit of inconsistency with the overall pallet that some viewers may feel its a bit too overused.  Also, some may notice a bit of softening on different parts of the film.  Not DNR softening but more like it was intended.  Also, some scenes may look a bit dark at times.

I didn’t notice any digital artifacting and overall, the film does showcase strong contrasting, black levels are nice and deep and also use of grain.  Overall, PQ is very good but you do notice much more of the details during the second half more than the first half of the film due to the shift of colors to a more vibrant location.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kamui Gaiden” is presented in Dolby TrueHD Japanese 6.1 and DolbyTrue HD English 5.1.

I preferred to watch this film via its original Japanese soundtrack and the good news is that from the center and front channels, dialogue is absolutely crystal clear.  But for those expecting an active soundscape, “Kamui Gaiden” has its moments during its action sequences at the beginning film and at the end of the film but in between, it’s a film that is primarily dialogue-driven with crowd ambiance and little surround channel usage.

Some scenes do show of good surround sound usage such as a scene where Sugaru throws her metal coins towards the peasants or when the sharks start jumping from the ocean. You can hear the surround and rear surround channels being utilized.  It would have been nice to have LFE employed and feel the booms but for the most part, you get a good amount of ambiance from the surround channels.

While there are plenty of action scenes, many do take place during the opening sequence and the ending sequence and very few in between.  So, it’s not a active soundtrack but you do get crystal clear sound through the front and center channels.

As for the English dub, I’m not really into dubs for Asian films but I did watch several scenes with the English dub and while some fit certain characters, the English dub sounded a bit too modern-ish.  Especially for the family scenes, it was like listening to a normal family during the modern times, especially when Sayaka and her sibling speak.  The voice actor for Kamui and Hanbei were good though.  I’m sure it will work for some viewers but it didn’t work for me at all.

But I will say that for those who are used to English dubs while watching Asian films should know already that FUNimation Entertainment are one of the best when it comes to English dubs.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kamui Gaiden” comes with the following special features in 480i Standard Definition, Dolby Digital Japanese 2.0 with English subtitles:

  • Behind the Scenes – (12:34) Featuring the training that Ken’ichi Matsuyama had to go through before the film in order to prepare for his role as Kamui.
  • Making of - (32:35) Featuring the making of “Kamui Gaiden” back in 2008 and the challenges which took place, especially when Ken’ichi Matsuyama was injured and production had to stop.  So, we get to see the stress that crew faced at times and also when filming resumed.
  • Coming Soon - Featuring trailers for upcoming and currently released FUNimation Entertainment movies.

I’m going to come out and say it…I really enjoyed “Kamui Gaiden”.

When it comes to Japanese films, especially those that deal with supernatural type of storylines, even with ninja-based films with swordfighting, wire-work and action sequences, there are those who will compare them to Chinese and Korean cinema.

I’ve learned long ago with trendy Japanese films, especially if you grew up watching anime or reading manga, the Japanese have a way of storytelling that takes a lot of what is part of Japanese pop culture and fuse it into a modern live action-film.  The humor, the action, the special attributes of a warrior… if it can happen in an anime or manga series or a video game, expect a live-movie adaptation from a manga/anime to include those unique abilities.

And I know for some reviewers who have watched Asian cinema, they wonder why this happens so much with Japanese film.  Especially when that reviewer is so into Japanese cinema from Kurosawa, Naruse, Teshigahara, Ozu, etc.

But those post-war films of before, a lot has changed with Japanese films and there are those that can be considered as cinema and those that are trendy Japanese films.  “Kamui Gaiden” is the latter.

These are films where you are going to find popular young actors such as Ken’ichi Matsuyama (known to many for his role as “L” in the “Death Note” films) and it helps when you have a well-recognized actress such as Koyuki (known in the west for her role in “The Last Samurai”) together in a film.  Especially seeing pop/rock star Anna Tsuchiya and other talents that many Japanese are used to seeing in trendy Japanese dramas and films.

And having covered “trendy” Japanese films and dramas for over 20-years, I’ve been able to watch these films and not expect anything deep but to sit back and say “wow me!”.  Become better than the typical popcorn action flick with the usual banality that one would expect.

I’ve read those who watched the film and wonder why Japanese films tend to evoke these supernatural style of sword fighting.  Why isn’t it like a Chinese or Korean where warriors fight in battles that seem possible?

And my answer to that is, it’s based from a popular manga, which inspired spin-offs and an anime series and for those who have watched a ninja anime series, ninjas are not just seen as warriors of the night.  They tend to be given supernatural abilities and thus, we see a character like Kamui being able to pull off his special moves.  Moves that seem possible in a video game, anime series or manga and we see it in a live-action film.

I read one review who questioned Kamui’s double sword attack in which he creates two images of himself.  And the reviewer was criticizing of how stupid that move was for a sword fight?  Once again, this is not a Kurosawa film.  These stories are not going after realism.  When you look at Japanese storylines even for sports-based anime or manga series such as “Tennis no Ojisama” (Prince of Tennis) or “Eyeshield 21″, these athletes are gifted with special abilities.  And this is no different with samurai or ninja inspired manga series such as “Kamui Gaiden”.

And as mentioned before, since this is a film adaptation from a manga, you’re going to see some of these special abilities on a film but also getting to see how Japanese films have progressed in action films that require wire work and CG special effects ala blue screen.

What I enjoyed about about “Kamui Gaiden” is the storyline of the protagonist (Kamui) wanting to live a normal life away from his ninja clan and this clan will do anything to stop him and prevent anyone knowing their secrets.  And these ninja are not the nicest ninja out there.  These are vile people who have their own way of serving out justice and will do anything terrible to get their point across.

The film makes you believe that Kamui is a man that has a chance at redemption but as the film utilizes that time to show that hint of happiness that he has yearned for, the writers find a way to destroy any feeling of happiness that the viewer was expecting by the final 15-minutes at the end of the film and just showing us how Kamui’s life will always be a man who will continually be hunted.

Ken’ichi Matsuyama is able to break out of his “L” character that he will forever be known for and take on this character in which he had to be quite convincing and it helps that he underwent a lot of training preparation for this film.  There are very good action sequences but what does hurt the film at times is the use of CG via blue screen and combining it with the realistic scenes.

While in the manga, it shows Kamui along with Hanbei’s family riding a boat to the ocean and then being attacked by huge killer sharks, the problem is that these sharks are just enormous and jump high in the air to terrorize them.  Unfortunately, we have been spoiled with James Cameron’s “Avatar” to see how good CG and realistic scenes are combined but somehow for Japanese films, even today, it’s still hit or miss.

The wirework of course has been a staple of Hong Kong and Chinese action films and it takes a lot of trial and error with even stunt people getting terribly hurt to get the scenes right, but that’s why there are professionals that are hired from Hong Kong to work on American and European films but the wirework for “Kamui Gaiden” doesn’t look as smooth and looks as if they are gliding from a wire.

But these shortcomings are few, the focus is on the story.  Koyuki plays a more convincing role as the mother and former ninja, Kaoru Kobayashi also does a great job playing the husband/father Hanbei.  There is also an appearance by Hideaki Ito who plays Fudo, a ninja also on the run and plays a pivotal role in the final half of the movie.

The film also features short appearances by Hong Kong star Ekin Cheng as Dumok (a ninja who tries to stop Sugaru early in the film) and Anna Tsuchiya as Ayu, the lord’s wife who is always laughing at his grotesque fetishes or violent tendencies.

But what the film does have is a lot of heart.  Yes, and I mean that in a good way for a ninja, action film because Kamui is literally displaced and just wants to free himself of any pursuers.  His new family has embraced him (well, with the exception of Sugaru) especially with the eldest teen daughter Sayaka (played by Suzuka Ohgo), your average teenage girl with her first major crush.

And Kamui cares for this family, so it just drives a stake through your heart as you see these relationships build and see them destroyed by a callous act that no one sees coming.

Sure, this is not a Sho Kosugi ninja style film or anything like “Super Ninjas” that many of us grew up watching during the ’80s.  And no, we aren’t going to see ninja stars or heads being impaled or samurai’s sneaking in for assassinations.  This is all about one man’s goal for freedom and to escape and survive from his old clan who wants him dead.  Will Kamui ever find this new life?

Overall, “Kamui Gaiden” is an exciting, action-packed yet sad and tragic ninja film.  Ken’ichi Matsuyama (“Death Note” films) does a great job playing the wanted ninja who has escaped from his clan and a good number of characters who definitely compliment the lone ninja.  If you have familiarity with anime, manga and video games with a  ninja storyline, “Kamui Gaiden” will definitely entertain you!

Death Note Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 2, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Compelling, dark, twisted and awesome! Both “Death Note” films get the Blu-ray treatment in HD and lossless audio.  If you love the manga and anime series, you’re going to enjoy both films.   Slightly different than the original series but the films yet manage to capture the thrilling spirit of the series.

Images courtesy of © 2006 “DEATH NOTE” FILM PARTNERS © 2003 Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata . All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Death Note Collection

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2006

DURATION: 120 Minutes (Death Note), 140 Minutes (Death Note II)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: VIZ Pictures

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 24, 2010

DEATH NOTE:

Directed by Shusuke Kaneko

Based on the Bestselling Japanese Comic by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

Screenplay by Tetsuya Oishii

Music by Kenji Kawai

Cinematography by Hiroshi Takase

Lighting by Koichi Watanabe

Production Design by Hajime Oikawa

Produced by Takahiro Salute, Toyoharu Fukuda, Takahiro Kobashi

Executive Produced by Seiji Okuda

DEATH NOTE II:

Directed by Shusuke Kaneko

Based on the Bestselling Japanese Comic by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

Screenplay by Tetsuya Oishii

Music by Kenji Kawai

Cinematography by Kenji Takama

Lighting by Masamichi Uwabo

Production Design by Hajime Oikawa

Editor: Yusuke Yafume

Produced by Takahiro Salute, Toyoharu Fukuda, Takahiro Kobashi

Executive Produced by Seiji Okuda

Starring:

Tatsuya Fujiwara as Light Yagami

Kenichi Matsuyama as L

Asaka Seto as Naomi Misora

Shigeki Hosokawa as FBI Agenty Ray

Erika Toda as Misa Amane

Sujui Fujimura as Watari

Takeshi Kaga as Soichiro Yagami

Nana Katase as Kiyomi Takada

Michiko Godai as Sachiko Yagami

Hikari Mitsushima as Sayu Yagami

Yu Kashii as Shiori Kashino

Shido Nakamura as the voice of Ryuk

English Dub Voice Actors:

Christopher Britton as Soichiro Yagami

Shannon Chan-Kent as Misa

Brian Drummond as Ryuk

Brad Swaile as Light Yagami

Matt Lagan as Lind L. Taylor

Death Note
Law student Light is upset with the justice system and when he finds the Death Note dropped by a death god, he vows to rid the world of evil. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies. As criminals all over the world begin to mysteriously die, a world-renowned detective known only as “L” is put on the case to stop this serial killer that the public calls “Kira.”

Death Note 2: The Last Name
The battle between Light and L continues as Light joins the investigation team. L suspects Light of being Kira while Light attempts to learn L’s real name. Time becomes even more crucial with the appearance of a second Kira. Whose name will be the last written in the Death Note?

Both films are compelling, dark, twisted and awesome!

Based on the popular manga and anime series that has captured the attention of viewers worldwide and the live action “Death Note” films (including the third, “L” film) have been popular among fans who have enjoyed this film featuring a battle of wits between Light Yagami and L.

With the “Death Note” films previously released on DVD from Viz Pictures in the U.S., many have wondered if there would be a Blu-ray release due to the films being released on BD in Japan.

“Death Note” is an adaption of the popular manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata and stars Tatsuya Fujiwara (known for his work in the popular “Battle Royale” films), directed by Shusuke Kaneko (known for the 2006 hit film “Gamera”) and the theme song “Dani California” (for “Death Note”) and “Snow (Hey Oh)” (for “Death Note II: The Last Name”) by the popular rock band RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS.

The film focuses on Light Yagami (Fujiwara), an intelligent student who wants to work in criminal law and follow his father’s footsteps and catch criminals. But one day after hacking into the police department’s computer system, Fujiwara is just sickened to know that the police has released criminals who should be incarcerated. One night, Yagami discovers a notebook called “Death Note” that has specific rules:

-The human whose name is written in this note shall die.

-This note will not take effect unless the writer has the person’s face in their
mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will
not be affected.

-If the cause of death is written within 40 seconds of writing the person’s name,
it will happen.

-If the cause of death is not specified, the person will simply die of a heart
attack.

-After writing the cause of death, details of the death should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

-This note shall become the property of the human world, once it touches the
ground of (arrives in) the human world.

-The owner of the note can recognize the image and voice of its original owner,
i.e. a god of death.

-The human who uses this note can neither go to Heaven nor Hell.

Anxious to test this book out, Light writes the name of a criminal, thinking that the book is a joke. That is until the person’s name that was written actually dies. Thus Light finds a way to get justice and does what he can to rid the world of all evil and become “the God of the new world”.

He also meets the owner of the Death Note, a shinigami (God of Death) named Ryuk, who is fascinated by Light of his ways of killing the criminals but the way his mind works.

Light who uses the name “Kira” starts writing the names of criminals in the Death Note and each die by heart attack and thus causing a frenzy in the media and the police force who now need to go after the person killing the criminals. But Kira is not your average criminal, as he is quickly generating a large fandom of people who support Kira’s goal of eliminating criminals.

Of course, the police force led by Light’s father, Soichiro Yagami, has no idea of how to go after this criminal but unbeknownst to them is a mysterious person that goes by the name of L. An intelligent detective who has an unorthodox way of catching criminals and so far, has been very succesful with his cases worldwide.

The cat and mouse chase has begun as L goes after Kira and Kira realizes his greatest enemy is L and thus the battle begins.

The film stars an all-star cast with “Battle Royale” actor Tatsuya Fujiwara as Light Yagami, Kenichi Matsuyama who starred in films “Linda Linda Linda” and “NANA” as the mysterious detective L.

Joining the two is one of Japan’s most popular actress, Asaka Seto as Naomi Misora, a former FBI agent who’s fiance is killed by Kira. Model and actress Yu Kashii as Light’s girlfriend Shiori Akino. Shigeki Hosokawa as FBI Agent Raye who is hot on the trail of catching Kira, actress Erika Toda who plays the character of pop star Misa Amane and Takeshi Kaga, best known for the host of the original “Iron Chef”, who plays the role as Light’s father and head of police, Soichiro Yagami.

In the second film, “Death Note II: The Last Name”, we learn that another individual has the “Death Note”.  Her name is Misa Amane, a pop star and TV talent who has shortened her life span for the eyes of the shinigami.  This allows her to see the names of the individuals and thus easy to write them down on the Death Note.  She is a follower of Kira and all she wants is to be with him.  And thus, she murders innocent people in order to get the attention of Light.

Upon meeting Misa, Light realizes that with her “eyes”, he can use her to finally kill his nemesis L. But with L and the police suspecting Light as Kira and Misa as Kira II, Light devises a plan.  With Misa Amane captured by the police force, he submits himself to being captured and being held by the police.  But he has given Misa’s Death Note to another person.  A newscaster named Kiyomi Takada who also idolizes Kira and his mission and is willing to further his plan of eliminating criminals.

Now the police force who has both Light and Misa in custody in order to find out if they are both Kira now have a new threat in the outside world.  Who can outwit the other and who will become the victor – Kira or L?

The film is 140 minutes long, pacing was indeed well done and overall, despite being different from the manga and anime series, both Shusuke Kaneko and Tetsuya Oishii managed to come up with a thrilling, dark and gripping storyline that remains faithful to the overlying theme of the film.

VIDEO:

“Death Note” and “Death Note II: The Last Name” are presented in 1080p High Definition and everything about these two films on Blu-ray looks much better and more vibrant than its DVD counterpart.

You can see the detail for example on the wooden grain of Light’s bedroom doorway, the metallic finish of his cell phone to the pixels of the screen on his cell phone and the strands of Light’s hair much clearly.

The film features a fine layer of grain, Colors pop out much more especially during the day light sequences, blacks are nice and deep and I don’t recall seeing any major compression artifacts or DNR.

Probably only one scene where I felt there was a bit of low-light noise seen on the blacks and reds (a scene before the ending credits of “Death Note II”) but for the most part, the picture quality for both films are very good.

My main interest was to see how the CGI would be for the shinagami Ryuk and Rem. And how that would translate on film and the two shinigami look exactly like it does in the anime and manga series but Rem seems to look more less detailed than Ryuk. But overall, the CG works with the film.  It’s important to note that the CG was created in 2005-2006, so one should not compare this to 2009 “Avatar” or Pixar-based animation with heavy detail.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Death Note” and “Death Note II: The Last Name” are presented in Japanese and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.   As for the lossless audio, this is another highlight of the Blu-ray version as I found the dialogue and musical soundtrack to be crisp and clear through the front and center channels.

The gunshots and crowd and overall ambiance (doors latching, stairs being climbed, etc.) is well-featured throughout the film through the surround channels.  I was pretty impressed of how much the audio stood out through the surround channels versus when I watched both films originally on DVD.  Ryuk and Rem’s voice echoes through the surround channels, certain movements can be heard through the surround channels and also certain parts of the musical score are played through the surround channels as well.

I found that “Death Note II: The Last Name” had a bit more surround sound usage with vehicles crashing, thunder, gun shots and a bit more destruction utilized in the sequel.

As for LFE, I didn’t really catch any major booms through my subwoofer during the more action-based scenes but mainly during the bass sequences of the music-filled sequences or during a sequence when Light had touched a Death Note.

I typically dislike English dubbing of Asian language films but what brought a smile to my face was that VIZ used the original voice actors of the anime series (which had great English dub work) on this series.

So, for those who are fond of Brandon Swaile’s Light, Alessandro Juliani’s L, Brian Drummond’s Ryuk, Shannon Chan-Kent as Misa and the other English dub voice actors will be happy to know that they did the English dub for the live film.That surprised me and definitely major kudo points for Viz Media for keeping things consistent in the voice acting

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The “Death Note Collection” comes with the following special features:

  • Making of Death Note – (50:00) Featuring the making of “Death Note” and interviews with the director, talent and behind-the-scenes of the making of various scenes from the original film.  A weekly video journal of various scenes and how they were shot.
  • Making of Death Note II: The Last Name - (50:00) Featuring the making of “Death Note II: The Last Name” and interviews with the director, talent and behind-the-scenes of the making of various scenes from the sequel. A weekly video journal of various scenes and how they were shot.
  • Viz Pictures Presents – Featuring trailers for upcoming and currently released Viz Picture films.

First, let me say how happy I was to find out that both “Death Note” films were coming out on Blu-ray and even happier when I found out that they would be bundled together.  I enjoyed both films when they came out and although different from the manga and anime series (as you can only fit so much into two 2-hour films), the writers managed to craft two films that were fine on its own despite its difference from the original storyline.

But even with the slight changes, everything worked out. The pacing was well done, the CGI of Ryuk was well done. But those changes from the original series is what gives the film it’s own life.

Unlike the manga and anime series, Naomi Misora (Seto) has a slightly different role, as does Shiori Akino (Kashii) that plays a major pivotal role early in the series of how demented Light has become, even with a followup comment by Ryuk. Fantastic!

But the plus for this film was the talent involved. Tatsuya Fujiwara is such an impressive actor that it was great to see him take on the role of Light Yagami. To see Fujiwara’s acting show the believable and caring Light Yagami evolve into the killer known as Kira was just fantastic. Kenichi Matsuyama as L was also well done.

But of course, the addition of other talents such as Asaka Seto. She’s such a popular TV drama and film star that it was great to see her as the vengeful Naomi Misora and it’s great to see Mr. “Iron Chef” Takeshi Kaga as Soichiro Yagami.

I was extremely pleased with the first live action film and the treatment it has received on DVD. I enjoyed watching it in Japanese but watching it again with the voice actors of the original anime series. Again, I’m not fond with English dubbing for a lot of Asian films but VIZ was smart in utilizing the voice actors for the anime series on this live film. Well done!

“DEATH NOTE II: The Last Name” was extremely popular in Japan. Having been #1 in the box office for five weeks and earning 5.5 Billion yen in Japan, the film was a major success.

I enjoyed the film a lot and the pacing was much better with the second film but if anything was amazing, it was Tetsuya Oishii’s screenplay.

It is challenging to get so much storyline from the manga and making a live action film.  There is so much story in the “Death Note” manga that it would be difficult to translate all that in two films.  So, there had to be major differences in the live film versus the manga and unfortunately, for many films based from a long manga series, they don’t succeed because they try to condense everything into one film.

As for “Death Note II: The Last Name”, Oishii manages to create a new storyline that is so different from the manga series but yet manages to stay within the confines of the main focal point.  Kira vs. L and finding a right conclusion. Having the storyline so different from the manga, I was pleasantly surprised by it but by the film’s end, I was rather pleased.  Both Kaneko and Oishii pulled it off.

What I love about this film is that Kira and L are two individuals who are intelligent and the way they try to outdo each other, is always amazing.

In a way, it’s like a chess game between these two as they do what they can to outwit each other. Also, I enjoyed seeing how many other characters were integrated into the overall storyline.  And knowing how different this film is from the manga and anime series, I was satisfied with the conclusion of the film and overall, I really enjoyed the sequel.  Good storytelling by Oishii and managing to pull of a storyline that is just as satisfying as the manga but yet quite different.

If you enjoyed the first live film, then you will definitely want to pick up the sequel.  “Death Note II: The Last Name” is a thrilling, suspenseful and enjoyable film.

Overall, this collection is pretty awesome because you do get both films in one set, you also get the films in HD and lossless English and Japanese audio as well.  And you also get the special features in a third disc and there was no skimping by Viz Pictures for their first major Blu-ray release.

It’s important to note that the special features that were on the original DVD release are not the same.  The special features on the Blu-ray are longer and actually feature the making of, whereas the first “Death Note” DVD featured only the interview with the director and “Death Note II” DVD featured a 23-minute interview with the director and talent of the film.

I know there are some people who wish the “L” film was included with this set but this collection focuses primarily on “Death Note” especially the psychological battle between Light Yagami versus L.  And although not as heavy on the details like the manga or animated series, these two films turned out quite well on its own and is definitely recommended!

[Photo Gallery] The 67th Annual Venice Film Festival (September 1-2)

September 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The following are photos from the 67th Annual Venice Film Festival in Italy from September 1-2. Photos are by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM, REUTERS/Tony Gentile, REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi and Red Carpet Pictures.

Jessica Alba arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Robert Rodriguez arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Danny Trejo arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

(L-R) Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba and Robert Rodriguez arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

(L-R) Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba and Robert Rodriguez arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Jessica Alba arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

(L-R) Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba and Robert Rodriguez arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

(L-R) Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba and Robert Rodriguez arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Jessica Alba arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Jessica Alba arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Robert Rodriguez arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Danny Trejo arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Jessica Alba arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Jessica Alba arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Natalie Portman arriving for the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) and the 'Black Swan' premiere held at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Natalie Portman arriving for the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) and the 'Black Swan' premiere held at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

(L-R) Vincent Cassel, Natalie Portman and Darren Aronofski arriving for the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) and the 'Black Swan' premiere held at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

(L-R) Vincent Cassel, Natalie Portman and Darren Aronofski arriving for the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) and the 'Black Swan' premiere held at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Elisa Sednaoui arriving for the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) and the 'Black Swan' premiere held at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

(L-R) Vincent Cassel, Natalie Portman and Darren Aronofski arriving for the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) and the 'Black Swan' premiere held at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Simona Ventura arriving for the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) and the 'Black Swan' premiere held at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Violante Placido arriving for the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) and the 'Black Swan' premiere held at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Margareth Made arriving for the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) and the 'Black Swan' premiere held at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Kiko Mizuhara (L) and Rinko Kikuchi pose at a photocall for the film 'Norwegian Wood' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival, at the Palazzo del Casino in Venice, Italy on September 2, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Kiko Mizuhara (L) and Rinko Kikuchi pose at a photocall for the film 'Norwegian Wood' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival, at the Palazzo del Casino in Venice, Italy on September 2, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

(L-R) Kiko Mizuhara, Rinko Kikuchi, Kenichi Matsuyama and director Anh Hung Tran pose at a photocall for the film 'Norwegian Wood' during the 67th Venice International Film Festival, at the Palazzo del Casino in Venice, Italy on September 2, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Actress Gao Ting Ting jumps during a photocall for the movie Yong Xin Tiao (Showtime) at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 2, 2010. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Actors Gao Ting Ting (L), Wang Nan (2nd L), Jiang Yi and director Stanley Kwan (R) pose during a photocall for the movie Yong Xin Tiao (Showtime) at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 2, 2010. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Actor Wang Nan jumps during a photocall for the movie Yong Xin Tiao (Showtime) at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 2, 2010. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Actor Wang Nan jumps during a photocall for the movie Yong Xin Tiao (Showtime) at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 2, 2010. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi poses for photographers during a photocall for Noruwei no Mori (Norwegian Wood) by director Tran Anh Hung during the 67th Venice Film Festival September 2, 2010.  REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi  (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Director Catherine Breillat poses during a photocall for the movie La Belle endormie (The sleeping beauty) at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 2, 2010. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Japanese actor Kenichi Matsuyama poses for photographers during a photocall for Noruwei no Mori (Norwegian Wood) by director Tran Anh Hung during the 67th Venice Film Festival September 2, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi  (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Actor Jiang Yi poses during a photocall for the movie Yong Xin Tiao (Showtime) at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 2, 2010. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Julian Schnabel (C), director of the in-competition film Miral , poses with actress Hiam Abbass (L) and screenwriter Rula Jebreal as they arrive for a photocall at the Excelsior Palace as part of the Venice Film Festival September 2, 2010.  REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi  (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Julian Schnabel (C), director of the in-competition film Miral , poses with actress Hiam Abbass (L) and screenwriter Rula Jebreal as they arrive for a photocall at the Excelsior Palace as part of the Venice Film Festival September 2, 2010.  REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi  (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Danny Trejo .''MACHETE'' photocall during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66240AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Actor Donnie Yen .''Legend Of The Fist: The Return Of Chen Zhen'' photocall during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Hotel Excelsior in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66241AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Jessica Alba.''MACHETE'' photocall during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66240AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Director Andrew Lau .''Legend Of The Fist: The Return Of Chen Zhen'' photocall during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Hotel Excelsior in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66241AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Robert Rodriguez.''MACHETE'' photocall during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66240AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Benjamin Millepied.''Black Swan'' photocall during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66239AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Darren Aronofsky.''Black Swan'' photocall during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66239AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Natalie Portman.''Black Swan'' photocall during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66239AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Vincent Cassel.''Black Swan'' photocall during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66239AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Jessica Alba.''MACHETE'' photocall during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66240AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Jessica Alba.''MACHETE'' photocall during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66240AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Jessica Alba.''MACHETE'' photocall during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66240AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Jessica Alba.''Machete'' premiere during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66238AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Jessica Alba.''Machete'' premiere during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66238AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Jessica Alba.''Machete'' premiere during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66238AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Jessica Alba.''Machete'' premiere during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66238AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Jessica Alba and Robert Rodriguez.''Machete'' premiere during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66238AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Jessica Alba.''Machete'' premiere during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66238AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Robert Rodriguez.''Machete'' premiere during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66238AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Danny Trejo.''Machete'' premiere during THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66238AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Actress Natalie Portman and director Darren Aronofsky .''Black Swan'' premiere at THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66237AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Director Darren Aronofsky (c) and actors Vincent Cassel (l) and Natalie Portman .''Black Swan'' premiere at THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66237AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Director and jury president Quentin Tarantino .''Black Swan'' premiere at THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66237AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Director and jury president Quentin Tarantino .''Black Swan'' premiere at THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66237AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Model Tiziana Rocca .''Black Swan'' premiere at THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66237AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Model Tiziana Rocca .''Black Swan'' premiere at THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66237AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Jury President director Quentin Tarantino (l-r) and Jury members director Gabriele Salvatores, director Luca Guadagnino, film composer Danny Elfman, director Arnaud Desplechin, actress Ingeborga Dapkunaite and director Guillermo Arriaga .''Black Swan'' premiere at THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66237AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Actor Danny Trejo (R) and director Robert Rodriguez pose during the movie Machete red carpet at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. The world's oldest film festival opens September 1 and closes on September 11. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Actress Jessica Alba poses for photographers during the movie Machete red carpet at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. The world's oldest film festival opens September 1 and closes on September 11. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Director Robert Rodriguez (2nd L) takes a picture as actress Jessica Alba (R) walks during the movie Machete red carpet at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. The world's oldest film festival opens September 1 and closes on September 11. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Director Robert Rodriguez (R) signs autographs during the movie Machete red carpet at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. The world's oldest film festival opens September 1 and closes on September 11. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Model Afef Jnifen.''Black Swan'' premiere at THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66237AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Sep. 01, 2010 - Hollywood, California, U.S. - Natalie Portman.''Black Swan'' premiere at THE 67TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL at Palazzo del Cinema in Venice, Italy 09-01-2010.phto by - Photos, Inc. 2010.K66237AM. © Red Carpet Pictures

Director Robert Rodriguez poses for photographers during the Machete red carpet at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. The world's oldest film festival opened September 1 and closes on September 11. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi  (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Actors Jessica Alba (C), Danny Trejo (L) and director Robert Rodriguez pose during the Machete red carpet at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. The world's oldest film festival opened September 1 and closes on September 11. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi  (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Director Robert Rodriguez (L) takes a picture as actress Jessica Alba (R) walks during the Machete red carpet at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. The world's oldest film festival opened September 1 and closes on September 11. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Director Andrew Lau (R) poses with his wife during the red carpet for The Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Hong Kong actors Donnie Yen (L) and Shawn Yue (R) pose with director Andrew Lau during the red carpet for their film The Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Members of juries of the Venezia 67 Award Ingeborga Dapkunaite (L) from Lithuania, Danny Elfman (2 to L) from the U.S. and his guest (2nd R) pose for photographers as Italian director Gabriele Salvatores (R) looks on during a red carpet ceremony at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi  (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Members of the Luigi De Laurentiis Venice Award for a Debut Film, Nina Lath Gupta (R) from India, director Stanley Kwan (L) from Hong Kong, director Samuel Maoz (2nd R) from Israel and Italian actress Jasmine Trinca (2nd L) pose for photographers during a red carpet at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi  (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Iranian Director and President of the international jury Orizzonti , Shirin Neshat (2nd L), actress Raja Amari (2nd R) from Tunisia , Lav Diaz (R) from Philippines and Alexander Horwath (L) from Austria pose for photographers during a red carpet at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi  (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Actress Margareth Made poses on the red carpet as she arrives for the opening ceremony of the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. The world's oldest film festival opened September 1 and closes on September 11. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

REFILE - CORRECTING BYLINE  U.S. director and producer Quentin Tarantino (L), jury president of the 67th Venice International Film Festival, poses on the red carpet as he arrives for the festival's opening ceremony in Venice September 1, 2010. The world's oldest film festival opened September 1 and closes on September 11. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

U.S. director and producer Quentin Tarantino, jury president of the 67th Venice International Film Festival, poses on the red carpet as he arrives for the festival's opening ceremony in Venice September 1, 2010. The world's oldest film festival opened September 1 and closes on September 11. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Actors Natalie Portman (C), Vincent Cassel (L) and director Darren Aronofsky pose for photographers during the Black Swan red carpet at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi  (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Luca Guadagnino, Arnaud Desplechin, Danny Elfman, Guillermo Arriaga, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Quentin Tarantino and Gabriele Salvatores attending the 'Venezia 67 Jury' photocall during the 67th Venice Film Festival at the Palazzo del Casino on September 1, 2010 in Venice, Italy. Photo by Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Actress Jessica Alba poses for photographers during a photocall for the movie Machete at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Actors Jessica Alba (C), Danny Trejo and director Robert Rodriguez (L) pose for photographers during a photocall for the movie Machete at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY)

Manuela Arcuri and Gabriel Garko posing in front of the excelsior Hotel near the Palazzo del Casino in the Lido, for the 67th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy on September 1st, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Genin/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Manuela Arcuri posing in front of the excelsior Hotel near the Palazzo del Casino in the Lido, for the 67th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy on September 1st, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Genin/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Gabriel Garko posing in front of the excelsior Hotel near the Palazzo del Casino in the Lido, for the 67th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy on September 1st, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Genin/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

(L-R) Director Andrew Lau, Donnie Yen and Shawn Yue arriving for the premiere of 'Legend Of The Fist: The Return Of Chen Zhen' held at the Sala Grande during the 67th Venice International Film Festival in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Genin/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Afef Jnifen arriving for the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) and the 'Black Swan' premiere held at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Jeremy Charriau/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Isabella Ragonese arriving for the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) and the 'Black Swan' premiere held at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Jeremy Charriau/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel arriving for the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) and the 'Black Swan' premiere held at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Jeremy Charriau/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Natalie Portman arriving for the Opening Ceremony of the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) and the 'Black Swan' premiere held at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Jeremy Charriau/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Cecilia Cissy Wang and Donnie Yen arriving for the premiere of 'Legend Of The Fist: The Return Of Chen Zhen' held at the Sala Grande during the 67th Venice International Film Festival in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Nicolas Genin/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

Jessica Alba arriving for the premiere of 'Machete' presented out of competition during the 67th Venice International Film Festival (Mostra) at the Sala Grande Palazzo, in Venice, Italy on September 1, 2010. Photo by Jeremy Charriau/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom

L: change the WorLd (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

“The third ‘Death Note’ film ‘L: Change the World’ focuses on L’s final 23 days and showing us a new side to L that we’ve never seen before.  Featuring an all-star cast and a more darker/horror type of storyline from the director of the ‘Ring’ films, Hideo Nakata.”

Images courtesy of ©2008 L FILM PARTNERS, L PLOT PRODUCE. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: L: change the WorLd

DURATION: 129 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Dolby Digital, Bilingual (Japanese and English)

RATED:  Not Rated.  Parental guidance suggested.

COMPANY: Viz Pictures, Inc.

RELEASE DATE: August 25, 2009

Directed by Hideo Nakata

Based on the characters and story by Tsugumi Oba and Takeshi Obata

Written by Kiyomi Fujii and Hirotoshi Kobayashi

Executive Producer Seiji Okuda

Co-executive Producer by Katsu Kamikura and Hironao Ryoki

Producer: Nobuhiro Iizuka, Takahiro Kobashi, Takahiro Sato and Tadashi Tanaka

Music by Kenji  Kawai

Cinematography by Tokusho Kikumura

Edited by Nobuyuki Takahashi

Casting by Takefumi Yoshikawa

Art Direction by Kyoki Yauchi

Cast/Voice Talents:

Ken’ichi Matsuyama/Alessandro Juliani as L

Sota Aoyama as Detective Matsuda

Shunji Fujimura/Ron Halder as Watari

Tatsuya Fujiwara as Light Yagami

Kiyotaka Nanbara/Brian Drummond as Hideaki Suruga

Mayuko Fukuda/Chantal Strand as Maki Nikaido

Narushi Fukuda/Michael Strusievici as BOY

Sei Hiraizumi as Dr. Koichi Matsudo

Shigeki Hosokawa as FBI Agent Ray

Renji Ishibashi/John Novak as Shin Kagami

Yuta Kanai/Kirby Morrow as Tamotsu Yoshizawa

Youki Kudoh/Cathy Wseluck as Dr. Mikiko Kujo

Tim Man as Scientist

Bokuzo Masana as Asao Konishi

Shido Nakamura/Brian Drummond as Ryuuk (Voice)

Kazuki Namioka/Richard Ian Cox as F

Kiyotaka Nanbara as Hideaki Suruga

Megumi Sato as Hatsune Misawa

Asaka Seto as Naomi Misora

Masanobu Takashima as Daisuke Matoba

Misa Amane as Erika Toda

Shingo Tsurumi as Kimihiko Nikaido

Inspired by the best-selling manga and anime series, Death Note: L, change the WorLd reveals how the legendary detective “L” spends the final days of his life.  Directed by master J-horror filmmaker Hideo Nakata, Kenichi Matsuyama once again stars as L.

L has finally solved the “Kira” case in which countless criminals had died under mysterious circumstances, but sacrificed his own life in order to stop Kira, leaving himself with only 23 days left to live.

For his final case, L goes up against a bio-terrorist group trying to wipe out humanity with a deadly mutated virus.  As L tries to formulate an antidote with a scientist, he must also saves the lives of two children who have no one else to turn to.  Will L be able to save the world before it’s tool late?  Witness the last 23 days of L.

With the success of the two “Death Note” films, a new film based on the character L was in development and released in theaters in Japan in February 2008.  Taking the helm of director for this film is popular horror director Hideo Nakata, known for his “Ring” films.  A goal that Nakata wanted for the film is to destroy any stereotype of L and to show his human side.

Joining Nakata are writers Hirotoshi Kobayashi (“Eko Eko Azarak: Awakening” and “Black Jack: Two Doctors in Black”) and Kiyomi Fujii, well-known Japanese composer Keni Kawai (“Death Note” films, “The Sky Crawlers”, “Ring”, “Ghost in the Shell” films, “Ranma 1/2″, “Maison Ikkoku”, “Patlabor”) and cinematographer Tokusho Kikumura (“Ju-on” films, “Cure”).

(NOTE: BECAUSE OF THE FILM’S NATURE, IF YOU NAVE NOT WATCHED THE PREVIOUS “DEATH NOTE” FILMS, THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS TO THE TWO FILMS)

In “L: change the WorLd”, the film takes place during L’s final 23 days.  In order to take down his major nemesis Light Yagami (Kira), L (Ken’ichi Matsuyama) wrote his name on the Death Note in order to make sure that it was not Kira that was responsible for his death (this is seen in the second film “Death Note: The Last Name”).

While L and his mentor Watari work to take down Kira, one of his counterpart’s known as M is in Thailand uncovering a terrible mishap in a village that was exposed to a virus.   While, M tries to capture video of these men wearing gas masks, protective suits and military vehicles, M and a young boy managed to briefly escape.  But as they have been discovered, M tells the young boy to call and give a message to Watari, while he tries to divert the attention of this unknown group to himself while the boy can escape.

Unfortunately, during this time, it was a time that takes place after the death of Kira and Watari.  L knowing he has a few weeks to live, tries to help all international agencies capture their criminals but its when he receives a call from a boy (Narushi Fukuda), who has a message for Watari, L feels obligated to take care of him until he finds out what message M has given him.

The storyline shifts to a scientist named Dr. Nikaido (Shingo Tsurumi) who is giving his daughter Maki (Mayuko Fukuda) some injection shots and for some apparent reason, has her studying a chart of numbers which possibly has a hidden meaning.  We learn that Maki is a loving daughter who misses her deceased mother.

Meanwhile, at the laboratories of a hi-tech facility, scientists Dr. Nikaido and Dr. Kimiko Kujo (Youki Kudoh) study the virus that was used on the villagers in Thailand and learned that there are two viruses in its roots (a combination of influenza and ebola).  But knows that the creators of the virus will be unable to gain power if there is no antidote.  Knowing the seriousness of the virus and that world organizations may wan to possess it, Dr. Nikaido gives Maki an order to deliver a case to a man named Watari and to go to him immediately.

While back at the headquarters, L  tries to become acquainted with the boy that was rescued by M.  Never really spending time with children, L is not sure how to behave around them.  He learns that the boy is a mathematical genius and by showing his gentle nature, the boy entrusts him with a necklace given to him by M.  L then learns that a group has unleashed a virus into a village and inside the necklace is a micro-disc that has video footage of the tragedy at the village.

We then learn that there is a man who is responsible for the virus and that he has one goal, to eliminate non-essential people from the world and to create a new world of people who matter and by cutting down on the world’s population who have hurt the planet.  We learn that there is dissension with the creator and one of his underlings.  The underling, a terrorist known as Daisuke Matoba (Masanobu Takeshima) has used the virus and offered them to other countries for financial gain.  Never a goal by its creator, Matoba murders the creator of the virus and tells the other staff members that they will use the virus and take down countries but in order to do that, they will need to produce more and sell it to other countries and they can help eliminate their own population .Needing more of the virus, the terrorists need to go to the laboratory where Dr. Nikaido works.

While the terrorists go after Nikaido for virus, they also find out that he has developed an antidote. Nikaido is shocked of who is the ringleader orchestrating the terrorists.  But when the terrorists threaten to kills his daughter, Dr. Nikaido has no choice and that is to destroy the antidote, and to prevent them from going inside the laboratory, he injects himself with the virus.

While this ensues, Maki who is hiding, sees her father die all because of a person she knows and knowing that it was a person who was once close to her.  She immediately escapes and tries to do what her father instructed her to do, to find Watari.

L must now be responsible in taking care of both the boy and Maki and prevent them from being captured by the terrorist but things are not going to be easy as the person who is leading the terrorist, is his counterpart known as K.

Involved in another battle of intelligence, L alongside the help of a FBI agent named as Hideaki Suruga (Kiyotaka Nanbara), an agent who is trying to obtain a “Death Note” from L must do what they can for the time being and try to stop the terrorist but first and foremost, protect the children and outsmart L’s counterpart, K.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“L: change the WorLd” is featured in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen.  For the most part, there are many scenes, especially those that take place outdoors, that look nice and vibrant. While some scenes (such as in the beginning of the film) looks as if it suffers from some low-light noise.  But for the most part, the film does look good.

Audio is presented in Bilingual (English and Japanese) Dolby Digital audio and I found the best setting for me, was to set my receiver to play the audio on all channels in stereo. For those who are not exactly into reading subtitles, the good news is that the cast who did the anime series and previous two films are back again, providing the English dub for “L: change the WorLd”.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“L: change the WorLd” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind the Scenes and Director Interviews – (19:44) Interviews with Director Hideo Nakata and talents such as Ken’ichi Matsuyama and Youki Kudoh.  Both Nakata and Matsuyama discuss the character of L and how they had difference of opinions of how L should be and Matsuyama talked about how this L was much more different than in the two previous films.
  • Japanese Original Trailers - (1:42) Japanese theatrical trailers
  • Official English Trailer – (1:04) The original English theatrical trailer
  • Event Bonus Footage Teaser – (1:52) A message from L (dubbed by Alessandro Juliani) and a behind-the-scenes screening of the film.  Also, a chance for people to win an autograph.
  • Death Note Live Action Trailers – (2:07) – Trailer for both “Death Note” films.
  • Death Note Anime Trailer – (2:04) Trailer for the anime series
  • Viz Pictures Presents – (2:06) Trailer for films released by Viz Pictures.

Also included is a booklet with the “L Report” and a crossword puzzle.

Intriguing, gritty and violent, “L: change the WorLd” may seem it has more in common with a “Resident Evil” series over a “Death Note” series but nevertheless, I found the film entertaining and to see a different side of the mysterious character, L.

“L: change the WorLd” is one of those films that will captivate the viewer because it features the mysterious crime detective L but also at the same time, may put off the hardcore fans of “Death Note” who know that this film is not part of the original story by Tsgumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.  Also, because the film is directed by the Ring’s Hideo Nakata, one must be curious about how much horror is included in this film.

First, the positives.

I absolute enjoy Ken’ichi Matsuyama playing the role of L.  His character and its demeanor is quite intriguing and the fact that this third film really explores his humanity in a different level than the previous two films, it was quite interesting.  Especially to see how he would live his life knowing he had only 23 days to live.

As mentioned, this film has an all-star cast.  Youki Kudoh who plays Dr. Kimiko Kujo has appeared in a variety of Japanese and English films such as “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Rush Hour 3″ but the actress is also known for her music career in Japan.  The film also stars Masanobu Takashima, who plays one of the ruthless terrorists in the film Daisuke Matoba.  Typically, in Japanese dramas, Takashima is typically playing the kindest of characters and so it was interesting to see him play a villain.  Also, Shingo Tsurumi as Dr. Nikaido is a well-known actor who has been in series such as the popular “San-nen B-Gumi Kinpachi Sensei” and films such as “The Black Angel”, “Rasen” and many others.  But the most popular appearance in the film is by Kiyotaka Nanbara (of the popular comedy duo Uchan Nanchan) as FBI agent Hideaki Suruga.

The film also stars upcoming talent Mayuko Fukuda (“Kamikaze Girls”, “Doomsday: The Sinking of Japan” and “Piano no Mori”) as Maki Nikaido and we get to see appearances by “Death Note” characters Watari (Shunji Fujimura), Misa Amane (Erika Toda) and Naomi Misora (Asaka Seto).

For those familiar with Japanese cinema and dramas, this film definitely features an all-star cast.

If there was a negative, there are a few that I have to mention.

The spoken English dialogue by the character of F and even L is hard to understand and to make things worse, there are no subtitles for what they are saying.  Their English is quite rough and so, I was surprised to see no subtitles for that part of the film.

As much as I did enjoy the film, the film runs quite long at 129 minutes.  There were quite a few scenes that probably are non-essential and for some talent, I felt that there was a tendency to overact a scene. Mainly not with the major talents but the supporting actors and even the talent who were exposed to the virus.  If anything, it definitely made the film seem a bit more campy at times.

But at the end of the film, although not as strong and suspenseful as the first film, Director Hideo Nakata definitely brings his style of horror to “L: change the WorLd”.  Although “Death Note” was a film that had a significant amount of deaths, this film has actual murder scenes and for those who freak out by the sight of blood, this film definitely has quite a number of scenes that showcase quite a bit of blood.

If anything, the film kind of resembles the CG film “Resident Evil: Degeneration” (sans the zombies) and how a group of terrorists are trying to spread the virus in almost similar situation.

But despite the films shortcomings, I was definitely entertained and I did enjoy how the film explored the character of L, especially him having to drag around two kids and for himself, experiencing a side of life that he never experienced before.  Also, a few surprises are in store for “Death Note” manga and anime fans when they find out who the boy is and what L has named him.

Although, the films were not close to the original manga adaptation, I enjoyed the film for giving us that different side of L. Because of his character, his mannerisms definitely made certain scenes quite humorous and for the most part, there are a good number of those fun scenes, as well a good number of gritty, darker scenes.

I’m not going to say that all “Death Note” live film fans are going to enjoy this third film but personally, despite its few shortcomings, I was definitely entertained and wouldn’t mind watching “L: change the WorLd” all over again.

THROUGH OTAKU EYES / Actor Kenichi Matsuyama captures manga spirit

March 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

In an excerpt of Kanta Ishida’s column of “Through Otaku Eyes” for the Daily Yomiuri, Ishida writes about “Death Note” actor Kenichi Matsuyama (L) who plays another manga character for a new Japanese drama “Zenigeba” shown on NTV.

Is Kenichi Matsuyama the acting genius the world of manga culture
has been waiting for? I thought so while watching Zenigeba, a drama
currently being broadcast by the NTV network on Saturdays at 9 p.m.

I should note that creating a television version of the manga
Zenigeba is an astounding idea itself. Zenigeba is about Futaro
Gamagori, a boy who becomes money-mad after his mother dies of an
illness that would have required treatments too costly for the poor
family to afford. He grasps at wealth and power even to the extent of
using murder to get ahead.

Zenigeba was drawn by mangaka George Akiyama, also known for
Haguregumo, and it was initially serialized in the magazine Weekly
Shonen Sunday in 1970. Social situations such as student movements at
the end of the 1960s, pollution and underground culture are heavily
mirrored in Zenigeba. Because of its gruesome content, the manga was
designated a “harmful work” in some regions.

Zenigeba was adapted into a film in 1970, starring Juro Kara. Still,
one would never have expected it to become a source of weekend
prime-time television.

I also was skeptical about a handsome actor like Matsuyama playing
Futaro. But…what a formidable actor he is! I have been glued to my
television every week since January, when the show started.

The drama is set in the present day, and several changes have been
made to the setting of the story. Still, Futaro’s ill deeds are mostly
the same as in the manga. But Matsuyama has been able to express not
only Futaro’s monstrous horribleness but also his sorrow and even the
love-starved mind behind his ghastly acts.

I have a strong personal attachment to the manga, which made a deep
impression on me when I read it when I was 10. But the TV drama is
beyond challenge as it also is blessed with an intense script and
high-quality production.

In any case, why is Matsuyama so well suited to playing manga
characters? He had his breakout role as L in the film Death Note, a
manga adaptation. He also showed a great performance as Soichi Negishi
and his alter ego, Johannes Krauser II, in the manga-based film Detroit
Metal City and as Robo, a boy with an otaku devotion to robots, in the
TV drama Sexy Voice and Robo. In the film Kamui Gaiden, which will be
released in autumn, Matsuyama will play lonesome nukenin (runaway
ninja) Kamui.

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