Veteran actor Makoto Fujita has passed away at the age of 76. Fujita, whose real name was Makoto Harada, died at a hospital in Suita, Osaka, on February 17. The cause of death was reportedly a ruptured aortic aneurysm.
Born in Tokyo in 1933 but raised mainly in Kyoto, Fujita was the son of silent-film star Rintaro Fujima. With his roots as a comedian, Fujita hit a turning point in his career when he starred in the comedy show “Tenamonya Sandogasa” (1962-1968), which achieved ratings as high as 60% in the Kansai region and over 40% in the Kanto region. His career languished a bit after the end of the show, but in 1973 he became a star on the “Hissatsu” Series of historical dramas, playing the role of Nakamura Mondo. His other notable works include “Hagure Keiji Junjoha” and “Kenkaku Shobai.”
In addition to television, Fujita was very active in film and theater. He also was known as a kayokyoku singer.
In 2008, Fujita was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and underwent a successful surgery. He returned to work later that year and continued acting while undergoing rehabilitation, but last year he was pulled from the drama series “JIN” due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. While still doing rehab, he began working again last month as a television narrator, with plans to fully resume acting this March.
Suzuki Toshio’s radio show Ghibli Asemamire airs every week. The main guest a couple of weeks ago was Google Japan president Tsujino Koichiro and during their talk, Studio Ghibli producer Suzuki told that the famed Japanese animation studio is making a new short film; 10 minutes in length and made by Miyazaki Hayao. As many of the studio’s animators are working on the new feature Karigurashi no Arrietty, Miyazaki himself is even working on animating it as well. Though the short will have no dialogue, Suzuki mentioned it is very interesting, but can’t tell anymore details yet. Suzuki and Miyazaki spoke about the internet and how they were considering to use it for Studio Ghibli’s future. One idea was releasing the short on the internet on a site like Youtube. To help them, Japan’s biggest advertising agency Dentsu is providing them advice.
On another note Studio Ghibli’s new film Karigurashi no Arrietty is due for release in Japan on July 17th. The director is Hiromasa Yonebayashi.
Below is Miyazaki Hayao’s original project plan for the film:
The project of the feature length animation Chiisana Arrietty is based on Mary Norton’s The Borrowers. Its location has been moved from England 1950s to Japan 2010 though. To be more exact, its specific detail location is around Koganei where things are familiar to us. A family of tiny people live under the floor of the kitchen of an old house; the fourteen year old Arrietty and her parents. They are “borrowers”; to live they borrow everything they need from the humans above them. They can’t use magic, nor are they fairies. Instead, they fight against mice, suffer from termites, dodge pesticide spray attacks, escape from cockroach traps and live cautious in order not to be seen. There still remains a classical family image though. The father has enough bravery and patience to go hunting for his family, the mother is responsible for keeping the house with creative thinking and the daughter Arrietty is a curious girl with a rich sensibility. With this, seen by 10cm tall tiny people, a world familiar to us will be restored with freshness. The story starts from the tiny people’s life. Arrietty meets a boy, makes a fellowship and separates. Finally, they escape from the storm blown up by callous humans and go into the field. The wish for this film is to comfort and encourage people who live in this chaotic and anxious time.
On Miyazaki’s project plan Studio Ghibli producer Suzuki Toshio commented, “As can you see, Miyazaki’s original title was Chiisana Arrietty (Little Arrietty), a bold change he made compared to the title of the original novel.
America’s Sexiest Man Alive Johnny Depp made an amazing arrival into the Narita International Airport on December 8, 2009 in Narita, Chiba, Japan. Is it possible that Johnny has even more adoring fans in the East? I’m sure it would be a hefty competition!
The superstar is currently in Japan to promote his film Public Enemies co-starring Christian Bale. Over here in the United States, it was just released on DVD today but in Japan it will hit theaters on December 12th.
Depp is currently in “advanced negotiations” to star in Emir Kusturica’s upcoming Spanish-language biopic of the Mexican bandit and revolutionary hero Pancho Villa, entitled Seven Friends of Pancho Villa and the Woman With Six Fingers.
Though the script is complete, filming won’t be able to take place until 2011 because of Johnny’s prior commitments. Shooting would take him to Mexico for at least part of the movie
Imagi Animation Studios, which made the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, have made a new CGI animation featuring Astro Boy, the famous manga character created by the god of manga, Osamu Tezuka. The studio announced the project in September 2006 and the film is directed by David Bowers. Freddie Highmore provides the voice for the character of Astro Boy in the movie. The film also features the voices of Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, Matt Lucas, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland and Nicolas Cage.
On November 5, 2008, D3Publisher of America announced it would publish video games based on the film. The games are scheduled to be released for console and handheld systems in the fourth quarter of 2009 to coincide with the film’s theatrical release.
IDW Publishing will release a trade paperback entitled Astro Boy: Movie Adaptation written by Scott Tipton and drawn by E.J. Su, as well as an Astro Boy Movie Prequel: Underground written by Scott Tipton and drawn by Diego Jourdan, with the cover artwork painted by Ashley Wood
This film is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Set in futuristic Metro City, Astro Boy is about a young robot with incredible powers created by a brilliant scientist named Tenma (Nicolas Cage). Powered by positive blue energy, Astro Boy (Freddie Highmore) is endowed with super strength, x-ray vision, unbelievable speed and the ability to fly.
Embarking on a journey in search of acceptance, Astro Boy encounters many other colorful characters along the way. Through his adventures, he learns the joys and emotions of being human, and gains the strength to embrace his destiny. Ultimately learning his friends and family are in danger, Astro Boy marshals his awesome super powers and returns to Metro City in a valiant effort to save everything he cares about and to understand what it takes to be a hero.
The story of Hachiko, the Akita-ken who symbolizes loyalty, devotion, and friendship has been brought to the screen recently in a new movie, Hachi (also called Hachiko- A Dog’s Story). It was released in Japan on 8/8 (to correspond with ‘hachi, hachi’), and will be out in America on December 18. Whether or not you know the story of this inspiring canine who waited for his master at Shibuya Station everyday for over ten years, I recommend Hachiko Waits, by Leslea Newman, to fill you in. Leslea’s book is faithful to the details of the original story, while adding a few new characters, especially a young boy, Yasuo, who befriends Hachi. It is a young adult novel, though I must admit I read it twice myself, enjoying the details of Tokyo in the 1920’s and the story of how Hachi becomes the respected and loved Hachi-ko.
If you are in Tokyo, why not call a friend, meet at the Shibuya Station at the Hachiko statue, and make a Hachi night out of it. And of course, bring along a copy of the book for while you wait!
I’ll be waiting for a Wednesday (Ladies Day) or the first of the month to see the movie, when the price in theatres in Japan goes down to 1000 yen, from the regular 1800 yen ticket price.
Aikawarazu Life in Japan
Link to find out more about the Shibuya Hachiko Statue:
For the first time ever the Tokyo Film Center will be holding an International Film Festival which will be screening short films made by talented filmmakers who come from different parts of the world. The event will be held on Sat 25th and Sun 26th of July.
So, if your asking yourself “Is this one of those movie buff festivals where they’re just after your money?”, I have to say YES, we are movie buffs but not after your money because it’s a no charge event, yes you got it — NO CHARGE.
So if you are a movie buff or not I recommend for you to come by with friends or family and enjoy the films/live music/ethnic dancers/good food/cosplay make-up and much more.
If your a movie buff you’re lucky, because we have a little of everything for you, which includes meeting the creators of the films, special guests, coming by and seeing our film facility, and much more.
Thank you and hope to see you there.
Tokyo Film Center School of Arts
Director: Fumihiko Masuri
Writer: Kankuro Kudo
Cast: Yosuke Kubozuka, Arata, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Koji Okura, Shido Nakamura, Naota Takenaka, Mari Natsuki
The Skinny: Manga-based sports flick is a little disjointed, but the sure direction and quirky tone make this a winner. And when it’s ping pong time, the film really soars.
Peco (Yosuke Kubozuka) and Smile (Arata) are two life-long friends who belong to their high-school ping pong team. Peco is the over-confident, borderline egotistical member of the pair, who desires openly to be the world’s greatest ping-pong player. However, despite his obvious talents, he’s lazy and doesn’t apply himself to the sport. Smile (who’s so named because he never does), is the opposite of Peco, and plays without passion or love. He says he does so simply to pass the time, and frequently submits to pal Peco during their friendly matches.
Things change between the pals when they find themselves challenged at the tables. Their coach (Naota Takenaka) pushes Smile hard, as he recognizes what Smile and even Peco do not: that Smile has surpassed his friend at ping pong. Meanwhile, Peco finds himself emotionally conflicted at Smile’s growing skill—and his newfound desire to excel. Also factoring in is the arrival of China (Sam Lee), a ringer from (duh) China who’s been enlisted by a rival high school to take them to the championship. However, standing in everyone’s way is Dragon (Shido Nakamura), the reigning champ, who’s so dedicated to the sport that he practices until he bleeds and preps before matches by isolating himself in the toilet. Eventually, Smile and Peco must come to terms with their reasons for playing ping pong, and with what it means to them personally. And, somebody must win.
Based on a manga by Taiyo Matsumoto, Ping Pong is a sports story, and as such features the usual sports themes that have been seen in many, many previous films. Tried-and-true issues of friendship, competition, individual desire, love of the game, and sportsmanship fill this flick from end-to-end. Characters openly wonder about their abilities, despair at their lack of talent, and question one another’s dedication. Some of the soul-searching seems forced; some characters discover new personal epiphanies at seemingly the drop of a hat. Also, there are your usual big matches and existential sports narration, which really provide nothing new. And, it’s all applied to the sport of ping pong, which may not excite every fan of sports films.
Still, Ping Pong manages to rise above the pitfalls of the sports genre thanks to sure, judicious direction (courtesy of first-time director Fumihiko Masuri), and a predominant tone that could only be described as quirky lyricism. The characters are so over-the-top that they’re obviously drawn from manga, but they manage to be winning and always interesting. Yosuke Kubozka brings some genuine emotion to Peco’s petulant behavior and fits of mugging, and older actors Naota Takenaka and Mari Natsuki lend fine support to the proceedings. Also, the references to Japanese superhero media, and the deadpan humor (which is typical of Japanese cinema) add charm and whimsy to the proceedings. This isn’t gut-busting stuff, but it’s funny nonetheless.
Then there’s the ping pong. While the first hour slyly eschews the ping pong for character and plot development, the second hour comes alive with entertainingly staged matches that play like a cross between Forrest Gump and Shaolin Soccer. Ping pong balls spin and change course in flight, characters leap to return serves, and slow motion abounds. The euphoric sight of the final ping pong duels should erase whatever nagging doubts you have about the film’s maddeningly slow pace, or deadpan existential wackiness. Whatever your take on the sometimes bizarre philosophy embedded in Ping Pong, you should find the table tennis action tops.
Not that the film is for everyone. That ping pong and its accompanying strategies/philosphies could be taken so seriously is a conceit that needs to win over the audience. If someone out there watched Shaolin Soccer and thought, “Man, this is silly,” then they should probably skip Ping Pong too. But those who enjoyed Shaolin Soccer, or found the anime sports melodrama of Initial D or Princess Nine enchanting, should find Ping Pong to be a winner. Sure, it’s not realistic, and it’s even more than a little strange, but this is great stuff. And quite possibly great cinema. (Kozo 2003)