Japanese Film Festival at San Francisco: From ‘Helter Skelter’ to ‘Lesson of the Evil’

Japanese films don’t only air in Japan alone. In fact, Japanese and fans of J- films are in for a treat at the first ever upcoming Japanese Film Festival held in San Francisco. So what should fans look forward to at the nine day J-Fest in Bay Area?

The J-Film fest is the first of its kind to happen in Bay Area of the greater north of California. This is slated to be part of the J-POP Summit Festival that showcases J-music and culture.  Fans of J-cinema are sure to enjoy nine days of full-length features at the inaugural JFFSF or Japan Film Festival of San Francisco.

Curtains will go up at the San Francisco New People Cinema for the screening on July 27. Both live action and anime flicks will be shown every day until August 4. The hit sword swinging, “Rurouni Kenshin” is included in the J-cinema spectrum.

Other notable titles set for screening at the event include Mika Ninagawa’s thriller, “Helter Skelter” featuring the sexy and talented, Erika Sawajiri. Psycho-thriller, “Lesson of the Evil” starring Hideaki Ito is also included in the J-fest films.

Lesson of the Evil

As for anime otakus, better get those tickets early for the US premiere of “Naruto Shippuden: The Lost Tower”, “Hunter X Hunter: Phantom Rouge”, “Summer Wars”, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” and “Wolf Children.”

Naruto Shippuden: The Lost Tower

If you are a J-film lover or Japanese in San Francisco, better be in the Bay Area in celebration of Japanese cinema.

New members added to Iryu Sousa cast for comeback

Takaya Kamikawa’s TV Asahi’s drama ‘Iryu Sousa‘ will come back with a new series starting in July.

This will be the second season of ‘Iryu Sousa’ as the first season was aired during April to June 2011.

The detective drama tells the story of detective Satoshi Itomura (Kamikawa), who can “hear” voices of the dead from things left behind at crime scenes.

Producer Yumiko Miwa enthusiastically stated, “I want this drama to bring up popular detective series like ‘Aibou‘ and ‘Rinjo‘.”

TV personality Ai Haruna speaks out on her struggle with gender identity disorder

The following is the first installment of a two-part story of how Japanese transsexual TV personality Ai Haruna, 39, who suffered from and overcame gender identity disorder. Ai Haruna sometimes shows her “manly” side on TV variety programs by speaking in a loud, hoarse voice, drawing laughter from the audience. Born anatomically male, Haruna wanted clothes and toys for girls as a child. When playing house, she always played the role of the mother. “I believed that I would naturally be able to become a woman when I grew up,” she said.

But upon entering primary school, things quickly changed. Students were separated by sex for physical examinations. She wanted to wear bloomers for female students in gym class, but had to wear shorts for male students. “I despaired and wondered whether I would gradually become different from the other friendly female students. I felt my identity was threatened,” she said.

“Why can’t I become a woman?” Haruna thought this to herself all day long and was unable to concentrate on studying.


Erika Sawajiri to return to television with TBS’s “Akujo ni Tsuite”

Sawajiri Erika (25) will star in a drama special on TBS titled “Akujo ni Tsuite,” it has been announced. This will be Sawajiri’s first time acting in a television drama (not counting mobile TV) since a special episode of “1 Litre no Namida” in 2007.

“Akujo ni Tsuite” is an adaptation of a 1978 novel by the late writer Ariyoshi Sawako. The novel was a masterpiece of its time, and it was also notable for having a television drama airing as it was being serialized in a magazine.

Sawajiri plays Kimiko, the main character of the story who has died. Although the title implies that it is a story of a “wicked woman,” the original novel was divided into 27 chapters, one for each “testimony” by someone who knew Kimiko at some point in her life, providing a range of perspectives on what kind of person Kimiko was.

Sawajiri’s supporting cast has not yet been revealed, but expectations are high given the novel’s reputation and history.

“Akujo ni Tsuite” is scheduled to air on April 30.

Erika Sawajiri to star in adaptation of “Helter Skelter” manga

Actress Sawajiri Erika is confirmed to be making her return to the big screen with a live-action adaptation of Okazaki Kyoko’s manga “Helter Skelter.” The movie will be just the second feature film directed by photographer Ninagawa Mika, who directed “Sakuran” in 2007.

Sawajiri has not starred in a movie since “Closed Note” in 2007, due to her unprofessional conduct at a PR event for the film. She recently has begun regularly appearing in television commercials again, and she also is starring in a mobile drama that begins next month.

“Helter Skelter” began publication in 2003, and the following year it won the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize. The story revolves around a woman named Ririko (Sawajiri), a top model in the entertainment industry. However, her perfect beauty has been attained entirely through plastic surgery, a secret that she cannot reveal to anyone.

Ninagawa said that she has been wanting to adapt “Helter Skelter” since even before she worked on “Sakuran.” Producer Uda Mitsuru also revealed that he first talked with Sawajiri about starring in the movie about three years ago, before the adaptation rights had been obtained and the screenplay had been written.

Because the original manga includes mature topics such as sex and drugs, there is some speculation that Sawajiri may have a nude scene in the film. A source familiar with the matter neither confirmed nor denied the possibility.

The supporting cast includes Omori Nao as a prosecutor investigating an incident at the clinic where Ririko underwent surgery, Terajima Shinobu as Ririko’s manager, Mizuhara Kiko as a younger model, Kubozuka Yosuke as Ririko’s boyfriend, Momoi Kaori as the president of Ririko’s agency, and Harada Mieko as the head of the clinic. Ayano Go, Arai Hirofumi, Suzuki Anne, Terajima Susumu, and Aikawa Sho have also been cast.

“Helter Skelter” opens in theaters on July 14, 2012.

Kago Ai in stable condition after suicide attempt

Former Morning Musume member Kago Ai (23) apparently attempted suicide this morning, it has been learned. She was found in her Roppongi apartment with a slit wrist and was taken to a nearby hospital, but fortunately, it is said that she is in a non-life-threatening condition.

Azabu police received an emergency call at around 11:55am on September 11. Kago was found in her apartment with a slit wrist, and it is said that she was in a stupor at the time. It is suspected that she may have consumed a large amount of drugs.

According to police, Kago had spoken over the phone with someone from her agency just before the incident. Her words suggested that she was contemplating suicide, so the person from the agency rushed to her apartment, where Kago was discovered on the floor.

The apparent suicide attempt comes just a few days after it was reported that her boyfriend, Ando Haruhiko (44), was arrested for attempted extortion on September 6. It is believed that Ando may be associated with the yakuza.

News outlets also reported that Kago was living with Ando, and she was present at the time he was arrested. Kago later underwent voluntary questioning by police regarding Ando’s case.

Secret Agent to be Kuriyama Chiaki first lead role in drama series, “Himitsu Chouhouin Erika”

Actress Kuriyama Chiaki 26 is confirmed to be starring in a new drama series this fall. Although she has appeared in many television dramas during her 13-year career, this will be her first time playing the sole lead role in a series.

Titled “Himitsu Chouhouin Erika,” the drama has Kuriyama playing Takahashi Erika, a former secret spy for Japan’s Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office. One day, she met an ordinary salaryman and his son, and she ended up retiring and getting married to him while concealing her past. However, a year later, her former boss played by Sugimoto Tetta calls upon her to return to work, so she begins leading a double life as a housewife and a spy.

The show is described as a mystery series, with each episode revolving around a single case. Using her instant memory, excellent hearing, fighting skills, and mastery of disguise, Erika sets out to resolve a variety of incidents.

Ide Takuya will play a graduate school student who helps out as Erika’s assistant.

Seki Erika “Jigyaku no Uta,” “Teppan” is in charge of the screenplay, while Ueda Hisashi “Shiroi Haru,” “Ohitorisama” is directing.

Kuriyama has been chosen for the show’s theme song. The song is planned to be written, composed, and produced by Shiina Ringo.

NTV will broadcast “Himitsu Chouhouin Erika” on Thursdays at 11:58pm, starting on October 6.

Ayase Haruka, Kimura Takuya to star in “Nankyoku Tairiku”

Actress Ayase Haruka (26) has just been revealed as the heroine of the big-budget TBS drama series “Nankyoku Tairiku” that will air this fall. This teams her up once again with SMAP’s Kimura Takuya (38), as they previously co-starred in the 2009 series “MR.BRAIN” and the 2006 drama special for the “HERO” franchise.

As announced in January, “Nankyoku Tairiku” focuses on the difficulties faced by Japan’s first Antarctic research expedition team, who were also the subject of the hit 1983 film “Nankyoku Monogatari.” In particular, one of the most notable aspects of that expedition was the miraculous survival of two of the dogs – out of the original 19 Sakhalin Huskies – even after the expedition team was forced to leave them behind and retreat from their base due to extreme weather conditions.

Kimura plays a researcher named Kuramochi Takeshi, one of the leaders of the team. Ayase plays the part of an elementary school teacher named Takaoka Miyuki, the younger sister of Kuramochi’s deceased wife. The role is said to be a painful one, as she deals with the loneliness and uneasiness caused by Kuramochi being on the dangerous Antarctic expedition.

“Nankyoku Tairiku” will premiere this October in TBS’s Sunday 9:00pm time slot.

Walt Disney Pictures to take “Tuxedo Gin” manga to the movies

Walt Disney Pictures is adapting Matsuura Tokihiko’s manga series “Tuxedo Gin” as a movie under the title “Tux,” it has been learned. It is not entirely clear whether the film will be live-action or animated, though reports so far seem to suggest the former.

“Night at the Museum” co-writer Robert Ben Garant will be handling the screenplay. Paul Young and Peter Principato will produce, along with VIZ Media’s Jason Hoffs and Shogakukan’s Ichiro Takase.

The story follows a “young street fighter who falls into a coma and learns that he has lived his life so selfishly that he only has enough karma points to be reincarnated as an animal 15 pounds or less.” He ends up choosing to become a penguin because it is his girlfriend’s favorite animal, and he is determined to carry out enough good deeds to earn back his former body.

The deal for the movie rights reportedly took almost two years to close. There are no details yet on when the movie is planned for release.