Summer Wars [2009]

summer-warsDirected by: Mamoru Hosoda
Produced by :   
Nozomu Takahashi
Takuya Ito
Takashi Watanabe
Yuichiro Saito
Screenplay by: Satoko Okudera
Story by: Mamoru Hosoda
Studio:  Madhouse
Distributed by:    Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date: August 1, 2009
Running time: 114 minutes

Voice Actors:

Ryunosuke Kamiki as Koiso Kenji
Nanami Sakuraba as Shinohara Natsuki
Mitsuki Tanimura as Ikezawa Kazama
Sumiko Fuji as Jinnouchi Sakae
Ayumu Saito as Jinnouchi Wabisuke

Synopsis (MyAnimeList):

When timid eleventh-grader and math genius Kenji Koiso is asked by older student and secret crush Natsuki to come with her to her family’s Nagano home for a summer job, he agrees without hesitation.

Natsuki’s family, the Jinnouchi clan, dates back to the Muromachi era (1336 to 1573), and they’ve all come together to celebrate the 90th birthday of the spunky matriarch of the family, Sakae. That’s when Kenji discovers his “summer job” is to pretend to be Natsuki’s fiance and dance with her at the birthday celebration.

As Kenji attempts to keep up with Natsuki’s act around her family, he receives a strange math problem on his cell phone which, being a math genius, he can’t resist solving. As it turns out, the solution to the mysterious equation causes Oz, the program that controls nearly every aspect of life to be hacked into, it’s up to Kenji and his new “family” to stop the hacker before it’s too late.

I Say…

I think I am looking at sci fi flicks in a different perspective lately. Summer Wars is another movie to remember from Mad House, producers of other biggies like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Paprika, Perfect Blue, Mai Mai Miracle etc. Aside from being sci fi, it has drama, comedy, and suspense content… a complete package for any anime fan, even for the not so anime fan. I am so glad to have browsed through an anime review site with positive write ups for this movie.

In this tech savvy generation, we are highly dependent on the internet and gizmos that are capable of multitasking. One click of the button does it all, no sweat. Decision making a whole lot easier and convenient with the help of all these. After watching Summer Wars I realized that we have grown too complacent of the liabilities. As much as technology can ease our everyday burdens, it can also be a cause. We are our own weapon of mass destruction with the help of too much technology. It is scary, to know someone might hack an entire account and disable it… worse may be to take over your identity. After watching this film I believe it can be very possible.

Everything seem to have started with Kenji Koiso, but the characters all have their equal share in the story. In the end, Shinohara Natsuki became the most favored character after her display of hanafuda skills. And if not for Jinnouchi Sakae, their spirits will never be as high as can be. I so love the scene while they all held on to their gadgets and mobiles to play Koi-Koi with Natsuki. The family that “plays” together, stays together, indeed.



Colorful [2010]

ColorfulAlternative Title: Karafuru
Director: Keiichi Hara
Screenplay: Miho Maruo
Author: Eto Mori
Studio: Ascension (animation); Sunrise (production)
Distributed by:   Tōhō
Release date: 21 August 2010
Running time: 127 minutes

Voice Actors:

Kazato Tomizawa as Makoto Kobayashi
Jingi Irie as Saotome
Akina Minami as Hiroka Kuwabara
Aoi Miyazaki as Shoko Sano
Akiyoshi Nakao as Mitsuru
Kumiko Aso as Makoto´s Mother
Katsumi Takahashi as Makoto´s Father
Michael as Purapura

Synopsis (MyAnimeList):
“I” died and was kicked out of the cycle of reincarnation because of the sin “I” committed. An angel told me that “I” won a lottery and he gave me a chance to remember the sin. My spirit possessed the body of the 14-year-old boy Makoto, who committed suicide and “I” tried to recollect my memory. “I” felt distressed by the terrible circumstances of Makoto and the fact that “I” was borrowing his body. “I” have started to realize that people are hurting each other because the world is too colorful to distinguish the true color of themselves from others.

Based on an award-wining first person narrative novel by Mori Eto. The movie won several awards in Japan.

I Say…

Colorful is a very intriguing and dramatic movie. The protagonist, Kobayashi Makoto is one lucky soul to be given a second chance to live. He refuses the opportunity in the beginning of the story, so I thought, how grave could the events of his past life be? Through Pura Pura, the “lucky soul” who got Kobayashi Makoto’s body found out why he even thought about killing himself. Being lonesome is fatal. As the story progressed, Makoto finally saw the beauty of life with his family and new found friend Saotome.

People who commit suicide are still unknown creatures to me. Life is full of torture and hardship. One will never be brave enough to face it with death.

Review: Momo e no Tegami [2012]

Momo e no TegamiDirector: Hiroyuki Okiura
Story by: Hiroyuki Okiura
Studio: Production I.G
Distributor: Kadokawa Pictures
Release: Sept 2011 (for TIFF)
               April 21, 2012 (Japan cinema)
Running Time: 120 mins
Karen Miyama as Momo
Yuka as Ikuko
Toshiyuki Nishida as Iwa
Koichi Yamadera as Kawa
Cho as Mame

Plot (wikipedia):
Momo Miyaura is a shy and imaginative 11-year-old girl who is suffering because of her father’s recent death and the resultant extreme changes in her life. From the big city of Tokyo, Momo’s family moves to her mother’s childhood home, a remote island named Shio. Momo does not adapt well to her new surroundings. Her father left her an unfinished letter containing only two words, “Dear Momo”. As she tries to make sense of these two words and guess what her father was trying to tell her, some strange incidents occur on the island, which is otherwise tranquil. People’s orchards are ransacked by an unknown person, and some of their prized belongings start to go missing. Momo also starts to hear strange sounds coming from the attic in her house.
Momo’s mother refuses to believe Momo about the strange sounds from the attic, so Momo herself embarks on an adventure to discover the source of these disturbances. During her investigations, Momo meets up with Kawa, Mame and leader Iwa, a group of imps, each of which have a different personality. In addition, Momo discovers that the mysterious two-word letter from her father is connected to all the strange occurrences, and to her arrival at Shio.

I say…

Not long after moving into their new home, peculiar incidents occur, and Momo’s life story  after her father’s death begins.

The GuardiansMomo e no Tegami deals with the untimely death of a loved one and the process of moving forward. The sudden appearance of the three demons (or Guardians so they say) gave reason for Momo to lighten up a bit. I find Iwa, Kawa and Mame adorable in spite of being ill-mannered and having terrible faces . Later on you will find out their true purpose for suddenly hanging around Momo and Ikuko, as the story moves on. And through this movie, we will learn how strong the Japanese believe in the after life and the power of the unseen.

Although not as equally magical as Studio Ghibli movies, you might want to give this a try. It didn’t became my favorite, but it’s not that bad.  The drama is good enough to take you away. The pace may be a bit slow but everything was explained before the movie ends, even the intriguing title that it has.

Review: Children Who Chase Lost Voices Deep Below


Hoshi wo Ou KodomoRomantization: Hoshi o ou kodomo
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Writer: Makoto Shinkai (story)
Stars: Hisako Kanemoto as  Asuna Watase
           Kazuhiko Inoue as Ryuji Morisaki
           Miyu Irino as Shin / Shun
Release Date: 7-May-2011 (Japan)
Runtime: 116 min

Storyline (IMDb):

A coming of age story involving young love and a mysterious music, coming from a crystal radio left as a memento by an absent father, that leads a young heroine deep into a hidden world.

I Say…

children_who_chase_lost_voices_from_deep_below_3While doing a run through on google, I thought this movie is a dramatic love story. Not quite. It turned out to be an adventure movie, a good one, actually, with the historical theme I am always crazy about. Makoto Shinkai is known for his “sad” themed movies. This one won’t fail you. But it’s not as sad as 5 Centimeter per Second, who may be known to all enthusiasts as a “heartbreak” movie. Children Who Chase Lost Voices Deep Below has something positive in it: moving on. At the end of the movie, all three characters find their purpose, and face life by moving on after what has happened in their journey.

Children-Who-Chase-Lost-Voices-From-Deep-Below2There may be a lot of confusing characters, and conflicts. To name a few, how come Asuna’s dad have a fragment of the clavis crystal? And, did Asuna have feelings for Shun? If she doensn’t, why will she travel alongside Morisaki-sensei to Finis Terra to bring back the dead? Got what I mean? Those were a few of my unanswered mind questions.

Makoto Shinkai’s works are quite similar to Hayao Miyazaki’s and Studio Ghibli. Only, very sad and quite dark. But these type of endings are the best for me, so I guess I’ll find time to watch more of his works too.

It is “adventure” meets “melodrama”… which may seem as an unlikely pair. This film is definitely worth your time.

Review: Ponyo [On the Cliff by the Sea] (2008)

PonyoRomantization: Gake no Ue no Ponyo

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by: Toshio Suzuki
Screenplay by: Hayao Miyazaki
Story by: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring (voice):     Yuria Nara as Ponyo
                               Hiroki Doi as Sosuke
                               Tomoko Yamaguchi as Risa
                               George Tokoro as Fujimoto
                               Kazushige Nagashima as Koichi
Music by: Joe Hisaishi
Cinematography: Atsushi Okui
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Distributed by: Toho (Japan)
                         Walt Disney Pictures (North America)
Release date(s): July 19, 2008
                           August 14, 2009 (United States)
Running time: 101 minutes

Synopsis (wikipedia):

Brunhilde is a fish-girl who lives in an aquarium with her father Fujimoto, a wizard, in his underwater castle with numerous smaller sisters. One day, when her father takes her and her siblings on an outing in his four-flippered submarine, Brunhilde is driven by a desire to see even more of the world and floats away on the back of a jellyfish. She ends up stranded on the shore of a small fishing town and is rescued by a boy named Sōsuke, who cuts his finger in the process. She licks his wound when he picks her up, and the wound heals almost instantly. After taking a great liking to her, Sōsuke names her Ponyo and promises to protect her forever. Meanwhile, Fujimoto is looking for his daughter. Upset that she ran away, he believes the humans have now kidnapped her, and he calls his wave spirits to return Ponyo to him. After the wave spirits take Ponyo away, Sōsuke is heartbroken and goes home with his mother, Lisa, who tries to cheer him up, to no avail.

Ponyo and Fujimoto have a confrontation, during which Ponyo refuses to let her father call her by her birthname, “Brunhilde.” She declares her name to be Ponyo and voices her desire to become human, because she has started to fall in love with Sōsuke. Suddenly she starts to grow legs and turn into a human, a consequence of the human blood she swallowed when she licked Sōsuke’s finger. Her father turns her back with difficulty and goes to summon Ponyo’s mother, Granmamare. Meanwhile, Ponyo, with the help of her sisters, breaks away from her father and releases his magic to make herself human. The huge amount of magic released into the ocean causes an imbalance in the world, resulting in a huge tsunami. Riding on the waves of the storm, Ponyo goes back to visit Sōsuke. Lisa, Sōsuke, and Ponyo wait out the storm at Sōsuke’s house, and the next morning Lisa leaves to check up on the residents of the nursing home where she works.

Granmamare arrives at Fujimoto’s submarine. On her way there, Sōsuke’s father sees and recognizes her as the Goddess of Mercy. Fujimoto notices the moon has come out of its orbit and satellites are falling like shooting stars. Granmamare declares that if Sōsuke can pass a test, Ponyo can live as a human and the world order will be restored. If he fails, Ponyo will turn into sea foam. Sōsuke and Ponyo wake up to find that most of the land around the house has been covered by the ocean. Lisa has not come home yet, so with the help of Ponyo’s magic, they make Sōsuke’s toy boat life-size and set out to find Lisa.

While traveling, they see prehistoric fish swimming beneath them. After landing and finding Lisa’s empty car, Ponyo and Sōsuke go through a tunnel. There Ponyo loses her human form and reverts into a fish. Sōsuke and Ponyo are taken by Fujimoto into the ocean and down to the protected nursing home where they are reunited with Lisa and meet Granmamare, both of whom have just had a long private conversation. Granmamare asks Sōsuke if he can love Ponyo whether she is a fish or human. Sōsuke replies that he “loves all the Ponyos.” Granmamare then allows Ponyo to become human once Sōsuke kisses her on the surface. The film ends with Ponyo jumping up and kissing Sosuke, transforming into a little girl in mid-air.

I Say…

Little Mermaid being my favorite fairy tale of all time, and an avid follower of Ghibli films as well, made me curious about Ponyo when I first saw it. I was awed by the abstracts of the film and wondered how Hayao Miyazaki-san pictures the sea inside his head. The first few moments of the film was delegated to describe Ponyo’s home and surroundings before she meets Sosuke. If that isn’t convincing enough, how about the tsunami scenes. They’re just… wow. Miyazaki-san is a genius.


The film was based on H.C.Andersen’s The Little Mermaid… minus the sad ending. Ponyo is just the one of the cutest Ghibli characters! Count Sosuke in as well. These two five year olds sure know how to get serious. I think they’re the youngest Ghibli love teams. The parents of Ponyo too, most especially Fujimoto, are both very serious characters. Fujimoto masked his protective feelings towards his daughter by acting up like a villain, when all he ever wanted is to make sure his daughter will not turn into bubbles in case Sosuke is not the right man (they are that serious!) for Ponyo. In the original story by H.C. Andersen, the mermaid turned into sea foam after refusing to kill the prince she loved so dearly who didn’t love her back.

Kids and kids at heart are sure to enjoy this flick, and will be thrilled of Ponyo’s adventure from being goldfish to a human girl. Dive into the signature Miyazaki-san’s abstract imagination. Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea will be added on my list of memorable Ghibli movies ever made.


Review: From Up On Poppy Hill (2011)


Directed by: Gorō Miyazaki
Produced by: Toshio Suzuki
Screenplay by: Hayao Miyazaki & Keiko Niwa
Based on: Kokuriko-zaka kara by Chizuru Takahashi & Tetsurō Sayama
Starring (Voice): Masami Nagasawa as Umi Matsuzaki
                            Junichi Okada as Shun Kazama
Music by: Satoshi Takebe
Cinematography: Atsushi Okui
Studio:    Studio Ghibli
Distributed by: Toho (Japan)
                         Walt Disney Pictures        
                         StudioCanal (UK)
Release date(s): July 16, 2011
                           March 2013 (USA)
Running time: 91 minutes

Plot (Wikipedia):
Umi, a 16-year old girl, lives in Kokuriko (from coquelicot, French for Papaver rhoeas) Manor, a house that overlooks Yokohama harbour. Every morning, Umi raises a set of signal flags with the message “I pray for safe voyages”. The identity of the person raising the flags arouses much local interest, and a poem about her is published in a school newspaper. The author of this poem, Shun, always sees this flag from the sea as he rides a tugboat to school.

Umi and Shun first meet when Shun decides to participate in a daredevil stunt for the school newspaper, leaving Umi with a negative first impression of Shun. They meet again when Umi accompanies her younger sister to obtain Shun’s autograph at the Quartier Latin, the building housing many of their high school’s clubs and societies. Shun is revealed to be a member of the Culture Club, which is responsible for the publication of the school newspaper. Umi winds up joining the club when she learns that they need a new typesetter because Shun has recently injured his hand in a scuffle with a cat.

At Umi’s suggestion, many students work hard volunteering to restore the Quartier Latin to its former glory. During the cleanup, Umi gets to know Shun better and starts to develop feelings for him. When Umi shows him a photograph of her father, Shun begins distancing himself from her because he secretly has the same photograph and believes they may be half-siblings. Umi is hurt by Shun’s response, though he eventually reveals the shocking fact to her.

After a great deal of effort, the students complete their cleanup of the Quartier Latin, but are disappointed that their efforts may be wasted when Tokumara, a prominent businessman and sponsor of the school, intends to tear down the building to make way for redevelopment. In order to stop the demolition, the students nominate Shun, Umi, and Shirō to go to Tokyo to persuade Tokumara to change his mind. After Tokumura agrees to inspect the Quartier Latin, the group separates before going back to Kokuriko. While Umi and Shun wait for a train together, Umi confesses her love to him. Shun reciprocates her feelings.
When Umi’s mother returns from America, Umi learns that she is not biologically related to Shun. Her mother reveals that Umi’s father registered Shun as his own child when he put Shun up for adoption after Shun’s father had died fighting in the Korean War. Since her mother was pregnant and they could not afford to adopt Shun, Shun was given away to a couple who had just lost their child – Shun’s current adopted parents.

Shun, Umi, and Shirō are initially forced to wait a long time before meeting Tokumara in hopes they would give up and leave. Their persistence wins out and Tokumara agrees to visit the Quartier Latin the following afternoon. Impressed by the students’ hard work restoring the building, he agrees to abandon his plans for redevelopment.

Meanwhile, Umi and Shun meet a ship captain who was familiar with their fathers. He confirms that they are not related by blood and shares the story of Umi and Shun’s fathers and his relationship with both of them.

With everything resolved, Umi happily resumes her duty of raising the flags every morning.

I Say…

What to expect from any Ghibli film?

It is fast-paced and anything may happen before it ends. Still holds true for their 2011 flick, From Up On Poppy Hill. This is actually a clean, teen melodrama any parent can let their kids watch without supervision. I cannot see any indication of parental guidance for this film.

Shun and Umi almost made me cry! Any viewer will surely feel that way as soon as the conflict is revealed. You wouldn’t want to miss a scene even though it’s heartbreaking enough to turn off. I am a sucker for melodramas… and I love how the conflict of their story was executed. It sure is a good one.

I’ve seen almost all the Ghibli films in the past, where they emphasize greatly on each setting and each detail of their background. The Quarter Latin almost reminded me of Howl’s castle… an old, clutter-filled space.

from-up-on-poppy-hill-testo            From-Up-on-Poppy-Hill-2011-Movie-Image

My favorite scene was when Shun passed by and saw Umi headed for the market to buy some meat… then Ryu Sakamoto’s Ue o Muite Arukō started to play. It’s just one of the old Japanese pop songs I am familiar with. Google-ing a bit more, this insert song became famous the same year as the story’s timeline. I think it was a very popular song during that time. With that mentioned, the movie also have an excellent soundtrack worth listening to.

If you happen to be in melodrama mood and love animated movies, this will surely make it to your list of to-watch-again movies… because I think I will do so in a bit.

Review: 5 Centimeter per Second [2007]


419541.1020.AJapanese Title: Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru

Alternative Title: Byousoku 5 Centimeter – a chain of short stories about their distance

Director, Writer and Original Creator: Makoto Shinkai

Production and Distribution: CoMix Wave, Inc.

Release: March 3, 2007

DVD: July 19, 2007

Running Time: 63 Minutes

Movie Theme: One more time, one more chance by Masayoshi Yamazaki

Voice Actors: 

Kenji Mizuhashi as Takaki Tōno

Yoshimi Kondō & Ayaka Onoue as Akari Shinohara

Satomi Hanamura as Kanae Sumida

Plot: (wikipedia)

The plot is set in Japan beginning from the 1990s and ending in modern day, with each segment centered on a boy named Takaki Tōno.

Episode 1: Ōkashō

Ōkashō (Cherry Blossom Extract): Upon graduating from elementary school, Takaki Tōno and his close friend Akari Shinohara drifted apart. Akari moved to Tochigi Prefecture due to her parents’ jobs, while Takaki attended a junior high in Tokyo. The two kept in contact by writing letters, but despite the special feelings that existed between them, the only thing that persisted was time. When Takaki became aware that his family would move to Kagoshima, he decided to go see Akari since they would be too far apart to visit each other after he moved. However, when the day came, a severe snowstorm delayed Takaki’s trip, and it would be hours before he reached Iwafune, where they promised to meet. The two finally meet late that night and fall asleep talking to each other. As they share a kiss, Takaki realizes that the two will never be together as time and circumstance draws them slowly apart. He departs the next morning carrying a bitter-sweet feeling with him.

Episode 2: Cosmonaut

Takaki is now in the third year of senior high in Tanegashima, where the Tanegashima Space Center is located. Kanae Sumita, a classmate of Takaki, has special feelings for Takaki, but she does not have the courage to express her love to him. She later observes that Takaki is always staring off into the distance, as if searching for something far far away. Even though she loves Takaki, Kanae understands that he is searching for things far greater than anything she can offer.

Episode 3: Byōsoku 5 Centimeter

It is now 2008, and all three characters have gone their separate ways. Takaki is now a computer programmer in Tokyo, and Akari is preparing to get married. One day, Takaki goes out and sees the face of a familiar-looking woman at a railroad-crossing. Puzzled by the encounter, he tries to look back, but two trains come and cut off his view. Takaki waits for the trains to pass, as if expecting the woman he had seen to be waiting on the other side of the railroad crossing. After both trains have passed, he is initially disappointed that the woman is nowhere to be found on the other side of the crossing, but eventually comes to realize that it is for the best, and goes his way.

I Say…

Bittersweet movie till the very end. When I sat down to watch, it took quite some time before I get hold of what the movie is trying to tell me. Long distance relationships and unrequited love, that is. You know, I thought somehow in the last scene, they’d still end up being together. But sorry to disappoint you early on… they won’t.

Such nice scenes accompanied with melancholic music. It will definitely set you into drama mode and will make you want to make hurry things so the story would end sooner! I think it was worth the wait, finally being able to see the movie. There were lots of hidden meanings and you’ll know that in real life such situations happen and there are worse things that are meant to happen… maybe not to you but to someone else.

Again, guys do fall in love only once. They may love again but they will never love the same way.