Fantasia 2013 - Mini Movie Review

This year was my first year diving head-first into the Fantasia Festival. I've been to a few screenings in the past, but this time, I had the pleasure to view 14 of a combination of fantasy, japanese, anime, horror, sci-fi movies!

There's something different about FantasiaFest compared to a number of other movie festivals. This isn't silent movie-watching, but rather like watching a bunch of not-so-mainstream movies with friends. In a really, really big room. With lots of friends. Sure, some movies you could watch at home, but in a room with other fans, it's a totally different mood.

So, here is my Fantasia movie watch list, with quick reviews:

  • Lessons of the Evil (悪の教典): Popular japanese high-school teacher is really a broken serial killer inside, and is out to kill without being figured out. The main character is pretty famous in Japan, and usually plays hansome, kakkoi hero roles, but this sick twist on what he usually portrays was an interesting and weird twist. Part Dexter, part Battle Royale, this was more shocking that I imagined before coming in.
  • Garden of Words (言の葉の庭): A student boy and young adult woman meet by chance in a park in Tokyo, and happen to meet again, each time when it's raining. This movie was visually impressive and absolutely gorgeous, with extremely detailed scenes of different areas of Tokyo (sigh how I miss Tokyo). The story also was also adorable and moving, almost shed a tear.
  • After School Midnighters (放課後ミッドナイターズ): An elementary school science room turns to life as three girls help its inhabitants, a human body display and skeleton in particular, from being torn down. A slightly Disney/Pixar-esque movei, with beautiful animation, great comedy, and original storyline. A lot of things are spot-on on this one. A must-see. In fact, probably my favorite animation movie at Fantasia
  • Helter Skelter (ヘルタースケルター): A deep look at the fashion world, as world-famous Lilico falls to her slow demise as vanity, rivals, and accounts of creepy aesthetic surgery being carried out at a beauty clinic surface. Another visually rich movie, with main actress Erika Sawajiri playing what she is known to be in real life: a very beautiful, attractive, but high-maintenance model/actress (the role was pretty much written for her). A shocking what-people-do-for-fame cautionary tale and look on today's (and probably a while back's) society and the cult of beauty. One of my faves this time as well.
  • Library Wars (図書館戦争): In the very near future in Japan, an army (the Library Defense Force) vows to protect books forbidden by the government and proponents of the "Media Betterment Act". If you're looking for some deep political satire or analysus of modern Japan and where it might be headed, you find this here. The backstory is an excuse for a romantic movie where girl joins armed forces after being impressed by a soldier that happens to be her soon-to-be boss that she first hates but then gets to know again and falls in love. There's a bit of everything for everyone: humour, cool action scenes, love intruigue. Entertaining, but this was obviously a date movie in Japan. Probably a rental for me if it wasn't at Fantasia.
  • I'll Give it My All... Tomorrow (俺はまだ本気に出していないだけ): Forty-something father quits his job and decides to reinvent himself. He just doesn't know in what yet. When he realizes what he wants to do (manga artist), the will is there, but so is procastination and way-too-much-confidence at moments. Although this was a enjoyable, well-acted and funny comedy (main actor and his father were wonderful), something about seeing this somewhat lazy bum-who-also-tries-hard made me want to shake him up and yell "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF!". Yet, maybe this movie was a way of telling us "life works in mysterious ways" and "things figure themselves out, however you do it".
  • Bersek 2 Golden Age (ベルゼルク 2): Second part of the story of Guts, a fearless warrior with a way-too-heavy-looking sword, helping his group leader, Griffith, make it to the top of nobility by conquering the enemy. Visually impressive, nice mix of CG/hand-drawn anime, but also fairly violent (I mean, come on, it's called Berserk. I couldn't expect anything else). Good storyline as well (watching the first Berserk made me want to see the second one). However, this brings me to...
  • Bersek 3 Golden Age (ベルゼルク 2): The story of Guts, Griffith, Casca and friends takes an (very) ugly turn as Griffith's true goals and secrets are revealed. The story takes a sharp turn and dives mostly in the out-of-this-world gruesome. Monsters and horriffic scenes abound in this part. Little relation to Bersek 2 and at a totally different pace, this was more of a horror anime than the interesting plot-driven predecessor. Left the theater with a bad aftertaste and pretty shaken. You might as well have stopped watching at Berserk 2 (although the ending of Berserk 2 would leave you on your appetite). Just, ew.
  • Fragments d'Asie: Five short movies from different parts of Asia (1x Singapore, 2x Japan, 2x Korea). The Signapore short ("Cartoons") has lovely and had a great plot. I can't give spoilers, it's a must see. Japan's "Combustible" was absolutely beautiful, like watching an animated Japanese painting. Japan's "Possessions" was also another gorgeous animation, with a gorgeous mix of CG/hand-drawn anime. Korea's "The Witch" was okay, but lacked the comedy I think they were going for (the witch was cute though), and Korea's "The Window" felt longer than all the other films as it was fairly boring.
  • See You Tomorrow, Everyone (みなさん、さようなら): A boy decides to spend his life in his housing project, which he believes has everything he needs to grow up and live a happy life. We follow Satoru's life as the years go by and experience with him the happy and sad moments in life, all without every leaving the project premises. Moving movie, especially thanks to Gaku Hamada's excellent acting (although his role as a "boy" was a little hard to believe at first). Wasn't expecting much of this one, but was pleasantly surprised.
  • Hentai Kamen/HK - Forbidden Hero (変態仮面): Fantasia's winner for best Asian movie and best energetic movie. High School student Kyosuke finds out that by putting women's panties on his head, he acquires superpowers that turn him into Hentai Kamen ("Masked Pervert"). Absolutely hilarious movie with one of the silliest plots in a long time. People were laughing so hard we could barely hear the Japanese soundtrack at times (yay for subtitles!). The room was full of electricity as it felt like it was going to explode of laughter. True Fantasia material. My favorite. Loved it. Absolute recommend. Watch it.
    (Also glad it rinsed off the bad taste Bersek 3 left me that day)
  • Re: Cyborg 009: The classic anime by Shotaro Ishinomori redone with modern anime looks and "looks like that was hard to render/compile" CG. The nine cyborgs ("kind of?") reunite as terrorist attacks occur around the globe by people who listen to something called "His Voice". Very deep government secret-type plot, which ended up hard to follow at times. Lack of action scenes, which is disappointing when you know the original Cyborg 009 was all about the team destroying giant robots, which is what I wanted to see. Out of the 9 cyborgs, 2 barely had any air time, without giving much of an explanation! It's all my cyborgs or no cyborgs, please. Not a fan of the detailed pretty hero look, nor was I impressed by the framerate dropping in some CG-heavy scenes. Watchable, but also disappointed.
  • The Apology King (謝罪の王様): Yuzuru Kurojima runs an "apology clinic" for those who have trouble apologizing. Clients of different strokes come and seek advice, some of which trigger international tensions. Quite enjoyable comedy, with a well-crafted scenario. A toss between renting or seeing this in a theater though.
  • Gatchaman (ガッチャマン): Live action vesion of "The Battle of the Planets". Earth is attacked by space aliens called Galactors, and it's up to the Gatchaman team to stop them. Only had vague memories of this anime when I was young. The first 15 minutes allowed me to relive those days with an impressive battle scene, but after that... nothing. Just talking, talking, talking, backstory, talking, flashback, talking, meh final battle scene, the end. Not impressed. Should have brought beer. And rented the movie instead. Slightly more entertaining if you're a true fan of he original, though.

Personal Awards

Favorite and "I laughed the most here" movie

Hentai Kamen

Most beautiful animation

Garden of Words, followed closely by Combustible and Possessions (tie), followed by After School Midnighters

Most "I want to see this again!" movie:

After School Midnighters

Most "wasn't expecting to be this impressed" movie

Helter Skelter

Best "Awww" movie

Garden of Words and See You Tomorrow, Everyone.

"I was expecting better from you"/Most disappointing movie

Re: Cyborg 009 and Gatchaman. To a lesser extent, Library Wars

Best freaky movie, in a good way

Lessons of the Evil

Best freaky movie, in a bad way

Berserk 3