Stephen reviews: Red Spectacles (1987)

Red Spectacles [紅い眼鏡, Akai Megane] (1987)

Starring Shigeru Chiba, Machiko Washino, Hideyuki Tanaka, Tessho Genda, Mako Hyodo, Yasuo Otsuka, Hideyo Amamoto

Directed by Mamoru Oshii

I ended my review of Stray Dog, the second film in the Kerberos Saga, with the hope that Red Spectacles would offer more of anything. I guess you really should be careful what you wish for, because I got a lot more all right. This first film in the series has plenty of activity to keep my attention, but note I say “activity,” not “action.” Mostly, what I got more of is that inexplicable campy humor that cropped up from time to time in Stray Dog. Not that Red Spectacles is billed as a comedy, or that it really tries to be, but you have to laugh when the main character is ambushed in the shower and takes out an entire squad of armed men with exaggerated wrestling moves while butt naked. This also marks the only time I have ever seen a slow pan from feet to head of a man taking a shower instead of a woman.

There is one great action scene at the beginning of the film, where three of those armored Kerberos members get assaulted by a veritable army of gang members. Sure, it has “B-movie” written all over it, but it’s a wonderfully arranged scene with tons of clever moments. And when they finish, they take stock of how much ammo they have left. The first has 30 rounds left, the second just five, and the last guy says, “I have one, that is, in my gut.” Then he keels over from his injury. Can you honestly say that isn’t fantastic?

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Red Spectacles (1987) →

Stephen reviews: Stray Dog: Kerberos Panzer Cops (1991)

Stray Dog: Kerberos Panzer Cops [ケルベロス 地獄の番犬, Keruberosu: Jigoku no Banken] (1991)

Starring Yoshikatsu Fujiki, Sue Eaching, Takashi Matsuyama, Shigeru Chiba

Directed by Mamoru Oshii

Yes, as amazing as it may seem, I am reviewing a live-action film today. If you’re wondering why, it’s because this is a film from the Kerberos Saga, of which I have already reviewed the third installment, Jin-Roh. Since I started at the end, I figured I might as well keep going backwards and watch the second film next. It helps that the films are set in a backwards chronology as well, so in a sense I am watching them in order. Neither are they closely related judging by the two I have seen. Only occasionally recurring characters and that ominous black armor tie the series together, although I suspect the first film, Red Spectacles, will be more directly linked to the others.

Stray Dog opens with the Kerberos unit in revolt against the government. I’m not sure if this name refers to the entire Capital Police of Jin-Roh (in this film translated as Metropolitan Police) or if it is just one unit within that organization. Neither do I have any real idea why the Kerberos uprising even happened, or what caused it to end. I wish I could tell you that the film rewards your patience and answers your questions, but it doesn’t. A character who the credits simply refer to as “Man in White,” though we might as well call him the white spy from the Spy vs. Spy comics, says that most people have forgotten about the uprising, and apparently the film expects you to do the same.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Stray Dog: Kerberos Panzer Cops (1991) →

Stephen reviews: Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999)

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade [人狼, Jinrō] (1999)
AKA Man-Wolf (Literal translation of the Japanese title)

Starring Yoshikatsu Fujiki, Sumi Muto, Hiroyuki Kinoshita, Yoshisada Sakaguchi

Directed by Hiroyuki Okiura

This is actually the third film of a trilogy, but before you start walking out on me, you ought to know that the trilogy actually goes in backwards order with the first film taking place after the other two. I had no idea this film was part of a series until I started writing up this review. The first two films, The Red Spectacles in 1987 and Stray Dog: Kerberos Panzer Cops in 1991, were live action, making Jin-Roh the only anime film in the series. It is also the only film not directed by Mamoru Oshii, the creator of the series, though he is best known for directing the 1995 Ghost in the Shell film.

A grim and terrible mood fills this anime. It can’t be called a dystopian future, mainly because it’s not in the future. It does feature an oppressive government regime ruling with its fists over a disenfranchised populace, so I suppose we should call it a dystopian past. Mamoru Oshii, who still wrote the script even if he didn’t direct this time, was politically active in his youth, and this film seems to portray the future he was afraid Japan would turn into. After entering the film industry, Oshii used that feared future as the setting for his series, nevermind that it’s now in the past.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999) →

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