Tag Archives: Takashi Miike



Format: Blu-ray + Dual Format Steelbook

Release date: 29 February 2016

Distributor: Arrow Video

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Daisuke Tengan

Based on the novel by: Ryû Murakami

Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki

Original title: Ôdishon

Japan 1999

115 mins

Takashi Miike’s tale of a businessman’s quest for the perfect bride retains its horrifying power.

Along with Hideo Nakata’s Ring and Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale, Takashi Miike’s Audition was one of the main films that introduced audiences in the UK (and subsequently the world) to the ‘delights’ of what would become known as ‘extreme Asian cinema’, thanks to Tartan Films, who released all three as part of their ‘Asia Extreme’ line. Prior to Audition, Miike was best known as a director of low-budget yakuza thrillers that were frequently violent and occasionally bizarre, making him an unusual choice to handle a deliberately paced and cinematically restrained film, but he showed himself to be fully equal to the task. Audition is based on the novel of the same name by Ryɼ Murakami, and was scripted by Daisuke Tengan, the son of Shōhei Imamura, one of Japan’s most respected directors. Prior to his own career, Takashi Miike had spent several years working under Imamura as assistant director.

Ever since the death of his wife seven years earlier, middle-aged businessman Aoyama (Ryé Ishibashii) has divided his time between caring for their son and work. At the prompting of his now-teenage son, he decides to marry again, but has little patience with (or experience of) the protracted dating and mating rituals of today’s youth. Instead, Aoyama and his colleague Yoshikawa in the media industry (Jun Kinimura) decide on a different method of meeting a woman that meets his modest standards (intelligent, artistic, refined, demure etc). They put out a casting call on the radio, asking for new would-be actresses, ostensibly to star in a forthcoming TV drama. Aoyama will read through the applications and pick the ones he’s interested in, while Yoshikawa looks for potential stars. Their selections will be invited to an audition. If all goes according to plan, Yoshikawa will find himself a new star while Aoyama can get a step closer to finding an ideal wife.

At this point first-time viewers will no doubt be wondering how Audition came to be categorized as ‘extreme’, and how Miike earned a reputation as a controversial, transgressive director. Certainly the comic audition montage (complete with the jaunty pop accompaniment) gives you the impression you’re watching yet another romantic comedy about a man going to ridiculous lengths to find love. There’s even a stock character from such films: Aoyama’s secretary, who clearly has feelings for her boss. True to type, he is completely unaware of this, immersed in his absurd quest for the perfect woman. There is no doubt therefore that Miike and Tengan intended us to feel that we are indeed watching a light-hearted romantic drama, for the first third of the film at least.

Once the character of Asami Yamasaki (Eihi Shiina) is introduced, things begin to change. On the surface Asami is everything Aoyama is looking for, but we are slowly given glimpses and snippets of information that suggest something may be very wrong with this young woman. The man she gave as a reference on her application form disappeared mysteriously, while a previous employer was brutally murdered. None of this fazes Aoyama at all, since he’s already decided she is the woman he wants to marry. Against the advice of his friends, Aoyama continues his courtship of the beautiful, strange Asami.

In its final third Audition takes a turn into horror territory, with scenes that retain their power to shock even in our desensitized era. How much of what we see is actually real is not entirely clear, since certain scenes do appear to take place in Aoyama’s head. It has been suggested that it’s all a hallucination, brought on by guilt over his disloyalty to his dead wife. This is not supported by the rest of the film, however; the final scenes are clearly real. Audition has also been interpreted as a criticism of Japanese male chauvinism, as represented by Aoyama’s rigidly old-fashioned and objectifying view of women. Unfortunately, any serious points Miike and Tengan might have been making about Japanese masculinity and patriarchy are heavily undermined by the fact that in no way, shape or form does Aoyama deserve his fate. He’s certainly guilty of deceit and manipulation, but his comeuppance firmly outweighs his crimes. It doesn’t help that Asami is a two-dimensional character. Her difficult past and Aoyama’s schemes would certainly leave her with a right to be deeply hurt and angry. But the real source of Asami’s anger is an utterly unreasonable demand that makes it impossible to sympathise with her, unlike the used-and-discarded women of Fatal Attraction and Play Misty for Me. Having carefully manipulated the audience throughout, Miike provides an extremely memorable crescendo calculated to shock and horrify, something that few films manage to do quite as well as Audition. It might not be a noble ambition, but on its own terms Audition can only be considered a great success, as well as an essential Japanese horror film.

Jim Harper

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Yakuza Apocalypse

yakuza apocapypse 1
Yakuza Apocalypse

Seen at LFF 2015

Format: Cinema

Release Date: 6 January 2016

Distributor: Manga Entertainment

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Yoshitaka Yamaguchi

Cast: Yayan Ruhian, Hayato Ichihara, Riri Furankî

Original title: Gokudou daisensou

Japan 2015

125 mins

The ludicrously prolific Takashi Miike (as I write this, IMDB lists 99 credits as director since his debut in 1991) seems to work in different modes. There’s the high-end classy work he did for Jeremy Thomas (13 Assassins, Hara Kiri ); there are the extraordinary cult films he made his name with in the West (Audition, Visitor Q, Ichi the Killer); and there are a whole lot of other films he seems to have tossed of in short order that work on a ‘throw it against the wall and see if it’ll stick’ principle. Yakuza Apocalypse is very much a third mode film.

‘Unkillable’ yakuza boss Kamiura is in fact a vampire, who manages to infect loyal underling Kageyama with his condition after being decapitated by assassins. Kageyama in turn infects some of the common populace and soon the world is out of whack: if everyone is a yakuza vampire, then where do Kamiura’s old gang get their status from? Soon a Kappa demon turns up and the conviction grows that some kind of apocalypse is in the offing. A female yakuza has steaming milk issuing from her ears, with which she tries to cultivate a new crop of ‘decent civilians’. The end of days arrives in the shape of a frog-headed martial arts master who looks like a sports team mascot with a bulging hypnotic eyeball. A Kageyama/Frog smackdown ensues. The world ends.

Trying to describe the plot of this effort is a thankless task. There’s stuff in here from spaghetti Westerns and Road Runner cartoons. There’s a lot of informative and/or baffling dialogue (‘Yakuza blood tastes bad and has no nutrition’). There are nice ideas that go nowhere, and wacky bits of business that occasionally pay off (love that frog). There’s an almost philosophical thread about what defines a yakuza. (Kageyama’s skin is too sensitive to allow for the requisite tattoos, the dearth of ‘decent civilians’ makes the old gang question their place in the world.) But much of this gets forgotten as the chaos mounts. It’s not boring, but it is frustrating, all a bit scrappy and makeshift and half-baked. There are the desired moments of weirdness that Miike fans would expect, but here they just don’t add up to much. Ah well, there’ll be another one along any minute…

Mark Stafford

This review is part of our LFF 2015 coverage.

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For Love’s Sake

For Loves Sake
For Love's Sake

Format: DVD + Blu-ray

Release date: 10 June 2013

Distributor: Third Window Films

Director: Takashi Miike

Writers: Ikki Kajiwara (original Manga), Takayuki Takuma

Cast: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Emi Takei

Japan 2012

134 mins

Takashi Miike returns with the adaptation of a manga by Ikki Kajiwara and Takumi Nagayasu – filmed many times before – about a rich young girl’s impossible love for a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The original title Ai to makoto means ‘Love and Sincerity’, which is also the name of the two main characters. Ai (Emi Takei) is a sweet young girl from a well-to-do family, who was rescued by Makoto (Satoshi Tsumabuki) while skiing as a child. When Makoto returns to Tokyo for revenge and immediately gets into a fight, Ai does all she can to save him from his delinquent life. An insanely colourful, at times kitsch teen melodrama, For Love’s Sake mixes the badass attitude and energy of Crows Zero with the demented chirpiness of The Happiness of the Katakuris. It may not be Miike at his most ground-breaking or daring, but the film is wildly entertaining. The director once more demonstrates his boundless inventiveness and impressive visual sense with a variety of animated sequences and (cheesy) musical numbers, as well as great decors, gorgeous colours and brilliantly choreographed fights, all pulsating with his customary high-voltage energy.

Virginie Sélavy

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Crows Zero

Takashi Miike’s 2007 high school actioner is released on DVD on 9 April 2012 by MVM. Another typically ultra-stylised and violent offering from the director of Ichi the Killer and 13 Assassins, Crows Zero charts the battle between two delinquent boys and their factions fighting for supremacy in the lawless Suzuran high school. Based on the bestselling manga by Hiroshi Takahashi (screenwriter of the original Ring movies), Crows Zero is one of Miike’s most commercially successful movies.

Comic strip review by Joe Morgan.

Comic Strip Review: Asian Horror: The Essential Collection

Asian Horror: The Essential Collection brings together three acclaimed Asian horror films, featuring Takashi Miike’s Audition (1999), the Pang brothers’ The Eye (2002) and Hideo Nakata’s Dark Water (2002).

Comic Review by Dan Lester -
Asian Horror - The Essential Collection
Asian Horror: The Essential Collection was released in the UK by Palisades Tartan on 26 October 2009. For more information on Dan Lester, go to monkeysmightpuke.com.