GUEST POST: Rashômon Review

Joe Pettitt, an amateur screenwriter, has fortunately written a fantastic review on Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) for you all to read.

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© Daiei Film Co., Ltd.

“Well men are only men. That’s why they lie. They can’t tell the truth, even to themselves”

It can be assumed that most film fanatics can recall, with detail, scene’s from their favourite courtroom drama – a sub-genre that transports the viewer through the grand, unshaken walls of a legal house. It is in this transportation that the genre emits its allure and suspense, wherein the viewer must watch on, often through the dramatic irony of knowing the truth, but powerless to affect the verdict. This is perhaps what has made the legal drama such an enjoyed subgenre within hollywood for so many years. Kurosawa’s Rashomon hit the western cinema screen in 1951 a year after its initial release in Japan and it rocked the film industry in a way no one saw coming. Kurosawa neglected to endow his audience with the foresight of knowing what really happened, thus presenting an unsolved mystery about interpretation and the ego’s embellishment of the truth.

Kurosawa’s Rashomon takes place in rural Japan, presumably pre-dating the Second World War by decades. Still mourning the loss of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many enjoyed and took pride in narratives of classical sensibilities, distracting them from the realities of post war Japan. It’s opening shots of a decrepit, pre-war Japanese building is symbolic of the devastation the war inflicted on the nation and nods to this popular nostalgic mindset of the people at the time. The rain helps to reinforce this melancholy but is also used wonderfully by Kurosawa as a device to convey the differing time zones  in which our narratives take place. In one of the most beautiful scene transitions in classic cinema, we come from the heavy rain of the opening shots to see the woodcutter wandering through the forest, as the camera points upward  through the canopy with the sun shining through the leaves, we seemingly enter another realm. Kurosawa uses weather fantastically in this film. 

Through the rain that pours over the building at the beginning we are introduced to three men, who huddle around a fire – the visual equivalent of someone saying ‘You are about to be told a story’ – and the events of our court hearing are disclosed. From here we are told three contradicting stories surrounding the murder of a samurai. One from the point of view of the Bandit Tajomaru, one from wife of the murdered samurai, and one from the samurai himself who communicates through a medium. Each character’s story is portrayed with the same conviction as the next, all seemingly believing what they say. This is what made the this film so difficult for western audiences to grasp. Kurosawa’s narrative arcs contradict and yet are all equally plausible and true, it is as if he is asking us to confront our prejudices. Do we believe the filthy bandit, with his scratchy skin, swatting flies and raping women? Do we believe the wife, who one of the characters describes as a typical woman who will believe her own lies? Or is it the samurai whose story bears the most candour, speaking through the mystical medium? – As the priest says ‘dead men tell no lies’. These are the questions we ask when watching Rashomon with narratives that are truth, lie and neither at the same time, in a film that is courtroom drama, mystery and something entirely it’s own as well.

 

Joe Pettitt

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POLL: Whose Your Favourite Anime Villain?

Just like any other superhero film (Batman vs. Joker, Iron Man vs. Ultra), anime has a range of villains who are actually a little more crazy and mind boggling than some in Hollywood. Everyone usually praises the heroes but sometimes the antagonists need some celebrating… Here are some of my top villains, which are yours?

NAKARU – Inuyasha (2001) 

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© Viz Media

The main antagonist in the manga series, Inuyasha (2001, written and illustrated by Rumiko Takahashi), Nakaru is pretty much impossible to kill. After being viciously burned by his gangs boss, and being rejected by the woman of his dreams, Kikyo (priestess who started caring for him), Nakaru is born through a deal with local demons. His distinguishable power is the art of manipulations, able to get anyone on his side and do what he wants, making him one of the most evil and malicious villains in anime.


VEGETA – Dragon Ball Z (1996 – 2003) 

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© Madmen Entertainment

A sort of half villain, Vegeta is the most famous of antagonist of all anime. At first Vegeta was a cold hearted, savage killer with an aim to defeat and overthrow arch-rival Goku. However, whilst still continuing his quest he evolves into an anti-hero and later into a protagonist who fights alongside the Z fighters.

JOHAN LIEBERT – MONSTER (2004)

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© Shogakukun

John Liebert is considered the top villain in anime amongst fans and the type you would expect to see in a Hollywood blockbuster. Johan is the main villain in Japanese manga series Monster (2004, written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa) who is a huge sociopath and throughout much of his life lived under a bunch of different aliases. Inheriting his mother’s brains and reasoning skills, Johan is also a great manipulator with no conscious and takes joy in others pain. It is still not known as to why he is so twisted, some may say it’s because of the orphanage he grew up in with his sister, which performed experiments on children and treated them like rubbish, but the orphanage claims he was already dysfunctional when he walked through their doors.

LUCY – ELFREN LIED (2004) (my personal favourite) 

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© Viz Media

Lucy is the most prominent character in this anime manga series, Elfren Lied (2004, written and illustrated by Lynn Okamoto). There is only one word to describe her: INSANE!. The cruelty which surrounded her was eventually what broke her and made her become a callous, brutal character. After being bullied and realising she had these destructive powers, she would go round killing all the boys who bullied her, and went around house to house in the countryside killing families. She ends up becoming even more crazy when she started infecting fathers with ‘devil sperm’ so these parents would give birth to girls who are just like her who would then kill their families.

LIGHT – Death Note (2006) 

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© Viz Media

Japanese manga series Death Note (2006, written by Tsugami Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata) follows the story of high school student Light Yagami. Light had it all going for him, smart student, training in his fathers footsteps to become a policeman, until he receives a death note where we see him embark on a transformation becoming a judge, jury, and executioner for the whole world.

 

 

My Top 5 Japanese Based Blogs

And the top 5 Japanese blogs are… In no particular order…

1) Tofugu 

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Tofugu is ideal for anything really. They offer travel guides, reviews, and a bunch of videos and interviews related to Japan and its culture.

www.tofugu.com

2) Off The Block Site

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This blog is generally reviews on anything from films to video games. I found these anime reviews very interesting as I discovered new film I had never heard of before. They blogger also posts some of their own short stories which are definitely worth a read.

www.offtheblocksite.wordpress.com

3) Daiyamanga

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Daiyamanga is perfect if you’re intrigued to know that little bit more about Japanese manga. Offering reviews on manga series and not just individual manga, AND reviews on anime. Fabulous blog!

www.daiyamanga.wordpress.com/

4) Funny Anime Pics

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The title is pretty self explanatory. If you’re in the mood for some homemade hilarious gifs/memes check out this blog. The author even writes adult fantasy novels which you can view on his author website (www.cassidycornblatt.wordpress.com)

www.funnyanimepics.wordpress.com/

5) Tokyo Fox

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This blog is written by an English teacher in Tokyo and freelance journalist. It’s an extremely insightful blog. He posts about his travels, food & drink, action and adventure, reviews all around Japan, and so much more!

www.tokyofox.wordpress.com

My First Time Cooking a 3 Course Japanese Meal

For the first time in my life I made a 3 course Japanese meal… and it turned out SO delicious. Thanks to www.japanesecooking101.com I managed to cook Karaage (Japanese fried chicken), Salmon Teriyaki, and Dorayaki (the fluffiest pancakes).

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Starter:

1) KARAAGE (Japanese Fried Chicken) 

Karaage is essentially a traditionally Japanese meat or fish dish. Anything fried is tasty to me so i decided to make a ton load. This dish is usually cooked with chicken thigh but I decided to make chicken wings instead which took slightly longer than thighs would.

Prep: 30 min – 1 hour
Cook time: 10-20 minutes
Servings: 6 people          

Ingredients: 

750g of chicken wings (equivalent to around 6 chicken thighs)
2 1/2 tbsp of Sake
2 tbsp of Soy Sauce
1/2 tsp of Salt
3-4 tsp grated garlic
3-4 tsp grated ginger
1 cup of all purpose flower
1 cup of corn starch/flour
oil for cooking
salt and pepper

Method:

– In a bowl, mix Sake, Soy Sauce, salt, garlic and ginger. Then place the chicken in and mix together. Leave for around 30 minutes to 1 hour to marinate.
– In a different bowl, mix together the corn starch/flour and the salt and pepper and sieve into the marinated chicken bowl and mix it all together.
– Heat around 5 cm of oil (enough to cover the chicken at least half way) at a medium/high heat
– Deep fry for 15-20 minutes, or till its golden brown and crispy.

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Recipe and method courtesy of: http://www.japanesecooking101.com/karaage-recipe/

Main: 

2) SALMON TERIYAKI 

Salmon Teriyaki is pretty much loved by everyone. The teriyaki sauce is sweet and salty making it one of my favourite dishes ever.

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients: 

4 tbsp of Soy Sauce
2 Salmon fillets, sliced in half long ways
2 tbsp of Sake
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of grated ginger root
1 tsp of vegetable oil

Method:

– Mix the Soy Sauce, Sake and ginger in a small bowl
– Heat the oil in a frying pan at a medium, once hot place salmon in the pan skin side down.
– Cook the salmon for around 3-4 minutes on each side
– Once pretty much cooked, reduce the heat and add the sauce. Wait until the sauce starts to thicken and after around 4-5 minutes remove from pan, ready to serve.

I ended up adding more teriyaki sauce from the packet because unfortunately I didn’t make enough. But this home made sauce beats the packeted one any day.

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Recipe and Method courtesy of: http://www.japanesecooking101.com/salmon-teriyaki-recipe/

Dessert: 

3) DORAYAKI 

Prep: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4/5

Ingredients: 

1 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 eggs
1/2-1 cup of sugar
1 tbsp of honey
1/2 cup of milk

Method: 

– In a bowl mix the baking soda and flour
– In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and honey and add milk. Mix well.
– Pour in the flour and baking soda mix into the egg mixture and whisk until the batter becomes smooth.
– Heat a non stick frying pan with a tiny piece of butter but rub around the pan with a tissue to make sure there isn’t too much on. On a medium to low hear, pour in some mixture onto the pan so it looks thick and circular like ny other pancake.
– Cook for around 2 minutes until the top of the pancake starts to slightly bubble and then flip over to cook for a further 1 minute.
– Usually you’d place a tablespoon of Anko red beans and cover it with another pancake, wrap it up with plastic and press down the edges. But I just made two separate pancakes, spread my jam on one side with the maple syrup and placed another pancake on top.

My photo isn’t that great because I started to eat it all forgetting I needed to take a photo and by the time I realised I had eaten all the mixture…

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Recipe and Method courtesy of: http://www.japanesecooking101.com/dorayaki-recipe/

It’s a pretty daunting thought a 3 course meal that you’ve never cooked before but it was surprisingly really easy! And so yummy I’m even making Dorayaki instead of American pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.