By Jason S. Yadao
I know it's become a tired cliche to say that an event that brings a bunch of wonderful things for a certain set of fans is like Christmas in [FILL IN MONTH HERE, AS LONG AS IT'S NOT DECEMBER, BECAUSE THEN IT WOULDN'T MAKE MUCH SENSE], but I'm going to say it here anyway: The Hawaii International Film Festival's getting started in two days, and when it does, it's going to be like Christmas in October for fans of anime and Japanese cinematic pop culture. And all you have to do, dear otaku, is buy your tickets from www.hiff.org or the HIFF box office near the Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 theaters, make your way over to that theater complex (save one case, which I'll get to in a little bit), get whatever snacks you're craving, and enjoy.
The big anime-related event at this year's festival is the Studio Ghibli Retrospective, a six-pack of classics from throughout the anime studio's storied history. All of them are the original 35mm prints, in Japanese with English subtitles; there's a nice cross-section of the studio's work represented in these films, with four directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Porco Rosso, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away); one by Isao Takahata, with Miyazaki getting screenwriter and executive producer credits (Pom Poko); one rarely screened in the States and never released on home video here (Ocean Waves ... although Australia and the United Kingdom both got English-subtitled DVD releases, those lucky ducks); and none from Goro Miyazaki (sorry, those of you hoping for From Up on Poppy Hill). Your screening time roundup:
- Totoro: 11:30 a.m. Saturday
- Pom Poko: 2 p.m. Saturday
- Ocean Waves: 11:45 a.m. Sunday
- Spirited Away: 2 p.m. Sunday
- Porco Rosso: 11 a.m. Oct. 20
- Nausicaa: 1:30 p.m. Oct. 20
That's a potential Ghibli double-feature on Saturday, Sunday and Oct. 20. If you're really feeling adventurous, though, you could turn Saturday into a Ghibli triple play, watching three movies for the price of two. You'll have to leave Dole Cannery after Pom Poko to do so, but it's certainly worth it: HIFF will be screening Spirited Away at Kakaako Makai Gateway Park for the low, low price of absolutely free. The "Pop-Up at the Park" gets underway at 5 p.m. with Eat the Street organizers Street Grindz rallying a bunch of food trucks to satisfy all your noshing needs, and the film unspools starting at 6 p.m. Cosplay is also encouraged, and there will be prizes for people decked out in the finest Ghibli-inspired gear.
It should be noted that the site's changed from the original location of Mother Waldron Park, which is not what's currently shown on HIFF's event page. (10/10 update: It's been fixed! We don't believe in radically changing posts once they've gone up, though, so the original text of this post follows.) This is the image that you currently see there. If you go there on Saturday, what you see here in this picture is all you'll see -- no film, no food trucks, no cosplay, nothing. (There are some rather lovely wall murals, though.)
Here's the new, actual location, as seen from Google Street View, looking makai from Ilalo Street.
That's the Hawaii Children's Discovery Center to the left and Kakaako Waterfront Park waaaaaaay in back. The University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, not pictured, is to the right.
Pray for nice weather (or at least weather that'll clear out this stifling vog we've had blanketing the island lately, ugh), and come on down.
The rest of the festival is certainly no slouch, either. My picks for fellow otaku cinephiles:
The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki: Director Mamoru Hosoda has been on a roll in recent years. I never did see, nor have I ever have any inkling of seeing, Digimon: The Movie in 2000, but his take on The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in 2006 was good, and Summer Wars, which screened at HIFF in 2010 ... well, that was one of the best, if not the best, film I saw that year. His latest film follows Ame and his sister Yuki, two half-wolf, half-human children who lose their wolf-man father in an accident and subsequently move with their mom to a rural village. Now, both children are faced with the choice of whether to embrace the wolf or the human side of their heritage. Ame's leaning one way; Yuki, in the other. And, of course, mom Hana has her own issues to deal with as well. 9 p.m. Oct. 17 and 12:30 p.m. Oct. 21.
Dead Sushi: Director Noboru Iguchi has been on a roll in recent years as well, but for a completely different genre of Japanese film: the 1,000 percent what in the WORLD am I watching and WHY?!?!? genre. For your consideration, the following trailers, which should not be viewed at any time except, perhaps, in a darkened room in the middle of the night:
- The Machine Girl: A normal high school girl with a normal family and a normal life has it all taken away by a ninja yakuza clan ... so she straps on a machine gun to replace the arm that was neatly and oh-so-visceral-sprayingly was chopped off, as well as a drill bra and other assorted weapons of maximum carnage, to gain her revenge. Blood goes spraying, limbs go flying, sushi with fingers as a topping get consumed, and females get scantily clad.
- Robogeisha: "Geisha is ... Japanese girl. Geisha is ... beautiful. Geisha is ... wild. Geisha is ... robot." Normal geisha with normal lives get transformed into cyborg assassins ... so they use their mouth chainsaws and katanas and guns protruding from pretty much every natural orifice and tank-transforming abilities and battle it out. Blood goes spraying, limbs go flying, fried shrimp gets impaled in someone's eyes, and females get scantily clad.
And now we have the trailer for Dead Sushi, featuring the same creepy Engrish narrator from the Robogeisha trailer and starring delicious slabs of rice and seafood that have themselves turned carnivorous and seeking human flesh. And you guessed it: Blood goes spraying, sushi do something at the end that I can't even describe lest this blog go from a PG rating to somewhere between R and NC-17, and females get scantily clad. Give it to Iguchi: The guy knows his niche. 9:15 p.m. Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday.
Thermae Romae: The first two-volumes-in-one omnibus collection of the manga by Mari Yamazaki is due from Yen Press next month, but local audiences will get a chance to see this film adaptation first. The film, like the manga, follows the adventures of Lucius, a harried architect in ancient Rome who finds his calling in life when he's sucked through a drain doubling as a time portal, ends up in modern-day Japan, takes what he learns about bathhouse design, returns to his time and builds the most fabulous bathhouse in all the land.
Yes, that premise would probably be the craziest were it not for Dead Sushi's presence in this year's film festival. But hey, if you wanted normal, go pick up Jiro Dreams of Sushi or something. 9 p.m. Saturday and 9:15 p.m. Monday.
Eight Rangers: In a future world where Japan is teetering on the edge of ruin (if it's not there already), the only thing standing between relative order and absolute chaos inflicted by a terrorist group is a ragtag bunch of ordinary citizens dressed in colorful costumes rallied by superhero Captain Silver. Sounds a bit cliched to me at face value, but you never know for sure what delightful twists and turns lie beneath the surface, so who knows? It could be worth a look. 3 p.m. Oct. 19 and 9:15 p.m. Oct. 20.
Ultraman Saga: Speaking of costumed superheroes, this year marks the 45th anniversary of one of Japan's most enduring heroes: Ultraman. To celebrate, here's Ultraman -- or to be more specific, the Ultraman Zero version of the hero -- like you've never seen him before: battling alongside members of super-popular J-pop girl group AKB48. In a future world where Tokyo's in ruins and multiple dimensions are in danger, the only thing standing between relative order and absolute chaos inflicted by an invading alien force is a ragtag alliance formed with the AKB48-staffed Earth Defense Force Team U, Ultraman Zero and a defense team pilot named Taiga. No sign of the Eight Rangers, though. 11:30 a.m. Saturday.