By Jason S. Yadao
Let's get the lead item out of the way: The Wind Rises, one of the Hawaii International Film Festival's showcase Opening Night films and the Studio Ghibli production that is purportedly Hayao Miyazaki's filmmaking swan song, is sold out online.
That's not to say that you're completely out of luck. It remains to be seen how many "rush," or standby, tickets will be available, or whether there will be any encore screenings later in the festival. There's also the prospect of sometime around next February, when Disney -- picking up Ghibli film distribution again after letting From Up on Poppy Hill go to GKids -- will likely send the film to theaters in wide release. (Just, y'know, prepare yourself for the two leads, Jiro and Naoko, to be played by the young stars or relatives of stars from current Disney Channel programming, like Noah Cyrus and Frankie Jonas in Ponyo or Bridgit Mendler in The Secret World of Arrietty.)
But Wind Rises aside, there are other films to keep local otaku happy, some with anime/manga roots, others that just seem ... interesting. Here's what's on my list of highlights. Tickets are still available for all of these; hiff.org has information on how you can pick them up, whether online or in person. Unless otherwise noted, all films will be screening at the Regal Theatres Dole Cannery 18 complex:
Animation Maestro Gisaburo: Gisaburo Sugii has worked in the anime industry for longer than many (if not all) of you reading this have been alive. Consider this: He was an in-between animator for Hakujaden. Hakujaden, which was released in Japan in 1958, was the first Japanese feature-length animated film in color. And when Globe Pictures localized it as Panda and the Magic Serpent in 1961, it became the first anime to be screened for American audiences.
So yeah, he's been around for a long time. He's had a hand in directing installments in a number of notable franchises over the years, including Captain Tsubasa, Lupin III, Glass Mask, Street Fighter II and Touch. His latest movie, Guskou Budori no Denki, was released in Japan in July 2012. And this movie chronicles all of his career highlights. If that doesn't make for a fascinating documentary, I don't know what does. (Pair it with Night on the Galactic Railroad for the optimal Gisaburo weekend experience.) Screening Oct. 20 at 4 p.m.
Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo: Shinji, NERV and the Angels are back in the third of director Hideaki Anno's planned quadrology, and they're doing what they do best: giving fans reasons to buy more variations of Rei, Asuka and Makinami toy figures fueling another round of Shinji x Kaworu yaoi fanfics bringing us one step closer to finding out if this version of Evangelion will give fans the definitive ending they've been looking for since 1996. Looking at HIFF's promo images and this line of the synopsis:
Trapped in a harrowing cycle of death and rebirth, Shinji continues to courageously battle the angels, even as the world hurtles towards what could ultimately be its tragic end.
... it looks like we're firmly in original-canon Evangelion: Death and Rebirth territory. You know, the movie that a Newtype USA reviewer once summarized as "Asuka goes crazy, Rei gets big, everyone dies." And there's still one more movie to go! Monday at 9 p.m. and Oct. 20 at 1:45 p.m.
The God of Ramen: Stick a steaming-hot bowl of freshly made ramen in front of tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J., and she is one happy gal. Stick a Japanese documentary about food in front of me -- see Jiro Dreams of Sushi -- and I'm definitely up for seeing it. So a film about a longtime ramen shop owner which plays out, as HIFF's synopsis says, "like a 90-minute episode of Soko Ga Shiritai"? Yeah, we're in for that. (It also helps that our schedules are such that we can actually clear time to watch it.)
I've also included this film in this guide because it's the only one that's screening for our neighbor island friends on Kauai and Hawaii island. (Yes, Parv, I saw your lament in the Ota-cool! October part 1 comments. I feel your pain.) Tuesday at 6:15 p.m., Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. at Consolidated Koko Marina, Oct. 19 at 5 p.m., Oct. 26 at 11:30 a.m. at Waimea (Kauai) Theater and Oct. 28 at 5 p.m. at Palace Theater in Hilo.
Harlock: Space Pirate: When director Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed, "The Package" in Halo Legends) was a guest at Kawaii Kon in 2010, he screened some super-spiffy CGI footage of this movie. Three years later, we're finally getting to see his take on Leiji Matsumoto's iconic intergalactic pirate and crew and their quest, aboard the battlecruiser Arcadia, to restore humans' rightful place on Earth. But will he be able to overcome the corrupt Gaia Coalition standing in his way? Friday at 9 p.m. and Sunday at 8 p.m.
Hentai Kamen: Forbidden Superhero: It's been about 10 years since I first began writing about anime and manga for what was then the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. I've seen a lot of weird things in Japanese live-action movies along the way -- killer sushi, murderous baseball teams, giant wrestling cephalopods, a Lolita and a biker befriending each other, Hibari Misora appearing in a musical about a tanuki princess 16 years after her death, mecha-geisha assassins, stuff like that. And yet, taking all of that into account, here I am, marveling over how I never thought I'd ever be writing something about a sadomasochistic superhero who wears women's panties as a mask and thong suspenders as a costume. Yup, this is Hentai Kamen. It's based on a six-volume manga by Keishu Ando, published by Shueisha in Weekly Shonen Jump(!) in 1992-93, never formally translated for U.S. audiences (probably for very good reasons). Just ... hide the children. Oct. 19 at 9:30 p.m. and Oct. 20 at 4:30 p.m.
Night on the Galactic Railroad: Back in 2001, Central Park Media released this 1985 Gisaburo Sugii-directed film on DVD. You probably missed it, because, well, if CPM stuff actually sold at retail in the early 2000s, they'd probably still be around today. Besides, CPM stuff didn't exactly have visual pop sitting on retail shelves -- have a look at that cover at right for proof. I certainly missed out on it. Which is too bad, because the concept behind it -- boy with a fractured family life and a tough social life is invited to come aboard a universe-traversing train -- certainly sounds interesting. Almost Galaxy Express 999-ish, if you will, just without Maetel. The film has a fresh remastering sheen to it, too, so if anything, it'll probably look better than that DVD release. Oct. 19 at 1 p.m.
Nuiglumar Z (Gothic Lolita Battle Bear): I've repeatedly said in my HIFF mini-previews that it takes a lot for a movie from Noboru Iguchi -- the man responsible for those killer sushi and mecha-geisha assassins I alluded to above -- to be upstaged in my pantheon of what-the-heck-ery. Yet Hentai Kamen managed to do just that this year. Still, a movie about a gothic Lolita superhero -- played by cosplay/singing idol/blogger Shoko "Shokotan" Nakagawa -- battling hordes of zombies with her teddy bear is still a pretty wacky concept, even if it doesn't seem to reach the pulp-fiction heights of Iguchi's previous works on the surface. Oct. 18 at 9:30 p.m., and Oct. 19 at 9 p.m. at Consolidated Koko Marina.
Rurouni Kenshin: The anime and manga versions of Nobuhiro Watsuki's story of a former assassin-turned wandering protector is fairly well-known among longtime fans. And if you loved those, you're probably going to head out to see this regardless of what I say about it, just for the sheer curiosity factor to see how well Takeru Sato and Emi Takei pull off Kenshin and Kaoru. So here's my Rurouni Kenshin story: Whenever I think of the anime, the Judy & Mary song "Sobakasu" always pops to mind, mostly because I learned of its existence after the Tiggy song "Freckles," part of the DDR MAX soundtrack. "Sobakasu," as I learned, translates into "freckles." The translated lyrics of the former are quite different from the English lyrics of the latter, though. Saturday at 9 p.m. and Sunday at noon.