It took me to be on two more Emirates flights to come up with this review of Japanese cinema. I was delighted to see Kuroki Meisa on the bill for Andalucia: Revenge of the Goddess (アンダルシア 女神の報復) but for some reason I started watching something else – Robo-G (ロボジー).

Robo-G (or Robo-ji, obviously a play on the word oyaji meaning old man) was a real heartwarming film about a mildly cantankerous septuagenarian named Shigemitsu (played by Mickey Curtis) bored with his daily routine at the old folks’ day centre. Often frustrated when he performs at the centre’s annual theatre production, Shigemitsu went to apply to be a man in a robot suit. What he hadn’t bargained for was that his employers were mere technicians (one of whom was Hamada Gaku of Proposal Daisakusen fame) at a home appliance company trying hard to develop a real robot but failing miserably much to the chagrin of their boss. Shigemitsu in the robot suit impressed a lot of people in the scientific community and the electronics industry which often resulted in many hilarious near-misses. The fake robot expectedly attracted a bunch of university students in robotics, led by a keen student named Sasaki Yoko (Yoshitaka Yuriko), to enquire how the three technicians-cum-robot developer came about making such an impressive machine.

Wild 7 (ワイルド7) was an example of a film that held much promise on the outset but failing (albeit not that miserably) as the drama unfolds. Funny that I used the word drama here as the manga-based film was originally a 25-parter TV drama in the 1970’s which was scrapped due to the violence. And violence galore this film had, which tells the story of a group of seven motorbike-riding ex-cons, fronted by Hiba Dairoku (played by the ubiquitous Eita), working covertly for the government when the shit goes down. I suppose having the seven violently sorting out a bank heist gone wrong was not enough that the plot resorted to more far-fetched scenarios which included trying to stop a terrorist airship unleashing its lethal bioweapon onto the Tokyo populace. On a final note, somebody should stop typecasting Nakai Kiichi (see my review on Princess Toyotomi last year) as a government official, or any official-looking characters!

Well, I saw another film with Nakai Kiichi playing a lawyer (didn’t I say about typecasting just a few secs ago?) on the same flight. A Ghost of a Chance (ステキな金縛り, or Once In A Blue Moon) is a superb comedy which a rookie lawyer named Emi (Fukatsu Eri) was assigned to investigate a murder only to find the only witness that could prove the defendant’s alibi was the ghost of a samurai military commander (Nishida Toshiyuki – yup, the guy in Star Watching Dog from last year’s inflight review). Successful she was in persuading the phantom witness but whether or not she could convince the court was another matter. The fact that the judge was somewhat easy-going in letting her getting on with it (like getting the witness to testify only when it’s nighttime) helped matters a bit. I thought the cast comprised a superb lineup of serious actors including Abe Hiroshi and Ichimura Masachika (the superb 13 Assassins comes to mind), but I can assure you that I hadn’t laughed this much on a plane before.

Hayabusa: The Long Voyage Home (はやぶさ 遥かなる帰還) was one of the four(!) films released in 2011 (kinda like when Hollywood released both Robin Hood and Prince of Thieves in 1991) telling the true story of a Japanese space probe reaching an asteroid named Itokawa and its challenging journey back to Earth with samples obtained from the asteroid, the first ever attempt by mankind. It is unfair to make any comments on the other three films, but this film had a somewhat serious feel to it with moments reminiscent of the tensions felt in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13. Watanabe Ken plays Kawaguchi Junichiro, the leader of the mission who endeavoured hard with his team ensuring the mission to be successful despite the numerous setbacks, especially with the probes ion engines which were required to propel it back to Earth. The scope of the film also included the unsung heroes involved in the mission, namely the small engineering companies that develop the individual parts of the probe (the eponymous Yamazaki Tsutomu played the owner of one such factory which built the prototype of the Minerva lander that landed on Itokawa).

Next bunch of reviews coming up when I fly back for Raya then. Check these films out!