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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nippon Reviews- Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter: Written by Nathan and David Zellner, directed by David Zellner.  Starring: Rinko Kikuchi, Nobuyuki Katsube, Kanako Higashi, Kyokaku Ichi, Ayaka Onishi, and David Zellner.  Running Time: 105 minutes. 

Rating: 3.5/4

            For years, there was an urban legend floating around the internet and the fringes of Cinephilopolis that Fargo, the Coen brothers classic from the 1990’s that jokingly claimed to be based on a true story, may have inadvertently killed someone.  A Japanese woman named Takako Konishi was found dead near a lake in Minnesota in 2001, and it was soon rumored that, tricked by the movie’s opening credits, she had gone there to hunt for the suitcase full of cash buried in the ice by Steve Buscemi in one of the movie’s final scenes.   

            This, of course, turned out to be completely false (the death the legend refers to was ruled a suicide, and there is no evidence she ever even knew of the film), but it’s still stuck around as a curious bit of cinematic pop quiz material for those interested in such minutiae.  Now, however, an American director (David Zellner, who appears in the movie in a late supporting role) has taken the bare bones of the urban legend, right down to Takako’s origins working for a travel agency and a confused misunderstanding with a local police officer, and reworked them around one of the most fascinating “what-if” premises for a movie I’ve heard of in some time- what if there really WAS someone fooled into thinking Fargo was real? 

            Roughly the first half of the film is spent introducing us to the almost amusingly pathetic daily life of Kumiko (played by Rinko Kikuchi).  It’s an almost too-standard picture of a person feeling their age, life, and career prospects spinning out of control- her boss is overbearing, regularly demanding to know why Kumiko is not actively applying for advanced positions within the company, and both he and her mother ask her astonishingly probing questions about whether or not she’s dating someone, or if she even has any interest in marriage or kids.  All her friends seem blissfully (and to Kumiko, horrifyingly) content with their very standard, average lives.  Her only real interests seem to be caring for her adorable pet rabbit (who later gets what is probably the most emotional scene in the entire film) and hunting down lost items with strange, obscure treasure maps. 

            The very first scene is one such hunt, where Kumiko delves into a small cave near the shore and finds a beaten-up, VHS copy of Fargo, dubbed into Japanese.  Who left it there?  What purpose was served by burying it and then making a map showing where to find it?  How did Kumiko even get her hands on such a curious item?  Or did she just swipe the video from the local rental store and fantasize that she found it as part of an epic beach hunt? 

            I suspect any answers to these questions are ultimately immaterial- she now has the movie, and that’s all that matters.  She watches and rewatches it over and over again after work, clearly becoming more and more convinced with each viewing that the treasure buried by Buscemi is real, and that she- and only she- has the cleverness and wherewithal to sniff it out.  And when events in her life push her just a bit too far over the edge, she makes what seems to be the first real choice of consequence she’s made in her life in years, and throws everything she has, both materially and mentally, into tracking down the briefcase. 

            It should quickly become obvious to most viewers that Kumiko is, at best, manically depressed, and at worst, completely unhinged from reality.  Her first stabs at determining the location of the treasure come off as adorably quirky, or even humorous (a shot showing how she tries to steal a map of the US from a library got more than a few belts of laughter from the audience I was with).  In some ways, she’s not unlike many of the psychologically lost souls populating most of the Coen brother’s works. But once she actually goes through with a terribly-thought-out plan and finds herself stranded in the Midwest without so much as a proper winter coat, the very real- and very terrifying- consequences of her actions hit home fast and hard. 

            At that point, a little more than halfway through the film, we are suddenly transported out of the rather darkly-zany world Kumiko has left behind and find ourselves in a David-Fincher-esque world of howling darkness.  Any marginally sane person would realize their failure at this point and give up, but not Kumiko- she just keeps going.  And the more lost she gets, the more bizarrely fascinating it is to see just how deep Kumiko is willing to sink in order to satisfy her sadly twisted belief that this, and only this, can give her life value.  We know how it will end- since many people that see this movie will likely know the legend, it’s easy to think that the movie will ultimately be too anti-climactic to be worth seeing- but in this particular case, the power of the movie comes not through a twist of the story, but in how it brings us to its inevitable conclusion.  We feel compelled to keep watching just to see what Kumiko will think of next.  Once you think she’s pulled the most insane stunt she possibly could, she goes out and does something even more off-the-wall-bonkers, a never-ending cycle of descending madness.   

            Rinko Kikuchi first broke into popular American consciousness with her role in the summer megahit Pacific Rim a few years ago, but it’s here that her powers as an actress are put on full display.  Hers is already one of my favorite performances of the year, in some ways mirroring Charlize Theron’s amazing turn as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road- her expression and tone of voice almost never change, but there’s so much frustration and pain etched into every line of her face that it doesn’t matter.  She simply glances at something (or someone), and no words are needed.  She anchors the entire film, and gives it the tragic edge it needs to veer into the abyss of the final act. 

            Anyone expecting (or perhaps wanting) Kumiko to be a compendium of clever references to or quotes from the original film, or who go in planning a drinking game around how many times someone says, “You betcha,” will leave disappointed- at no point does Zellner try to ape either Fargo itself or any other Coen brothers works, which ends up being very much to the film’s benefit.  Only the Coen brothers can pull off the Coen brothers, and Zellner was wise to keep the focus of the film tightly on Kumiko and to utilize his own style.  It’s not a style that will work for all- the ending is sure to confuse, frustrate, or infuriate a good number of people who see the film (although I found it to be brilliant), and there are perhaps some arguments to be made that the way Kumiko’s agonizingly normal life in Japan is set up is a bit by the books.  No matter.  Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter is a great film from start to finish, and made for a properly fitting ending to this year’s Nippon Connection.  I can’t wait until next year. 

-Noah Franc 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Nippon Reviews: Gekijoban Psycho-Pass (Psycho-Pass: The Movie)

Psycho-Pass: The Movie (Gekijoban Psycho-Pass): Written by Gen Urobuchi and Makoto Fukami, directed by Katsuyuki Motohiro and Naoyoshi Shiotani.  Starring: Kana Hanazawa, Kenji Nojima, Shizuka Ito, and Ayane Sakura.  Running time: 113 minutes.  Based on the anime of the same name. 

Rating: 2/4

            It’s the future (isn’t it always?), and Japanese society is now overseen by the AI Sibyl System, a computer program that detects and analyses potential criminal threats before they even happen, allowing the police to rush in and take out whoever the computer determines to be a future threat to society.  Since the system has worked so well in Japan, the government is now exporting it to surrounding nations, including several in Southeast Asia that are engaged in internal civil conflicts.  Our movie begins with a raid by a police force team led by Akane, which stops an exchange of arms.  However, things turn personal for the squad leader after they learn that the group they stopped was sent by a former teammate of hers, Shinya, who went AWOL years earlier and is now known to be leading an armed resistance within one of the nations that utilizes a prototype version of the Sibyl System.     

            With the stakes for her now very personal, Akane is sent in under cover to find Shinya’s hideout and determine why he’s turned into a rebel leader.  Along the way, she also has to deal with a team of elite hit men (and one woman) sent by the local government to take Shinya out, and a cadre of corrupt military officers who may or may not be subverting the Sybil System for their own greedy purposes. 

            The anime-series roots of Psycho-Pass crop up early on in the film.  No time is spent on introducing the characters of the team, whose relationships to each other and character archetypes can only be gleaned in passing.  One of the smaller members on the team appears only in the beginning and again at the end to establish that he has a personal grudge against Shinya.  The movie is expertly animated and the fight scenes are slick and fun- an early combat scene in a bombed-out shell of a city deserves special praise- but it’s clear that any deeper enjoyment or understanding of the stakes can only be had if you already know the anime.  This is no statement on the quality of the anime- for all I know, it could be brilliant- but it does mean that Psycho-Pass falls as short as most series-movies do in terms of working as a stand-alone feature.  It doesn’t bore for a minute, but neither does it ever stop to let itself rise above its serial origins. 

            There are efforts on the film’s part to inspire thought about the broader messages of the world it creates.  The Sibyl System itself is an obvious focal point for discussions of the pros and cons of Orwellian surveillance systems, but instead of trying to visualize or scatter topical discussion about it, we just get a closing, moralizing monologue from Akane to the central mainframe for the program about needing to respect the development of human history.  Like I said, I can imagine that this gets better face-time in the anime, but here, it comes across as forced.  Casual anime fans should not be dissuaded by my rating from seeing this one, but just go in with the awareness that, fast-paced as it is, Psycho-Pass does not wait for anyone to catch up. 

-Noah Franc 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Nippon Reviews: Shinsengumi

Shinsengumi: Written by Mamoru Sasaki and Kon Ichikawa, directed by Kon Ichikawa.  Running Time: 86 minutes. 

Rating: 4/4

            Originally produced for television over 15 years ago, Shinsengumi had long flown under international radar until now, when Nippon arranged its first-ever international screening.  It is an animated film, but not in the manner most outsiders would think of when you say the words “Japanese” and “animated.”  Based off of a black-and-white manga, Shinsengumi tells its story using cutouts figures from the manga itself, each being moved around via strings or sticks in front of similar cut-out backgrounds, creating a three-dimensional, puppet-like effect.  Different figures are swapped in with different facial expressions depending on when a particular character is speaking or laughing, and action is signified by jerky movements of the figures meant to embody the thrusts and parries of the sword.  While much less-known (and certainly less-popular) than the traditional hand-drawn styles known and loved by many Westerners, it is a fascinating method to watch when it’s done properly, providing the viewer with a wholly new way of looking at how animation can be utilized in service of a story.   

            To provide the setting of the movie, some history is needed- prior to the Meiji Restoration in the mid-19th century, Japan was nominally ruled by the Emperor, but was in actuality controlled by the Shogun, a powerful daimyo (lord) with enough resources and might to maintain de facto control over the entire country (all in the Emperor’s name, of course).  This dichotomy often led to split loyalties among the less-powerful daimyos, with some supporting the Shogun, and others declaring their loyalties to the Emperor alone.  This split was one of several major factors that led to the Restoration itself.  Just prior to that, however, a group of lord-less samurai were drawn to the capital by the promise of the creation of a new military wing designed to serve the Shogunate.  While the plans for the unit fell through, a small group stayed anyway, deciding to form their own organization, and declared their fealty to the Shogun.  In addition to the traditional laws and codes concerning samurai, they drew up additional rules for themselves regarding marriage, behavior, money, etc., and called themselves Shinsengumi. 

            The group was small at first, but the forceful nature of their charismatic leaders and the attraction of their strict rules of behavior drew various other samurai into their ranks over the years, and by the 1860’s, Shinsengumi had become a powerful force in its own right, operating almost as a combination police-and-secret-service force rooting out plots and enemies on behalf of the Shogun.  This, of course, created many enemies for them amongst those opposed to the Shogunate, and when the events leading to the Restoration began, Shinsengumi found themselves right in the middle of one of the most tumultuous times in recent Japanese history. 

            Although the movie is animated, and the narrator admits that most conversations and personal scenes are dramatized, all of the figures and events depicted are straight from historical record, so in many ways Shinsengumi functions as a thorough documentary on the history of a group that continues to be somewhat controversial in Japan to this day.  Was Shinsengumi a group of remarkable and talented people who admirably stuck to their beliefs and their codes even when the world around them began to shift?  Or were they just a bunch of bloodthirsty thugs looking for a veneer of legitimization, allowing them to kill and enrich themselves at will?  As with most great movies, Shinsengumi leaves the decision up to us, sticking to just presenting many of the individuals that led the group, warts and all. 

            I can truly say I have never encountered any film like this one.  I was, at first, hesitant that I would like the cutout/puppet method of animation used, but it is done with such finesse and skill that I couldn’t help but warm to it as the film goes on.  The simplicity of it also lends a surprising amount of gravitas at certain moments- in a few instances, a raid by Shinsengumi is built up with an image of just the heads and swords of those involved slowly moving closer to the camera in front of a pitch-dark backdrop.  It’s such a basic and simple visual technique, which makes it all the more surprising how effectively such shots create an environment of threat and anticipation. 

            Though small in its visuals, Shinsengumi carries itself with a confidence and dignity that makes it a fascinating watch for anyone open to a new animation style, or someone just looking for a fresh glimpse into a fascinating period in Japanese history.   Highly recommended. 

-Noah Franc 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Nippon Reviews: Kami no Tsuki (Pale Moon)

Pale Moon (Kami no Tsuki): Written by Kaeko Hayafune, directed by Daihachi Yoshida.  Starring: Rie Miyazawa, Sosuke Ikematsu, and Satomi Kobayashi.  Running Time: 126 minutes.  Based on the novel of the same name by Mitsuyo Kakuta. 

Rating: 4/4

            Pale Moon is exactly the sort of experience I hunt for when I go to events like Nippon, something that gives me what I call the Shivers.  I suppose I should explain what the Shivers are.  The Shivers are one of the physical signs my body gives me to indicate that I have just heard, read, seen, or in some way experienced a great work of art.  It is a sensation of cold that starts around the neck and shoulders and inches its way down my spine, like cold rivulets of running water after I’ve just jogged a mile.  As they spread, the chilling sensation grows and causes me to- what else- shiver.  And every year at Nippon, I’ve gotten the Shivers while watching at least one movie.  In 2013, it was Key of Life.  Last year, it was Like Father, Like Son.  This year, I had the good fortune to uncover two films that did it.  The first was Hello, Supernova.  The second was Pale Moon

            Our heroine (or perhaps villain, depending on your point of view), is Rika, a physically slight, married banker slowly approaching middle age.  On a purely superficial level, everything in her life seems fine.  Her husband has a good job and seems poised for further advancement, her own position at a bank is well-regarded, and she lacks for nothing.  But for some reason, or perhaps no reason in particular, she begins to chafe at restraints both large and small placed on her by her family, her work, and even the society she lives in.  It starts small- encouraged by the examples she sees in others, she decides to treat herself to some luxurious personal items, and “borrows” a few bills from the accounts of particularly rich clients to pay for them. 

            But as in so many things left unchecked, the small soon turns into the large, and over the course of the film Rika concocts wilder, more daring, and more desperate measures to seep out more and more sums of cash from her clients’ accounts to support an increasingly elaborate lifestyle she seeks to hide from everyone around her.  She begins an affair with a college student half her age, putting themselves up in pricey hotels, and financing his dreams of going into web design.  Emboldened by this, she pushes back against her husband’s request that she quit her job to move with him to Shanghai for one of his company’s projects, staying in Japan on her own and turning their apartment into a veritable counterfeiting Master Lair. 

            This obviously can’t go on, but in true trainwreck fashion, it is impossible to turn away as everything starts to crash and burn around her.  There is a subtle theme to Rika’s character of Christian charity run amok- we learn she was schooled by nuns, and admonished day after day to give to the needy.  In a somewhat perverted fashion, we can see how this may have influenced her later behavior.  She is overwhelmingly, single-mindedly passionate about doing what she perceives to be good, even if that leads her to what others see as extreme behavior.  As an example, her enthusiasm for her affair is sparked, in part, by hearing about the young man’s growing debt from his studies. 

            And that may be the most subversive, perhaps even revolutionary, aspect of her character, and one of the most powerful themes in the film- even though she is driven by very selfish motives, by following her own heart and intuition so absolutely, she shatters a myriad of gender restraints and stereotypes that the film sets up during the first act.  Her husband simply assumed she would drop everything to come to China with him, and is shocked when she says no- such decisive rejection by a wife was practically unheard of at the time.  The manager at her branch of the bank, a man who practically oozes slime out of his stringy hair (take a shot every time he slicks it back), regularly transfers or “retires” women who get to be too senior and expensive in favor of younger, cheaper, and more attractive ladies.  This is a world defined by and for men, and even though she never explicitly says so, it would be fair to see her rejection of this as just as important to the events she sets in motion as any characteristic to be found in her own person. 

            There’s also a huge importance to this film taking place in the Japan of the mid 1990’s- this is right when the economy, which had boomed for decades, began stagnating, which led to a pervading sense of economic and cultural malaise within Japanese society.  This is everywhere in the film, just as pervasive as the clear gender roles laid out- everyone we see has loads of cash, but no one seems to be really interested in doing much of anything with it, other than using it to make more cash.  It’s as if everyone is plain bored.  Perhaps what she does is to be condemned, and she is certainly guilty of breaking the law many times over, but in all fairness, at least she resolves to actually DO something.  There is a powerfully poignant scene where one of her co-workers admits wistfully that, even though she can’t condone what Rika did, she can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy that Rika has now experienced things she never will. 

            The treasure trove of social, economic, and gender commentary aside, this film is also just straight up cool.  Every scene has gentle, cool lighting and slick, smooth cinematography- when combined with the rhythmical, atmospheric score, it’s like someone took the slow-mo tendencies of Wes Anderson and paired them with a swiped soundtrack from a David Fincher film.  It carries us through the story with a sense of purpose and energy.  It thrums with its own vitality, buoyed by a sense of self-confidence most films could only dream of maintaining.  Pale Moon is a great, great movie, one of the best of this year’s crop.  Spread the word any way you can- we need to make sure this one gets an international release. 

-Noah Franc 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Nippon Reviews: Kiseiju Kanketsu Hen (Parasyte, Part 2)

Parasyte, Part 2 (Kiseiju Kanketsu Hen): Written by Ryota Kosawa and Takashi Yamazaki, directed by Takashi Yamazaki.  Starring: Shota Sometani, Eri Fukatsu, Ai Hashimoto, and Tadanobu Asano.  Running Time: 117 minutes.  Based on the manga of the same name by Hitoshi Iwaaki. 

Rating: 3/4

            **Spoiler alert if you have not seen Part 1- for my thoughts on that movie, click here**

            Part 2 of our story about a parasite invasion of earth picks up right where Part 1 left off.  After defeating Ryoko’s associates from the first film, saving his childhood crush in the process, Shinichi takes it upon himself to seek out and kill as many of the remaining parasites as he can, with Migi guiding him to each of their hideouts.  In the meantime, much larger events are beginning to take shape.  We learn that Ryoko’s operations extend far beyond merely experimenting at a high school- it turns she has also been training a group of the parasites to enter politics, with the goal to take over the local government and ensure an environment more hospitable to her kind.  Simultaneously, a secret police-and-commando task force has been tracking the mysterious and gruesome murders springing up in the parasite’s wake, and are themselves closing in on their base of operations. 

            This movie wastes no time diving right back into the action, showing us in sequence the many moving parts that all come together to create an impressively broad finale, including parasite fights, gun battles, and a final smackdown in a nuclear facility (possible social message?).  In addition to the main characters returning from the last movie, we also get a few new ones, including a human photographer hired by Ryoko to keep tabs on Shinichi, the leading politician of the parasite’s political wing, a convicted human serial killer who may have discovered the secret of picking the parasite-humans out of crowd, and a combination parasite (meaning a person that consists of multiple parasites forming the head and all four limbs, giving it enhanced physical powers) bent on complete genocide of the human race. 

            This second part of the story has an even heavier focus on action than the first, but also tries to balance it out by offering a philosophical exploration of the parallels to and metaphors for our own world that the story tries to draw out.  It is an admirable effort, but is also the reason Part 2 loses a bit of its edge by the end.  The inclusion of a broad “message” in the end, while not a bad thing, feels a bit clunky in the execution.  If it had been worked in more gradually throughout both parts, the final product would have been much stronger as a result.  

            That’s not to say there aren’t some areas in which Part 2 aptly exceeds its predecessor.  While Shinichi’s arc is well-written (and well-acted), in yet another standard fashion of this realm of manga he’s easily the least-interesting character we see.  Ryoko’s transformation from a heartless villain to a surprisingly sympathetic mother figure by the end of Part 2 is much more interesting, as is the side story involving the widower human photographer and his young daughter.  Migi works well as a character despite the bizarreness of his design, and this is mostly due to the fact that the writing gives him most of the best jokes in either film. 

            In addition to liking most of the characters, I found myself surprisingly charmed by the lower-budget nature of the special effects.  Perhaps I have simply become jaded to the aggressive shininess of recent American fare, but it was something of a relief to see things I didn’t need to bother convincing myself were really there.  If you are not or never have been a fan of this type of storytelling, neither part of Parasyte will convince you, and there is a good chance the movie has no relevant future beyond being an object of interest (or maybe even derision) to fans of the original manga.  For my money though, if you are any sort of Shonen fan you will find plenty in each movie to keep you entertained ‘til the end.  Just don’t blame me if you never want to remove your earbuds again afterwards. 

-Noah Franc 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Nippon Reviews: Kiseiju (Parasyte, Part 1)

Parasyte, Part 1 (Kiseiju): Written by Ryota Kosawa and Takashi Yamazaki, directed by Takashi Yamazaki.  Starring: Shota Sometani, Eri Fukatsu, Ai Hashimoto, Masahiro Higashide, and Tadanobu Asano.  Running Time: 108 minutes.  Based on the manga of the same name by Hitoshi Iwaaki. 

Rating: 3.5/4 

            Parasyte, a two-part film adaptation of a manga with the same name, is an action/sci-fi story about an army of parasites that rise up from the depths of the ocean to take over human society by infecting our brains.  Where they originated, who sent them, and for what ultimate purpose is kept deliberately vague, in a possible metaphor for the nature of life itself.  An opening sequence suggests that their appearance may be nature’s vengeance upon us for the environmental damage we have wrought, but that too is left open to interpretation. 

            This, of course, heavily implies that the end result of the parasites fulfilling their instinctive mission will mean the destruction of the human race, and herein layeth the central conflict of our story.  One parasite, who eventually names himself Migi, attempts to seize control of a normal, angsty, mostly immature teenager named Shinichi, but, through a great gag involving an iPhone, is only able to take over his hand.  This creates a….unique situation, since Shinichi is still himself, with full control over his brain and body, with the exception of the upper half of his right arm, which is no longer “his;” it is now, for all intents and purposes, Migi’s body.  It seems that the parasite effectively “becomes” whatever it infects, although on a purely physical level they remain human. 

            A key physical feature of the parasites must now be mentioned- although they initially appear as a sort of crawling, insect-like creature, once they have taken over a body they can twist, bend, and stretch the body’s limbs and shape like silly-putty, and also develop superhuman strength and reflexes.  This is usually utilized by either turning the person’s head into a terrifying mass of moving jaws and teeth, perfect for chowing down on unknowing human victims, or weaponizing their hands Terminator-style by morphing them into huge razor-sharp blades, which conveniently make for some flashy fight scenes later on.

            Part 1 of this story focuses on how Shinichi and Migi slowly find ways to coexist with each other and learn more about the motives of the different parasites, who seem to be as divided in their tactics and goals as humans tend to be.  The first group of fellow parasites they encounter are led by Ryoko, who took over the body of a well-regarded Chemistry teacher at Shinichi’s school.  As emotionally cold and she is brilliant and powerful, she is purely experimental in her approach, hoping to find an optimal way for the parasites and humans to coexist.  Her tactics range from monitoring two fellow parasites, one a fellow student at the aforementioned school, and the other a policeman who may be a bit more blood-thirsty than your usual parasite, to seemingly more radical measures like eschewing the usual parasite diet of human flesh for vegetarian food, or even getting herself pregnant, just to see what sort of qualities a child conceived by parasites might possess.  Shinichi is at first determined to ignore the events this sets off, but is drawn farther and farther into the web parasite’s plans until their presence begins to directly threaten the lives of his friends and family. 

            It is, in short, very much a tale from the world of Japanese superpower-action manga, in ways that are either strengths in the film’s favor or critical strikes against it, depending on where you’re coming from.  All the usual story/world tropes are present- bizarre tonal shifts from wacky comedy to terrifying gore-fest, out-of-left-field character/monster designs, the main character suddenly being the only person who can save everyone, and unbelievable superpowers or reveals of alien or mythical life forms that are accepted all too quickly by the human characters, among many others.  None of this will be anything particularly new for regular readers of manga, but for the uninitiated, it just might prove impossible to overcome or ignore. 

            The biggest issue in this regard is the design of Migi himself, consisting of two subble points as legs, thin, wavy arms, a wide mouth with very prominent lips, and a single, bobbing eyeball.  It’s one of those designs that probably looks fine in the black-and-white, simple-line pages of a manga, but always seems terribly off when directly copied into a live-action setting.  This extends to the rest of the parasites as well- it’s not bad CGI, and it’s not nearly as egregiously over-present as it is in most modern American blockbusters, but it does take effort, at least at first, to get past how clearly fake Migi and the other parasite forms look. 

            That said, once you get past all that, a lot of people will find this first part immensely entertaining.  While it’s not necessarily anything new, the comedy they mine from Migi’s and Shinichi’s first efforts to live together is very well-done, and when shit hits the fan in the second half we get some great bits of action that make full use of the powers the parasites bring to the table.  It paces itself well, and by the end I was quite eager to get my ass back in its seat for Part 2.   Which is, of course, the whole purpose of a film with Part 1 attached to the title. 

-Noah Franc