Saturday, October 30, 2010

Doppelgangers Of The East?

Okay, perhaps I'm just being another starstruck cineaste with this one, but I couldn't help but be again hit with the anime star sighting bug upon re-watching Kenji Kamiyama's & Production IG's Eden Of The East (Higashi no Eden - My review from last year.). What I'm talking about here is when Japanese animators pay homage to live action film icons by sometimes placing their likenesses as characters in their projects. This has happened before numerous times in anime, and among the most famous ones can be traced to shows like Shinichiro Watanabe's Cowboy Bebop(1998), where the likenesses of even Woody Allen can take shape on the run from our ever starving space bounty hunters. An early one for me was during the run of of Kimagure Orange Road, which not only made a valiant nod to Mike Nichols' The Graduate (1967), but in the second season featured a character wearing a certain sunglasses-wearing Austrian bodybuilder's face for a killer mask. At this point, it is more than common practice in places, but rarely do I ever see anime parody japanese cinema that isn't as leaning on genre as I've recently pondered.

When I think of the films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the first mental images that come to mind are that of long stretches of quiet as the camera breathes in the atmosphere of a particular moment. two actors also prominently come to mind in his works much like a comfy blanket, and a cat by my side, and they are often in the form of Jun Fubuki & Koji Yakusho. Many of his films revel in the at times dark material, punctuated by a certain unspoken wisdom in letting the scene play out naturally, instead of manipulating our emotions. And Yakusho & Fubuki are masters of this manner of verite. And they're pretty iconic to look at to boot. Whether it be in Kurosawa's Charisma (1999), or the often brilliant Seance (2000), and even in the more mainstream J-Horror subversion, Kairo (2001), their presence is almost ever constant. It's no wonder the director loves working with them.

Adding this to a series featuring a romantic lead with a love of the cinema (as his only remaining memories post brain-wipe), Eden Of The East is a sweeping series with added movie savvy, and I'm not doubting if Kamiyama, along with noted character designer, Chika Umino made a minor reference to Kurosawa in a character that helps establish the central plot. Doing my best to not spoil anything, I'll leave these images here for thought purposes. And again, I could be very wrong, but there's just something about this character and his arc that reminds me so much of the plight of many of Kurosawa's characters. Especially when his arc is fulfilled, it is a moment that ranks among one of my favorites in recent years. And executed with a naturalistic tone, not unlike the in-the-moment style of one of my current favorite filmmakers in the world today. 

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