Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

Discuss internationally-released DVDs and Blu-rays or other international DVD and Blu-ray-related topics.
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feihong
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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#126 Post by feihong » Tue Aug 25, 2015 3:11 am

Lake of Illusions––has anybody seen this film? Supposedly the worst Japanese film of all time, which brought about the retirement of famed writer/director Shinobu Hashimoto?

I've been thinking more about my wish list of truly impossible to find films, and this one is really up there. It turns out there is a low-priced DVD reissue of the movie in Japan. I ordered it through CD Japan just now, since that was the only place that seemed to carry it. I doubt there are English subtitles floating around the internet for this movie, but I'm going to try and watch it anyhow.

I've tracked down some other hard-to-find films, and found less encouraging results. Sasuke and his Comedians, the Tai Kato avante-garde ninja social satire, is only available on long out-of-print VHS. So is the 1992 sci-fi film by Shuji Terayama's art director, I Heard the Whisper of the Ammonite.

I did, however, find DVDs of the Seijun Suzuki movies Carmen From Kawachi and Capone Cries Hard. I got the disc of Carmen, and I'm awaiting the one of Capone. I actually found English subtitles for Capone, somehow, but I have yet to find any for Carmen––it's odd to me, since the Yumiko Nogawa/Seijun Suzuki films are a kind of trilogy, and since Criterion has released Gate of Flesh and Story of a Prostitute, that they should hold Carmen from Kawachi at such an arm's length. Nogawa was a pretty unusual and unique actress, and Suzuki had a really interesting collaboration with her. I ordered a couple more discs: Yukihiro Sawada's Retreat Through the Wet Wasteland and the Japanese DVD of Shinji Aoyama's Wild Life. I live in hope that a) there are english subtitles to be found for Retreat, and that b) the Japanese DVD of Wild Life boasts a better transfer than the crunky Artsmagic disc. Not really convinced the answer to either query is in the affirmative.

I don't know if anybody here has seen any of these movies, but I'm very anxious to know what people think of them. I'd love to be able to laugh at Lake of Illusions––the description in the Japanese Cinema Encyclopedia sounds insane.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#127 Post by feihong » Fri Aug 28, 2015 5:20 am

A few DVDs arrived from Japan today, with mostly quality results:


Two Seijun Suzuki movies: Capone Cries Hard and A Tale of Sorrow and Sadness. Also, the ATG disc of Susumu Hani's The Morning Schedule and Shinji Aoyama's Wild Life.

The Suzuki discs are surprisingly good quality. Both are nice anamorphic transfers of relatively unknown and unseen Suzuki pictures. The Morning Schedule is also a very nice, high-quality transfer.

I bought Wild Life thinking the Japanese disc must be better than the dismal picture quality of the Artsmagic disc––oh, how wrong I was. The Japanese disc is non-anamorphic letterboxed. It looks like Taki Corporation gave Artsmagic the same lousy transfer, and Artsmagic blew it up and made it anamorphic. The Artsmagic disc looks just a little blurred or softened in some way. Of course, the Artsmagic disc has English subtitles and a really exceptionally Jasper Sharp commentary.

The Taki Corporation disc of Wild Life is part of a Shinji Aoyama "series," branded the same as the their non-anamorphic disc of Helpless and what I now presume are non-anamorphic discs of Shady Grove, Chinpira and An Obsession. Kind of frustrating, since Taki Corporation was the original production company for these pictures--you'd think they'd have access to the best elements that could be had.

None of these have English subtitles, of course.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#128 Post by feihong » Wed Sep 02, 2015 1:33 am

A pair of blu-ray sets arrived from Amazon France today, with very awesome, albeit non-english-friendly blu ray content.

The first is HK Video's special edition Blu-ray/DVD set of Hideo Gosha's The Wolves. I had only ever seen the film back in the VHS days, so the disc was like an entirely new movie. The picture quality is tremendous, with great, subtle light and color. The depth of field is very welcome––there are a lot of shots in the movie which play with depth of field, so the picture quality is a great benefit. But many details swell from the screen––there is intense sweat dripping from all the characters for most of the picture, and, well, you can see it very plainly. There's a great deal of what appears to be natural lighting, or at least very low-key lighting in the movie, and the blu ray renders all this with exquisite tenderness.

It seems HK Video occasionally releases a blu-ray still. They have a Lady Snowblood set out this year as well. As has always been the case with this label, there are no English subtitles, and forced French subtitles. There is a 2.0 Japanese language audio track.

If this disc is any indication of how good later Gosha titles could look, I hope HK Video or someone can follow this up with The Hunter in the Dark, Bandit vs. Samurai Squadron, and The Violent Street. What the heck, and Tenchu, too, while I'm dreaming.


The other set was the Carlotta Oshima set. This is a tricky beast. 3 of the films are blu-ray/DVD double-packs: The Ceremony, Boy, and Death By Hanging. Then there are 3 DVDs that each hold 2 features each: a disc of The Man Who Left HIs Will On Film and Dear Summer Sister, a disc of Diary of a Shinjuku Thief and The Catch, and a disc of Band of Ninja and Diary of Yunbogi.

I've only watched a couple of favorites so far, but the results are pretty splendid. The Ceremony looks incredible in 1080p. I've seen the Criterion HD transfer on Hulu, and this disc blows it away on all fronts. The color and picture quality is highly detailed and very sensitively rendered. There are picture elements that weren't even visible in previous versions, like the dry grass blowing in the wind in an early scene. Dear Summer Sister in pretty well-done on DVD. The color looks good, and the picture quality is generally solid.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#129 Post by L.A. » Mon Sep 07, 2015 8:22 am

Regarding Isao Takahata's The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun, I understand Discotek Media had plans to release this on Blu-ray. Any word if this is still happening?

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#130 Post by feihong » Tue Sep 08, 2015 3:54 pm

The Japanese DVD of Shinobu Hashimoto's Lake of Illusions, from Toho Video, is quite high quality. The film is full of long landscape shots, and those images are rendered beautifully. People look quite pretty in closeup, and the plethora of mid-range shots in the film are well–treated, with a pretty good deal of depth and not a ton of aberrant compression.

I can't tell what's being said in this fairly talky film––but so far it definitely looks as if the film will live up to it's reputation as the Japanese Plan 9 from Outer Space. In spite of the pretty landscape and the interesting–looking people, the film reeks of self-importance clashing with laughable acting and mawkish direction. Reiko Nanjo is very pretty, but it's extraordinarily clear that she has never acted before. The score is way over the top. The murder of Reiko's adorable dog––the galvanizing moment of the film's plot––is pumped for intense pathos, and then abandoned to increasingly poorly-toned scenes of Reiko's grief. Then there's ghostly appearance of a surrogate dog immediately following. One of Reiko's fellow prostitutes talks in English to herself about covert CIA stuff. It truly seems a disaster.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#131 Post by manicsounds » Tue Sep 08, 2015 7:28 pm

”Lake of Illusions" is no "Plan 9" but more close to a "Heaven's Gate", one that just went way too ambitiously in the making but couldn't sustain itself.

The worst Japanese film of all time (for me) is "Sayonara Jupiter", and that too was one which was way too ambitious and way too expensive. Although it could be compared with "Plan 9" for the science fiction genre, "Plan 9" had no budget while "Lake" and "Jupiter" were big budget Toho productions.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#132 Post by manicsounds » Tue Sep 08, 2015 7:29 pm

L.A. wrote:Regarding Isao Takahata's The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun, I understand Discotek Media had plans to release this on Blu-ray. Any word if this is still happening?
Discotek said it would depend on DVD sales. So far no announcement of a Blu-ray upgrade, but it hasn't been entirely scrapped.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#133 Post by feihong » Tue Sep 08, 2015 11:33 pm

manicsounds wrote:”Lake of Illusions" is no "Plan 9" but more close to a "Heaven's Gate", one that just went way too ambitiously in the making but couldn't sustain itself.

The worst Japanese film of all time (for me) is "Sayonara Jupiter", and that too was one which was way too ambitious and way too expensive. Although it could be compared with "Plan 9" for the science fiction genre, "Plan 9" had no budget while "Lake" and "Jupiter" were big budget Toho productions.

Yeah, that's a very astute assessment. You really watch this movie thinking, "how could so many famously astute people go so wrong?" But it remains laughably bad, and kind of fun to watch, for me at least, because it's so clunky and ill-judged. I feel like the movie is trying to do a serious, spiritual story about reincarnation, but that they assume we'll make a lot of thematic connections we couldn't possibly be expected to make. The ancient Japan flashback really comes out of nowhere, but all the NASA and CIA stuff really comes out of left field. And then they lean so heavily upon that speed-jogging chase scene in the middle for non-existent suspense. That was painful and funny at the same time.

I've got to see Sayonara Jupiter. There are a lot of Japanese Sci-fi films especially which seem really awful to me. UFO Blue Christmas is one that seems all over the place and wrong in every case to me.


I wish Diskotek would release Burst City on blu-ray. But I guess they're not as profligate as they were in their early days. Isn't Prince of the Sun coming out on blu-ray in the UK?

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#134 Post by L.A. » Wed Sep 09, 2015 11:00 am

manicsounds wrote:
L.A. wrote:Regarding Isao Takahata's The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun, I understand Discotek Media had plans to release this on Blu-ray. Any word if this is still happening?
Discotek said it would depend on DVD sales. So far no announcement of a Blu-ray upgrade, but it hasn't been entirely scrapped.
Thanks for the info.
feihong wrote:Isn't Prince of the Sun coming out on blu-ray in the UK?
I had no idea about this. Thanks for the tip.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#135 Post by feihong » Wed Sep 09, 2015 8:59 pm

Well, I haven't been able to find the source of that. I was hoping someone might chime in.

There is a Japanese blu-ray of Horus, Prince of the Sun, as part of a Takahata box. I thought I had heard that the company that was doing the Miyazaki box in the UK was doing a Takahata box as well, which would include this. But I haven't been able to find where I saw this before, so don't depend on what I'm saying there.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#136 Post by L.A. » Thu Sep 10, 2015 10:55 am

^ A UK release might very well happen, you never know. I think your suggestion is excellent.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#137 Post by feihong » Mon Sep 14, 2015 11:50 pm

Got the Spanish blu ray of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Cure. It's on Mediatres Estudio's "Winds of Asia" banner. It has only Spanish subtitles.

The disc is 1080 25i. There is a Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish dub and what sounds like a less robust Japanese audio track.

Picture quality is pretty rough. There's a lot of dark shadow spaces in this film, and the disc crunches the blacks and doesn't render them especially well. There's a slight red shift to the colors. Moving camera shots are pixelly and ghost all over the place. Scenes with mist generally do the same. The frame rate makes movement look rough and awkward in general. Closeups are pretty good in general, but you can't help but feel as if they could be rendered quite a bit better.

Nonetheless, the many still and pensive long shots in the movie are treated better than in any previous edition of the movie. The picture does feature depth and clarity far beyond the SD versions. So there's a lot to enjoy in this treatment of the film, even though it's less than ideal.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#138 Post by feihong » Wed Oct 21, 2015 12:36 am

I watched the Japanese DVD of Seijun Suzuki's The Flower and the Angry Waves today. It is anamorphic, progressive, and altogether excellent. It has no English subtitles, but in terms of picture quality it far surpasses the UK Yume Pictures DVD––and it has none of the image problems the Yume disc has.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#139 Post by feihong » Fri Nov 13, 2015 5:47 pm

Sogo Ishii's Burst City is coming to blu ray in Japan in January.

Also in December there will be an Akkio Jissoji/ATG blu ray box, including This Transient Life, Poem and Mandara, I believe.

Saw these posted on amazon Japan today.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#140 Post by Vegeta84 » Sun Nov 29, 2015 4:56 pm

Hello everyone,

Not sure where else to post this, but hopefully this might be the best place to do it.

Criterion. Everyone loves them. They release a ton of great films, but not exactly at the quickest pace. About 6 years ago, I discovered that Criterion had the rights to Hunter in the Dark. One of the greatest films I have ever seen staring Tatsuya Nakadai and Sonny Chiba in his best performance.

Soon after that I discovered that Criterion has the rights to Bandits Vs Samurai Squadron, Death Shadows, Heat Wave, Tracked, and The Oil Hell Murders. While it's great that these are on Hulu, these films deserve the proper physical releases.

For YEARS I've tried communicating with Criterion to no avail. Not sure if they don't see these films as money makers or what, but they are more amazing that you can imagine. At the rate things are going, I'll die, or the physical format will die before Criterion will release these films.

I'm in a desperate situation and would like any help I can get. These are the two e-mails I can find that might actually work. mulvaney@criterion.com and/or suggestions@criterion.com

Look up these movies and see for yourself why they deserve to be released. Hunter in the Dark is without a doubt a film making achievement and I would love to hear what Tatsuya Nakadai has to say about them.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Via e-mailing Criterion or other suggestions at reaching out to Criterion. I hope someone can help and hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#141 Post by L.A. » Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:48 pm

Does this Blu-ray edition of Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis (Akio Jissôji, 1988) have English subtitles?

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#142 Post by feihong » Wed Dec 02, 2015 5:48 pm

Almost definitely not.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#143 Post by artfilmfan » Sat Dec 05, 2015 11:13 am

I finished watching the Shochiku Blu-ray of Late Spring . My impression of the picture quality is that it's similar to the Criterion Blu-ray of Tokyo Story. This is the best-looking and most-satisfying home video release of Late Spring I've seen.

This Shochiku Blu-ray comes with an 80+ page booklet (in Japanese), with many, many screen captures from the film and some posters. My guess is that the texts in the booklet are the screenplay for the film. The booklet and the standard Blu-ray case that holds the disc are housed in a box. One side of the box has the same picture as the one used for the Blu-ray cover (which was also used on the individual Shochiku DVD release). The other side of the box has the picture that was used on the box of the New Yorker VHS release. The picture that was used on the BFI Blu-ray release is used on this Shochiku Blu-ray disc. It's obvious that this Shochiku Blu-ray package has been lovingly put together.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#144 Post by andyli » Tue Dec 08, 2015 8:16 am

I have just received the Japanese blu-ray of Late Spring and can confirm that it does have English subtitle. And according to its leaflet The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums will also carry English subtitle.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#145 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Dec 08, 2015 11:18 am

I'll be interested in seeing how uch better this might be than the UK Blu.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#146 Post by artfilmfan » Sat Dec 12, 2015 8:58 pm

A simple screen capture comparison probably won't tell a lot about the improvement in the picture quality that this new 4K-restored Late Spring has over any other previous edition. The image on this Shochiku Blu-ray is simply a lot healthier. Simply put, it looks very nice (sharp, clean, balanced (not overly contrasted), no flickering of the light, no vertical white lines/scratches).

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#147 Post by feihong » Tue Dec 15, 2015 5:20 pm

Received Japanese blu rays of Horus Prince of the Sun, or Little Norse Prince, and Funeral Parade of Roses today. Both are exceptionally good–looking discs, in full 1080p, with exquisite pictorial detail, depth of field, etc. Funeral Parade of Roses has an LPCM mono track, and Horus Prince of the Sun has 2 LPCM tracks, which are mono and stereo, I think. Both films show signs of their age; Funeral Parade has lots of little pops and scratches, which don't detract from the viewing experience at all. Horus Prince of the Sun has very few pictorial defects, but occasionally you can see some wear at the corners of the frame in a few sequences. Both films have quite well-rendered grain. Pictorially, they are both enormous advances on the best SD versions available. The pictorial detail on Funeral Parade of Roses is more acute than in any previous home video edition of the film, and the Horus Prince of the Sun image looks more stable than ever before.

Both films are exceptionally entertaining, as well, if you didn't know it already.


The Akio Jissoji Buddhist trilogy is coming to blu ray tomorrow. It's being packaged the same way the ATG Terayama films were presented. A couple of years have passed, I think, since the Terayama box set: hopefully, they will employ less odious grain management on the Jissoji box than they did on the Terayama box.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#148 Post by feihong » Thu Dec 17, 2015 7:33 pm

The ATG/King Records Akio Jissoji blu ray set arrived in the mail today. King Records has released some particular ATG films on blu ray in the past, and a 2013 box set of ATG Shuji Terayama movies (Throw Away Your Books and Go Out Into the Streets, Pastoral: To Die in the Country, Farewell to the Ark). The individual releases have been pretty good, but the Terayama box set suffered from some pretty heavy grain management. It didn't kill the films inside, but it was a softer image than it should have been, by kind of a lot.

The Jissoji blu ray set is a second in that ATG creators series, packaged in the same way as the Terayama set, with a heavy paper outer box, a plastic blu-ray case inside, and a booklet made on some very nice, delicate paper, typeset all in Japanese. All films in the set, like the Terayama set, have no English subtitles, so I'm relying upon subtitles available on the web in order to watch these films. That is turning out to be not so bad.

The first surprise of the Jissoji box is that it's not a 3-disc set, like the Terayama, but a 4-disc set. I assumed the set would include Jissoji's ATG Buddhist Trilogy (This Transient Life, Mandara, Poem)––and it does––but also included is the later, similar 1974 Jissoji film, Living in a Dream. The value of the set is increased significantly by the inclusion of the 4th film. It's a really nice surprise (I don't read Japanese, so I only recognized the titles of the Buddhist Trilogy on Amazon Japan).

There is grain management on these discs, but nothing like the DNR done to the Terayama discs. You can really see the grain in the films; there is depth of field and lots of detail, and the edges of things are quite sharp. The only visible ghosting present on any of the films is during smoky scenes, or low-light-level scenes, and that kind of ghosting is pretty common for blu rays I have seen, even the best discs––it does not look like the result of excessive DNR. To put it this way, the grain present on these discs looks softer than what you see on Criterion discs, but it does not look moire-ish. It is not bothersome in any way, and all of these discs are huge, huge visual improvements over their SD counterparts. All the audio tracks are LPCM mono, and the sound is great across the board.

I doubt any of these films will find their way into the Criterion collection, or any other English-language outlet, since Jissoji is not well-known at all internationally; and even though This Transient Life was successful in Japan, it didn't make a splash in foreign markets the way lots of Oshima films did. The films are great, and I'd recommend the set to anyone interested.

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#149 Post by yoshimori » Thu Dec 17, 2015 9:02 pm

Thanks for the report. There's a decent four-page intro to these four works in the new Directory of World Cinema: Japan vol. 3.
I assumed the set would include Jissoji's ATG Buddhist Trilogy (This Transient Life, Mandara, Poem)––and it does––but also included is the later, similar 1974 Jissoji film, Living in a Dream. The value of the set is increased significantly by the inclusion of the 4th film.
A Faint Dream is, for my money, the best of these amazing works. Every frame a masterpiece, as they say.

Too bad about the subs. My Japanese students and I translated the film and added subs to the r2jp dvd for my non-Japanese-speaking students a few years ago. [I wonder whether these are the subs floating around.] The film is so dreamlike, so disorienting that, even given the close relation to the film that adding subs requires, I'm still not quite sure in several scenes who's speaking!

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Re: Japanese Films on DVD/Blu-ray

#150 Post by feihong » Thu Dec 17, 2015 11:37 pm

Very cool. I wonder about that. There are subtitles floating around the internet for all four of these films––much improved subs from what were originally out there. It is possible with these discs and some regular old computer equipment to watch these films with the subtitles. I've bought a good deal of Japanese blu rays and watched them with that approach. Still, I wish the Japanese publishers would take the plunge and add the English subtitles to the discs. They could sell to a much larger population with the addition of some subtitles in a couple of languages! It's not as if some American company is going to license films like these and go, "let's give the arthouse incest movie in black-and-white from the 60s a try. I'm sure the American public is down for this in 2015!" Whereas, if the Japanese publishers of the discs put English subtitles on this set, every English-language-locked fan of these movies is going to order from them.

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