Saturday Night Comic-Book Double Feature — Japanese Edition

Sleeping Bride DVD

Buy at YesAsia

I have a good friend who constantly supplies me with the most incredible and random Asian movies. He suggested this idea to me so I ran around trying to find movies I had on hand that would suit. I feel like there are a few other movies I should have around, but I did come up with two for tonight’s double feature.

First up is Sleeping Bride, based on a comic by the legendary, godlike Osamu Tezuka and directed by Japanese horror master Hideo Nakata. After her pregnant mother is seriously injured in a plane crash, Yumi is born asleep. The sleeping girl catches the interest of our hero, Yuichi, who spends some time in the same hospital as her as a child. Inspired by the story of Sleeping Beauty, the young Yuichi kisses Yumi in an attempt to wake her up.

And you can probably guess where this story is going. After many, many, many montages of Yuichi kissing Yumi, he eventually finds success as a teenager. Yumi awakes and can almost immediately walk, speak and read (although she spends the first day vocalizing much like a baby). She’s obviously childlike, but Yuichi is charmed all the same.

Sound creepy? It is a little, but the movie is overall so completely innocent that nothing really feels untoward. The movie is, of course, more interested in the boys’ reaction to Yumi — both Yuichi and Yumi’s doctor, Hikawa, struggle with their feelings for her (once again, not as creepy as it sounds) and Yumi’s missing father also enters the picture. Yumi’s not given much of an inner life (not trying to give too much away, but viewers only get to spend a few days with her). I’d almost call her a manic pixie dream girl, except she’s just sort of there. Other than being childlike, she doesn’t have much of a personality.

Neither does this movie. There are some nice scenes — there is, in portions, this sort of naturalist atmosphere with lots of ambient sounds and natural light, but those are negated by an overly dramatic score. I spent the first half hour waiting for something — anything — interesting to happen (did I mention the many, many scenes of Yuichi kissing the sleeping Yumi?). I realize that I have a DVD copy of this that was made from a VCD, but it had a made-for-TV feel to it. The production values and acting were all just above mediocre. This isn’t a terrible movie, but lackluster. It’s somewhat heartfelt but it just misses the emotional notes it should hit.

It did make me curious about the original Tezuka comic, however. I don’t think it’s been reprinted here, but I could be wrong.

No YouTube clips, but you’re not missing much. The all-region version YesAsia has seems to be the only way to get it.

Cutie Honey DVD

Buy at Amazon

I saved Cutie Honey for the second feature, mostly because I’d seen it before. Directed by Hideaki Anno, who is mostly known for being the mastermind behind the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, the best word I can use to describe this film is “giddy.” Actress Eriko Sato brings such open-hearted adorableness to the title role that it’s nearly impossible for me to not like her. She’s infinitely fun to watch. But honestly, everyone here is having fun — the special effects look purposefully cheap and the costumes are over-the-top in terms of ridiculousness. The colors are super-saturated and don’t let you forget this is a live-action adaptation of a manga (and later, anime) series.

There are many bizarre touches — at one point, the characters are inexplicably riding Segways through a tunnel while chatting. There’s a “music video” sequence that seems included just to show Sato wandering around looking sad in various outfits. At one point, one of the bad guys breaks into song, complete with his henchmen playing instruments. The main villian, Sister Jill, is played by a man. But it all works together somehow since it never takes itself seriously. It’s just pure cinematic candy. Even when Sato is only in her (admittedly, rather modest) underwear, the whole thing just sort of feels innocent.

The plot seems like Hideaki Anno trying to continue to work out his daddy issues, but the friendship between the childlike (and sometimes childish) Honey and lonely policewoman Natsuko grows into a lovely one and they each learn from each other. Of course, it’s all a little obvious and heavy-handed, but it’s still effective.

Yes, this is probably one of the silliest movies you’ll see. But it’s good because of that. And while Anno is back depressing everyone Evangelion (and I can’t blame him for going back to it — it makes money and it’s still good), it’s great to see his more light-hearted side.

This is a short clip and really has nothing to do with anything (there’s a lot of that in movie) but I think it’s a good illustration of how you can tell everyone is having fun. Our three main characters have just gotten drunk and have decided to sing karaoke:

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