君の名は。(Kimi no Na Wa/Your Name)

I’ve been dying to watch this film and fortunately it was released in some of our local theaters, albeit for a limited time. Beautifuuuul. Kimi no Na wa (Your Name) is definitely meant to be seen on the big screen.

The plot revolves around two high school students. Taki Tachibana is a boy from Tokyo. He is an aspiring landscape architect who works part-time at an Italian restaurant. While Mitsuha Miyamizu is a girl from the fictional town of Itomori. She’s growing tired of her cooped up life as both the mayor’s daughter and a shrine priestess that it made her wish to be reborn as a city boy.

Careful what you wish for.


Kimi no Na wa is inspired by several famous works including Shuzo Oshimi’s body swap manga Inside Mari; the martial arts romcom manga Ranma 1/2;  a Japanese tale from the late Heian period called Torikaebaya Monogatari; and a collection of science fiction stories in Axiomatic.

Whenever I tell my Korean students about this movie, I simply say it is similar to Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won’s Secret Garden and they immediately understand what it’s about. But of course, this is so much more than just a gender-bender fantasy cliché. Kimi no Na Wa has successfully put together all the elements that make it appealing for viewers the world over.

Japanese artist and auteur Makoto Shinkai has a short list of films but his works are well-known for their great attention to detail and realism. From the vast landscapes to the sky-slicing comet, from the sliding doors to the weaving of threads- everything looks like lyric poems in anime form.

Anyone who is into anime has definitely heard of his name since he has been hailed by many critics as “The New Miyazaki”. The comparison is indeed an overestimation but the success of Kimi no Na wa proves that he is worthy of the nickname for honing his skills to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Studio Ghibli founder. Kimi no Na wa continues to break box-office records and lands comfortably at the second spot on the list of the highest-grossing anime films of all-time right under Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

The lead characters are voiced by  Mone Kamishiraishi (Mitsuha) and Kamiki Ryunosuke (Taki). The latter is one of my favorite actors and needlessly to say, I’ve been anticipating the release of Kimi no Na wa even more after I heard that he will be voicing the lead character. He is an accomplished seiyuu who is included in the cast of all top 3 highest-grossing anime films of all time. Aside from playing Taki in Kimi no Na Wa, he is also the giant baby Boh in Spirited Away, and Howl’s apprentice in Howl’s Moving Castle. I totally enjoyed the way he portrayed Taki especially in his girly soul scenes.

And finally, visuals should always be accompanied by awesome audio as music plays a big part in the process of eliciting the right “feels”. The use of Japanese rock band Radwimps’ songs on top of the gorgeous visuals is just the way to do it. Shinkai sticks with the usual longing as central theme for his films but this time, the soundtrack gives Kimi no Na wa the same emotional impact but less melancholic vibes compared to his previous works.


The audience in the theater that day cheered altogether as the movie played its ending theme. I haven’t heard that kind of applause for a Japanese film since the 2012 live-action adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin.

Despite the overused body swapping plot mixed with time-space intricacies and elements of mass destruction, Kimi no Na wa is a stupendous movie as a whole. It’s a mesmerizing work of art with endearing characters, heartwarming relationships, and a peek at Japan’s cultural and religious values. It leaves you with some really sweet and positive vibes that would make you want to watch it again.


4 Reasons Why Masataka Kubota is the Perfect Kaneki Ken

A number of mainstream live-action films are lined up for 2017 but Tokyo Ghoul is the one that I’m totally hyped about. Sato Takeru’s Ajin: Demi Human comes in close second. Sato Takeru, who rose to international fame with Rurouni Kenshin and Bakuman, is a fan-favorite pick to play Kaneki Ken. Others are also rooting for Kanata Hongo, Ryûnosuke Kamiki and Kento Yamazaki — but 28-year-old Masataka Kubota came out on top. 

Tokyo Ghoul is a dark fantasy seinen manga created by Sui Ishida. With more than six million copies sold, it is the fourth best-selling manga series in Japan in 2014. Its English translated version topped The New York Times Bestseller list in 2015.

The story is set in a world where ghouls and humans coexist. Ghouls live like ordinary people except they crave for human flesh. They have unusual abilities that they try to hide to avoid getting exposed and captured by authorities. Kaneki Ken is just a normal Japanese Literature student at Kamii University but meeting a ghoul named Rize Kamishiro changed his life altogether. He recovers from a fatal accident by having Rize’s organs transplanted into him but he wakes up as a half-ghoul who now needs human flesh to survive. 

Half-ghouls are said to be stronger than pure-blood ghouls. A half-ghoul is born naturally as a ghoul and a human’s offspring. Artificially, a half-ghoul can also be produced the same way Kaneki was turned into one: by transferring ghoul organs into a human body. Fortunately, a place called Anteiku took him in, a safe haven managed by ghouls who help him adjust to his new life. 

Kaneki Ken is a dark haired, lean, young man who prefers reading over athletic pursuits. Masataka Kubota is one of my favorite actors and here are the reasons why I agree that he is the best choice to play the famous half-ghoul:

1. He does crazy so well. 

Kaneki’s fear of being alone pushed him to do extreme measures to protect the important people in his life. However, instead of sticking with his previous gentle nature, he becomes violent and merciless towards those who threaten him.

Masataka Kubota is best known for his award-winning and engrossing portrayal of Yagami Light in the 2015 series adaptation of Death Note. Unlike Kaneki who goes from shy black haired boy to white haired badass, Yagami Light did not have any physical manifestation of his changes but Masataka Kubota sensitively showed the pathos of Yagami Light’s transformation from compassionate fighter of justice to a ruthless psychopath who deemed himself fit to judge humanity. Just look at those expressive eyes.

2. Playing tragic characters is nothing new.

    “I’m not the protagonist of a novel or anything. I’m just a college student who likes to   read, like you could find anywhere. But… if, for argument’s sake, you were to write a   story with me in the lead role, it would certainly be… a tragedy.”

     — Ken Kaneki, Tokyo Ghoul Chapter 1

Kaneki Ken is a tragic character. Yagami Light, too. Kubota played one of the elite samurais who went on a suicide mission to assassinate a tyrant in Takashi Miike’s remake of 13 Assassins. He is also included in the famous Rurouni Kenshin live-action film. It may have been a brief appearance but he is definitely an important part of Himura Kenshin’s life. Masataka Kubota is Kiyosato Akira, a member of the Mimawarigumi who worked as a bodyguard for a high-ranking official. He met his tragic fate at the hands of Hitokiri Battousai but his strong will to live allowed him to leave the first deep and lasting cut on Kenshin’s face. Talk about a scene stealer.

3. He’s more than just a dramatic actor. 

Masataka Kubota may look like a precious cinnamon roll but he can actually kick ass and accomplish physical feats in impressive action sequences.

His previous roles prove that he is one of Japan’s go-to action stars:

Kuronaga Hayato (a violent youth delinquent in the low-budget Crows-inspired Gachiban MAX)
Yuji Kurosaki (one of the quirky members of ST in ST MPD Scientific Investigation Squad)
Toshida Makoto (a member of a vigilante group in the comedy Maniac Hero)
Mochizuki Ryota (a young policeman in the Japanese remake of the German series The Last Cop), and
Smoky (the leader of the Rude Boys in HiGH & LOW).

The Rude Boys’ trailer is the most viewed among the factions from HiGH & LOW. The members utilize the art of parkour in their impressive action scenes. At the 1:47 mark, we see Smoky in a one-on-one fight against Sannoh Rengokai’s Yamato (Noboyuki Suzuki). Soon, they will face each other again since Noboyuki is set to play First Class Ghoul Investigator Koutarou Amon.

4. Sui Ishida approves.

After seeing Masataka Kubota in the trailer for the 2011 film We Can’t Change The World But We Wanna Build a School in Cambodia, Sui Ishida said that if Tokyo Ghoul ever gets adapted into a live-action movie, he’d pick Kubota for the role of Kaneki Ken. And no one knows the character better than the creator himself!

An effective lead is just one of many essential things on the checklist of how to make a good live-action film. Their acting skills and star power aren’t enough to guarantee success so there is always the fear that Tokyo Ghoul is going to be the next lackluster adaptation like Shingeki no Kyojin. But if done right, it might just be the next blockbuster in the vein of Rurouni Kenshin. I’m just hoping for the best.