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[Film] Fast and Furious and the Importance of Han

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Han – the character

Like so many others, I first ‘met’ Han in Tokyo Drift. His character was cool, had a sense of honour and you felt he had seen a lot in his time, reaching out to mentor Sean and ultimately sacrifice himself for him. I then lost touch with the franchise, looking East for my film kicks and it wasn’t until I bought the box set of 1-5 that I reconnected, but it was after ‘Fast and Furious 6′ that I began to look at what Justin Lin had managed to achieve as Director along with writer Chris Morgan who also joined the franchise on Tokyo Drift.

Han actually begins his existence in Justin Lin’s ‘Better Luck Tomorrow’ (BLT) as a wanna be gangster. Placing him into the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise was an intelligent decision by Lin. The repetition of characters between indie and tent-pole movies is unusual in film, particularly with franchises not based on other media. Batman, Spiderman, Superman et al. exist in other media such as graphic art, animation, TV series where audiences are already invested in the mythos that surrounds them. New interpretations can be debated and argued over, directors and studios have the ability to ‘reboot’ the stories, retell them, recast them and have the reflect current issues and social norms.

Creating characters who are flawed and can be loveable, desirable or despised is not easy, neither is being able to leave an audience wanting to know more about their journey in life and what happens to them after the credits roll.  In BLT, we see the beginning of Han’s journey, we see what he has been involved in, who he has seen die in front of him. We see his complicated relationship with his cousin Virgil and the simplistic sexual one with women. Then we meet him in ‘Tokyo Drift’, casually cool, doing deals with yakuza and still unattached to any one woman as though he has drifted through life to get to this point. He has money, Tokyo is his Mexico, he sees himself as a cowboy run for the borders, not quite the rebel gangster of BLT. It might seem that he has not matured if it wasn’t for the world weary way in which he talks to Sean.

His introduction, and demise, in Tokyo Drift had sadness to it, but its in the following three films that more of his story is told. The tag with Toretto at the end of ‘Tokyo Drift’ shows there is more story to tell. That Han rolled with him back in the day should really be no surprise and it gives Lin and the writers something to build on in the next three movies. Lin says he likes sequels, but not the way they often just recycle old material and along with writer Chris Morgan managed to tie in the first three films with the fourth one. Han’s appearance creates a point on the timeline of the franchise, the inclusion of Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) in 5 and 6  ensures the combination of characters stays fresh and relevant and with Han’s further appearances and the mention of Tokyo in each one reminds us that ‘All roads lead to this’ when it comes to his fate. It is in ‘Fast and Furious 6′ we see him lose someone he actually loves, someone who sacrifices herself for him and his death, repeated once more at the end of ‘Fast and Furious 6′, becomes truly painful.

By telling of Han’s demise before his back story within the franchise, the mention of Tokyo each time he leaves the screen, reminds the audience of that fixed point, reminds them that the time they have with him is precious. A lot of fans want Han to live. I’ve seen countless posts and arguments of how he could have been pulled from the car, he could have just hidden knowing he might have to be on the run, but for me, just one look at the fireball, how badly Han was injured tells the truth that he died. I hate that he died, it upsets me no end and that’s what makes Lin a genius director – he made canon and he keeps it. As he said in an interview in 2003 about BLT – “You have to develop your identity, whatever you’re trying to grow into. If you adopt an identity and don’t have the patience to grow into it, the identity can overtake you.” ~ Justin Lin [*]. By the end of Fast and Furious 6, Han’s identity is complete, Lin has allowed his character to grow through films 4 to 6 to reach who he is in ‘Tokyo Drift’ without it overwhelming him.

Han – the spirit

Its not so much Han’s life that makes him iconic. Its his death, as its through Han’s death that we become part of the Toretto family, we will mourn him like they do… and we will want him avenged. Its this sense of loss that makes me think of the Korean concept of Han, that Justin Lin and Sung Kang have, intentionally or not, given us.

‘Han’ is a single word that contains a cultural trait of Koreans that appears in their literature and arts. Its unique and has no English equivalent. “Han, which comprises both sadness and hope, is a feeling unique to the Korean people”[*]says writer Park Kyong-ni who also defines it as:

“…sorrow, or resignation, or a sigh….the complex feeling which embraces both sadness and hope. The sadness stems from the effort by which we accept the original contradiction facing all living things, and hope comes from the will to overcome the contradiction.”[*]

It might be a little abstract to apply this to the journey a character makes through a tent-pole franchise, but Lin has engineered the ‘Fast and Furious’ films to be something more than the summer blockbuster. The themes of family, sacrifice and love have become stronger, the relationships become more realistic. Its through this that we get to experience that feeling of ‘han’ in films 3-6, with our attachment to Han and his sacrifice, we live in hope he survives, but are resigned to the inevitable sadness we feel. Seeing him in films 4-6 is bittersweet, we know his fate and not the others, we have heartache, even though he is still living and breathing on screen.

Han – the future

“It’s time to close the book.” ~ Sung Kang[*]

“I think it [would be] disrespecting the legacy, too. It’s disrespecting the fans.” ~ Sung Kang[*]

I was really glad to read those words from the actor himself in some of the interviews he’s done recently. Thinking of Han’s death and watching Tokyo Drift is upsetting, but even more so would be the idea that he would be brought back. It might sound contradictory, to say that, but Sung Kang is right that it would be disrespectful. Fans of the franchise really have faith in the films, particularly the story arcs created by Justin Lin and Chris Morgan. There is a bond between the audience and the director forged via the combination of characters and story, not just the cars and heists and explosions. Break canon by bringing back Han and you break that bond. You cheapen what has happened before and turn it into a second rate money spinner. You’ll still enjoy watching it, but will always remember the bitter taint of that betrayal.

In film seven, James Wan the new director at the helm, I can imagine there would be pressure to bring Han back – a popular character that more people relate to than maybe was thought possible seven years ago. I really hope nobody buckles under that pressure. The most I would expect or find acceptable to see would be the last ride, snatches of Tokyo Drift footage interspersed with an idea of how his death was designed by the bad guy.

I don’t want Han to be resurrected for the sake of studio money. I want the studios to have faith in James Wan taking the torch from Lin and forging a new arc and I want to see what the Toretto family’s vengeance will look like.

bibliography:

http://fastandfurious.wikia.com/wiki/Han_Lue

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_%28cultural%29

http://web.archive.org/web/20021126053722/http://www.keganpaul.com/articles_main.php?url=/main_file.php/articles/30/

http://insidemovies.ew.com/2013/05/25/fast-furious-6-tokyo-drift-han/

http://www.craveonline.com/film/interviews/506363-exclusive-interview-sung-kang-on-fast-furious-6/2

[Music] Kyu Won – 스스로 떠나는 사람들 (2nd Album)

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Released back in June last year, I’m not sure why it took me so long to buying this album seeing how much I enjoyed the first. I wasn’t sure what to expect this time round, most artistes attempt to have a different feel and theme for each album and this can either go really well or go horribly wrong. Luckily this album falls into the former category and I really really like it.

This album has a more lively feel to it, and with the added vocals of Chang BaeU and Heo SuJeong it really feels like Kyu Won has been honing and improving his song writing skills. Track 6 “모두 나였음을” (Feat. Heo SuJeong) is a really beautiful melody and its so wonderful to hear a Korean female singer whose voice sounds mellow rather than adolescent and shrill. The harmonies towards the end of the song are really lovely on the ears and I got stuck listening to this track several times before i could make myself continue.

“Silent Conversation” is the first track with full English lyrics and again the pronunciation and sense were good along with a thoughtful melody and beat. “Wishes” is the other track, but I prefer the former track as it flows better and is more my style of ballad, though I like the play with words the latter has and its sentiments.

One thing I was not sure about was the spelling and meaning of track 8 which was written as “bEd Ending”. Its an upbeat number with an almost jazz/swing feel to it but without knowing the meaning I can’t tell if it should have been ‘Bad ending’ which would suit the mood of the song better. Track 5: “거북이 상자” (Feat. Chang BaeU) is upbeat and light with a real feel of fun to it that I really enjoyed, but in the end its track 6 that i come back to time and time again and is for me, the best song on the album.

BUY!!!

[GIG] Big Bang Picture Gallery now up!

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There was of course a restriction on the type of camera you could bring in, but my little point and shoot did a fairly good job in the end. The full album can be found:

HERE

 

But for the busy bees of this world you can see some of the best below:


Video footage will follow tomorrow

EDIT: video footage moved to this post

Video Number one – a compilation of clips of talking

Taeyang goes for a wander

[GIG] Big Bang rocks Wembley Arena – 15th December 2012

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Its been long awaited and much hyped, but Big Bang finally made their appearance in the UK at London’s Wembley Arena on 14th and 15th December. Despite ticket prices between £66 and £99 the two shows were sell outs and the Saturday was my turn to find out if it was all worth the hype.

Hotel
My first stop that day was, unusually, the Garden Park Hotel on Kensington High Street where the band were reputedly staying. One of my friends is a keen autograph hunter and fan of Korean Cinema and had worked out the location from a tweet the band had sent of the view from their room. She was eager to get TOP to sign a cover of ’79 into the fire’ but there had been no joy the day before and only Taeyang had been friendly enough to sign a photo.  We missed them by about five minutes so onto the gig I went after a quick pint.
The queues at Wembley for entry as well as merchandise were very long and the outside one only accepting cash I ended up with just a tote bag. I seem to get these at concerts. Inside the hoodies were already sold out along with light sticks and other things so they must have made a mint!

view
Perched up to the left of the extended stage, we had a very good view of the arena as it filled up and crown lights went on. There was various singing and shouting, Big Bang MV’s being  played and with an increased volume on ‘Fantastic Baby’ the lights went down and the screaming began.

SAM_0868

The intro talked about them being revived from cryogenically frozen capsules and then the curtain finally dropped and I lost the upper ranges of my hearing with the frenzied noise from the crowd.

SAM_0920‘How Gee’ introduced gold glittery segueways which they spun about the stage in a very nifty manner and favourites such as ‘Monster’, ‘Love Song’ , ‘Bad Boy’, and a whole host of tracks I didn’t know thanks to albums not arriving in the post in time.
The conversational interludes and dance tutorials were fun, especially for the pretty good cockney accent produced by Seungri whose persistent ‘you awwight?’ interjections kept us laughing. Their English is good and they know how to work an audience!

GDragon was the first to have a solo stage with ‘get your freak on’ and other tracks i can’t identify as i don’t have his solo work and performed with a lot of energy and fancy footwork. Taeyang’s solo stage kicked off with ‘Only look at me’ which then segued into a medley of other tracks and the removal of his shirt which had more than a few of the audience members in a bit of hysterical  state.
SAM_1172Even high electro-pop needs a break though and that was provided by ‘Haru Haru’ a balled from a rather fogged up stage. There were a lot of stage effects from fake snow to fire jets, glitter tape and ticker tape, elevated platforms and sinking stages.

I was very uncomfortable with the kick off one particular stage which was lacked sensitivity in light of recent events in Conneticut, but that was the only real negative point of the concert for me and indicative of how closeted their world must be and how far removed from every day news and events. At least i hope its that anyway.

The encore consisted of some more ‘Fantastic Baby’ where TaeYang, still shirtless went off in his own world, dancing off th tage and leaning into the audience where security was quick to extract him before he continued on his way.

There was some more ‘you awwright’ from Seungri and the thanks yous and goodbyes. Even TOP was persuaded to speak, his voice a deep throaty rumble that was a little hard to understand and he finished his speech in Korean with which he was obviously more comfortable.
It was definitely three hours worth of excellent stage show, dance music and one of the first big Korean pop concerts I’d been to. I am sure with a welcome like that they will be back and more groups will follow in their wake.
Big Bang now head off to Tokyo and then to Seoul to finish up the tour which can only be classed as a total success for them.

NB: Pics will go up tomorrow as I’m tired – my journey home on Saturday ended up via Watford and a one lane motorway crawl that had me in bed well after 1am.

[GIG] CNBLUE at the Indigo 02 – 22nd September 2012

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It was 3pm on a sunny but cool afternoon when I began to queue for the CNBlue concert, though many had been there since early morning coming from as far afield as Finland, France, Switzerland, Italy and Poland – a wide mix of nationalities and ethnicity that seemed almost equal. As with all concerts there were screams when the lead singer was spotted and more for various cameras and media coverage. Queue buddies ran back and forth to get food and bathroom breaks and the mood was definitely one of excitement.


CNBLUE*, is a four man indie styled band that started in 2009 and began their career debuting in Japan. An unusual route, but with a saturated market, an understandable one, though their first release didn’t have too much success. The original bassist left after a month and was replaced by Lee Jung Shin, though the rest of the line up remained the same; Jung Yong Hwa the Leader, Main Vocalist and Rhythm Guitarist; Lee Jong  Shin Lead Guitarist, Vocalist; Kang Min Hyuk Drummer, Backing Vocalist.

It was in October that year that Jung Jong Hwa took the second lead in the drama ‘You’re Beautiful’ and brought CNBLUE some needed attention with his vocals and the group debuted in Korea in January 2011. It was how I heard of them and rather enjoyed their musical styling that was closer to rock than pop and with all of them able to sing and play an instrument kept them a cut above the pretty boy dance groups that have always been the rage.

Fast forward to this year and they have done steadily well with another music based drama ‘Heartstrings’ for both Jong Jung Hwa and Kang Min Hyuk and currently a daily drama for Lee Jong shin and a few studio albums and EP for both Korean and Japanese markets. There have been endorsements and tours across Asia as well as performances in the USA, but today was the big one for Europe and dream come true for the band who have always wanted to play in the city that has represented the home of rock and roll to many.

Despite the dire warning tannoyed to us before the start of the show that banned us from all forms of photography and audio recording, a mass of cameras shot into the air as soon as the lights went down and the band came on and the show began. The Indigo 02 has excellent acoustics, the bass resonating through in everyone’s chest like a second heartbeat and the screams of a mostly female audience guaranteed to eliminate your upper ranges of hearing. In anticipation of this I did actually have earplugs**, but like I said, the sound system is excellent and I heard every note and word anyway!

What came across the most to me as they played a vast amount of their repertoire was the sheer joy they put into their performance. They were excellent live performers from just a talent point of view already, but the energy and fun they exuded through the whole 2 hour set was really fantastic. They wanted to be there, they loved the songs they performed, they talked to the audience and the audience listened respectfully in the ballads and joined in with the upbeat numbers.

There was a bit of a crush going on at the front with one girl having to be pulled out by security and water being handed out before the encore. (Though I think they were lucky no-one had an epileptic fit the excessive amount of strobe that was used). Jung Yong Hwa asked everyone to move back and waited until we’d done so before he began singing again and of course we’d listen to him! Three encore songs, us singing happy birthday to Lee Jung Shin, a few lines from Oasis and some excellent performances made it a memorable and enjoyable evening. They said they want to come back and promised they would and I hope they keep that promise as I would love to see them perform live again.

*CN stands for Code Name and BLUE is the initials of each member’s representation. ‘Burning’ – Lee Jong Hyun, ‘Lovely’ – Kang Min Hyuk, ‘Untouchable’ – Lee Jung Shin, and ‘Emotional’ – Jung Yong Hwa

** I have slight tinitus, not an aversion to fun.

[Anime] Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack [Hirao, Japan, 2012]

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Based on the manga of the same name by Junji Ito, this surreal apocalyptic horror is brought to the screen by Takayuki Hirao and is a fantastic, bizarre, grotesque anime about mutated fish that arrive on land complete with metallic pincer like legs and a deadly disease.

Kaori on holiday with two friends in Okinawa encounters the fish and a shark in the summer house they are staying in. After losing touch with her boyfriend, heads back to Tokyo to find him. Things are much worse in Tokyo though, the death stench and bacteria in the air ever increasing and the nightmare creatures evolving into far worse.

I hadn’t really known what to expect from a horror anime, and I wasn’t familiar with either the director or the original writer’s work before, but  really made an impression and lingered long after the credits have rolled. Definitely not for children to view, it has hints of the idea of tentacle erotica (something that pre-dates modern Manga) and yet still maintains a strong Eco message about how we reap our own destiny.

The characters were simply portrayed, likeable Kaori, sexually active Erika and the average Aki, all of whose dynamic as friends changes and fractures as the crisis deepens. This is something that is also part of the horror in my opinion, that friendship might not last a crisis and how easily positions can juxtapose and change.

If you want to see something a bit different I really do recommend this film. I would certainly be keen to see more of Junji Ito’s work on the big screen in future.

The UK DVD Release Date  for Gyo is: 20th August 2012 (Terror-cotta label)

 

Terracotta Film Festival: Dancing Queen [Lee Suk-Hoon, S. Korea,2012]

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This second film of the Korean Breakfast Club double bill was a comedy with a little more social punch, dealing with gender roles in Korean society, politics and show business. The story focuses on Jung-Hwa (Uhm Jung Hwa) once known as the Madonna of Shinchon who once dreamed of being a singer before marrying her childhood friend Jung-Min (Hwang Jung-Min) whose dream of being the president had also long faded with the responsibilities of marriage and a child. Stuck in a rut they have lost touch with themselves as well as who they once were until the opportunity presents itself to them to finally fulfill the dreams they hold dear, the only problem being that one might have to sacrifice for the other.

Dancing Queen

Uhm Jung Hwa is a wonderfully versatile actress who has taken on a varied number of roles in her career ranging from the crime thriller ‘Princess Aurora’ to the romantic ‘Mr. Hong’. Here in the role of Jung-Hwa she can excel as her first career is that of a kpop dance queen, often named the Madonna of Korea. (Its actually a pet peeve of mine that Korean singers and actors often are compared to Western artists, but that’s a whole other post for another time.) In this role she has chosen she gets to show off all her skills as singer, dancer and actress and as you might have guessed, I think she did a very good job.
Hwang Jung-Min who plays her husband Jung-Min whose drama ‘Korean Peninsula’ is currently airing is excellent as the often bewildered husband with excellent comic timing and expression.

Its hard to elaborate on the story without giving too much of it away, but it did well using a more mature family unit to demonstrate the gender dynamic in a relationship rather than a young couple. Settled and yet in between the old Korea and the new, they have to examine their expectations of themselves as much as what they think is expected of them and what they really want. I know I am making the film sound more serious than it plays out, but comedy is often the best way to get a point across about a more serious truth. Dancing Queen does it well.

The soundtrack is of course catchy pop as you would expect and might just be sneaking  onto my next CD order.

Terracotta Film festival: Couples [Jeong Yong-Ki, S. Korea, 2011]

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Couples

Couples is not an easy storyline to explain, but that is perhaps one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. A remake of the film ‘Stranger of Mine‘ (Ken Uchida, Japan 2005), the main action takes place during one day as we follow the story of several couples and how their lives intertwine and influence their relationships with each other. The timeline of this story however is not a traditional arc that goes from A to B, but jumps back and forth in the present and flashbacks to the past to build into a crescendo of events.

I like films that play with time and story and the main scene that we build up to shows how well the the narrative had to be crafted. The planning and timing of the events was absolutely superbly done, not one thing out of place or poorly executed. It seems a paradox that the chaos portrayed had to be to meticulously controlled, but as someone who likes to play with time and story when writing fiction, I really appreciated  this a lot.

Whilst I am not fond of her as an actress , Lee ShiYeong was well cast as the flighty NaRi with good comic timing and expression, though having seen some of her previous roles in dramas such as ‘Boys Over Flowers‘ and ‘Playful Kiss‘ she has not yet come out of her comfort zone. Kim Ju-Hyeok did well as the lovelorn teashop owner Yoo-Suk, oblivious to anything but the chaos of his own day and Oh Jung-Se as Bok-Nam, his rather inept and overly dramatic friend. Lee Yoon-Ji (whom drama fans will recognise from ‘Dream High‘ and ‘Goong‘)was very sweet and effective as Ae-Yeon the traffic policewoman with a hidden motive and it was the perfect movie to kick off the Korean Breakfast Club at the festival.

I know the film wasn’t that much of a hit with some other people at the festival, and perhaps this too, like Arirang is a little divisive in opinions, but I thought it was smart, funny and well worth making the effort to watch. I’m going to have to look for the original version now to see how they compare and whether the change in cultural settings changes the pace and narrative.

Terracotta Film Festival: Seediq Bale [Wei te-sheng, Taiwan, 2011]

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2012 seems to be the year of independant movies for Terracotta along with the debut directors and tales inspired and based on true events. Seediq Bale is no exception to this trend and, Twelve years in the making, it made a gripping two and a half hour viewing.

Set in the early 20th centrury it tells the true story of the aboriginal tribe uprising against the Japanese occupation, focusing on the Seediq tribe led by Mouna Rudo. The Guerilla style of warfare set against the beautiful scenery in Taiwan, the traditions of the tribe and the inter tribe antipathy all contribute to the massacres and the inevitable retaliation.

After an introduction from the Taiwanese Ambassador and Da Ching, the movie began, a first hunt in pogress and the blood sacrfice the men must give to the ancestors to earn the distinctive tattoos on their faces. Claiming heads with a swift stroke of a machete, we begin to see the way of life fo the people before the Island of Taiwan was handed over to the Japanese. There is hostility between tribes of course, one that never really truely fades even after their submission to the Japanese.

Da Ching as the younger Mouna Rudo

It was said the film was originally four hours long but had been edited to two and a half and I think that was a wise decision as it kept the pace and action tightly controlled and ever increasing tension. Passionate and utterly determined to preserve their dignity and culture in the face f the greatest odds, one can’t help but admire the courage and conviction. It is hard to understand sometimes as a race that has not been oppressed in this way, why anyone would risk losing their whole culture and not just try to preserve it or assimilate to simply survive. This erroneous thought is shown in action, as several of the tribesman work for the Japanese, have adopted Japanese names and are divided in their self identity. Regarded as savages no matter what they wear or how smart they are but attempting to fit in as a way of surviving even though they have no memory of tribal life. In the end all it takes is one small dispute to spark the battle and escalate the massacre. One personal vendetta to inspire slaughter on a grand scale.

Lin Ching-Tai as older Mouna Rudo

The acting was superb in the film, especially that of Lin Ching-Tai who played the senior Mouna Rudo, Da Ching who played his younger self and the boy who played Pawan, a younger boy who truly posessed the warrior spirit. The music fitted the scenes well with their lyrics and melody – traditional words featuring the voices of Landy Wen and Vivian Hsu and tribal chants as  a backdrop for some battles. The physical preparation the actors had to go through for the film really paid off, a flawless representation of the physical prowess of the tribes people to travel long distances and fight.

Seediq Bale post film Q&A

After a brief Q&A during which Da ching answered a few questions on the film (answers already covered in the masterclass [link to follow] earlier in the day) he stood up and gave a very sincere thank you to the audience for attending as can be seen in the video clip below.

For anyone wanting to see this film it should be on general release in June/July of this year and its well worth spending the time on it.

Da Ching

Da Ching

Terracotta Film Festival: The Woodsman and the Rain [Shuichi Okita, Japan, 2011]

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I make no secret of it as its good to know what the reviewer’s bias is, but the first reason this film was on my list was because Oguri Shun was one of the two main leads. Born into a theatrical family, he is actually a very good actor and I’ve enjoyed all the dramas I’ve seen him in so far and want to see more of his film work than the brief appearances in Azumi and Sakuran.

The director Shuichi Okita co-wrote this delightful comedy with Fumio Moriya and is the first of his films I have seen. The story is about Katsuhiko (Koji Yakusho) a woodsman in a small village who finds his daily life and routine encroached upon by the arrival of a film crew and its young director Koichi (Shun Oguri).

Woodsman and the Rain

It was funny, unexpected and without a single hint of romance, focuing on the relationship between young and old, the holding onto the past and looking to the future. Koichi, weak in conviction and Katsuhiko too strong in his own, each influencing each other and helping to shape a better relationship they have with the world and other people.

The comedy is well timed both with dialogue and physical comedy and really is an absolute gem. it shoud go on everyone’s list to watch as a feel good movie. It is certainly going on mine!

 

  • http://wiki.d-addicts.com/Oguri_Shun
  • http://asianwiki.com/The_Woodsman_and_the_Rain
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