Mamoru Oshii directs this landmark cyberpunk anime from 1995

The original ‘Ghost in the Shell’ and its anime universe on Hulu

Ghost in the Shell (Japan, 1995) (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray Steelbook) – Mamoru Oshii’s cyberpunk thriller was the first Japanese anime created for the international market and it became the biggest animated import in the US in years. Based on the manga by Masamune Shirow and recalling Blade Runner and the earlier anime hit Akira, Oshii’s […]

Jo Shishido stars in the Japanese gangster film from Yasuharu Hasebe

‘Massacre Gun’ – Japanese Gangster action on Amazon Prime

Massacre Gun (Japan, 1967) – Yasuharu Hasebe, a disciple of Nikkatsu’s maverick filmmaker Suzuki Seijun, made his directorial debut with Black Tight Killers (1966), a crazy, campy spy adventure fun shot in bright, pop-art color. His follow-up feature remains in the action genre but takes a turn into the dark alleys of gangster noir with […]

Meiko Kaji stars in the Japanese women-in-prison series

‘Female Prisoner Scorpion’ Saga on Amazon Prime

The women in prison genre has never been so much fun as the Female Prisoner Scorpion series from Japan. Gonzo doesn’t begin to describe this mad mix of outrageous exploitation, flamboyant art movie, and energetic comic-book craziness. Meiko Kaji gives a near silent performance as Nami Matsushima, aka Scorpion, a woman framed for a crime […]

Takeshi Kitano directs and stars in "Violent Cop"

‘Violent Cop’ and ‘Boiling Point’ – The volatile Takeshi Kitano on Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and Sundance Now

In Violent Cop (1989) and Boiling Point (1990), actor-turned-filmmaker Takeshi Kitano has a way of transforming stillness into tension in his crime films. In the opening shot of Violent Cop, Kitano’s 1990 directorial debut, the camera holds on the smiling face of a toothless derelict. Like a pebble dropping into a pond the calm is […]

Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 acid flashback horror fantasy 'House'

‘House’/’Hausu’ – Japanese madness on FilmStruck and Criterion Channel

I can’t begin to find the words to describe House (1977), aka Hausu, an unclassifiable Japanese haunted house/high school romp/demon killer/surreal fantasy film from Nobuhiko Obayashi. Made in 1977 and recently revived and released to the rest of the world, it’s the archival cult find of the decade: a candy-colored style bomb of horror movie […]