The Tatami Critic: High Kick Girl

13 05 2010

Several recent American martial arts releases have tried to take genre to higher levels than simply chop-socky kung fu fare: and failed. Perhaps the most recent example comes from Red Belt, which opened many plot twist avenues only to get lost in its own tangle of possible themes.

Coming from overseas is a film that avoids this recent trend, instead favoring a fairly a straight-forward plot and theme. High Kick Girl, while unfortunately carrying an ominous title more suggestive of hentai antics than actual martial arts, keeps things simple: Karate fighting at its best.

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The Tatami Critic reviews: The Machine Girl

14 05 2009

JG Machine Girl 1The Machine Girl

2008, Tokyo Shock

By B.C. Kowalski

There’s gore, and then there’s gore.

In the case of the 2008 film The Machine Girl, there’s gore, more gore and gore gone wild.

The Machine Girl, a film largely about revenge, is certainly not for the squeamish. Coming from someone who laughs at splatterfests like Grindhouse and the Freddy and Jason movies, this film put this critic drooling in the corner for a few days.

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Tatami Drama Critic — Gokusen

17 04 2009

All That Drama, Part I

jg_gokusenFor the next few installments of Tatami Critic, we’re going to take a break from the movies and talk a bit about another enjoyable Japanese genre: The Drama.

Most dramas in Japan seem to be following a trend similar in the U.S.: one-hour episodes (less accounting for commercials) arranged in smaller runs of somewhere around 10-12 episodes (the brilliantly made Kisarazu Cat’s Eye, on queue for review in a later installment, intuitively had a nine-episode run, corresponding to the number of innings in a baseball game).

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Tatami Critic – Sports, sort of

27 03 2009



Last time I promised a gore-fest of a column, but instead of all that simulated blood and guts (and oh yes, there will be blood) I decided to tap into a couple films that fall into the sports drama… sort of.pingpong1


The first in our line-up roughly fits the sports template, or as closely as Japanese cinema tends to get. Ping Pong, a film about two members of Katase High School table tennis club, is a fun and irreverent film that takes the world of red paddles and green tables more seriously than all but the most die-hard fans on our side of the Pacific would ever dream of.

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Tatami Critic – Dorky 80s cool

27 03 2009

Double Feature: Battle Heater and Zeiramtc_battle_heater


There are times when I just can’t help but think, “They just don’t make movies like they did in the 80s.” Is it just nostalgia? Is there something about the way movies were shot in this period that separates them from modern films?


It wasn’t until seeing the two films below that it became all too apparent that my theory has some credence. Both Battle Heater and Zeiram, cut from the same era, reek of 80s filmmaking similar to their American counterparts. Let’s explore: 

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Tatami Critic – Nana!

27 03 2009

Nana (2005)

113 min.

Available: DVD, Viz Pictures


Two girls sit next to each other on a train traveling on a snowy winter night, both on their way to Tokyo. The pair couldn’t be more different: One, a chattering, cute, perky and polite suburb girl on her way to come live with her boyfriend, whom she babbles about incessantly; The other, a broody, quiet girl dressed in the finest punk garb Harajuku has to offer — pleated skirt fitted with more chains than Mr. T owns, thigh high leggings and a black mini top.

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