My Husband, The Cartoonist (2010)

Following an arranged marriage to a penniless manga artist, Nunoe struggles to remain positive faced with debt and contending with their frugal lifestyle. Meanwhile, her husband, seemingly permanently upbeat artist Shigeru, continues undeterred with his comic, which, with it’s creepy grotesque subject, is not popular in post-war Japan. Based on a true story and following a successful drama series of the same name, the film looks at the years leading to Shigeru Mizuki’s incredible success with Kodansha publishing “Kitaro”.

An unconventional film in that the relationship between Shigeru and his wife is told without the usual romanticised writing. Their hardships are not overplayed, but you sense their struggling in a couple of emotional scenes. Similarly, Shigeru’s trauma, he lost an arm in the war, and his wife’s impatience with their lack of money are stolidly ignored by the characters for the most part. The film ends somewhat abruptly, as Shigeru Mizuki’s comic series success and following career are well-documented elsewhere, however those knowing little about his life may feel the film lacks a satisfactory resolution.

The film employs a number of novel animatics, flashback sequences and other unusual effects to portray an imagination at work. These flashes of inspiration were an interesting way to show the creative process at work. Interesting camera work at points also showed the couple’s askew image of the world. For the most part the film follows Nunoe and Mizuki, and the film paints a subtle and detailed picture of their life together. Their story is inspirational and for those with an interest in Mizuki Shigeru, this film may be of interest as it is a solid dramatization of his married life.

Kitaro(2007)

After the heart stone is stolen from the evil Fox by the bumbling, flatulent Ratboy, it finds it’s way into the hands of a young boy, Kenta. First Kenta’s father and then Kitaro and his motley band of monsters are accused of stealing the stone, as the Fox fights to have it returned. This sparks a chain of confrontations as the parties fight to find the stone(which Kenta is keeping hidden after promising his father). The seemingly convoluted plot, involving quite a cast of characters and numerous twists and turns, is told straightforwardly and moves quickly from scene to scene. And despite it’s flimsy nature the plot is relatively gripping.

The special effects vary between low-budget costumes and make-up and digital effects. While nothing special, they don’t detract from the innovative characters, of the likes of Catgirl, The Sand-Hag, Ratboy, and Uncle Eyeball The style of the film is light considering the subject is ghouls and monsters, having the feel of a children’s Halloween party, rather than a more sinister atmosphere as in some of the manga.

The film is aimed squarely at children and contains enough physical humour and excitement to keep them entertained. At it’s heart it’s a film about the bond between a father and his son, and the transitions between the comedic moments and family drama, in particular a moving scene towards the end involving Kenta and his father, are done well.

Based on the Manga and subsequent Anime series by Shigeru Mizuki.