2015, FUNimation Entertainment, 100 min, Japan, Dir: Shinji Higuchi

The apocalyptic horror-fantasy reaches its thrilling conclusion a few years after the Titans first breached the outer defensive wall; the creatures’ ferocious attacks have steeled the resolve of Eren, Mikasa and Armin to defeat them, and though the odds are against mankind, the Titans have a weak spot. Like the first installment of ATTACK ON TITAN, this fast-moving film is darker (and gorier) than its source material, and visually impressive despite a budget far below that of Hollywood blockbusters.

2015, FUNimation Entertainment, 90 min, Japan, Dir: Shinji Higuchi

Inspired by Hajime Isayama’s popular manga series, the first of this two-part live-action horror-fantasy finds teen friends Eren (Haruma Miura), Armin (Kanata Hongo) and Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara) wondering about the world beyond a protective wall, built after a devastating attack a century earlier. Their sense of security is shattered when huge, man-eating Titans break through the defensive structure, once again threatening humanity with extinction. “Outstanding and immersive aesthetic unlike any other horror movie, swiftly paced and gripping start to finish.” - Hope Chapman, Anime News Network. In Japanese with English subtitles.

2012, TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System), 146 min, Japan, Dir: Shinji Higuchi, Isshin Inudo

In 1590, powerful warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (Masachika Ichimura) seeks to unify all of Japan under his rule. One of the last holdouts is Oshi Castle - often referred to as the Floating Castle – which is surrounded by an enormous lake. Hideyoshi sends his right-hand man, General Ishida (Yusuke Kamiji), and 20,000 soldiers to take the castle, which is defended by only 500 men. The death of his father leaves control of the castle with Narita Nagachika (a bravura Mansai Nomura), but the clumsy child king fails to gather the support of any of the other samurai except childhood friend Tanba (Koichi Sato). But Nagachika refuses to acquiesce to Hideyoshi’s army, and through a mix of self-deprecating humor and unconventional tactics, he is slowly able to connect with the people and fight alongside the hardened samurai who once doubted him. Half David-and-Goliath, against-all-odds jidaigeki and half broad slapstick comedy, FLOATING CASTLE pays tribute to films like Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI (or even 300) while also being cheeky enough in its homage to have fun with its character archetypes. While the film packs in the action and laughs (especially from Nomura’s wild antics), there is also a rather stunning flood sequence that was the cause of an 18-month delay to the theatrical release. When viewed in light of the tragedy of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, it makes for one of the most somber and powerful scenes in Japanese cinema this year. In Japanese with English subtitles.

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