Barbican Film - Japanimation: Gonzo Focus - 7 to 9 April

Mar 19th 2009
Tuesday 7 to Thursday 9 April
www.barbican.org.uk/film Cinema Hotline: 0845 120 7527


As part of Animate the World 2009 (Saturday 4 to Sunday 12 April), Barbican Film is delighted to present a special Japanimation: Gonzo Focus. Gonzo inc. was founded in 1992 and founder Shouji Murahama chose the Italian name, a slang term for ruffian, because he imagined the company as a gang of ruffians. Over sixteen years, the studio has preserved its core attitude of a band of pop culture adventurers, keen to sniff out new opportunities and follow unmarked roads.

Gonzo embraced CGI early on, using it to display mecha (robotic machines) in combat to superb effect in productions like Blue Submarine No. 6. CGI also allowed for innovations in art and photography, displayed to full advantage in such works as Mahiro Maeda's visually revolutionary Gankutsuou.

Curated and introduced by Helen McCarthy, Japanimation: Gonzo Focus offers an opportunity to review the highlights of Gonzo's catalogue on the big screen, looking at major series and movies past and present and celebrating its range of art, design, direction and writing skills. And to conclude, Barbican Film is delighted to host a special Gonzo: New Horizons - Japanimation Surprise Sneak Peak!, a very exciting look at what's to come, free to ticket holders of Gonzo events.

Tuesday 7 April
6.00pm - Gonzo on Video I: Blue Submarine No. 6 (12A*) (Japan 1998-2000 Dir. Mahiro Maeda, Masahiro Ozawa & Toru Fukushi (Episodes 1 - 4) 120 mins)
A decade after its debut, Blue 6 (as its fans affectionately nickname it) has more to offer than many modern shows. A thought-provoking premise, well-developed characters and exciting designs are supported by visuals executed with razor-sharp perfection, unusually creative camera work, and a rich, detailed soundscape behind the jazz music track. Based on a classic 1960s manga by Satoru Ozawa, this was among the earliest computer-led anime shows. To its directors' and writers' credit, that isn't what earns its place in anime history. It's simply one of the best dramas of its generation.

Tuesday 7 April
9.00pm - Gonzo on Video II: Samurai 7 (15*) (Japan 2004 Dir. Toshifumi Takizawa (Episodes 1 & 2) 50 min)
Re-versioning Akira Kurosawa is a challenge for any director. Remaking the classic Seven Samurai for a TV generation more than half a century removed from its concerns and influences, Takizawa keeps the character focus and camerawork strong in Samurai 7. He lifts many early shots straight from the film, paying homage and borrowing Kurosawa's visual poetry. Extending the runtime with classic anime tropes, he spins three and a half hours into thirteen and creates an entertaining epic. It falls somewhat short of the original's political and emotional power, but its teenage target audience appreciated its charm and style.
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Witchblade (15*) (Japan 2006 Dir. Yoshimitsu Ohashi (Episodes 1 & 2) 50 min)
Adapting a foreign story into manga or anime isn't a new idea, American comic icons like Batman and Spiderman acquired manga alter egos very different from their originals. When Gonzo adapted Witchblade for Japanese TV, they created a completely new set of characters, putting a Japanese spin on the idea of a heroine possessed by a supernatural weapon. The leading character is kindhearted, clumsy and not good at housework. She loses her memory in the catastrophic destruction of Tokyo, and adopts a mysterious child found with her at ground zero. With direction from the man who brought us Galaxy Angel and characters by the designer of Stellvia and Love Hina, the style is also very different from the original comic, making interesting viewing for anyone interested in cultural osmosis.

Wednesday 8 April
6.15pm - Gonzo on TV: Hellsing (15*) (Japan 2001 Umanosuke Iida & Yasunori Urata (Episodes 1 & 2) 46 min)
From the moment the opening credits roll, through the absurd bloodbaths of the combat sequences and the understated, elliptical exposition of the politics of its world, Hellsing is an absolute joy and one of the best additions to the overworked vampire genre in years. Strong British TV and literary influences add their own layers of pleasure for those in the know. It's not so consistently well animated or technically dazzling as some Gonzo offerings, but its clever, wickedly enjoyable characters and script hold your interest right to the end.
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Gankutsuou (15*) (Japan 2004-2005 Dir. Mahiro Maeda (Episodes 1 & 2) 50 min)
A dazzling mixture of design, writing and animation reworks Alexandre Dumas' classic novel The Count of Monte Cristo into a futuristic coming-of-age story for a naïve and cosseted generation, too easily dazzled by celebrity and novelty. Director Maeda extends the techniques he used in his Animatrix segments to make one of the most visually arresting TV series ever. The rest of the production keeps pace with its inventiveness.

Wednesday 8 April
8.40pm - Gonzo Goes Theatrical: Origin ~Spirits of the Past~ (12A*) (Japan 2006 Dir. Keiichi Sugiyama 94 min)
Gonzo's first full-length theatrical feature focused on the need for balance between mankind, technology and nature, Genetic experiment has altered the earth's environment over 300 years before teenager Agito finds a girl in suspended animation inside a mysterious machine. Opening his story as the hero awakens the princess (the point where Disney ended Sleeping Beauty), Sugiyama asks what kind of ‘happily ever after’ can be created on the ruins of past mistakes, and whether we can learn enough from history to ensure that both mankind and the rest of life on earth can coexist in peace. Nominated for various awards, Origin established Gonzo as a studio that could go beyond the small screen.

Thursday 9 April
6.15pm - Gonzo Goes Streaming
Two Gonzo series streamed over the internet worldwide on the same day as their Japanese TV broadcast in 2008 – the first ever global simultaneous streaming of multiple series from a major studio. Gonzo's parent company GDH stated that they wanted to showcase “a legal alternative to illegal file-sharing and downloading.” They highlight a major shift in audience habits. The teenage market at which these four sci-fi fantasies are aimed wants its media mobile, personal and on-demand. With illegal streaming cutting their income to shreds, studios catering to this market must adapt or die. Welcome to the future of mass visual media with this screening of Shangri-La (15*) (Japan 2009 Dir. Makoto Bessho 25 min), Blassreiter (15*) (Japan 2008 Dir. Ichiro Itano 25 min), Linebarrels of Iron (15*) (Japan 2008 Dir. Masamitsu Hidaka 25 min) and Romeo X Juliet (15*) Japan 2007 Dir. Fumitoshi Oizaki 25 min).

Thursday 9 April
8.30pm - Gonzo: New Horizons - Japanimation Surprise Sneak Peak!
It is strongly advised that Gonzo fans reserve a seat in advance for this sneak preview film! Tickets for this screening are free of charge and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. All tickets must be collected 30 mins in advance of the screening.

www.barbican.org.uk/film
www.barbican.org.uk/animate
Cinema Hotline: 0845 120 7527

Ticket prices:

Standard £7.50 online (£9.50 full price)
Barbican Members £6.50 online (£7.50 full price)
Concessions £7.50
Under 15 £5.50

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