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Third Window Films: The Weird and Wonderful World of Ujicha - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 931 days ago on Entertainment - Image Courtesy of Third Window FilmsUjicha is not well known outside of Japan, with his films not getting much play outside of film festivals. He uses a style of animation called Gekimation which consists of stylized and detailed cut outs that are paraded around over lush backgrounds. Gekiga, the root word, refers to adult-oriented manga and Ujicha's work is similar in that it uses whimsical and colorful deigns to tell brutal and nihilistic stories. On paper it sounds simplistic, but in practice, it is quite striking and compelling. Each character has hundreds of variations and Ujicha likes to use real liquids to represent body fluids like blood, vomit, and pus. This mixed media style approach feels like fourth-wall breaking, taking the characters from paper to organic real life.Burning Buddha Man (2013)Burning Buddha Man starts out on a surreal foot, following a grotesquely disfigured man as he strolls into a Buddhist temple. Upon going inside, he shoots a red tentacle-like appendage out of his groin at a statue which transports it to another plane of existence. Unfortunately, the temple's caretakers, a husband and wife, are murdered in the process. Their young daughter Beniko returns home to discover a grisly sight and vows to discover who is behind the death of her parents. Thus begins her nightmarish and bizarre journey.The narrative progressively gets more abstract as it goes on, especially after Beniko goes to live with a family friend. She discovers that there is a group of Buddha statue thieves who call themselves SEADDATTHA who not only steal the statues, they fuse themselves with them to gain super powers. This comes with the side effect of gaining a monstrous appearance and slowly going insane. At one point, several SEADDATTHA members combine like Voltron to create a chimera Lovecraftian creature to battle a foe. Quite frankly, it's better to let everything wash over you as you watch it and not sweat the details, as the further it goes the more it disintegrates into absurdity. Ujicha's distinctive art style is hideously gorgeous, and the care he puts into his designs is apparent. His scene composition is inspired and he uses depth of field masterfully to give scenes drama and complexity. He isn't afraid to move the cut-outs in intriguing ways, spinning them, crushing them, even burning them with real fire. The sound effects, music and voice acting go a long way to fleshing everything out. Out of his two full length works, Burning Buddha Man is the less approachable one, but it definitely is the more fascinating film.Violence Voyager (2018)Ujicha's second full length film starts out unassuming: two young boys named Bobby and Akkun are excited about school ending for the term. Bobby is an American student living in Japan and both he and Akkun are outcasts with their peers. They decide to scout out a local mountain area to make a "secret hideout" but on their way there they stumble upon amusement park with the ominous name Violence Voyager. On the surface it looks like a cheesy operation, but it hides a horrifying secret underneath--Bobby and Akkun might not make it out alive.Violence Voyager feels like if David Cronenberg directed Lord of the Flies with an unsettling mixture of extreme body horror and coming-of-age tropes. Bobby finds out that he and Akkun are not the only children trapped in Violence Voyager and that some of them are subjected to horrible experiments and eventually eaten. Anyone that has an extreme aversion to seeing children getting hurt should stay far away from this film as it pulls no punches in that regard. The fact that it is animated might soften the material a bit, but the last third of the film is squarely in spattergore territory.   Bobby goes through a lot physically and mentally and it almost seems as if the film derives a perverse pleasure in torturing him. In this way it does subvert the idea of how fantasy stories involving kids usually progress, but it can be a hard watch at times. Overall, it ends up being a grueling but ultimately bittersweet experience. The visuals are incredible, and a huge step up from his previous work, showing the heights that Gekimation can be taken to. Ujicha has taken this style and really made it his own.Third Window Films Blu-ray Specs: Disc 1: Violence VoyagerUncut original Japanese language versionAudio commentary from director Ujicha and producer Reo AnzaiInterview with director Ujicha (20min)Short Film: Tempura (4min)StoryboardsTeaser of Ujicha’s latest filmOriginal Trailer Disc 2: The Burning Buddha ManShort Film: The Retnepac2 (16min)Short Film: Space Yokai War (9min)Original Trailer Reversible sleeve artworkSlipcaseRegion B--Michelle Kisner   (function() { var zergnet = document.createElement('script'); zergnet.type = 'text/javascript'; zergnet.async = true; zergnet.src = (document.location.protocol == "https:" ? "https:" : "http:") + '//'; var znscr = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; znscr.parentNode.insertBefore(zergnet, znscr); })();

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