June 29 - July 15
Lincoln Center
Japan Society

(part of Japan Cuts)

Japan, 2012
Directed by: Keiichi Satou

Based on a controversial banned manga designed by George Akiyama, ASURA is not your happy, fun animated flick.
featuring the voice of Japanese voice actress, Masako Nozawa (Dragonball and Galaxy Express 999) as Asura,
it is dark, brutal and beautiful, underscored with a beating, bleeding heart of a buddhist.

Produced using Hybrid Animation, Asura uses a "watercolor in motion" motif, whereby all the characters
are animated in CG, with a traditionally painted background. The resulting composition is an innovative
animation, stark in realism, alternatively beautiful and horrific.

Born in a hellish wasteland, Asura's mother fends off a hungry wolf at birth,
and eats whatever she can to stay alive, ultimately resorting to an attempt at roasting and eating the infant.
Asura survives, and grows to become a pint-sized cannibal, massacring everything and everyone in his path,
including killing the village lord's asshole son. The Lord is not pleased, and battles tiny Asura who eventually
falls off a cliff... but not to his doom.

Asura meets a monk, who tames and teaches him via a buddhist verse, and then a beautiful village girl,
Wakasa, who nurses him back to health, teaches him to speak, and turns him toward becoming a human being.

2 short trailers from Japanese website

As Asura attempts to assimilate into village life, he is spurned by jealousy and confronted by the village Lord
still hellbent on revenge, has the whole hungry village after Asura's little ass.
Will Asura survive being hunted and shunned by those who hate him, and by those he loves?
Will he continue his axe-wielding ways and continue to fall off cliffs?
Will he revert to his animalistic ways or turn to the life of a monk?
will the monk who found him teach him the ways of buddhism,
or cut off his right arm trying? As sure as hell, he will!

ASHURA - The Manga

In August of 1970 an edition of the long-running Weekly Shōnen Magazine was banned in
various cities in Japan due to the debut of George Akiyama's manga "Ashura".

Mid-fifteenth century - Japan
Flood, drought and famine have transformed the landscape of the capital of Kyoto into a barren wasteland.
More than 80,000 have perished in the three years between 1459 and 1461.
This desolate state served as the backdrop to the beginning of the country's greatest civil war.

The victims of this dark period in Japan's history were too great in number to include in the pages of history.

"Ashura" tells the story of a boy trying to survive during this brutal famine.
How brutal? Brutal enough that Ashura's mother has been reduced to cannibalism in order to stay alive,
and besides a grizzly scene showing this in the debut of "Ashura" what really got people upset
was the fact that the mother even tries to eat her own son to stave off hunger. Although Akiyama
would continue to produce provocative manga - 1971's "Kokuhaku (Confessions)" that featured
such chapters as "I am a murderer" and "I was a child of mixed blood" and 2005's
"An Introduction to China: A Study of Our Bothersome Neighbors" which attempted to debunk the
Nanking Massacre - it was his controversial debut in Weekly Shōnen that has defined his controversial career.

review by Jefe aka Johnny Chiba

Jefe aka Johnny Chiba publishes

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