Tag Archives: shinichiro watanabe

Secret Movie Club Hosts an Anime Buffet in 2020 and We’ve Got an Exclusive First Look at Two New Posters

In 2020, the Los Angeles-based Secret Movie Club is hosting screenings of some of the most beloved anime of all time, as part of their Anime Buffet programming slate, which will run from January through April 2020. The Anime Buffet slate is scheduled to include such films as Ghost in the Shell, Perfect Blue, Paprika, Millennium Actress, Metropolis (2001), The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Vampire Hunter D, Grave of the Fireflies, and Tokyo Godfathers. Screenings will alternate between two different locations: the Vista Theater in Los Feliz, the historic single screen theater built in 1922, and the Club, Secret Movie Club’s new downtown location. 

Attendees can purchase limited edition SECRET MOVIE CLUB posters for every screening at all events, which feature new art by contemporary illustrators. Each film is preceded by a brief talk from Secret Movie Club founder Craig Hammill and a trivia question for the audience.

Secret Movie Club


(2001, Sony, dir by Shinichiro Watanabe, 35mm, 115mns) 

Friday, January 10, 2020 @ 11:59p, The Vista

In 2071, earth has been ravaged by catastrophe. Humans have colonized other planets and the universe is a new Wild West. A group of Bounty Hunters travel on the spaceship BeBop in search of quarry and rewards. When a contagion gets released in a truck disaster on Mars, our heroes-Spike, Jet, Faye, Ed, and Ein (a dog with human-grade smarts due to artificial enhancement) go off in search of the culprit and the reward that goes with it. 

“One of the great things with Japanese anime, as with all cinema and art, is how each set of creators imbue the genre with their own personal style and stamp,” said Craig Hammill. “Cowboy Be Bop, as its title itself implies, is a mashup of sci-fi, westerns, Hong Kong action movies, and an improvisatory iconoclastic jazz rhythm that make the viewing experience a total blast and totally singular.”

Secret Movie Club Cowboy Bebop


(1985, Sentai Filmworks, dir by Toyoo Ashida, 80mns) 

Friday, January 17, 2020 @ 7:30p, The Club, 1917 Bay Street, 2nd Floor, LA, CA 90021

The movie centers on Doris Lang, the daughter of a werewolf hunter, who gets bitten by 10,000 year old Count Magnus Lee one night. She then meets a strange vampire hunter, who only goes by the name D, and employs him to take on the long-lost vampire lord and try to help her from becoming a vampire herself.

Vampire Hunter D is one of the earliest examples of Japanese anime that was made explicitly with teenagers and adults more in mind than children,” said Hammill. “Made for the then emerging direct to video market, Vampire Hunter D had a smaller budget than its feature film peers. But in a strange way, this freed up director Toyoo Ashida to make a more exciting, violent, sensual animation. Ashida has gone on the record as saying his intent with the movie was to make something thrilling that tired students could enjoy during study breaks rather than make an anime that further exhausted them. Full of genre mash-ups, amazing art and design, and storytelling, Vampire Hunter D definitely serves as a prototype and torch in the darkness for future directors like Satoshi Kon, who will take anime into ever more complex, adult, shadowy realms.” 


(1995, Lionsgate, dir by Mamoru Oshii, 85mns) 

Saturday, January 18, 2020 @ 11:59p, The Vista:

Often the cyberpunk genre, which would come to full flourish here in the United States with the Wachowski’s The Matrix, can be traced most directly to two Japanese anime parents: 1988’s Akira and 1995’s Ghost in the Shell. Often considered one of the greatest Japanese anime movies of all time, Ghost in the Shell, dives head first into the darker, deeper waters of more adult sci-fi.

It’s 2029 and the human body can be augmented with “smart” prosthetic cybernetics. The most recent innovation, and the most terrifying, is a cyberbrain, which allows humans to now go online/get hooked into the internet, straight through their neural pathways. Our hero, Motoko Kusanagi, is part of an elite squad that fights crime in “New Port City” in Japan. Currently, they are kept busy by an arch criminal known as “The Puppet Master” who appears to have the ability to hack into these “cyberbrains” and get folks to assassinate, kill, commit crimes. As Motoko further explores what’s going on with both the Puppet Master and the innovations in cybernetics, she stumbles across a revelation that goes to the very heart of our philosophical understanding of what makes us unique individuals: what constitutes our “soul”. 

Secret Movie Club Ghost in the Shell


(2006, Sony Pictures Classics, dir by Satoshi Kon, 35mm, 90mns) 

Friday, January 31, 2020 @ 11:59p, The Vista:

If Hayao Miyazaki is synonymous with a kind of all-ages wildly imaginative Japanese anime, then director Satoshi Kon is synonymous with a Japanese anime that dares to go to the very limits of what any kind of cinema can explore in terms of human psychology, fear, desire, imagination. And he does it in the most creative and miraculous of artistic ways.

Paprika is one of his wildest mind-bending creations of all. In the near-future, there is a device called the “DC Mini” which allows Dr. Atsuko Chiba to enter the dreams of her patients (using her alter-ego “Paprika”) to help try to discover the root of their fears, anxieties, and hang ups. But the problem is that the “DC Mini” is still in prototype mode with no restrictions or safety barriers whatsoever. And if it gets into the wrong hands (which of course it does), it allows the thieves to enter dreams for more sinister and nefarious reasons. 


(2001, Sony, dir by Rintaro, 113mns total, 35mm, Japanese with English subtitles) 

Saturday, February 1, 2020 @ 10:45p, The Club

Written by Katsohiro Otomo (writer/director of the classic anime Akira), Metropolis shares much of its DNA with that seminal anime classic including a central character who is rocked to their psychological core by the realization of their “super human” abilities and an impending apocalypse that threatens the entire foundations of a huge city.


(2002, 11 Arts, dir by Satoshi Kon, 82mns, Japanese with English subtitles) 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 @ 8p, The Club

Millennium Actress tells the emotional story (in a decidedly surreal and modernist way) of famous actor Chiyoko Fujiwara, who tells her life story to documentarians and explains she only ever became an actress in the hopes of being recognized by an artist/political rebel she fell in love with as a teenager and never saw again. As Chiyoko tells her story, it becomes hard to tell what’s her real life, what are movie scenes she starred in, and where fiction/reality meet and diverge. 

Special Note: There will be three originally written 3-4 minute monologues performed by three actresses ahead of the screening running a total of 10-12 minutes. 


(1997, GKIDS, dir by Satoshi Kon, 35mm, 81mns) 

Friday, February 21, 2020 @ 11:59p, The Vista

Kon fully commits to an anime that is as rich, dark, and complex as any Scorsese, Kubrick, Lynch, or Bergman movie. But with the added benefit of being able to cinematically represent psychological states of mind in a way that is often impossible in live-action cinema.

“If you want to see anime that absolutely succeeds in expanding the playing field of what cinema can do, come join us for Perfect Blue,” said Hammill.


(2006, Funimation, directed by Mamoru Hosoda, 98mns; English dubbed version)

Saturday, March 14, 2020 @ 10:30a, the Vista

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time tells the story of young teenager Makoto Konno who discovers a magical object in her high school that allows her to leap through time and prevent situations that caused her great embarrassment. This premise, as with all good premises fully explored, deepens into a meditation on wish fulfillment versus reality. Makoto, first using the device for frivolous things, comes to realize that the device has its price. And that she is not the only one using it. . . 


(1988, GKids, directed by Isao Takahata, 90mns; Japanese with English subtitles) 

Saturday, April 4, 2020 @ 10:30a, the Vista

One of the absolute greatest animes ever made, Grave of the Fireflies, directed by Isao Takahata, deals with siblings Seita and Satsuko, who have to rely on each other to survive after they’re separated from their parents during the American fire-bombing of Tokyo in the late stages of World War II.

Tickets can be purchased now.

Secret Movie Club is a group project among the founders and the audience. Audience suggestions are taken and often used. Secret Movie Club aims to celebrate the wonderful experience that comes from watching the world’s greatest movies in great movie theaters with great audiences.

John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, Daniella Pineda, and Alex Hassell Join Netflix’s Live-Action Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop

The main cast is set for Netflix‘s live-action Cowboy Bebop. John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, Daniella Pineda, and Alex Hassell have all been cast in lead roles for the series based on the anime.

Cho will star as Spike Spiegel, a bounty hunter with some style. Spiegel and his partner Jet travel the solar system purusing the most dangerous bounties.

Shakir is Cho’s partner as he’s playing Jet Black, an honest cop who is crushed by a betrayal which forces him to become a bounty hunter.

Fay Valentine will be played by Pineda. The character was cryogenically frozen, has amnesia, and is also a bounty hunter.

Hassell is Vicious who is a notorious hit-man and also Spike Spiegel’s ex-partner and arch-enemy.

Casting continues for the series which has been picked up for 10 episodes. Original anime director Shinichiro Watanabe is consulting on the project while Christopher Yost is writing the first episode and executive producing the series.

Review: Space Dandy

11721369493_f26faa7b11_oIf you like anime you’re going to like this anime. If you don’t like anime you’re going to like this one. From Studio Bones and director Shinichiro Watanabe we have been given the goldmine that is Space Dandy. The series began in 2014, surprisingly in America before Japan, and was an instant hit. It’s a bit crude in places but also has the same deep sentiments that we gain from works like Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo. With an omnipresent voice that narrates all of the happenings with and around Dandy we are immediately kicked in the face with these storylines and plot that would probably never work in a different anime.

The story is literally about a Space Dandy, who, and I quote, is a dandy guy in space. What more could you want? It’s also basically an episodic anime with an overarching story line that we, as the audience, always are wondering where it is going to take us. But ultimately each episode is pretty fun and a standalone reason to try and sit down and watch this show. Also we have restaurants in this show called Breasturants, otherwise known as BooBies, which dear lord is probably a play on Hooters, or something. But anyway we have our three characters we are most faced with and then the other plot which an empire is trying to get their hands own our hero, because he may be the key to winning a galactic war.

So as said above we have Space Dandy, our dandy guy, and man is he just that. He is the best character to take away from probably this entire last new anime season. He’s on the hunt for new aliens to try and make a living off of, but ends up in high stakes shenanigans all the time. Dandy loves women and the booty, which he proclaims quite often. If he could live off the food at BooBies he would, but that’s just unrealistic. Still he has a sense of what is wrong and right while keeping a light sense of attitude towards most situations. While he can be entirely selfish he also usually ends up doing the right thing because deep down he is just a good guy. The big secret around him is also very cool and well done, which is another reason to sit down and try this out.

QT is Dandy’s second in command, an older model robot, and probably the most intelligent of the three mains we have. Shown to be older in model he is otherwise shown to be able to feel and process emotions like a human would. This makes it interesting as we have a robot who can love and be annoyed by things around him, and it makes for good storytelling as well as character development.

Meow is the unfortunate Betelgeusian that meets our heroes in the very first episode through a series of events. A bit of a pervert he is our otaku-esque character with very little want or care of pleasing his captain. Also he’s basically a cat. So he acts like one in certain situations despite a hatred of being called one. Everyone wonders why he left his home planet when he is such a homebody, basically, already, and it’s found that he didn’t want to end up in a mundane never ending life of boredom, which makes him quite endearing. He loves traveling with Dandy and QT, finding the excitement he couldn’t at home.

Then we have a whole slew of other characters that are technically side characters but are still important to the story plot overall and how it progress our main characters and forces them into situations. I won’t go into them because there are a lot of them, but I mean if you sit and decide you’re interested in the show you’ll get to meet them anyway.

The animation in this is… Just splendid. Every now and then it changes to a different style that is just as equally interesting as the plot. Each character is unique and independent, from Dandy’s pompadour to Dr. Gel’s gorilla like body. Also in the same style as Gurren Lagann it is big and encompassing to the point of being ridiculous. Yet we love it, we can’t help but want Dandy to go through another monologue where he just goes on about surfing and how life is just like that. Also it’s bright and shows exactly what we would want space to be like in that situation, people with hair that sparkles like the stars themselves or spaceships painted with Hawaiian shirt patterns. I cannot help but feel that this animation is the beginning much more top notch animation we’ll see in the future, especially from Studio Bones.

I want to talk about the dub before I go into the soundtrack. There is rarely a time that I will say watch the dub, but watch the dub dear lord it is golden. And in all technicality the dub for once is the original due to it airing in America before it did in Japan. For one Ian Sinclair is a perfect Dandy, hitting just that right amount of humor when it’s needed that you can’t help but want him to keep going. Colleen Clinkenbeard is also in the series which also ups how good this dub is to the point I want to call it pure perfection and put it on a shelf next to Cowboy Bebop forever. I have heard excerpts of the Japanese cast and I just prefer the English this time. It just feels far superior by simple matters of casting and the performance. But seriously just do it for Sinclair’s Dandy, it’s so worth it, just like you’d watch Bebop for Steve Blum. I cannot stress enough how rare it is that I will recommend a dub over the Japanese, so please if you take anything away from this and decide you want to check it out go and watch this version.

Now we can talk about the soundtrack. It’s so nice and uppity that you can’t help but feel good when the opening theme Viva Namida by Yasuyuki Okamura, which has its swoon worthy vocals that you can’t help but feel like yes this is worth my next twenty-four hours instead of sleeping before class. Also to give you an even bigger reason to watch the dub, we have episodes where the characters sing, and Sinclair as well as the rest of the cast actually sang the songs. They actually took the time to record these songs and make it fit the characters they were portraying. They don’t have Dandy sing in a perfect coo, rather his voice cracks when he sings higher notes, it fluxgates between octaves when he struggles to get that lyric out. It’s glorious. The mixture of music and dialogue was done very well that I didn’t struggle to hear or interpret what was going on.

I do have issues with this show. It isn’t the pure perfection I have built it up to be so far. Actually there is that issue of it being an episodic show. A lot of the episodes are throwaway ones that honestly you could skip a lot of. We have an interesting overarching plot that barely gets touched on because of hijinks that could be left to the side instead. That isn’t overtly bad as we’ve seen it well executed in Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, but we also want to just get to the point of what is going on. And we do get to it… Eventually. No spoilers of course, but still it just feels like it takes a while to really get to what we wanted. While each episode is unique and good I don’t feel that it works well to the degree it wants to.

Ultimately though,

Space Dandy: 8/10