Warau-Iemon(The Movie)

嗤う伊右衛門 [DVD]
嗤う伊右衛門 [DVD]

This is the poster from the movie “Warau-Iemon” by the director Ninagawa Yukio. 

People always complain about movies that are based on their favorite novels.

They always say “The bloody movie was so different from the novel!!” They say “That actor/actress didn’t fit the image of that character!” or “Why did they change the important words from the novel?”

They always think “If a good novel was made into a movie just like the original story, then it also would be a good movie.”

I used to think similar things but recently I found out that I was wrong.

The story in this movie is the same as in the novel. There isn’t anything that Ninagawa added or omitted. All of the episodes, the words that the characters speak and the setting of the story is the same as in the novel.

Also, the actors were good. Karasawa Toshiaki and Koyuki played Iemon and Iwa. Kagawa Teruyuki played Mataichi. They are very good actors and perfectly fit the characters. The other actors were also skilled.

However, this movie is very boring.

It’s probably due to the script and the directing . 

Making a movie be the same as a good novel will not necessarily make a good movie. It is because the techniques of making a good novel completely differ from the techniques of making a good movie.

A novel includes on enormous amount of information, and that a movie is not able to incorporate everything. In novels, writers can deeply describe the feelings of characters in word. They can write inner descriptions which are not expressed on the surface. This is impossible in a movie. A director of movie has to express things another way.

My friend whose job is translation said, “Our job is not limited to translating words into another language according to a dictionary. We need to understand what the writer meant and thought and use the best phrase we can, to expresses the original meaning, as much as possible. Word-for-word translation is just a poor duplicate.”

I think that what she said is also applicable to a drama based on a novel. This “Warau-Iemon” by Ninagawa is just a literal translation of the novel. It appears that Ninagawa just simply changed the episodes in the novel into a motion picture. I think it’s a poor copy.

Also, the music was bad. Not that the music itself is not so bad, but director’s use of it was awfully tasteless. However, It’s well known by many that Ninagawa Yukio has no sense of music.

There is one thing that Ninagawa added in the movie. He showed the scene in which Iwa died, which Kyougoku didn’t describe.

If I heard about the scene without watching the actual movie, I would think that it’s nice because it probably made the story easy to understand.

I was wrong again. When I watched the movie, I understood the reason why Kyougoku didn’t wrote the scene.

In the movie, Iwa appeared where Iemon was, and expressed her feeling for him. The two threw themselves into each other’s arms, then Iwa died while being held by Iemon. He then swore, “You won’t be alone for long.” 

The scene was too sentimental and totally made the movie into a cheap soap opera.

The movie’s subheading was “eternal love.” Of course, the sincere love between Iemon and Iwa was an important theme of the story, but emphasizing it   too much makes me disgusted.

Everything about this movie is deadly tacky.

 However, Kagawa, who played Mataichi, was excellent. He is a very talented actor. I’m a fan of his.

Although there are also other actors who played Mataichi in other movies or TV dramas, Kagawa is the best.

Kagawa can saylong and complicated lines very fluently. He also can express deep feeling with very few words.

 Moreover, Mataichi’s appearance in this movie is very dirty and he really looks like a beggar. I love this. One of the attractive points of this character is that Mataichi is “an ongyo(御行)” that was a beggar monk in the Edo period. He is on the lowest level of the society.

Kagawa’s Mataichi was perfect. I have to recognize Ninagawa’s sense of good acting  at least.


Warau(laughing) Iemon (1997)

嗤う伊右衛門 (中公文庫)
嗤う伊右衛門 (中公文庫)
This is a book by Kyogoku Natsuhiko. It’s from his series of rewritten traditional Japanese stories.
“Warau Iemon” is the written version of “Yotsuya Kaidan”.

Yotsuya Kaidan is the most famous Japanese ghost story and was written in 1825 by Tsuruya Nanboku IV as a kabuki play. The original title was “Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan.”
It’s a tale of betrayal, murder and ghostly revenge.

Iemon, a samurai from Enya-han (塩治藩Enya-fief) ,and Oiwa, a daughter of the Tamiya family, were a married couple. Although Iemon had been passionate with her before they got married, he became tired of her because she was weak due to illness.
Oume, a granddaughter of a well-to-do neighbor called Itou Kihei, was in love with Iemon. Oume and Kihei poisoned Oiwa disguising it as medicine. However the poison did not kill her, but instead disfigured her, causing her hair to fall out and her left eye to droop. Seeing Oiwa’s disfigurement, Iemon began to hate her and he was lured toward the Itou family’s wealth and young Oume. Iemon and Kihei conspired to kill Oiwa.
Iemon killed Oiwa and flung her body into a nearby river.
Iemon planned his new marriage. On his wedding day to his new bride Oume, Iemon lifted her veil to find Oiwa’s disfigured face. Horrified, he thinks it’s a ghost and beheads her and discovers that he has in fact killed Oume. He also killed Kihei mistaking him as the ghost too.
After that, everywhere he goes, he sees the disfigured face. Oiwa’s ghost manages to kill all of the conspirators with Iemon. In the end, Iemon gets killed by his brother-in-law whom he had betrayed before.

This is the original story “Yotsuya Kaidan” by Tsuruya Nanboku.
There is a Japanese word “Iroaku(色悪).” It’s one of the kabuki terms which means a villain who has a handsome face.
Iemon is typical “Iroaku.” If you refer to the word in the dictionary, you will find that Iemon is written as an example in the difinition of Iroaku.

Kyogoku Natsuhiko transformed this traditional character and made a new “Yotsuya Kaidan”.
Iemon, in the story by Kyogoku, is a serious, honest and sincere man. He is silent and never laughs.
Oiwa, who was a powerless and obedient character in the traditional story, is changed into a courageous and reasonable character that is strong willed.
Oiwa’s face (it is a trademark of Oiwa) has been disfigured at the beginning of the story because of disease. Oiwa was a beautiful woman, but after her disease, it became difficult for her to find a husband. If she couldn’t find someone, the Tamiya family would lose its status. Oiwa thought that she didn’t need a husband and the Tamiya family should just accept it. However, her father asked a man called “Komatakuguri no Mataichi” whose job was to solve problem or come to a private settlement using his skill in speech and elocution, to find the husband. The man who Mataichi introduced was Iemon, an unemployed ronin. In spite of her disfigured face, Iemon decided to marry her to help the Tamiya family. Knowing his sincerity, Oiwa got married with him. Iemon respected her strong will. They were attracted to each other. They never spoke words of love, but it is clearly apparent to the reader that it is true love.
The two characters, Iemon and Oiwa in the Kyougoku version, are virtuous and they both wish for their partner’s happiness.
However, this story is a tragedy and all the characters die at the end of the story in the same way as the traditional Yotsuya Kaidan.
There aren’t any evil characters in the story by Kyougoku other than Itou Kihei. Kihei is definitely an evil character. Although he is cruel and killed some of his enemies all he did to iemon and Oiwa was to tell lies. He made Oiwa believe that divorce was the only way to make Iemon happy. So Oiwa decided to get divorced although Iemon opposed this. Iemon thought that she hated him so much that she would never change her mind. Despairing, he accepted her decision, and got married to Oume instead, following Kihei’s advice. Oume became pregnant. The baby was Kihei’s. In this story, she is Kihei’s secret lover. Kihei didn’t want to marry her because she is a daughter of a merchant and he was a samurai. So he shifted the responsibility of her and the baby onto Iemon.
Oume is not an evil character. However, she didn’t tell Iemon and Oiwa that he had lied. She is an unhappy and pitiful woman. Although she hated Kihei, she couldn’t escape from him. So she married Iemon to get away.
The other characters like Naosuke and Takuetsu, who were conspirators with Iemon in the traditional story, are not bad either. Their only fault was telling Oiwa the truth. They told her the truth because they thought it would be good for her.
It is interesting that the truth is more harmful than the lie in this story. When Oiwa believed Kihei’s lie, she was happy because she could believe that Iemon was happy. However, when Naosuke and Takuetsu told her the truth, this drove her mad. Oiwa disappeared and a rumor that she was ghost was spread around Edo. Iemon too became possessed by madness. When he became possessed by madness, Iemon laughed for the first time.
The story ends with some terrible murders and a miserable death.
Oiwa killed Takuetsu, Oume killed her baby, Kihei killed Naosuke and Iemon killed Oume and Kihei. All the main character eventually died.
In the end, Iemon got inside a chest in which he had hidden Oiwa’s dead body, and he let many snakes and mice bite him to death. Holding Oiwa’s dead body, Iemon’s dead face was smiling.

This is the synopsis of Warau(laughing) Iemon.
No ghosts appear in the story. Instead, the story tells how the ghost story was born. It’s a strange, odd, sad, dreary and beautiful human drama. I really love it.

One or two things about Humi Yoshinaga

大奥 (第1巻) (JETS COMICS (4301))
大奥 (第1巻) (JETS COMICS (4301))
Humi Yoshinaga came out as a “Boy’s Love” writer at first.
 “Boy’s Love” (abbreviated as “BL”) is Japanese English from Japanese word “Shonen-ai 少年愛” was directly transposed to English. It’s a genre of novels or mangas in Japan (recently, in other countries also) for women, that focus on homosexuality or homoromantic male relationships, usually created by female authors.
She was also a fanfiction writer.
She had written fan fiction manga and sold her self-published books on the Comic Market, before she debuted in a comic magazine from major publishing company.
Do you remember that I told that I had written fan fiction and sold the books on the Comic Market?  I had been in the same place as her in the hall of the Comic Market at that time.
However, when I was doing the fanfiction work, she was already a popular and super-major  writer, who had occupied a special place in the Comic Market. I remember that some otaku friends or acquaintances, who were selling books in the booth next to me (each participant of the Comic Market is given a booth for selling their books), sometimes went to Humi Yoshinaga’s booth to buy her books.
I was not her fan yet and didn’t buy her books at the time. When I became her fan, after I quit fanfiction work and stopped joining the Comic Market, I regretted that I hadn’t bought her books.
Humi Yoshinaga was writing not only a fan fiction but her original stories since those days. The high level quality of her work was very famous. So, she had already gained a large otaku audience when she debuted.
Actually, there are many writers who have started their careers like her. It’s because the Comic Market had become an important scout place for publishing companies.
However, many of those writers couldn’t get popularity after they debuted. Almost of them are not able to write good stories except fanfiction or Boy’s Love.
Humi Yoshinaga was different from them. She wrote good stories in various genres and gained a wider audience.
Now she is writing a historical Si-Fi “Oo-oku大奥.”
“Oo-oku” was one section of the Edo(old Tokyo) castle and the place in which shogun, the shogun’s mother, wife, and concubines resided and no male adults could come except for the Shogun.
It was rumored that there were several thousands of women in the Oo-oku.
TV dramas and movies about this historical place have been made until now, but Humi Yoshinaga’s “Oo-oku” is different from the others.
In her Oo-oku, Men and women have been reversed. The Shogun is a woman and there were several thousands of men in the Oo-oku. This manga won the forth of Sense of Gender Awards in 2006.
The story was very interesting. The 5 volumes have been published.
The English version has been published. I want to read them too.

Reading “Antique bakery,” You might notice that Yoshinaga is epicurean.
She also wrote a gourmet guide book. In the book, She told, “I think about eating almost all of the time except for when I’m sleeping and working.”
There is a page in the end of the 2nd volume “Antique bakery,” Tachibana makes pasta and salad. According to the dialog, you can make a very delicious mentaiko-pasta and salad with cucumber and tomato. Because of it, I thought that she is really gourmet.

Antique review 2

Antique Bakery Volume 1Antique Bakery Volume 1
販売元:Digital Manga Publishing

A drama develops around these four men and the customers at Antique Bakery.

However, I won’t tell the story in detail.
If you had read this book, it’s meaningless to tell the story, and if you not, I want you to read the book yourself.
Humi Yoshinaga ‘s storytelling is very dexterous, and I’m absolutely certain that you will enjoy it.
(Regarding “Warau Iemon”, I wrote about the plot-line in detail story in order to practice my English writing, but when I upload this article to a website, I should write in a different way. It wille be a more streamlined version.)

In this article, I’d like to write about the “Antique” movie and compare it with the original manga.
The Antique movie was released on November 13, 2008. The movie drew more than 1 million moviegoers within its first two weeks of release, making it one of the most successful Korean movies ever made.
The difecter, Min Gyu Dong said in an interview that he was atracted to the story as soon as he read i. He had since been hoping to adapt it into a movie.
It took a long time to find actors who could play characters in the manga well. He appointed Joo Ji Hoon and Kim Jae Wok after all.


The movie was also released in Japan in April, 2009.
Of course, I went to watch it immediately.
Watching the movie, I thought that it was very faithfull to the original manga, and it was not a mere copy (like the “Warau Iemon” movie) but a well elaborated movie.
Of course, it is impossible to make a four volume manga series into a standard length film, without changing anything. Humi Yoshinaga’s mangas always have a large amount of information. In ghe original manga, there are many ebisodes. But, due to time constrains they were not included in the movie.
Therefore, the movie focused the story about the two main character, Tachibana and Ono. Most of the episodes about Chikage, Eiji and the costumers for Antique were cut. It that These episodes are so nice that it was little bit of a shame that they were cut, but it was unavoidable.
One of the charms of the manga is that the cakes in the story look very delicious. Why do the cakes look so delicious? I think it is because of Yoshinaga’s drawings and also the dialogs of the characters, especially Tachibana’s salestalk. Yoshinaga writes a lot of dialogs about the cakes and it make the readers imagine how nice they are.
However, if these dialogs had been taken into the scenario of the movie, the movie might have been very redundant and boring.
The directer showed a scene in which many cakes were made during a montage with many short cuts of beautiful cakes speedily. These techniques succeeded in expressing the tastiness of the cakes to the audience.

My favorite character in the manga is the patissier, Ono. In the movie, he was given a Korean name, Son Woo.
He is a character with a very complicated attractiveness. In his private life, he is demonically charming gay (and playboy). However, at the work, he is a talented patissier, stoically working professionall, andis a good teacher for Eiji.
Before watching it, I was worried about what character he became in the movie, but Kim Jae Wok, who played Son Woo., was perfect. He performed this complicated role splendidly.

However, Son Woo is not necessarily the same as Ono. He is younger and more sensitive than Ono.
The difference could be seen clearly in the headhunting episode with Jean Baptiste.
Jean Baptiste is chef and owner of a famous patisserie in France and Ono’s ex-boyfriend. He tried to headhunt Ono as chef patissier of a branch of his store, with a large salary.
Tachibana pretends to be calm as opposed to Eiji and Chikage who were not calm at all. In fact, Tachibana was panicing inside. He ran around trying to raise money, but he was no match for Jean. Although he tried to find a patissier who could replace Ono, he couldn’t find anybody as good as Ono. Moreover, Ono seemed like he was already getting back with Jean.
As a last resort, Tachibana asked Ono;
“If I said I’d sleep with you, would you stay at our store?”
This is an episode showing how important the store is for Tachibana. He was so desperate that he made such a offer in spite of homophobia.
The incidents in the manga and the movie are almost the same, however, the descriptions of emotions of Ono and Son Woo are delicately different.
In the original story, when Tachibana asked him, Ono laughed and said that he had never intended to leave the store from the beginning.
In the movie, Son Woo was wounded emotionally since Jin Hyuk(Tachibana’s name in the movie) made such a offer that he didn’t want to do. He seems to have a stronger feeling for Jin Hyuk than Ono to Tachibana.
This delicate difference was very interesting to me. Son Woo is my favorite too.

This movie is enjoyable for Yumi Yoshinaga fans and also those who are not a fan.
I recommend it strongly.

(Antique review end)