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"I suppose that in the whole wide world there must be some people who look forward to seeing one of my live-action films. Maybe on the order of a few thousand—or, if a more severe view is taken, perhaps only around a few hundred. If we then narrow it still further—to only those willing to pay money to see them—we many be down to the double digits."

—Mamoru Oshii, 1993

Matt, thank you very much for this review, especially as it was believed by many for a while that TACHIGUISHI RETSUDEN was a hoax (not entirely outside the realm of the improbable, as Oshii has been associated over the years with phantom or even deliberately misdirected projects). Oshii used to reject the idea that anime had anything to teach live-action—although his anime works seemed to avoid the odd habit in the first three live-action films of frames dropped out constantly like a tipsy peasant sowing grain. Since CG came to rewrite the world, I suppose the fierceness of the point may have dissapated. Anyway, it's still true that only in an Oshii film will the elderly clerk at a cheap hotel offer to set you up with a call girl or Magma Taishi—your choice.

It occurs to me I would have donned blackface myself to attend the premiere, so the debate going on one flight up is largely moot. Anyway, what's interesting about TACHIGUISHI RETSUDEN is that it is in some ways a revival of Oshii's first feature-length live action film, 1987's THE RED SPECTACLES; Sabu (known as "Medium-Hot," presumably for his curry) and "Hamburger" Tetsu are originally from this film.

THE RED SPECTACLES was, in fact, itself a cross between TAMPOPO and JIN-ROH; the film begins with rogue Kerberos cops in a tragic shootout, but quickly takes a turn for the absurdist; in this fascist future Tokyo, we learn that soba stalls have been driven underground, as they encourage the assembly of politically unreliable elements.

It's remarkable how Oshii has been able to play his lingering vision of the armored "Panzer Cops" in every mood from farcical to ice-cold. One of the tragic turning points of anime was when they didn't accept his vision for the third LUPIN III movie; stylistically, the series never really recovered.

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