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Survive Style 5+ – UK R2 (Manga Entertainment) vs Japan R2 (Geneon)
2nd May 2006

Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
Rating/Certificate: UK TBA
Region: 2
DVD Release Date: 29th May 2006
Run Time: 120 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Anamorphic: Yes
Colour: Yes
Video Signal: PAL
Disc Type: Single Sided, Dual Layer
Genre: Drama
Soundtrack: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Japanese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese, DTS 5.1 Japanese
Subtitles: English
Extra Features: Making of Featurette, Manga Trailer Reel, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Gen Sekiguchi
Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Reika Hashimoto, Hiroshi Abe, Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, Vinnie Jones

Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
Rating/Certificate: Japan PG-12
Region: 2
DVD Release Date: 3rd March 2005
Run Time: 120 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Anamorphic: Yes
Colour: Yes
Video Signal: NTSC
Disc Type: Single Sided, Dual Layer
Genre: Comedy
Soundtrack: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese, DTS 5.1 Japanese
Subtitles: English
Extra Features: Making of Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Interviews, Conversation with Writer and Director, Premiere Footage, Festival Footage, Commercial Selection, Cast and Staff Profiles with selected Mini Interviews, Trailer and TV Spots
Easter Egg: No
Director: Gen Sekiguchi
Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Reika Hashimoto, Hiroshi Abe, Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, Vinnie Jones


What do you get when the lives of hopelessly desperate characters, ranging from a temperamental zombie wife to a group of homo-erotic thieves, begin to leave a colossal impact on one another? One of the most mental films to emerge from the Far East of course. Acclaimed ad-filmmakers, Taku Tada and Gen Sekiguchi, try their luck at the independent cinema scene, after the launch of their own production company. Survive Style 5+ is the team’s debut title, which has generated a buzz on a global scale after being screened at major film festivals.

Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
Feature
Survive Style 5+ has been structured to illustrate four seemingly separate tales of intoxicating proportions, which have been linked by an aggressively philosophical British assassin. Ichi the Killer’s Tadanobu Asano headlines the film as a homicidal husband trying to bury his recently murdered wife (played by the lovely Spanish-Japanese actress, Reika Hashimoto). Unfortunately for him, she is reluctant to stay dead and is determined to annihilate him using a mixture of wire-fu, sharp objects and exploding limbs.

Next we have a failing advertising executive, who is unlucky in her profession and relationship with a testosterone-pumped celebrity hypnotist. To maintain her sanity, she amuses herself with far-fetched commercial ideas, whilst simultaneously plotting to assassinate her boyfriend.

Story number three consists of a middle-aged family man, who falls victim to unfinished hypnosis. His family are unable to reverse the process and scientists insist on keeping him in his current state for future research.

The final story involves three young thieves and their search for riches, amusement and homosexual tendencies, as they target the houses and saunas around town.

All of these people will encounter Jimmy Funky Knife (played by Vinnie Jones), a British hitman who is determined to question everyone’s function in life. If unable to provide a satisfactory answer, it is very likely he will find one for them.

Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
Survive Style 5+ instantly hits the viewer with its high-caffeine rush, employing vivid pastel shaded colours and trigger-happy style editing. The world that has been fabricated is truly abstract and non-linear, where the most bizarre activities are considered daily routines by its equally peculiar citizens. As a result, the film generates a wealth of laugh-out-loud characters, from a family head-banging to rock music ( Wayne’s World style) to an elementary school teacher who casually criticises her pupils’ artworks in the harshest manner. Even veteran actor Sonny Chiba takes time out to appear in an amusing cameo, as the head of an advertising agency who allows his meetings to be interrupted by trivial phone calls from his wife.

Despite appearing erratic and nonsensical, the film’s underlying themes are a profound reflection of regular modern day crises. The characters all deal with their own corporate or sociological battlers; whether it is discrimination, marital issues or sexism, everyone tries to survive in their own unique way. Perhaps the strongest parallel is with the advertising executive, who hisses with glee at her unconventional yet witty commercial scopes, only to have them rejected by the board. As previously mentioned, Tada and Sekiguchi know all about filming adverts, so this particular story is probably communicated on a personal level. Comparisons with Takashi Miike are going to be inevitable, especially as the director has executed the film in a similarly obscure fashion. It is this indirect approach to filmmaking that may leave western audiences cold, if they are not accustomed to independent Far Eastern cinema. However, those who cherish the works of these celluloid extremists should be able to welcome Survive Style 5+ with open arms. Sekiguchi has allowed the audience to decipher specific clues at their discretion; this two hour puzzle certainly challenges to viewer to do a little thinking although the bulk of the storyline does actually make sense – more or less.

Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
The performances are just as vibrant as the film’s colourful décor. Interestingly, a lot of the co-stars make a significant contribution to the never-ending zaniness. It is the fact that everyone says these unbelievable lines (whilst keeping a straight face), which raises a few eyebrows and smiles. Even those who rarely open their mouths, namely Tadanobu Asano and Reika Hashimoto, communicate on an explicit level thanks to their remarkable use of facial expressions and body language. However the actor most people will be paying attention to is Vinnie Jones – what the hell is a foul-mouthed Englishman doing in a Japanese movie? Say what you like about Mr Jones but I find him to be a top class entertainer. No matter what movie he is in, Vinnie always manages to make me laugh thanks to his dry British attitude and aggressive monologues. His explosive personality leaves an imprint in this film and I sincerely doubt that Survive Style 5+ would have been the same in his absence.

A lot of focus is directed towards the aesthetics, which appears to be a marriage of carefully selected set pieces and delicately balanced cinematography. Everything is so engulfed in filters and lighting that the locations look undeniably artificial and un-Japanese. Survive Style 5+’s domain is not quite anime but certainly resembles an extravagant painting. Add a trendy soundtrack, comprising of gruesome jazz, contemporary punk and sophisticated rhythm and base, and the net result is one of the most oddball yet compatible hybrids ever to emerge from the Far East.

Video
Manga Entertainment have presented Survive Style 5+ in an anamorphic widescreen format, maintaining an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Regrettably, this appears to be an NTSC to PAL transfer and exhibits the familiar artefacts, which are detrimental to one’s viewing experience. There is noticeable trailing, especially once random objects, people and body parts begin to fly all over the place. Moreover, a lot of the transfer’s flaws originate due to the source of the film’s beauty. The pallet is so diverse that it employs a wide range of luminous shades, ranging from glossy reds and oranges to exquisite sky-blues. Survive Style 5+ is basically one huge spectrum and is not shy to exploit all the colours of the ‘bow. Subsequently, the transfer is vulnerable to extensive noise build-up, which is highly evident during areas of consistent colours. What should be a lovely clear sky or a beautifully draped background is stained by abrupt transitions, producing a slightly blocky picture. Furthermore, there are instances of smearing – quite often the characters’ faces are penetrated by outside colours, which have somehow managed to escape from their original boundaries. There is also a little edge-enhancement on the go, to add to the list of digital misrepresentations.

Aside from the aforementioned issues, the rest of the picture is pretty much in tiptop condition. Detail levels are reasonably sharp, allowing facial features, fabric textures and background compositions to be detected with admirable clarity. Even despite the intentionally oversaturated colour scheme, skin tones remain intact but are hardly a natural representation. The contrast is well balanced and the black levels are graciously deep and nourishing. However, a little squinting may be required in order to distinguish certain shadow details but they remain perceptible nevertheless.

Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
UK Region 2 (Manga Entertainment)


Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
Japan Region 2 (Geneon)


Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
UK Region 2 (Manga Entertainment)


Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
Japan Region 2 (Geneon)


Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
UK Region 2 (Manga Entertainment)


Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
Japan Region 2 (Geneon)


Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
UK Region 2 (Manga Entertainment)


Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
Japan Region 2 (Geneon)


Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
UK Region 2 (Manga Entertainment)


Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
Japan Region 2 (Geneon)


Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
UK Region 2 (Manga Entertainment)


Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
Japan Region 2 (Geneon)


The Geneon disc is almost a carbon copy of its UK counterpart in terms of video transfer; any differences are marginal at best. It does appear to be fractionally cropped at the bottom and is a tad softer, not to mention a heavier colour scheme that is best exemplified by the pinkish tinge on the characters’ skins. In other words, Manga’s pallet appears to be muted in favour of a more authentic look. As previously mentioned however, the characteristics of the video transfers are far too similar to cause major concern – both prints suffer from identical flaws. In fact, the Japanese transfer is interlaced so the viewer will have to endure ghosting and combing regardless of which disc they purchase.

Audio
Manga have provided three Japanese soundtracks in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. There is little to differentiate between the two surround options; the DTS mix offers the same qualities as its Dolby rival if the volume is cranked up a notch or two. Both are surprisingly disappointing for what should be state of the art audio. The dialogue is kept centrally focused and the rears literally stay silent until the more action-heavy scenes come into play. Even then, there is little in the way of sophisticated directional effects. Where the audio reveals any glimpse of potential is during its clever handling of the film’s wonderful array of music – separating out individual instruments and varying the volume to suit the chapter. The LFE is incredibly distinct and punctual; neighbours may think that there is a party happening every time Survive Style 5+ is played. The 2.0 option is obviously not as fulfilling, due to the absence of a proper base layer. However the dialogue exhibits a subtle reverb on the rear channels, which is not presented on either Dolby or DTS 5.1 option.

Geneon also have a Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack but drop the 2.0 option in favour of a full-rate DTS mix (Manga’s is half-rate only), although it was a wasted effort to dedicate extra disc space to what should have been superior audio. The rears are even more neglected than the Manga disc, even during the musical interludes. Everything sure sounds nice and clear but there is little in terms of surround exploitation. Whilst the LFE exhibits the same level of punch as the UK disc, neither serve as showcase material for the perfect home cinema experience.

Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
UK Region 2 (Manga Entertainment)


Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
Japan Region 2 (Geneon)


The English subtitles vary between the two releases, especially during Vinnie Jones’ scenes. His character speaks English and an assistant translates the dialogue into Japanese. These conversations are fully subtitled on the Geneon disc but Manga have chosen to leave them un-subtitled. In a way, it becomes slightly confusing trying to catch what Jones is trying to say when a Japanese translator is ranting at the same time. This is where the subtitles on the Geneon disc are a huge aid. The converse effect is that the subtitles do not match what Vinnie Jones is saying, at least not word for word, so the authenticity of translation is debateable. In addition, Manga’s subtitles tend to use British slang, whereas Geneon are a bit more generic.

Extras
Manga have crammed all supplements on a single disc. The main extra is a 28m making of featurette, which provides a wealth of behind the scenes footage with brief director and cast interviews being played in the background, almost like an audio commentary. Even Vinnie Jones is asked to express his function in life and what drew him to this project. In addition, it is interesting to see how the crew reacted to some of the more embarrassing moments. Highlights include actor Jai West’s inability to keep his towel wrapped around him – luckily all male nudity is pixelated in order to comply with Japanese censorship laws.

As usual, there is also a 6m30s trailer reel called Manga Attacks, which showcases new and upcoming anime releases from Manga Entertainment. They have also provided some head-banging metal music to accompany these clips.

Lastly, Manga finish things off with a trailer. English subtitles are provided where required and are of excellent quality.

Unlike Manga, Geneon have provided an additional disc to cater for the supplementary materials. The first disc contains a trailer and TV spot selection and cast and staff profiles, where certain actors also provide an additional mini interview.

The second disc houses the same making of featurette, as on the Manga disc.

Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
Next there are four deleted scenes. The first is an extended introduction of the hypnotist’s live show. The rest consist of the three thieves cruising around town, amusing themselves after breaking an entry and playing games. It seems that these were correctly removed, in order maintain suitable pacing and also to allocate the right amount of time per story.

A 30m conversation with writer Taku Tada and director Gen Sekiguchi follows next. The two sit around a table and appear to plenty to discuss and laugh about.

On a similar note, there are a further four interviews with Tadanobu Asano, Reika Hashimoto, Hiroshi Abe and Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, averaging around 6m each.

What Japanese DVD would be complete without a little premiere footage? The cast and director face around 11m worth of questions from the speaker and audience.

Survive Style 5+ in International Film Festival is a 13m featurette with footage from the Locarno Film Festival. A pre-recorded conversation between Taku Tada and Gen Sekiguchi is played over the background. The footage main consists of the two filmmakers strolling around the festival grounds and being approached by eager fans.

To finishing things off, there is a commercial selection, which has been divided into two categories – Goo and Fuji Xerox – both of which contain four commercials. Goo appears to be a Japanese movie website and these adverts contain clips from Survive Style 5+ with separate actors’ mouths being superimposed over the original actors’ mouths. One can only guess that Taku Tada and Gen Sekiguchi were involved in the Fuji Xerox adverts. Unless I am mistaken, they appear to have Tadanobu Asano in them.

The Geneon supplements are lacking English subtitles and the menus are insanely difficult to navigate, unless you understand Japanese.

Survive Style 5+ Comparison Review
Overall
Survive Style 5 is an ecstasy of oil-drenched colours and positively swank melodies, which is likely to dilate your pupils and retune your eardrums to a whole new frequency. Its unprecedented grasp of organised insanity and profoundly absurd characters is psychedelic to say the least. However, the film is ultimately a stark reminder of the daily prejudices that people have to face – a touching lesson illustrated in a genuinely comic manner. Taku Tada and Gen Sekiguchi have come a long way from their ad-filmmaking origins and have left a formidable footprint with their debut title. Purely on the basis of their much deserved merit, any future titles cannot arrive too soon.

For western audiences, the Manga disc is more preferable with its subtitled supplements (although there are not that many), slightly sharper audio and improved video transfer, despite being yet another NTSC to PAL conversion. Interestingly, the Japanese disc appears to be interlaced and suffers from the same ghosting and combing issues. In all honesty, the audio/visual differences are subtle but the UK has the edge nevertheless. Please be aware that the subtitles are different for both releases but I personally prefer the Japanese translations, as they are the most thorough, but this is pending on which are the most accurate.

UK Region 2
Japan Region 2
Film:99
Video:66
Audio:66
Extras:510
Overall:87


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