Actor Spotlight: Ko Shibasaki

Ko Shibasaki is one of those actors you will see often in Japanese movies, but but you could be forgiven for not noticing it at first. The woman has a chameleon quality that blends into the role, the movie and the director’s vision. In a word, she is superb.

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This is how many fans in the west first encountered her, as sexy, deadly Mitsuko in Battle Royale.  Tokyo born Yukie Yamamura started her acting and singing career at 14, changing her name to that of her favourite manga character. It was Battle Royale that propelled her to starring roles on TV and in movies.

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In Chugashin Ari (One Missed Call) she played Yumi, whose friend Natsumi dies after receiving a mysterious voice message of herself screaming in terror in two days’ time. She was paired with the brilliant actor Shinichi Tsutsumi for the first time as the detective who helps her get to the bottom of the mystery.

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In Maison de Himiko, Ko played Saori, a girl estranged from her father, who ends up at a nursing home for gay men when she goes with her father’s lover, Haruhiko, to see him before he dies. Haruhiko is played by Shinobi’s Jo Odagiri. A touching and beautiful story of the struggle to accept and be accepted for your differences, and one of Ko and Joe’s best performances.

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In Shinji Higuchi‘s Nihon Chinbotsu (Japan Sinks) she was somewhat overshadowed by the dazzling CGI, but still managed to stand out as rescue worker Reiko, who helps care for a child orphaned by the disaster (Mayuko Fukuda from L Change the World) and falls tenderly in love with submersible pilot Toshio (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi). They provide the sense of humanity underlying the big splashy special effects.

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She looks magnificent in the period drama Dororo, where she plays the title role of a girl raised as a boy, an artful thief who joins with demon hunter Hyakkimaru to retrieve parts of his body that will make him human again.

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In Maiko Haaan!!! she plays Fujiko, who is dumped by her boyfriend for a glamorous geisha. She starts training as a maiko (apprentice geisha) to win him back. I haven’t been able to get a copy of this movie to review it, but it’s billed as a ‘screwball comedy’.

Shaolin Girl looks great. She plays Rin, trained in kung fu, who ends up  coaching a university lacrosse team.  You can see the trailer here.

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In The Devotion of Suspect X, one of my favourite movies, it is Shinichi Tsutsumi who steals every scene he is in, as the obsessive but devoted math teacher who manages to stay one step ahead of detective Shunpei Kusanagi (Ko Shibasaki) and physicist and scientific consultant Yukawa (Masaharu Fukuyama).

Ko Shibasaki is next due to appear in Keanu Reeves’ 47 Ronin and can also be seen in Ooku and Shokudo Katatsumuri (Rinco’s Restaurant) both released in 2010.

Book Review: Vision Box Ideas by Mark Montano

A vision box is a combination vision board and shrine in a box. Montano believes they help the creator focus on the less tangible and tactile, to help create the kind of life you desire. So if you wasn’t to be a craft world rock star (as one reviewer calls him)  like Montano, you would create a box filled with the kinds of things that help you focus on that. It all works on the ‘tell the universe what you want and it will deliver’ theory,  or as I prefer to call it, the ‘focus on what you want and you will actually start noticing the opportunities everywhere’ theory.

What I  like about Montano’s approach is his mantra – ‘perfection is overrated!’ He insists his examples aren’t perfect and neither should anyone planning to follow his book. He hopes his readers will fiddle with, alter and otherwise manipulate his creations to come up with something that is entirely their own.

He starts with instructions for making vision boxes out of wood (they look like shadow boxes) in four ways, or buying shadow boxes and altering them for the purpose, but I prefer the other ideas scattered through the book, to look around and see what can be recycled, like old books from the thrift store, clocks, little sweet tins  and so on. This is followed by a visually stunning example, the Travel vision box. I don’t know if it works, but it would marvellous on the desk as a constant reminder of your goals. Montano follows this with his own story of moving to New York and becoming a designer, showing the power of focusing on your dreams.

This box strikes me as being a pretty good focus object for creative gypsies. Where do you want to go? Enjoy making and filling a vision box with cool stuff that focuses your goals – make a gorgeous Japan vision box filled with goodies, or narrow it down – if your dream is shopping in the Harajuku District, get some stuff from eBay for your box. I can really see where this would help you focus your earning and saving for your trip and be a lot of fun as well.

Montano suggests covering your box with maps, and adding globes of the world, toy planes, souvenirs and postcards, and decorating the whole thing with glitter. What I really like is that he doesn’t just suggest you leave it all to fate either – there are practical considerations like paying for tickets – as he says, “I didn’t glue in my Statue of Liberty on the shot glass because I’m tucking money under the shot glass for my next trip!” Now that’s focusing.

Montano also uses an eclectic supply of bits and pieces in his creations. Nothing goes to waste with the creatively inclined, from broken Barbie dolls to a bag of lollies. The I Will Live the Sweet Life Vision Box is quite amazing, covered in candies – though what the universe would think of it I’m not sure – would it send you diabetes or a really good dentist? That’s one of the weird ones – another one is the My Super Powers Vision Box, which pairs plastic superhero toys with the kind of Pow! Wham! Speech bubbles seen in comics. These pieces do have charm and humour, though, and would be fun to make. My personal favourite is the Lady Luck Vision Box, with its cute elephants and oriental look. Another good feature is a bunch of pages with images used in the vision boxes – you can photocopy and use them in these or any projects you fancy.

His website is filled with more of his creative ideas and information on his other books, so I advise checking it out first to see if his creative energy meshes with yours. As an afterthought, the the publisher is Fox Chapel Publishing and they are looking for craft authors to create new books like this one, so if you have an idea for a book, why not give them a try? The guidelines for authors can be found here.

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to review this book.