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Battle League in Kyoto

(Kamogawa Horumo)
Sponsored by: Entreprise Vidéo Service

North american Premiere

  • Japan 2009
  • 113 min
  • 35mm
  • Japanese with English subtitles
North American Premiere

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Director: Katsuhide Motoki
Screenplay: Maruo Kyozuka, from Manabu Maime
Cast: Takayuki Yamada, Chiaki Kuriyama, Yoshiyoshi Arakawa
Producers: Takashi Yajima, Chiaki Noji
Distributor: Viz Pictures


Springtime is gorgeous in scenic Kyoto, where after two years of gruelling academic struggle, Akira Abe has finally been accepted into the university. On a walk home on a May afternoon, Abe and his freshman pal Takamura encounter Sugawara and his friend, two representatives of a social group called Kyoto University Azure Dragon. Inviting the pair to join, the cheerful Sugawara assures them that Azure Dragon is a perfectly ordinary social group, nothing unusual about it. No sir, nothing at all. And so it seems when Abe and Takamura attend their first meeting. If anything seems amiss, Abe’s far too distracted by the sexy Kyoko Sawara—and irked by the strangely stiff and assertive nerdy girl Fumi. Kyoko’s enough to keep Abe in the club, even when its true nature is slowly revealed. Azure Dragon is one of four such clubs in Kyoto, clubs that pit teams of students against each other in ancient, traditional combats called “Horumo Battles.” Actually, it’s not the students fighting each other. It’s their invisible armies of oni, tiny, chubby little demons who are commanded by way of elaborate—and rather silly—dance moves!

Adapted from the hit fantasy novel by Manabu Makime, BATTLE LEAGUE IN KYOTO gleefully mixes up sweet romantic comedy, playful jabs at Japanese university culture and folk tradition, and fantastic spirit-world fun, keeping audiences grinning, gasping and roaring with laughter throughout. It doesn’t hurt that the digital animation—the hilarious and exciting demon battles—is the work of respected studio Gonzo (AFRO SAMURAI and so much more). And what a great cast! Abe’s played by Takayuki Yamada (TRAIN MAN, CROWS ZERO), Sugawara by the unbeatable Yoshiyoshi Arakawa (KAMIKAZE GIRLS, SURVIVE STYLE 5+ and of course, the starring role in FINE, TOTALLY FINE, also at Fantasia this year!) and Fumi by Chiaki Kuriyama, famous for BATTLE ROYALE, EXTE, GS WONDERLAND (also at Fantasia 2009) and most notably her turn as the vicious Gogo Yubari in KILL BILL!

—Rupert Bottenberg

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