Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 30th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2003
Director: Toshiaki Toyoda
Writer: Toshiaki Toyoda
Cast: Kôji Chihara, Yoshio Harada, Itsuji Itao, Ryuhei Matsuda, Onimaru, Mame Yamada
DVD Released: January 25th, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 120 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Surround Japanese
DVD Release: Artsmagic
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Synopsis: Michiru (Ryuhei Matsuda) is sent to prison after murdering his father. The Counterfeit King tells the other men in the cell about a hidden treasure buried at Mt. Fuji Elementary School. Shortly after arriving in prison Michiru with eight of his cell mates escape. Their bond is strong initially before each man goes his own way.
Director Toshiaki Toyoda gives the escape from prison genre a facelift as he turns his great escape into a road picture about a group of misfits. The movie starts true to genre conventions with your standard jailbreak before it transforms into a character study. Toyoda gives the characters a chance to grow making their fate bittersweet. This film is blessed with a wonderful cast who all give amazing performances. Even though it was inevitable that they would grow apart at some point the Disintegration of the group is subtle as each person finds what they are looking for.
9 Souls is filled with great images throughout with my favorite moment being when they arrive at a strip club. Doctor Shiratori watches the stripper that he loved so much that he gave her one of his kidneys. Toyoda’s use of a red light effect and inventive compositions emphasize the dancers’ sensual movements. 9 Souls score is hypnotic as it lulls the viewer into a dream like state of mind. 9 Souls plot is anchored by the relationship between Michiru who lost his father and Torakichi who lost his son. Through each other’s pain they find an inner peace that helps hell their wounds. Michiru who we are first introduced to at the beginning of the film he has come full circle as he is once again starring outside the window in his bedroom. This time around everything is different as he looks out the window as he holds the key to his future.
Artsmagic presents 9 Souls in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. Most of the action takes place on the road in locations instead of sets. The colors palette for this release perfectly balances the greens and reds. The flesh tones are natural in appearance and grain is kept to a minimum. The overall quality of the transfer is another solid effort by Artsmagic who impress me more with each new release.
The only audio option is the original Japanese language track presented in a Dolby Digital surround. This audio track holds up surprisingly well for a Dolby Digital surround mix as all the speakers are given a workout with the front and center channels getting the most action. Dialog comes through crystal clear and the action is always easy to follow. English subtitles that are easy to read and follow have been included.
Artsmagic have loaded this release with goodies. The main extras consist of two interviews with director Toshiaki Toyoda they run thirty eight and six minutes respectively. Other extras included another extremely informative audio commentary track with Tom Mes were he clears up a few of the films more ambiguous moments. Rounding out the extras is the film’s original trailer, promotional materials and bio/filmographies for all the major cast and crew.
From top to bottom Artsmagic has done a first class job with this DVD release. 9 souls is a rare find in today’s cinema landscape it is filled with introspective characters and a spirituality that is refreshing, highly recommended.