Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 29th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2001
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Kikumi Yamagishi
Cast: Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Tetsuro Tamba, Naoto Takenaka, Tamaki Miyazaki, Takashi Matsuzaki
BluRay released: June 16th, 2015 (USA) / June 22nd, 2015 (UK)
Approximate running times: 113 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR (USA) / 15 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Stereo Japanese
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region Free / Region Free NTSC
Retail Price: $39.95 (USA) / £17.99 (UK)
The Happiness of the Katakuris was directed by Takashi Miike who most notable films include Ichi the Killer and The Audition. The film was loosely inspired by the Korean film The Quiet Family. Takashi Miike is a prolific filmmaker who has directed over seventy films and worked in just about every film genre. Even when Takashi Miike works within a certain genre the end result is almost always something that transcends the genre and is unique to him as a filmmaker. At the core of The Happiness of the Katakuris is a subversive comedy that incorporates zombies, musical numbers and stop motion animation into the truly bizarre story.
The film’s greatest strength is its colorful characters most notable is a character Richâdo Sagawa who pretends that his is a relative of the British Royal family. Takashi Miike does a superb job combining that various genres. The film’s musical numbers are all surprisingly infectious in tone. The film’s features an amazing cast who all deliver spellbinding performances. Most of Takashi Miike’s films are known for the downbeat and often violent subject matter. The Happiness of the Katakuris is refreshing change of pace from Takashi Miike. That underneath the surface bears many similarities to some of his most famous films. Ultimately The Happiness of the Katakuris is Takashi Miike’s most daring and original film to date.
The Happiness of the Katakuris comes on a 50 GB dual layer (45.4 GB) BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. A brand new 2k transfer for this release and the end result looks spectacular. Colors and flesh tones look accurate, there are no issues with DNR or compression. Also there is a marked improvement in image clarity throughout and black levels have never looked stronger than they do for this release. Another area where there is improvement are the animation / Claymation moments which now exhibit a lot more detail when compared to previous home video releases.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM stereo mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles have been included for this release. The audio is in great shape as dialog and musical numbers comes thorough with the utmost clarity. There are no issues with background noise or distortion and everything sounds balanced. And when it comes to range wise things sound appropriately robust, especially the aforementioned musical numbers.
Extras for this release include, a T.V. spot (20 seconds) and a trailer for the film (1 minute 44 seconds), a featurette about the animation used in the film titled ‘Animating the Katakuris’ (5 minutes 30 seconds), a video essay with film critic Tom Mes titled ‘Dogs, Pimps and Agitators’ (23 minutes 51 seconds – 1080 Progressive) and two audio commentaries, the first audio commentary with Takashi Miike and actor/film critic Tokitoshi Shiota and the second audio commentary with Tom Mes.
The essay with Tom Mes is insightful and he does an exceptional job covering a lot of ground in just under a twenty four minute time span.
The audio commentary track with Takashi Miike and Tokitoshi Shiota has been ported over from a previous home video release. Also besides listening to this track in Japanese with English subtitles. There is also an option to hear it in English. Content wise both participants really let loose with their comments. In between their joking around and singing to the songs in the film. There is some interesting observations and background details about the film revealed.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary with Tom Mes include, how this was the first Miike film that he visited onset, the films origins as a Korean film and how Miike transformed it into something very different, the cast, long takes and Miike’s visual style, Miike’s work as an assistant director and how it helped him as a director, genre filmmaking, financing and how Japanese cinema has drastically changed over the last two decades.
Other extras include interviews with Takashi Miike, the first one from an archived source (5 minutes 3 seconds in Japanese with English subtitles) and the second interview from 2015 (38 minutes 59 seconds – 1080 Progressive, in Japanese with English subtitles), actors Kenji Sawada (5 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles), Tetsuro Tamba (4 minutes 4 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), Kiyoshiro Imawano and Shinji Takeda (4 minutes 28 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), actresses Keiko Matsuzaka (2 minutes 48 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) and Naomi Nishida (2 minutes 19 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) and a ‘Making of’ documentary (30 minutes 42 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles).
The ‘Making of’ documentary and all of the interviews, except the one with Takashi Miiike have been ported over from previous releases. Topics covered in these extras include, Takashi Miike gives background info on the film, the cast discuss their roles and the documentary is filled with onset footage with brief comments from the cast & crew throughout.
Topics discussed in the Takashi Miike 2015 interview include, how he became involved in The Happiness of the Katakuris, The Quiet Family and how he made the film his own instead of just doing another remake, the cast and his thoughts on their performances, Japanese audiences verse international audiences and how they interpret his films, his filmmaking process and he he surrounds himself with skilled technicians that can do the things he is able to do.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and a booklet with cast & crew information, an essay about the film by author Johnny Mains, a re-printed interview with Miike conducted by Sean Axmaker and information about the transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall The Happiness of the Katakuris gets a solid release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.