films seen
average score
Alive and kicking



2022 / 96m - Japan
Popran poster

Ueda's latest is an oddball mix of wacky Japanese comedy and a self-reflective road movie. It's the comedy that takes center stage though, so don't expect a very deep or heavy film. The plot is incredibly ridiculous and the drama is pretty by the numbers. At the same time, the journey of the lead character is one that takes him through all his past mistakes and forces him to reflect on his life choices.

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Tagami is the CEO of a successful manga publishing company. His life goes well until he wakes up one morning with his penis gone. The doctors are stumped, but an underground organization knows more about his affliction. They tell him his penis detached itself and flew away. He has only six days to retrieve his old friend before he is lost forever.

The outrageous premise is fun, but the tone of the film is surprisingly serious (for this type of thing that is). Ueda certainly improved on the technical side, the actors do a decent job all things considered and the road trip elements add to the intrigue of the film. It's not exactly a masterpiece, but it's quite a bit better than I expected upfront.

One Cut of the Dead

Kamera o Tomeru Na!
2017 / 96m - Japan
Comedy, Horror
One Cut of the Dead poster

The first 30 minutes are a little challenging and little more than cheap genre fare, the following hour is considerably more fun. Still a bit overhyped, the concept is smart, the execution is fine but overall it's still a little plain and it's budgetary limitations are clear at all times. A fun watch, but no masterpiece.

Aesop's Game

Isoppu no Omou Tsubo
2019 / 87m - Japan
Crime, Fantasy - Anthology
Aesop's Game poster

Ueda continues to churn out twisty films, hoping to revisit the breakout success of One Cut of the Dead. Aesop's Game is another amusing and rather successful attempt to trick the audience, but unless Ueda also ups his directorial skills, his films will keep on struggling to rise above mediocrity.

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Miwa is a young girl who fails to stand out. She fancies her new teacher, but a trio of popular girls have beaten her to him. She observes them from a distance, until one of the girls notices her, and they start talking. It looks like life is finally looking up for Miwa, but things are not what they seem.

There are quite a few twists and turns here, which are pretty fun, but the performances are mediocre, and the direction is a bit muddled. The anthology approach (the film is split in 3 parts, each part helmed by a different director) doesn't add much either. The result is decent filler, nothing more.

Special Actors

2019 / 119m - Japan
Comedy, Mystery
Special Actors poster

Ueda's One Cut of the Dead wasn't a personal favorite, but it was a spirited and original attempt to revitalize the zombie genre. It had one of the best reveals in recent years, which helped it overcome its no-budget roots. While its runaway success was definitely earned, it left Ueda with a serious challenge for his second film.

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Repeat the same trick and it would feel derivative, make a more straightforward film and his limited cinematic prowess would get in the way. Special Actors tries to do a bit of both, but in the end the film's a bit too transparent and ends up a decent but middle-of-the-road attempt to repeat his earlier success.

Ueda can't hide the film's lack of budget and performances are mediocre across the board. The plot is pretty decent though, about a young kid who joins a company of actors who are deployed in real life in order to solve people's issues. Special Actors isn't terrible, but it's too long, too simple and it lacks distinctive qualities.