Book Review: World Film Locations: Tokyo
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Not long after launching their ambitious Directory of World Cinema book series, a multi-volume printed database of essays and film critiques dedicated to various regions of world cinema, Intellect Publishing have now released a new series entitled World Film Locations. This series differs from the former in that each edition is dedicated to a specific city and the films that are set there. This instalment focuses on the Japanese capital of Tokyo.

Tokyo means many things to many people. In reality, it is a vast megalopolis made up of skyscrapers, heaving urban and industrial conurbations, hundreds of miles of public transport connections and over twelve million citizens. It is also an important financial hub – the third largest after London and New York – and a world leader of science and technology. In the popular consciousness, Tokyo is seen as a brand and an identity that is almost separate from – or perhaps seamlessly interchangeable with – the rest of Japan. For many, it represents a whole other universe; a futuristic dreamscape where the world of tomorrow exists today.

Such Westernised wool-gathering can be attributed to the droves of visual media exported by the city each year that’s become increasingly more popular. A huge quantity of film, television, manga and anime gets produced, making it a pop-culture Mecca for the hip and misunderstood alike. In contrast to this ideal of chic that has emerged in recent decades, there is also the undercurrent of centuries-old tradition – continually on the brink of being swallowed whole by the city’s rapid modernity.

Indeed, the Tokyo we know of today has not existed for long; the result of expedient re-development after the large scale fire-bombings during the Second World War. There are also environmental concerns to consider. Large amounts of surrounding forest has been destroyed to facilitate growth (as lamented by Studio Ghibli animation Pom Poko (1994)), not to mention the ongoing worries with regards to pollution and general quality of life in one of the most densely populated areas of the world.

World Film Locations: Tokyo attempts to address all of these issues, as all of them (and more) have been brought up to some degree over the last century within the frame of moving imagery. Edited by Chris MaGee, this volume collects various essays and analysis of key scenes from classic, undervalued and contemporary films set in the city…

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