Director Katsuhito Ishii is a filmmaker I wasn’t very familiar with prior to checking out the six films in this collection. He’s a pioneer of the V Cinema movement in Japan, and has worked with people from the likes of Tadanobu Asano (Ichi the Killer, Zatoichi) to Quentin Tarantino, helping design elements of the O-Ren Ishii animated segment in Tarantino’s Kill Bill. This collection of films ranges from when Ishii began experimenting with film, all the way to a short film he made in 2022, spread across three discs. In this review, I’m going to go through each film in the order that they’re presented in the collection.

Promise of August 

Director: Katsuhito Ishii
Screenplay: Katsuhito Ishii
Starring: Dankan, Sanae Ueki, Ranran Suzuki and Tomo Taniguchi
Country: Japan
Running Time: 50 min
Year: 1995

The earliest film in the collection, Ishii’s debut film Promise of August is a bizarre one for sure. A comedy film centred around three friends, Mizuno, Mochitsuki and Morita venture into the woods in search of an area where marijuana grows. When the girls get lost, they hitchhike until a man driving a car stops named Okai. To say that Okai is odd would be an understatement, but his strange antics add to the enjoyable nature of this bite-sized film. 

While the girls decide to stop to check if the marijuana fields are in a location noted on a map they swiped from a friend, Okai becomes infatuated with Mizuno, sniffing her seat and laying on it while she’s gone and in any other context, this could be presented as creepy and gross, but it’s just more sad and pathetic here, which adds to the humour. Okai’s visit to the woods is for a completely different reason to the three girls, as he’s decided that he’s going to take his own life and leave a suicide note explaining why. It’s a tone that constantly flip-flops from hilarious to genuinely heartfelt, and it balances it very well. 

With a runtime of only 50 minutes, it flies by and is paced incredibly well. The visuals are utterly gorgeous and this new restoration from the original camera negative is nothing short of stunning, it almost looks like a 4K UHD disc at times. Eiko Sakurai’s upbeat score is another highlight, with some really catchy and summery melodies that match the bright and colourful visuals well. While there’s not a lot more that I can say without giving away the majority of the plot, Promise of August is a solid debut from Ishii and a perfect introductory film in the collection. 


Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl

Director: Katsuhito Ishii
Screenplay: Katsuhito Ishii
Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Sie Kohinata, Ittoku Kishibe, Susumu Terajima and Shingoro Yamada
Country: Japan
Running Time: 108 min
Year: 1998

Next in the collection is the film with probably the best name in the entire collection, Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl. With a title like that, I was expecting something truly bonkers and unfortunately, I was left pretty let down with the end result. While Katsuhito’s prior film Promise of August delivers a fun, well-paced adventure that doesn’t out-stay its welcome, Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl ended up being a bit of a dud for me.

Kuroo (played by Ichi the Killer’s Tadanobu Asano) is a yazuka who robs the gang he works for and crosses paths with Toshiko (Shie Kohinata), a hotel clerk who’s trying to escape her incredibly disturbed uncle. While these two are on the run, they encounter an array of eccentric characters, with extremely eccentric choices in attire that I really loved, on paper. The biggest issue I had with Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl is the unfortunate wasted potential on display. The characters are really wacky and over-the-top looking but I never found that they really blended with the tone of the film. It’s a little disappointing because from what I’ve read online, Minetaro Mochizuki’s manga that this is based on is a little more out there than this adaptation ended up being.

In terms of positives, the opening credits are super fun, having rock music blaring as each of our many, many characters pose in front of a soundstage. It’s fun, in your face, stylistic and I completely loved what I was seeing. The same can be said for the musical choices throughout the film, even if they’re a little sparse. The film definitely shows the trappings of an early filmmaker still trying to find their groove. Ishii was clearly inspired by the early work of Tarantino here, Reservoir Dogs in particular being a clear inspiration but it never really felt like the influences were being used to craft something fun and unique, which again, is a massive shame given Ishii’s Promise of August being both of those things. 

It pains me to not have much positive to say about Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl, because I really wanted to love it and had an absolute blast with Katsuhito’s first film, but as the film progressed, I found myself more underwhelmed and unfortunately bored by what was happening. 


Party 7

Director: Katsuhito Ishii
Screenplay: Katsuhito Ishii
Starring: Masatoshi Nagase, Keisuke Horibe, Yoshinori Okada, Akemi Kobayashi, Tadanobu Asano and Yoshio Harada
Country: Japan
Running Time: 104 min
Year: 2000

After Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl didn’t wow me, I was a tad nervous on how I’d feel about the next film, as I’ve heard it’s fairly similar to Shark Skin Man in terms of structure and tone. While that is true, I found Party 7 to be a far more fascinating and entertaining film overall.  

Party 7 follows seven bizarre individuals who get caught up in a hotel room with a suitcase full of money stolen from the mob. Yes, it sounds similar to Shark Skin Man, but the execution here is much different, as we’re given a decent amount of time with each of the characters before the main event happens and it results in a more structurally sound film. The film follows a similar premise to Shark Skin Man in terms of how it tackles an ensemble cast of wacky individuals, but I found the individual characters a lot more interesting here and Party 7 gives them enough time to actually establish their goals, motivations and more. Characters range from an Elvis lookalike to a Peeping Tom in a superhero costume called Captain Banana. It’s silly stuff, but I feel like the overall tone here works in its favour. Party 7 feels more like a stage play than anything else, and I’m a sucker for films that can utilise a couple of locations and get the most out of them.

The whole dynamic of Captain Banana and ‘The Captain Yellow” was probably my favourite of the relationships in the film, they bounce off of each other really well and have some absolutely hilarious moments together. There’s a couple of revelations that calling them just strange would be an understatement, but they’re still amusing and delightfully nuts. It’s still not something I found incredible, by any means, and I think the aforementioned influences from the work of Quentin Tarantino are almost a bit too obvious, but Party 7 delivers on a fun crime-comedy with some fun moments, an interesting premise and fairly decent execution. The direction here is more in line with Promise of August, leaning into the strange and bizarre nature of that instead of the more haphazard and messy Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl. 


Hello Junichi 

Director: Katsuhito Ishii, Kanoko Kawaguchi and Atsushi Yoshioka
Screenplay: Kanoko Kawaguchi and Atsushi Yoshioka
Starring: Hikari Mitsushima, Amon Kabe, Ryushin Tei, Chizuru Ikewaki and Yoshiyuki Morishita
Country: Japan
Running Time: 93 min
Year: 2014

A far lighter affair than the films on the first two discs, Hello Junichi is a family film following 9 year old Junichi Hayashida. Junichi is shy and has a crush on one of his classmates, Maeda. He has her eraser and the primary conflict of the film is him finding the confidence to give it back. Luckily, with the help of a new teacher Anna, Junichi learns to find the confidence that he needs to speak to Maeda, and gets into some fun hijinks along the way, such as starting his own band with some friends. 

The film opens with Junichi introducing himself and classmates in a super fun, artbook style that really makes the opening feel like it’s being directed by Junichi himself. It’s adorable. There’s silly moments such as when Junichi and his classmates find an adult magazine in the wild, as well as somebody’s mobile phone which they snoop through. Later into the film, there’s a comical fight sequence in the school parking lot, which I found pretty fun, as well as a dream sequence where he fights a luchador for the admiration of Maeda. 

While it’s not a film that I’m in the target audience for, I imagine kids would have a great time with this. Instead of taking inspiration from the gritty work of Tarantino, this feels more like it’s inspired by Richard Linklater’s School of Rock, of all things. There’s moments where I found some of the editing and presentation choices strange, such as the scene where the new teacher Anna is introduced and sensual jazz music begins playing. I’m assuming this was done for comedic purposes, at least, I’d hope so! The cinematography and editing are a little amateurish too, but it’s never trying to be as stylised as the other films in the collection.

Truth be told, this was probably my favourite film in the collection down to the fact that the tone is consistent and it’s an incredibly light viewing experience. I’m unsure if this one will work for most audiences, especially those hoping for another film in the same vein as Shark Skin Man or Party 7. Something to note is that this is not a film that’s only directed by Ishii, but also Kanoko Kawaguchi and Atsushi Yoshioka, so to say this entirely an Ishii feature wouldn’t be telling the full truth. I haven’t seen any other films from the other directors but think they did a serviceable job here.

Overall, Hello Junichi is most comparable to Promise of August when it comes to the work of Ishii. It feels like a bright summer’s day that also doubles as a fun family film. It’s definitely not for those who enjoy Ishii’s work for the violence and carnage, but there’s some good fun to be had here for families and younger viewers.



Director: Katsuhito Ishii, Shunichirô Miki and Yûka Ôsumi
Screenplay: Katsuhito Ishii and Yûka Ôsumi
Starring: Sota Aoyama, Ryu Morioka, Fumi Nikaido and Atsushi Yoshioka
Country: Japan
Running Time: 88 min
Year: 2008

Next up in the collection is the second co-directed feature, Sorasoi. Ishii teams up with directors Shunichirô Miki and Yûka Ôsumi to deliver, in typical Ishii fashion, a bizarre story about a dance group that spends their times practicing for an upcoming event outside of the Sorasoi Hostel. Crushes begin, conversations are had and there’s a lot of dancing. I’d like to go into more detail about the plot of this film, but that’s the general gist of it, honestly. It’s very light on plot, intentional or not and because of this and the lack of interesting characterization, unfortunately, I wasn’t huge on Sorasoi. 

In terms of tone, I’d say this film fits right in the middle of Ishii’s earlier work and the more family-friendly Hello Junichi, although this is a little cruder with its dialogue and subject matter. It’s something that I really didn’t connect with and found quite a slog to get through, unfortunately. Similar to Hello Junichi, I don’t have any experience with the other directors of this film while I did find some directorial choices interesting, the majority of Sorasoi is fairly bland in presentation and the events that are occurring.

There’s some interesting shot composition in the film, particularly early on, as the majority of the characters are positioned extremely small in the frame, so the space around them takes up most of the screen which I found interesting given how they’re away from home. Also, while I didn’t care remotely about what was going on, I do think all of the actors are trying their best here and there’s a pretty great scene around a bonfire midway into the film where the actors get to flex their acting abilities.

As with all of the transfers in this set, Sorasoi looks pretty great, I just found a lot of the technical elements of the film itself lacking. Outside of the previously mentioned framing in earlier segments of the film, a lot of the cinematography feels very amateur-ish and inconsistent. Some shots are still, others are shaky and handheld. It’s fairly jarring and it never feels like there’s any rhyme or reason to how most shots look as the film progresses.

There’s comparisons to be made to Ishii’s early short, Promise of August with how laid back a lot of the film is, but given the fact that August is 50 minutes, and this is an hour and a half, I found the charm to wear off a lot faster here. Add to that the fact I didn’t find any of the characters here compelling or interesting in the same way I did with Okai, it adds to a fairly frustrating viewing experience.

Like I said in my Shark Skin Man segment, it pains me to have little positive to say about Sorasoi but this was probably my least favourite film in the set. It’s not terrible, but it’s something I find myself having little to really talk about due to how haphazard the entire film feels. Fans of “week in the life” style films will probably get more out of this than I did, but I can’t imagine this one being many people’s favourite in the set.


Norioka Workshop

Director: Katsuhito Ishii
Screenplay: Katsuhito Ishii
Starring: Ryu Morioka, Saki Taniuchi and Yuka Harada
Country: Japan
Running Time: 30 min
Year: 2022

The final film in this collection, Norioka Workshop is also the shortest with a runtime of 30 minutes. One thing I’ve definitely noticed when it comes to Katsuhito Ishii’s work is that I tend to prefer his films when they’re on the shorter side, as there’s less padding and wasted time and Norioka Workshop is a great example of Ishii striving in short form cinema. 

Set entirely in a house designed by Ishii himself, Norioka Workshop follows Norioka, an actor who’s given the opportunity to play a villain in a popular director’s film, which he’s interested in doing but has a busy day ahead of him as he has an actor’s workshop scheduled later in the day. Two girls arrive to attend his workshop and unfortunately, his acting chops are not as impressive to them as he had hoped. The way that Ishii frames the acting workshop is delightful, with the girls on the left side of the screen while Norioka is on the right, acting his heart out. Ishii’s stylistic flair doesn’t always work for me, but I really liked the visual approach here and think it’s one of the more unique looking films in his filmography. 

Without spoiling the surprises in store, the workshop escalates in a series of comedic ways that continuously amused me and I found it to be a relatively enjoyable short film. There’s a lot of ways to interpret what Ishii’s intentions are with Norioka Workshop, but for me, I read it as a commentary on the world of acting. Highlighting the lengths that some people go to remain in character, and when acting can be pushed too far. It’s by far the most thematically rich film in the collection.

It’s a solid end to a collection of films that I admittedly wasn’t blown away with, but still found a lot of elements to enjoy from. If anything, Norioka Workshop is the perfect film to end the collection on, as it’s more character focused like the family-centred features Ishii made later into his career, but still has the ambitious and stylistic nature that his earlier work tried hard to impress with. 


While not every film here was something I loved, I came away from watching this collection of films with a lot of respect for Katsuhito Ishii. He’s a man who’s dabbled in an array of genres, and regardless of whether or not I enjoyed every film he made, there’s a devoted audience for his work out there that I can get the hype for. Fans of his work will surely be impressed with the fantastic package that Third Window Films has delivered here.

The Katsuhito Ishii Collection arrives on Limited Edition Blu-ray from Third Window Films on July 17th. As previously mentioned, it’s a three disc set with the first disc housing Promise of August and Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl, the second disc containing Party 7 and the third having Hello Junichi, Sorasoi and Norioka Workshop. The transfers on each film is excellent, with Promise of August being my favourite of the bunch visually. Promise of August, Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl and Party 7 are new, director approved masters, which are sourced from their original negatives and they’re definitely the most impressive looking films in the collection. Not to say that the three films on disc three are bad, but they look more in line with what you’d expect from modern films that seem to be shot digitally. English subtitles are included with each film, and the audio tracks present with each film sound great, no issues there.

In terms of bonus features, the collection includes the following: 

New interview with Katsuhito Ishii

Shark Skin Man director’s audio commentary

Video Essay by Robert Edwards

Party 7 audio commentary by Arne Venema and Mike Leeder

Party 7 storyboard version of the film

Party 7 making of featurette

Party 7 alternate ending

Archival interview with Katsuhito Ishii

Party 7 original trailer and teaser

Shark Skin audio commentary – In a brand new audio commentary exclusive to this release, director Katsuhito Ishii gives anecdotes and interesting facts about the shoot. While there’s a lot of Ishii repeating himself, I must admit that I found it charming hearing him revisit a film that he made 25 years ago, as well as having nothing but praise for everybody on screen. He explains how he did the opening animation during the credits, as well as the editing himself due to them not having the money to hire anybody. There’s a lot of reminiscing on specific details, such as the type of car a character drives, how the weather was on a particular day and more. While it sounds a little dull on paper, it’s a fun listen. I actually ended up having more fun with the commentary than the film itself, so I can imagine that fans of the film will have a blast listening along.

The World of Katsuhito Ishii – Robert Edwards delivers an interesting 10 minute video essay speaking about the films of Ishii, highlighting the director’s main characteristics, such as the absurd nature of some of his films, as well as the humour and editing. Edwards is a clear fan of Ishii’s work, and it’s fascinating to hear him analyse how different Ishii was to other Japanese filmmakers at the time, mainly in the V-Cinema scene. It’s a worthwhile viewing that I can easily recommend.

Interview with Katsuhito Ishii – To close out the bonus features on disc one is a 50 minute interview with the filmmaker that’s an incredibly fascinating watch. From the get-go, Ishii lists Paul Verhoeven as one of the filmmakers he likes, as well as giving a shout-out to David Lynch’s Wild at Heart, which I loved to hear. Topics go from Ishii’s past in commercial directing to the inspiration behind the films he’s made. He also touches on how his early films were box office successes, and some of the later features he made took a while to find an audience. Ishii goes in-depth on his filmography as a whole, and any fan of Ishii or his work will enjoy this.

Party 7 audio commentary with Arne Venema & Mike Leeder – A funny, upbeat, informative and enthusiastic commentary from Venema and Leeder that’s a joy to listen to. They’re clearly knowledgeable about Ishii and his work, and their analysis of Party 7 is fascinating to listen to. Probably my favourite extra included in this collection!

Party 7 Making Of – An archival making-of featurette which includes behind-the-scenes footage of Ishii directing the cast, showing off some really fun moments with the crew. Includes interviews with each of the main cast members too, it’s a fine viewing.

Interview with Katsuhito Ishii – An archival interview with Ishii that runs for around 17 minutes. He answers questions such as where the inspiration for Party 7 came from, as well as the inspiration for the characters, all while sat in front of a prop Captain Banana, adding to the typical Ishii absurdism.

Party 7 Alternate Ending – 3 minutes long. Low quality, seems to be sourced from a VHS recording but it’s an amusing inclusion. Not essential by any means, but for fans of the film, they’ll find some enjoyment out of this very different ending to Party 7. It includes some humourous title cards explaining previous moments in the film.

Party 7  Storyboards – A near feature-length extra, running at 62 minutes long, this contains the full storyboards for Party 7, accompanied by the film’s audio. It’s a really fun inclusion, and a unique bonus feature that I was glad to check out.

Also included are two trailers for Party 7, a theatrical trailer and a teaser trailer.

Third Window Films deliver a package that really gives Ishii’s films the home media release they deserve. Even from somebody like myself who wasn’t head over heels for every film in the set, I can’t deny how impressive of a set this is and people who are already familiar with the work of Katsuhito Ishii can rest assured knowing that Third Window Films have put out all the stops to give one of the most impressive packages of the year.


Where to watch Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl
Katsuhito Ishii Collection - Third Window Films
Promise of August
Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl
Party 7
Hello Junichi
Norioka Workshop
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