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Hula Girls (DVD) (Standard Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) DVD Region 2

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Hula Girls (DVD) (Standard Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)
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YesAsia Editorial Description

From Shall We Dance? to Waterboys to Swing Girls, there's a special place in Japanese cinema for films about underdogs finding their groove. This time our zeroes-to-heroes discover hula dancing in 1960s Japan. Entertaining, dynamic, and bursting with energy, Hula Girls is also a good deal more than a simple youth pop flick. The film is based on the true story about one mining town's inventive decision to save itself through hula. The dated setting and conservative social background bring in extra layers of concerns and complications to the story, and Japanese-Korean director Lee Sang Il (Scrap Heaven) assuredly weaves the different elements into a coherent, compelling film. Hula Girls won over both critics and moviegoers alike, building a wide audience through strong word of mouth.

The sleepy mining town of Iwaki is slowly heading for the hills, so the mining company decides to start a Hawaiian Center amongst the coal mines to attract tourists. As a further gimmick, local girls will give hula performances. Dance teacher Madoka (Matsuyuki Yasuko, Another Heaven) is especially hired from Tokyo, but most of the local girls balk when they realize hula involves hip shaking and mid-riff baring. The motley bunch that remains consists of stubborn Kimiko (Aoi Yu, Hana and Alice), her star-struck friend Sanae (Tokunaga Eri), bespectacled mother Shoko (Ikezu Shoko), and big-boned Sayuri (Yamazaki Shizuyo). None of the girls can dance, Madoka isn't all that interested in teaching, and many of the townspeople are less than happy about this newfangled hula business. The whole idea seems destined for failure, but when Madoka sees the girls' fighting spirit, she becomes determined to teach them how to hula.

Hula Girls was the big winner of 2006. The film won Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Supporting Actress (Aoi Yu) at the 30th Japan Academy Awards. At the Blue Ribbon Awards, the film was named Best Picture, and Aoi Yu and Fuji Sumiko won Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.

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Technical Information

Product Title: Hula Girls (DVD) (Standard Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) 草裙娃娃呼啦啦 (DVD) (Standard Edition) (英文字幕) (日本版) 草裙娃娃呼啦啦 (DVD) (Standard Edition) (英文字幕) (日本版) フラガール スタンダード・エディション Hula Girls (DVD) (Standard Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)
Artist Name(s): Toyokawa Etsushi | Matsuyuki Yasuko | Aoi Yu | Yamasaki Shizuyo | Kishibe Ittoku | Fuji Sumiko 豐川悅司 | 松雪泰子 | 蒼井優 | 山崎靜代 | 岸部一德 | 富司純子 丰川悦司 | 松雪泰子 | 苍井优 | Yamasaki Shizuyo | 岸部一德 | 富司纯子 豊川悦司 | 松雪泰子 | 蒼井優 | 山崎静代 | 岸部一徳 | 富司純子 Toyokawa Etsushi | Matsuyuki Yasuko | 아오이 유우 | Yamasaki Shizuyo | Kishibe Ittoku | Fuji Sumiko
Director: Lee Sang Il 李相日 Lee Sang Il リ・サンイル[李相日] Lee Sang Il
Release Date: 2007-03-16
Publisher Product Code: BIBJ-7170
Language: Japanese
Subtitles: English, Japanese
Place of Origin: Japan
Picture Format: NTSC What is it?
Disc Format(s): DVD
Region Code: 2 - Japan, Europe, South Africa, Greenland and the Middle East (including Egypt) What is it?
Other Information: DVD
Shipment Unit: 1 What is it?
YesAsia Catalog No.: 1004616525

Product Information

[アーティスト/ キャスト]
リ・サンイル[李相日] (監督、脚本) / 松雪泰子 / 豊川悦司 / 蒼井優



製作国 : 日本 (Japan)
公開年 : 2006

ダンサーがやってきた。最初は嫌々ながら教える彼女だったが、生きるためにひたむきに踊る少女たちの姿に、いつしか忘れかけていた情熱を思い出してゆく。しかし世間の風当たりはつめたく、教える相手はドシロウト。 果たして常夏の楽園は誕生するのか?オープンの日は迎えられるのか!?

報知映画賞最優秀邦画作品賞 ()
報知映画賞最優秀助演女優賞 ()
日刊スポーツ映画大賞作品賞 ()
日刊スポーツ映画大賞主演女優賞 ()
日刊スポーツ映画大賞助演女優賞 ()
日刊スポーツ映画大賞新人賞 ()
キネマ旬報ベスト・テン第1位 ()
毎日映画コンクール日本映画優秀賞 ()
毎日映画コンクール女優助演賞 ()
毎日映画コンクール美術賞 ()
毎日映画コンクール録音賞 ()
ブルーリボン賞作品賞 ()
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YumCha! Asian Entertainment Reviews and Features

Professional Review of "Hula Girls (DVD) (Standard Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)"

View Professional Review:
April 30, 2007

From Sumo Do, Sumo Don't to Swing Girls, Japanese filmmakers are great at making crowd-pleasing comedies about ragtag groups of amateurs beating the odds. However, even though they've mastered a certain brand of silliness, the genre has always lacked in dramatic storytelling. After helming teen dramas and films about ethnic Koreans in Japan, Korean-Japanese filmmaker Sang-Il Lee decides to tackle this popular commercial formula with Hula Girls, a true story about a town trying to save itself in a rather unorthodox way. Showered with acclaim - the film represented Japan at the Oscars and won Best Picture at the Japan Academy Awards - Hula Girls has quite a reputation to live up to. Good thing it does. Honestly, it's easy to see why Hula Girls was so loved in its home country.

Hula Girls takes place in 1965 Iwaki, a small Northern town whose townspeople rely on nearby coal mines for their livelihood. As Japan's post-war economy blossoms, oil has taken the place of coal, bringing down the coal mines one by one. With lay-offs and the shutdown of the local mine imminent, a company official (Ittoku Kishibe) decides to build a Hawaiian center/hot springs to boost the local economy. The main attraction of this center? Hula dancing. The problem, in addition to Iwaki looking more like a winter wonderland than Hawaii, is that few girls in town are willing to bare any skin to perform Hula dancing. Nevertheless, the plan still attracts Sanae (Eri Tokunaga), a girl who dreams of leaving the mines, as well as her best friend Kimiko (Yu Aoi), housewife Hatsuko, and tomboy Sayuri. The company also hires Hirayama (Yasuko Matsuyuki), a professional Hula dancer who was part of an elite dance troupe in Tokyo. But Hirayama isn't particularly interested in teaching a ragtag group of misfits how to Hula dance in a rural town; she's only doing it for the money to clear her debt with some unsavory characters back in town.

Meanwhile, the miners aren't particularly supportive of the whole idea because it will only create a fraction of the jobs that a mine closure will eliminate. When Kimiko's widowed mother Chiyo, who is also head of the miners' wives association, catches her daughter Hula dancing, she becomes upset. But Kimiko is so committed to Hula dancing that she runs away and moves into the dance center. The dancers are in place, but the reluctant Hirayama-sensei realizes that none of her four dancers can dance to save their lives. However, that's nothing a quick montage can't fix. With the mine closure approaching, the women of the town actually begin to embrace the idea of the Hawaiian center, and another montage later, Iwaki's got its own Hula dance troupe. But that's only half the journey - the center still has to be built, and the people still have to show up.

Considering that the real-life Hawaiian center in Iwaki is now a nationally-known hot springs resort, it's safe to say that the journey in Hula Girls is far more important than the destination. Naturally, the film offers a clichéd "never give up" message that preaches what a team of misfits can achieve, but Lee and his team know that there is more at stake than just self-esteem. Behind the comedy of the troupe's less-than-stellar dancing skills lies an entire town's future, and Lee never steers far from the serious issues. A throwaway joke about a landscaper's naïve attempt to keep a palm tree warm in the freezing conditions may be played for laughs, but it becomes an essential point in the development of the plot. Hula Girls works as a comedy, but Lee also succeeds in creating dramatic tension without making the film too downbeat. It's a precarious balance, but Lee amazingly makes the whole thing look easy.

The film also succeeds because unlike most sports films about misfits, Lee doesn't rely on stereotypes to shape the characters. While clichéd characters fill the Hula Girls screenplay, Lee and his co-writer Daisuke Habara place the situation on established characters instead of using the situation to establish the characters. Of course, Hula Girls wouldn't be a crowd-pleaser if the characters didn't change over the course of the film. You know Kimiko's mother will eventually come around, and Hirayama will eventually come to drop her "reluctant teacher" attitude - but these changes don't come from some sudden epiphany during the third act. Rather, the arcs come from within the characters' personalities. As is common in most commercial films, Hula Girls leans towards big emotional moments, but the emotions remain genuine because of the characters. Sure, scenes like the troupe's impromptu performance on a train platform would probably never happen in real life, but Lee foreshadows enough throughout that he actually earns the moment as opposed to calculating it.

On the surface, Hula Girls doesn't have the high-class pedigree of your run-of-the-mill Best Picture winner. But the Japan Academy does have a history of awarding warm, family-friendly crowd-pleasers rather than expensive epic productions, and Hula Girls is no exception. By no means is Hula Girls mind-blowing or even all that original. It relies on age-old formulas and traditional emotion-manipulation strategies to please audiences, but at least it does so with likeable characters, strong performances (especially from Yu Aoi in a spirited award-winning performance), and a script that has its heart in the right place. Who needs expensive production values and originality when you already have all of that?

By Kevin Ma

April 12, 2007

This professional review refers to Hula Girls Memorial Box (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)
Lee Sang Il's Hula Girls follows the basic "small band of underdogs unite to overcome all odds, while learning valuable life lessons" plot arc to a "T", and yet it's done with such verve, flair, and warmth that it's simply a joy to watch.

It's 1965, and the town of Joban has fallen on hard times. The coal that has been the town's lifeblood is no longer in high demand, and many of the town's workers know that their jobs are in danger. However, even as the factory owners begin announcing lay-offs, they also announce a new plan to bring some money and jobs into town; they plan to open a Hawaiian center as a tourist attraction. Obviously, the townspeople are resentful, not to mention highly skeptical - only and idiot would think that palm trees and tropical paradises can exist in Joban, located so far north as it is.

But the Hawaiian center is coming, like it or not, and the key to the center's success is, of course, the hula dance. However, the women of Joban are rather reluctant to get up on stage, half-naked, and shake their hips in front of total strangers. A woman's dignified place is at home, raising children and supporting their coal-working husbands, fathers, and brothers. But a few of the town's girls are intrigued by the idea. Led by Sanae, who sees dancing as her only ticket out of the oppressive town, a small group of motley individuals decide to stick it out. Needless to say, many challenges await them, and the first is their teacher Madoka Hirayama, who arrives on the first day with nothing but a hangover and a healthy disdain for the country bumpkins surrounding her.

Of course, the outcome of the film is never really in question. However, the joy is in the way that film arrives there. Lee Sang Il populates his film with an array of colorful characters. There's bright-eyed Sanae and her dubious best friend Kimiko, who both see dancing as a possible escape. There's Sayuri, whose rather large frame casts her dancing skills in doubt, and her father, one of the only men in the village who don't see the dancing as an affront on traditional values. And the classy, fiercely independent Hirayama provides plenty of contrast with the more traditionally-minded men of the village, holding her own against such boorish folks as Kimiko's older brother Yojiro.

While there's plenty of tension concerning the hula dance - the older villagers see it as an affront, the kids see it as something fun and exciting (cue the Footloose theme!) - Lee Sang Il is too smart to simply cast everything in black and white. The traditionally-minded villagers have a point with their protests against the hula dance; after all, in rapidly changing times, traditions may be all that they have left. And besides, modern fashions and ideas seem very much out-of-place in the rough, barren country in which they live.

However, there's no denying that the younger women of the village face a dead end if they're hoping for something more, and hula dancing might just be the thing the turns the town's fortunes around. And while the old folks just think the girls are goofing off as they tour the country to drum up interest in the Hawaiian center and forgetting their traditional duties, the girls are actually working their tails off in some pretty unforgiving situations.

Regardless of which side of the debate they fall on, however, all of the characters are invested with so much life and color that when the eventual tragedies do strike and obstacles pop up, they seem less like cliched plot devices and more like actual threats to the success of our heroines. There were several points in the film where I found myself blinking away a tear or two, and by all of the sniffles I heard around me, I know I wasn't the only one.

Hula Girls certainly delves into melodrama from time to time, such as when the girls do their best to convince Hirayama from leaving or have to bid a tearful goodbye to one of their members, but the film earns every sappy, sentimental moment that comes along. And it also earns the climax, which any observant viewer should see coming from a mile away, but which explodes off the screen with such joy and satisfaction that only the most cynical of folks will be able to resist an urge to cheer.

by Opus -

This original content has been created by or licensed to, and cannot be copied or republished in any medium without the express written permission of

Customer Review of "Hula Girls (DVD) (Standard Edition) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)"

Average Customer Rating for All Editions of this Product: Customer Review Rated Bad 10 - 10 out of 10 (1)

See all my reviews

September 16, 2007

This customer review refers to Hula Girls Memorial Box (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version)
HULA GIRLS!! Customer Review Rated Bad 10 - 10 out of 10
As Japan's submission for the 2006 Academy Awards, Hula Girls is an endearing comedy/drama that manages to be highly affecting despite the traditional story arch. Even without that international distinction, the film is a real winner.

Based on a true story, the film takes place in Iwaki, a small town in the north whose coal mine is about to be shut down. As the lifeblood of the town, the coal mine is indispensable to the local citizens. To attract money and attention, a mine official plans to construct a Hawaiian resort, complete with hula dancers - positions to be filled by local women. With the focus of the film always placed on the welfare of the town, the girls learn hula dancing from jaded teacher Hirayama (Yasuko Matsuyuki, in a fantastic performance) and come together as a group.

Again, the storyline itself follows the traditional underdog archetype, but thanks to director Lee Sang-Il, Hula Girls flows naturally without pandering or overstaying its welcome. An amazing, award-winning performance by Yu Aoi seals the deal. As Kimiko, she absolutely shines, displaying a wide array of genuine emotions in a very real, understated manner.

This is definitely a film to get and watch over and over. The combination of real emotions, historical significance, and perfect blend of comedy and drama make it one of Japan's standout films from 2006. The three disc set is worth every penny. Aside from excellent picture and sound quality (especially during the dance finale), a variety of lengthy, behind-the-scenes documentaries show the actresses through each stage of production as they learn the beautiful art of hula dancing. Filmed meetings between the filmmakers/actresses and real life figures behind the story also add a great touch of humanity to the entire package. Highly recommended!!
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