Cinema of Japan

Japanese Films at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 (July 12th – August 02nd)

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The Fantasia International Film Festival starts in Montreal next week on July 11th and runs until August 01st. As with last year, the selection of Japanese films is great with titles with many titles that have graced screens at fests like the New York Asian Film Festival and Annecy (and soon, Japan Cuts) appearing here in one place. The animation selection is incredible and there are some choice live-action titles to get behind.

This is the 23rd edition of the festival and it has become a focal point for filmmakers, festival programmers, journalists, and audiences eager to see a diverse slate of films before they hit DVD or the internet and cinema screens. There are recent releases and ones that won’t get released in Japan until next year. There is also the chance to take part in film culture and meet film-makers and fellow film fans. There are lots of guests and great experiences to be had and a chance to get involved with dictating which films get the hype behind them, so please choose Japanese, and try some of the titles listed here. All information has been compiled from IMDB, this festival’s site and other festival sites.

So what’s lined up? Click on the titles to be taken through to the festival page for each film.

Live-Action

There’s a rich mixture of indie and commercial features that have been programmed. Souichi Umezawa, director of Vampire Clay, has a short playing at the festival, The Realm Below. There’s more horror in the form of…

Sadako Sadako Film Poster

貞子  「Sadako」

Release Date: May 24th, 2019

Duration: 120 mins.

Director: Hideo Nakata

Writer: Noriaki Sugihara (Screenplay), Koji Suzuki (Novel)

Starring: Elaiza Ikeda, Takashi Tsukamoto, Hiroya Shimizu, Himeka Himejima, Ren Kiriyama, Rie Tomosaka,

Website IMDB

It has been six years since films had Sadako crawling out of screens. The character, once so terrifying, has lost her edge since Ringu so will this film be a rehabilitation? The cast doesn’t look like it’s made up of serious actors, the plot has been updated to give a nod towards current viewing habits of teens and the poster is awful. However, Hideo Nakata is back on board!

Synopsis: A girl with amnesia (Himeka Himejima) is being treated by a psychologist named Mayu (Elaiza Ikeda) who is trying to find out more about her background. Mayu’s younger brother Kazuma (Hiroya Shimizu) is a YouTuber eager for views who, on the advice of a friend, heads to a burnt out apartment where 5 people died which is the scene of psychic trauma and he accidentally catches Sadako. Mayu must stop a new curse from breaking out.

The Fable The Fable Film Poster

ザ・ファブル  「Za Faburu」

Release Date: June 21st, 2019

Duration: 123 mins.

Director: Kan Eguchi

Writer: Yusuke Watanabe (Screenplay), Katsuhisa Minami (Original Essay)

Starring: Junichi Okada, Fumino Kimura, Koichi Sato, Mizuki Yamamoto, Kai Inowaki, Jiro Sato, Sota Fukushi, Ken Mitsuishi, Yuya Yagira, Ken Yasuda,

Website IMDB

The Fable has been published in Kodansha’s Young Magazine since 2014 and is still going. The movie version has a good cast with Junichi Okada taking the lead and a great supporting cast with the likes of Ken Mitsuishi, Koichi Sato (Starfish Hotel), Ken Yasuda, Yuya Yagira (Destruction Babies) taking roles. There’s also Sota Fukushi. He starred with Okada in the Library Wars live-action adaptations.

Here’s my review of The Fable

Synopsis: Fable is a legendary contract killer who was trained to be a killer when he was a young boy. He is ordered to lay low for one year and tries to live a normal life in Osaka as an ordinary person with the name of Akira Sato and he will be joined by his hard-drinking assistant Yoko who will pretend to be his sister. Sato tries to fit in by getting a job and maybe even catching a girl but an internecine yakuza gang war threatens to suck him in…

Tokyo Ghoul ‘S’ Tokyo Ghoul ‘S’ Film Poster

東京喰種 トーキョーグール S  「Toukyou Kueshu To-kyo- Gu-ru S」

Release Date: July 19th, 2019

Duration: 101 mins.

Director: Takuya Kawasaki, Kazuhiko Hiramaki

Writer: Chuji Mikasono (Screenplay), Sui Ishida (Original Manga)

Starring: Masataka Kubota, Maika Yamamoto, Nobuyuki Suzuki, Kai Ogasawara, Mai Kiryu, Nana Mori, Shota Matsuda,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: In a world where ghouls live amongst humans, a university student named Ken Kaneki (Masataka Kubota) finds himself caught between two worlds because he is half-ghoul and half-human. While he looks human, he must eat flesh. He shelters himself at Anteiku Cafe, a place run by friendly ghouls including Toka Kirishima (Maika Yamamoto). One day, a frightening new ghoul named Shu Tsukiyama (Shota Matsuda) appears at Anteiku Cafe. He is called the “Gourmet” and has plans for Kaneki.

Stare

シライサン  「Saiki Kusuo no Sainan」

Release Date: January, 2020

Duration: 97 mins.

Director: Otsuichi/Hirotaka Adachi

Writer: Otsuichi/Hirotaka Adachi (Screenplay),

Starring: Marie Iitoyo, Yu Inaba, Shota Sometani, Mitsuki Tanimura, Shuugo Oshinari, Manami Enosawa,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Mizuki and Haruo are two students who find themselves sucked into a horrific string of deaths after the death of a friend and a brother respectively. The deaths all involve a heart attack visibly provoked by extreme fear and the victim’s eyes literally explode. They search for clues as to what is going on but when one potential source dies, all they have to work on is the name Shirai-san. Mamiya, a journalist, is also investigating and joins the two as they get sucked into a gory horror story.

Chiwawa chiwawa film poster

チワワちゃん 「Chiwawa-chan」

Release Date: January 18th, 2019

Duration: 104 mins.

Director: Ken Ninomiya

Writer: Ken Ninomiya (Screenplay), Kyoko Okazaki (Original Manga)

Starring: Mugi Kadowaki, Ryo Narita, Kanichiro, Tina Tamashiro, Shiori Yoshida, Nijiro Murakami, Chiaki Kuriyama, Tadanobu Asano, Honoka Matsumoto, Songha,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Yoshiko Chiwaki (Shiori Yoshida) was thought to be a popular young woman but when her dismembered body is found in Tokyo Bay people begin to have doubts, not least her friends who realise they do not know anything about her like her real identity or her background. Chiwawa, the name she had given herself because of her small size, was beautiful, cheerful and charismatic but went to extreme lengths to be the object of everyone’s attention and had a shadow side to her life. One of Chiwawa’s friends, Miki (Mugi Kadowaki), is now trying to figure out what happened. Through the witnesses of this descent into hell, she will try to solve the riddle of Chiwawa.

It Comes Kuru Film Poster

来る 「Kuru」

Release Date: December 07th, 2018

Running Time: 134 mins.

Director: Tetsuya Nakashima

Writer: Tetsuya Nakashima, Hideto Iwai (Screenplay), Ichi Sawamura (Original Novel)

Starring: Junichi Okada, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Haru Kuroki, Nana Komatsu, Takako Matsu, Munetaka Aoki, Taiga, Rie Shibata, Miho Ninagawa, Eri Ishida,

Website IMDB

Get hyped for this one! Excellent director and excellent cast. Tetsuya Nakashima is back after making The World of Kanako and he brings some of the stars from that film, Satoshi Tsumabuki (Rage, Gukoroku) and Nana Komatsu (Samurai Marathon and the lead actress in The World of Kanako) as well as Takako Matsu (Dreams for Sale). The trailer looks intense and this is a film that many Japanese film fans are anticipating.

Synopsis: Newlyweds Hideki and Kana Tahara are awaiting the arrival of their first child, a girl they plan to name “Chisa” and life seems to be going smoothly but everything is thrown out of whack when a mysterious person visits Hideki’s workplace and leaves a note with the cryptic message, “about Chisa-san case”. Now, Hideki and Kana are the only ones who know what they plan to name their daughter so that’s odd but stranger things happen when the colleague who passed Hideki the note is killed and Hideko and Kana’s home is attacked… To protect his family, Hideki asks for help from a journalist named Nozaki and a prestigious exorcist because what they are dealing with is something totally unnatural and mind-blowing…

Day and Night day and night film poster

デイアンドナイト 「Dei ando Naito」

Release Date: January 26th, 2019

Duration: 134 mins.

Director: Michihito Fujii

Writer: Shinnosuke Abe, Kazuhisa Kodera, Michihito Fujii, Takayuki Yamada (Screenplay),

Starring: Shinnosuke Abe, Masanobu Ando, Kaya Kiyohara, Tetsushi Tanaka, Manami Konishi, Aimi Satsukawa, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Shigeru Muroi,

Website IMDB

Popular actor Takayuki Yamada has produced this crime drama starring rising star Shinnosuke Abe, the hapless teacher in Ordinary Everyday (2017).

Synopsis: Koji Akashi’s (Shinnosuke Abe) returns to his family home for his father’s funeral. His father committed suicide following him blowing the whistle on a corporate scandal and finding the whole village being turned against him by the company. The injustice is still raw. Then he meets a man named Kitamura (Masanobu Ando) who works for an orphanage which is under threat of closure. Kitamura commits “moral” crimes by “punishing” the immoral – drug dealers, thieves and so forth. Kitamura asks him for help protecting the children. The two men go to extreme lengths as Akashi develops a thirst for vengeance…

Dance With Me Dance With Me Film Poster

ダンスウィズミー  「Dansu Uizu Mi-」

Release Date: June 07th, 2019

Duration: 103 mins.

Director: Yuichi Hibi

Writer: Yuichi Hibi (Screenplay),

Starring: Ayaka Miyoshi, Yuu Yashiro, Chay, Takahiro Miura, Tsuyoshi Muro, Akira Takarada,

Website IMDB

Hosted by Director and Screenwriter Shinobu Yaguchi and Producer Ryo Kaneko

Synopsis: Shizuka is a dedicated salarywoman preparing for a big meeting at the financial company she works at but after visiting a shady hypnotist named Martin-san with her niece, she is left under a spell which causes her to break into song and dance whenever she hears music, even if it’s just a ringtone. Shizuka needs to get her head fixed for the meeting in order to save her career and so she goes on the hunt for the hypnotist who has disappeared and so starts a road-trip musical!

And Your Bird Can Sing Kimi no tori wa utaeru Film Poster

きみの鳥はうたえる 「Kimi no tori wa utaeru」

Release Date: September 01st, 2018

Duration: 119 mins.

Director: Sho Miyake

Writer: Sho Miyake (Screenplay), Yasushi Sato (Novel)

Starring: Shota Sometani, Tasuku Emoto, Shizuka Ishibashi, Makiko Watanabe, Ai Yamamoto,

Website IMDB

A film based on a novel by Yasushi Sato is usually something to take notice of after a series of good to great adaptations. Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Over the Fence is good, while Sketches of Kaitan City by director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, and Mipo Oh’s The Light Shines Only There are great. The three are set in the author’s native city of Hakodate in the north of Japan but this film was originally set in Tokyo before being relocated to Hakodate. There’s a great cast with Shota Sometani (Himizu), Shizuka Ishibashi (The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue), and Tasuku Emoto (Dynamite Graffiti).

Synopsis: The unnamed protagonist (Tasuku Emoto), simply referred to in the credits as “Boku” is a slacker who works at a bookstore while sharing an apartment with his unemployed friend, Shizuo (Shota Sometani). “Boku” begins dating his co-worker Sachiko (Shizuka Ishibashi), strong-willed young woman who allows herself to get roped into his aimless life, but Shizuo soon gets involved and a love triangle develops…

Hard-core Hardcore Film Poster

ハード・コア 「Ha-do Koa」

Release Date: November 23rd, 2018

Duration: 124 mins.

Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita

Writer: Kosuke Mukai (Screenplay), Takashi Imashiro (Original Manga),

Starring: Takayuki Yamada, Takeru Satoh, YosiYosi Arakawa, Kei Ishibashi, Suon Kan, Takako Matsu, Kisetsu Fujiwara,

Website IMDB

Director Nobuhiro Yamashita (The Drudgery Train) is a director who can bring out all sorts of different tones in stories and the story for this one is truly bizarre but it is also sorrowful according to write-ups. It also has a cast is to die for! Takako Matsu, Takayuki Yamada (13 Assassins), Takeru Satoh (Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno) and YosiYosi Arakawa (Fine, Totally Fine).

Synopsis: Deep in the hills and mountains of Gunma Prefecture dwells a pure-hearted man by the name of Ukon Gondo (Takayuki Yamada). Ukon has a handsome brother, Sakon (Takeru Sato), who works for a trading company but Ukon prefers to be free from a society he sees as superficial and tries to make a living by mining for a right-wing tyrant who is searching for the lost gold of the Shogun. Ukon is working with another man, Ushiyama (YosiYosi Arakawa) who isn’t too bright. They are soon to be joined by a third teammate, a robot they discover at an abandoned factory that Ushiyama lives in. The robot looks a little like a trashcan but it has great potential and the two men, plus Sakon resolve to change their lives with its help.

Garo – Under the Moonbow Garou Gekkou no Tabibito Film Poster

牙狼〈GARO〉-月虹ノ旅人-  「Garo: Gekkō no Tabibito」

Release Date: October 04th, 2019

Duration: 106 mins.

Director: Keita Amemiya

Writer: Keita Amemiya (Screenplay),

Starring: Raiga Saejima, Natsumi Ishibashi, Atom Mizuishi, Yukijiro Hotaru, Maesei Nakayama,

Website IMDB

Keita Amemiya hosts this screening.

Synopsis: The Makai Knights are an ancient order of warriors who have long protected humanity against creatures known as Horrors. Assuming the aspect of Golden Knight Garo, Raiga Saezima has vanquished one such demonic creature, but his magical armour has been tainted with evil. Furthermore, a Knight of the dark has materialized, and taken hold of a woman named Mayuri, someone so dear to Raiga that he sets off to rescue her. Raiga must board a mysterious train destined for the netherworld. As he advances through the cars of this train, Raiga comes ever closer to confronting his own hidden truths…

Dare to Stop Us Dare to Stop Us Film Poster

止められるか、俺たちを 「Tomerareruka, Oretachi wo」

Release Date: October 13th, 2018

Duration: 119 mins.

Director: Kazuya Shiraishi

Writer: Junichi Inoue (Screenplay),

Starring: Mugi Kadowaki, Arata Iura, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Sora Tamoto, Katsuya Maiguma, Shinobu Terajima, Sousuke Takaoka, Kisetsu Fujiwara,

Website IMDB

Mugi Kadowaki, a strong actress as can be seen in Double Life (2016) and Hanagatami (2017), is our entryway into the heady world of radical filmmakers of the 60s and 70s.

Synopsis: Political/pink film director Koji Wakamatsu died seven years ago but his presence is still felt in the Japanese film industry as acolytes and collaborators still operate. This film takes a year of his life but frames it through the eyes of someone else, 21-year-old Megumi (Mugi Kadowaki), who joins Wakamatsu Production in the hope of becoming someone worthwhile. There, she meets Wakamatsu (Arata Iura) who has a cadre of young talents dedicated to movie making. Megumi’s world opens up…

Almost a Miracle Almost a Miracle Film Poster

町田くんの世界  「Machidakun no Sekai」

Release Date: June 07th, 2019

Duration: 119 mins.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Yuya Ishii, Sho Kataoka (Screenplay), Yuki Ando (Manga)

Starring: Kanata Hosoda, Nagisa Sekimizu, Takanori Iwata, Mitsuki Takahata, Atsuko Maeda, Taiga, Sosuke Ikematsu, Erika Toda, Koichi Sato,

Website IMDB

This is a super-amazing cast of talents and actors. Sosuke Ikematsu, Mitsuki Takahata and Taiga (both great in Japanese Girls Never Die), Atsuko Maeda (Seventh Code), Koichi Sato, and Erika Toda. They have all been assembled by Yuya Ishii (The Great Passage, The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue).

Synopsis: The nerdy Hajime Machida (Kanata Hosoda) is a bit flaky when it comes to studies and sports but he’s a lovable guy who gets along well with other people and his ever-flowing goodwill has earned him the nickname “Jesus Christ” from his fellow students, and made him somewhat of an object of fascination from the opposite gender. Of course, the young saint has no time, nor care, for romantic entanglement, but one day, he meets Nana (Nagisa Sekimizu) at the school’s infirmary. She is his polar opposite in some ways but her unthinking act of kindness towards him capsizes Machida’s very black-and-white vision of the world.

We Are Little Zombies We Are Little Zombies Film Poster

ウィーアーリトルゾンビーズ「 Wi a Ritoru Zonbizu」

Release Date: June 14th, 2019

Duration: 120 mins.

Director: Makoto Nagahisa

Writer: Makoto Nagahisa (Screenplay),

Starring: Keita Ninomiya, Satoshi Mizuno, Mondo Okumura, Sena Nakajima, Masaaki Akahori, Eriko Hatsune, Sosuke Ikematsu, Rinko Kikuchi, Yuki Kudo, Seiko Ito, Akito Inui, Nobue Iketani, Chai,

Website IMDB

This has won awards and plaudits at Sundance and it was at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year. It has an otaku aesthetic with 8-bit computer games being a big influence. Some really great actors are in this one and it has a lot of buzz from people who have seen it.

Synopsis: Hikari, Ikuko, Ishi and Takemura, all aged 13, meet by chance at a crematorium. All four have recently lost their parents in absurd circumstances — a car accident, murder, suicide, and an explosion! All four also suffer from the same startling problem: they are unable to feel any emotion about their loss. Faced with uncertain futures and having only one another, the group mutates into a surrogate family amid the ruins of childhood innocence forever lost. From one adventure to the next, they try to find their emotions, until they reinvent themselves completely, donning extravagant outfits and forming a band which might just challenge their deadening malaise and give them a reason to be again. Only one band name could possibly do: they will be called Little Zombies! Soon enough, they are a viral phenomenon taking the country by storm, and quickly attracting the attention of the industry…

Fly Me to the Saitama Tonde Saitama Film Poster

翔んで埼玉 「Tonde Saitama」

Release Date: February 22nd, 2019

Duration: 107 mins.

Director: Hideki Takeuchi

Writer: Yuichi Tokunaga (Screenplay), Mineo Maya (Manga)

Starring: Fumi Nikaido, Gackt, Yusuke Iseya, Masaki Kyomoto, Kumiko Aso, Haruka Shimazaki, Naoto Takenaka,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: A young woman is heading to Tokyo with her parents for her engagement. She’s extremely excited to leave the banal and boring prefecture of Saitama, much to the chagrin of her father, proud of his patch of the map. In order to soothe him, Mom turns on the radio, landing on a drama about the inhabitants of Saitama facing oppression by the powers of nearby Tokyo. They must even obtain visas to enter the capital, and live in total stigma. Aggressively embodying this contempt, Momomi (Fumi Nikaido) is the son of the governor of the megacity, and chairs the student council of a prestigious academy. His comfy universe is turned upside down by the charismatic Rei (Gackt), a student recently arrived from the United States. For the first time, his supreme popularity is threatened. Momomi develops a fierce rivalry with Rei, but this hate turns into an uncontrollable attraction. When a police intervention reveals Rei’s reprehensible roots, Momomi overcomes his visceral disgust and flees with him to Saitama.

Brave Father Online – Our Story of Final Fantasy XIV Final Fantasy XIV Dad of Light Film Poster

ファイナルファンタジーXIV 光のお父さん  「Fainaru Fantaji- XIV Hikari no Otosan」

Release Date: June 21st, 2019

Duration: 114 mins.

Director: Teruo Noguchi (live-action), Kiyoshi Yamamoto (game)

Writer: Kouta Fukihara (Screenplay), Mighty (Original Blog)

Starring: Kentaro Sakaguchi, Kotaro Yoshida, Yui Sakuma, Maika Yamamoto, Ryuta Sato,

Website

Kotaro Yoshida takes over from Ren Osugi in portraying a man who reconnects with his son through playing Final Fantasy XIV on the PlayStation 4. Kiyoshi Yamamoto will be hosting the screening.

Synopsis: Akio (Kentaro Sakaguchi) knows a lot about his virtual “friends” in the realm of Eorzea. The players behind the avatars in Final Fantasy XIV are happy to share their daily details, especially after a big win together. But his own father, Akira (Kotaro Yoshida), remains a mystery, as he has been ever since Akio was a small boy. The distance between the workaholic salaryman and his now-adult son seems greater than ever when Akira, on the verge of a big promotion and raise, suddenly announces his retirement. Recalling his fondest childhood memories, bonding with his dad over 8-bit victories in the earliest Final Fantasy games, Akio hatches a plan. He’ll convince his father to take up gaming, befriend him anonymously within the online world, and rebuild their connection. Operation Dad the Warrior of Light is a go! But real life isn’t a game, and Akio can’t be sure of his surefire moves…

The Island of Cats Neko no Jiichan Film Poster

ねことじいちゃん 「Neko to Jiichan」

Release Date: February 22nd, 2019

Duration: 103 mins.

Director: Mitsuaki Iwago

Writer: Fumi Tsubota (Screenplay), Nekomaki (Manga)

Starring: Shinosuke Tatekawa, Kou Shibasaki, Kaoru Kobayashi, Tasuku Emoto, Yuki Katayama, Toshie Kobayashi,

Website IMDB

Seasoned thesps such as Kaoru Kobayashi and Toshie Kobayashi work alongside the quietly brilliant Kou Shibasaki (Maison de Himiko) here.

Synopsis: Daikichi (Shinosuke Tatekawa) is a 70-year-old widower who lives on a small island with his cat Tama. The island is overrun with cats and mainly populated by the elderly so it’s an easy-going place. Daikichi’s son Tsuyoshi (Takashi Yamanaka), who lives in Tokyo, is worried about his father living alone on the island, especially as his physical condition worsens with age. Daikichi and Tama’s daily life begins to change when a woman named Michiko (Kou Shibasaki) opens a cafe for the island’s mostly elderly residents…

His Bad Blood

いつくしみふかき  「Itsukushimifukaki」

Release Date: 2019

Duration: 108 mins.

Director: Koichiro Oyama

Writer: Koichiro Oyama, Fumiya Yasumoto (Screenplay),

Starring: Ikkei Watanabe, Yu Toyama, Sakura Enomoto, Ryo Ushimaru, Naoki Goto,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: When a stranger with conflicting values joins a village whose inhabitants are closely knit, communal harmony may be affected. This is the case with Hiroshi. When he takes off with the family nest egg, just when his wife is giving birth to their first son, the villagers chase him down and violently beat him. He’s only spared at the last minute by the Reverend’s good graces. Thirty years later, Hiroshi’s scars are still present, except now they’re being borne by his son Shinichi. Depressed, traumatized and lazy, even his family sees his father’s bad blood within, persecuting him to the point of banishment from the village. He seeks shelter with the same Reverend who saved his father’s life years ago. Meanwhile, not far away, the latter continues his degenerate life. As the head of a small band of hoodlums, Hiroshi commits petty con jobs. One failed job too many forces him to hide out at the Reverend’s too. Shinichi and Hiroshi are totally clueless about their shared lineage and the man of the cloth plans to keep it that way, if only to move one and reason with the other.

Kingdom

キングダム 「Kingdom」

Running Time: 134 mins.

Release Date: April 19th, 2019

Director: Shinsuke Sato

Writer: Shinsuke Sato, Tsutomu Kuroiwa (Screenplay), Yasuhisa Hara (Manga/Screenplay)

Starring: Kento Yamazaki, Ryo Yoshizawa, Masami Nagasawa, Kanna Hashimoto, Kanata Hongo, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Jun Kaname, Takao Osawa, Shinnosuke Abe, Tak Sakaguchi, Jun Hashimoto,

Website IMDB

Shinsuke Sato is an action movie director who you may have heard of thanks to live-action versions of multiple manga like Gantz, I Am a Hero, and Inuyashiki. He tackles a historical epic with Kingdom which is based on Yasuhisa Hara’s novel which has already been adapted into an anime.

Synopsis: In 255 BC, a fratricidal war has divided China into seven kingdoms. Shin (Kento Yamazaki) and Hyou are two war orphans who aspire to become great generals and it is Hyou who gets picked to fight for the Qin dynasty first but when he is fatally wounded following an assassination attempt on king Eisei (Ryo Yoshizawa), Shin takes the lead and sets off on an adventure that will see him try to help the exiled monarch win back his throne and face many grave dangers including sadistic assassins and the troops of Seikyou the usurper and his legendary generals.

21st Century Girl 21st Century Girl Film Poster

21世紀の女の子 「21 Seiki no Onna no Ko」

Release Date: February 08th, 2019

Duration: 117 mins.

Website IMDB

This title consists of 14 short films which last 8 minutes each with an animated end-title sequence. Each work is by a female director born in either the late ‘80s or ‘90s so they are all under 30. It features a roster of familiar names from international festivals like Aya Igashi, Momoko Fukuda (Slowly) – here’s an interview with Momoko Fukuda – , Aimi Natsuto (Jeux de Plage) and Yoko Yamanaka (Amiko) and lots of familiar actors like Ai Hashimoto (The Kirishima Thing), Rena Matsui (Dear Etranger), Erisa Yanagi, Shizuka Ishibashi, Mei Kurokawa, Sairi Itoh (Love and Other Cults), Kiki Sugino (Snow Woman), and Kaho Minami. It was screened at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival and I combined details from that with the synopses from Fantasia.

Essentially, these are films made by women primarily for women and aim to capture the female experience. Please read this article on the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan website for more information.

Anytime, anywhere

Director: Yoko Yamanaka

Cast: Ayu Kitaura, Kaho Minami, Tenko Kamio, Kiki Sugino

A Chinese restaurant’s lazy Susan is put to great use in the bold.

Mucous Membrane

Director: Ayaka Kato

Cast: Kyooko Hinami, Haruka Kubo

A smoker wonders about her erogenous zones.

projection

Director: Yurina Kaneko

Cast: Sairi Itoh, Shiori Doi, An Ogawa

The filmmaker becomes the photographed.

love desiccant

Director: Yuka Eda

Cast: Anna Yamada, Ryusuke Fujiwara

A first-time romance runs a little dry.

out of fashion

Director: Kanae Higashi

Cast: Serena Motola, Nodoka Tsutsui

A charismatic model faces a crossroads.

Your Sheet

Director: Aya Igashi

Cast: Toko Miura, Kurumi Shimizu, Yu Koyanagi

Gender-bending self-discovery takes place.

Mirror

Director: Risa Takeuchi

Cast: Kumi Takiuchi, Aki Asakura, Miyuu Teshima

A former flame holds a “Mirror” to a photographer’s face.

Sex-less, Sex-friends

Director: Momoko Fukuda

Cast: Mei Kurokawa, Kenta Kiguchi

Long-time friends-with-benefit struggle with their relationship status.

muse

Director: Yuka Yasukawa

Cast: Shizuka Ishibashi, Jun Murakami, Yuri Nakamura

A male writer and a female photographer share a “Muse”.

I wanna be your cat

Director: Rin Shuto

Cast: Akari Kinoshita, Kimio Taketani

A screenwriter’s deepest desire is fulfilled.

Spring-ing

Director: Aimi Natsuto

Cast: Haruna Hori, Sara Kurashima, Juri Fukushima

Cherry blossoms fall on an love triangle.

reborn

Director: Yukari Sakamoto

Cast: Rena Matsui, Amon Hirai

A relationship shatters.

Low Resolution, High Emotion

Director: Hana Matsumoto

Cast: Ai Hashimoto, Sara Minami, Karin Ono, Erisa Yanagi

8min. Color Japanese 2018 Japan

A trip through the analog memories of a vanished lover.

For Lonesome Blossoms

Director: Ū-ki Yamato

Cast: Erika Karata, Momoko Takeuchi, Shiho

8min. Color Japanese 2018 Japan

End-title Animation

Director: Sakura Tamagawa

7min. Color 2018 Japan

Gintama 2: Rules Are Made to be Broken Gintama 2 Okite wa Yaburu Tame ni soko Aru Film Poster

銀魂2 掟は破るためにこそある 「Gintama 2: Okite wa Yaburu Tame ni soko Aru」

Release Date: August 17th, 2018

Running Time: 134 mins.

Director: Yuichi Fukuda

Writer: Yuichi Fukuda (Screenplay), Hideaki Sorachi (Original Manga)

Starring: Shun Oguri, Masaki Suda, Kanna Hashimoto, Masami Nagasawa, Masaki Okada, Jiro Sato, Yuya Yagira,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Gintoki Sakata (Shun Oguri), Shinpachi Shimura (Masaki Suda) and Kagura (Kanna Hashimoto) of the Shinpachi odd-job agency are short on money and forced to look part-time work when they go broke and they meet the Shogun. They aren’t the only ones with problems because, the Shinsengumi is split between different factions and conflict is brewing.

Legend of Stardust Brothers / Hoshikuzu kyodai no densetsu The Legend of the Stardust Brothers Film Poster

星くず兄弟の伝説 「Hoshikuzu kyodai no densetsu 」

Release Date: June 15th, 1985

Duration: 100 mins.

Director: Macoto Tezuka

Writer: Macoto Tezuka (Screenplay), Haruo Chikada (Original Story)

Starring: Ryosuke Miura, Kohei Takeda, Tadanobu Aasano,, Shingo Kubota, Kan Takagi, Kyoko Togawa, Issay, Kiyohiko Ozaki, Miwako Fukushima, Mie Akatsuka, Motoko Arai,

Website IMDB

This one has been licensed by Third Window Films and it has played at a couple of festivals already including Nippon Connection. As the release dates above show, it originally comes from 1985 and got a re-release last year. It was directed by Macoto Tezuka, son of manga legend, Osamu Tezuka. His short, “Unk“, a story where a girl is abducted by aliens and taken to their city, will also be screened with the film.

Hosted by director Macoto Tezka

Synopsis from Third Window Films: In 1985, Macoto Tezuka met musician and TV personality Haruo Chicada who had made a soundtrack to a movie which didn’t actually exist: The Legend of the Stardust Brothers. At the time Macoto was just 22 years old, a film-student with many short experimental films under his belt, but, with Chicada as producer, Tezuka would make his feature-film debut by adapting this “fake soundtrack” into the real movie story of “The Stardust Brothers”.

With inspiration from “Phantom of the Paradise” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, Tezuka assembled a cast of some of Japan’s most famous musicians of the time, including such greats as Kiyohiko Ozaki, ISSAY, Sunplaza Nakano and Hiroshi Takano, alongside many famous names in Manga such as Monkey Punch (Lupin the 3rd), Shinji Nagashima (Hanaichi Monme), Yosuke Takahashi (Mugen Shinsi) and even many upcoming film directors of the time such as Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Tokyo Sonata, Cure) and Daihachi Yoshida (The Kirishima Thing, The Scythian Lamb). The resulting film “The Legend of the Stardust Brothers” is the exact definition of a cult film. Despite the huge array of talent on board with a large budget, the film is totally unknown even to this day in both Japan and worldwide. More than 30 years since its release, The Stardust Brothers will finally make itself known worldwide with a new master and a brand new Director’s Cut!

Nao Yoshinaga’s short films

There are four short films by director Nao Yoshinaga:

Grand Bouquet Hottamaru Short Days Stories Floating on the Wind

The Pear and the Fang

梨君たまこと牙のゆくえ  「Nashi-kun Tamako to kiba no yukue」

Production Date: 2018

Duration: 30 mins.

Director: Nao Yoshigai

Writer: Nao Yoshigai, Tomoyuki Takahashi (Screenplay)

Starring: Yu Goto, Maiki Kimura, Waraimeshi Tetsuo, Razor Ramon RG, Rieka Ayumi, Apuri Kato,

Website

Synopsis: A young woman named Ayano who lives alone in a city finds an unexpected visitor in the shape of a pear. She names it “Tamako”. Meanwhile, in the countryside, a pear farmer named Satoko notices that one of the pears is missing and it has been replaced by a bloody fang.

Animation

The selection of animated shorts is truly incredible and features some familiar names. Ujicha of Burning Buddha Man and Violence Voyager has a short called Tempura. His style is gekimation which isn’t strictly animation. Death Vendor also provides horror. There’s the aforementioned Makoto Tezuka film Unk. There’s the short Fluffication about cute furry creatures,

My Little Goat My Little Goat Film Poster

マイリトルゴート  Mai Ritoru Go-to

Release Date: 2019

Duration: 11 mins.

Director: Tomoki Misato

Writer: Tomoki Misato (Screenplay),

Starring: Aimi Fukuhara, Mizuho Misato, Kaori Yamashita,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Tomoki Misato is a graduate of the Geidai programme and has crafted a lot of great stop-motion films. This one was screened at the Korea Independent Animation Festival earlier this year. This is a dark tale of a mother goat searching for her kids after a wolf devours them. Yes, she will have to go into the wolf but, even after that, she still has to look for one…

The House Rattler The House Rattler Film Poster

鬼とやなり  Ono to yanari

Release Date: 2019

Duration: 6 mins.

Director: Shinobu Soejima

Writer: Shinobu Soejima (Screenplay),

Starring: Aimi Fukuhara, Mizuho Misato, Kaori Yamashita,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: The Spirits of Cairn was Shinobu Soejima’s first film and it is supposed to be amazing. This is her follow-up and it’s supposed to be another great stop-motion film. The story is about an imp that lives in a house. The stop-motion animation looks incredible based on the trailer. It must have been time-consuming!

Shishigari and The Girl from the Other Side offer supernatural stories of kids moving across the border of life and death with fantastical creatures by their sides.

Then there are the more familiar titles.

A Japanese Boy Who Draws Aru Nihon no ekaki shonen Film Poster

ある日本の絵描き少年 「Aru Nihon no ekaki shonen」

Release Date: March 02nd, 2019

Duration: 20 mins.

Director: Masayoshi Kawajiri

Writer: Masayoshi Kawajiri (Screenplay),

Starring: Takeshi Uehara, Yasumi Yajima, Kenta Abe, Yoshiko Ishii, Shota Suzuki,

Website

Synopsis: An experimental short animation work depicting half of a life of a boy aiming to be a cartoonist. The visual style changes according to the progress and growth of the hero. It starts off in elementary school all the way through to him being a manga artist’s assistant and gives us a glimpse of the life of a professional…

Cencoroll Connect Cencoroll Connect Film Poster

センコロール コネクト  「Senkoro-ru Konekuto」

Release Date: June 29th, 2019

Duration: 75 mins.

Director: Atsuya Uki

Writer: Atsuya Uki (Screenplay),

Starring: Kana Hanazawa (Yuki), Hiro Shimono (Tetsu), Kenji Akabane (Gotoda), Natsumi Takamori (Kaname), Ryohei Kimura (Shuu), Satomi Moriya (Kei),

Animation Production: Think Corporation

Website ANN MAL

Synopsis: High school boy Tetsu has a secret – a pale shapeless creature for a pet which he calls Cenco. What it is and where it’s from is a mystery, one that doesn’t bother Tetsu so much but has his classmate Yuki interested. Tetsu isn’t the only one with a creature as Shu, another classmate, has two. Soon, a giant creature similar to theirs appears from an interdimensional portal over their town one evening. With the army activated, a kaiju battle ensues and it will sweep the kids along with it…

The Wonderland Birthday Wonderland Film Poster

バースデー・ワンダーランド 「Ba-sude- Wanda-rando」

Release Date: April 26th, 2019

Duration: 115 mins.

Director: Keiichi Hara

Writer: Miho Maruo (Screenplay), Sachiko Kashiwaba (Original Creator)

Starring: Mayu Matsuoka (Akane), Akiko Yajima (Doropo), Anzu (Chi), Keiji Fujiwara (Xan Gu), Kumiko Aso (Midori),

Website MAL ANN

This is a movie adaptation of the 1981 children’s book “Chikashitsu kara no Fushigi na Tabi”. Director Keiichi Hara (Miss Hokusai)

Synopsis: Akane Uesugi is a shy 6th grader who has trouble telling other people how she feels. The day before her birthday, her mother, Midori, sends her on an errand: to go get her birthday present from her free-spirited Aunt Chi’s antique shop. But a strange man named Hippocrates the Alchemist, who calls her the “Green Goddess”, together with Pipo the fairy, takes her on a journey to “The World Beyond” from a door in the basement where she embarks upon an adventure to save a land in crisis.

Human Lost Human Lost Film Poster

人間失格  「Ningen Shikkaku」

Release Date: July 19th, 2019

Duration: 116 mins.

Director: Katsuyuki Motohiro

Writer: Tow Ubukata (Screenplay), Osamu Dazai (Original Creator),

Starring: Mamoru Miyano (Yozo Oba), Haruka Chisuga (Tsuneko), Jun Fukuyama (Takeichi), Kana Hanazawa (Yoshiko Hiiragi), Miyuki Sawashiro (Madam),

Animation Production: Polygon Pictures

Website ANN MAL

Synopsis: Tokyo, 2036, and society is deeply divided between the rich and poor. It is only the rich who can access a revolutionary medical discovery involving the use of nanomachines to prolong human life to 120 years and remove the possibility of illness. A poor man by the name of Yozo has no hope of accessing this. However when he joins a friend’s biker gang he finds himself drawn into a conspiracy that unlocks new parts of him…

Promare Promare Film Poster

プロメア 「Puromea」

Release Date: May 24th, 2019

Duration: 111 mins.

Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Writer: Kazuki Nakashima (Screenplay/Original Work),

Starring: Ayane Sakura (Aina Ardebit), Kenichi Matsuyama (Galo Thymos), Taichi Saotome (Lio Fotia), Ami Koshimizu (Ellis Ardebit), Arata Furuta (Deus Prometh), Mayumi Shintani (Lucia Fex),

Animation Production: Trigger

ANN MAL Website

Synopsis: It has been 30 years since bottled-up human rage erupted into a great flame war that engulfed the globe. In the embers of that conflagration, humanity has rebuilt its civilization with every precaution in mind. But all it takes to start a fire is a spark, and there are those who would burn it all to the ground again. It’s up to cocky Galo Thymos and his elite squad of firefighters to keep the peace in the city of tomorrow. Alongside his maverick team — Lucia, Varys, Remi and Ignis — Galo springs into action at the sound of the fire alarm. Gripping tight the controls of powerful, high-tech firefighting machines, they crash in to confront the fiery terrorists of Burnish Mad. The situation is getting hot, some needs to hose the villains down and put them on ice. Burning Rescue… dispatch!

Relative Worlds ashita sekai ga owaru toshitemo film poster

あした世界が終わるとしても 「Ashita Sekai ga Owaru Toshitemo」

Release Date: January 25th, 2019

Duration: 108 mins.

Director: Yuhei Sakuragi

Writer: Yuhei Sakuragi (Screenplay),

Starring: Yuuki Kaji (Shin Hazama), Maaya Uchida (Kotori Izumi), Yoshiki Nakajima (Other Shin), Sayaka Senbongi (Kotoko Izumi), Aoi Yuki (Miko), Nana Mizuki (Yuri), Inori Minase (Riko)

Animation Production: Craftar

ANN MAL Website

Synopsis: Shin and Kotori have been friends since childhood but ever since Shin lost his mother he has developed a tendency to close himself off from others. These two high-schoolers find themselves confronted with other versions of themselves when two teens from another Japan appear in front of them.

Ride Your Wave Ride Your Wave Film Poster

きみと、波にのれたら  「Kimi to, Nami ni Noretara」

Release Date: June 21st, 2019

Duration: 94 mins.

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Writer: Reiko Yoshida (Screenplay/Original Creator),

Starring: Rina Kawaei (Hinako Mukaimizu), Ryota Katayose (Minato Hinageshi), Honoka Matsumoto (Yoko Hinageshi), Kentaro Ito (Wasabi Kawamura)

Animation Production: Science SARU

Music: Michiru Oshima

Website ANN MAL

This was screened at the Annecy International Animation Festival earlier this year.

Synopsis: Hinako moves to a coastal town to attend university. While there she can indulge her passion for surfing, something which washes away her uncertainty about her future. When a fire breaks out in town, Hinako encounters the young firefighter Minato. As they surf and spend more time together Hinako feels drawn to someone like Minato who devotes himself to helping other people. Hinako also holds a special place in Minato’s heart, and when he suddenly drowns while out surfing alone, he comes back to her as a ghost trapped in water. As everyone else gets over Minato’s death and tries to move on, Hinako comes to depend on his spirit.

Twilight Twilight Film Poster

薄暮  「Hakubo」

Release Date: June 21st, 2019

Duration: 52 mins.

Director: Yutaka Yamamoto

Writer: Yutaka Yamamoto (Screenplay, Original Creator)

Starring: Hiyori Sakurada (Sachi Koyama), Seishiro Kato (Yusuke Kijinami), Ayane Sakura, Hiro Shimono, Kana Hanazawa, Kaori Fukuhara, Sora Amamiya, Sumi Shimamoto,

Animation Production: Twilight Studio

Website ANN MAL

Hiroshi Yamamoto is an anime director who may be most familiar for his anime Wake Up, Girls!, which was about idols trying to revitalise a town after the Great East Japan Earthquake. This film, which was crowdfunded, remembers that disaster and uses it as a backdrop for two students trying to overcome their inner problems.

Synopsis: The story is about a high school girl named Sachi Koyama who lives in the rural city of Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture. She is fitting in well in her new school and is in the music club where she has a big recital coming up at the culture festival but, despite these activities, she likes to be by herself. Her favourite time is twilight Keisuke is another student at her school who spends time by himself. He loves to paint the beautiful landscape, his current project a painting of a sunset. The two have a secret heartache which they might reveal…

Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie Virtual Reality Diver Ghost in the Shell The New Movie Virtual Reality Diver Film Poster

攻殻機動隊 新劇場版 Virtual Reality Diver 「Koukaku Kidoutai: Shin Gekijou-ban Virtual Reality Diver」

Release Date: 2016

Running Time: 16 mins.

Director: Higashi Hiroaki

Writer: N/A (Screenplay), Masamune Shirow (Original Creator)

Starring: Elizabeth Maxwell (Motoko Kusanagi), Christopher Sabat (Batou), Jad Saxton (Logicoma), Stephanie Sheh (Yuri), Marc Diraison (Oribe),

Animation Production: Production I.G

MAL ANN Website

Originally released in 2016 for smart phones which are compatible with VR head-sets and Sony’s VR units, this 15-minute work offers an original story in immersive 360° 3D video.

Synopsis from Production I.G: To end the war and protect my wife, I must delete you all…”

Japan, 2025. Technology has been advancing more and more rapidly.

“Brain cyberization” that makes possible direct connections to information networks via the brain, the technology of “prosthetic bodies” that allows humans to change their body parts into cybernetical ones; in this world where such scientific advances have become common, a bombing attack threat is sent to the Japanese government.

The target is an international meeting involving dignitaries from the Republic of Kuzan. The case is entrusted to the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Public Security Section 9.

Section 9’s leader, the full-cyborg Motoko Kusanagi, assembles her team and heads off to trap and eliminate the terrorist.

Ira Ligar
Major Poker88 Strategy

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