Japanese Films: 2013: On the backburner

This list is the 2013 titled films that I haven’t had the pleasure of watching because of either a late in the year cinema release date or DVD release (or I just haven’t seen/brought a copy yet).

The titles highlighted are top of list for most anticipated watching come the new year. (Some of them potential frontrunners for the 37th Japan Academy Prize)

100 Kai Naku Koto

A young man named Fujii suffered partial memory loss due to injuries sustained in motorcycle accident four years ago. One day, he begins dating a girl named Yoshimi who he meets at a friend’s wedding. After only a brief time getting acquainted, Fujii decides to propose, but Yoshimi suggests a 1-year trial period before going through with it. Unfortunately, at the peak of the couple’s happiness together, Yoshimi is stricken by illness. In fact, it’s soon revealed that this was the true reason Yoshimi suggested delaying marriage in the first place…

Director: Ryuichi Hiroki
Featured Cast: Tadayoshi Okura, Mirei Kiritani, Rie Tomosaka, Shugo Oshinari, Haru
Genre: Romance, Drama


The Backwater

The film involves a 17-year-old boy named Tooma Shinogaki who lives with his father and his father’s new girlfriend in an isolated riverside town. Tooma is affected by witnessing the sexually abusive behavior of his father every day, and finds it difficult to avoid repeating the same behavior in his own life.

Director: Shinji Aoyama
Featured Cast: Masaki Suda, Yuko Tanaka, Ken Mitsuishi, Yukiko Shinohara, Misaki Kinoshita
Genre: Drama, Coming-of-Age, Disillusioned Youth

Film Festivals

2013 (66th) Locarno International Film Festival - Concorso Internazionale *World Premiere
2013 (18th) Busan International Film Festival - A Window on Asian Cinema


Eien no Zero

A young man named Kentaro Saeki has been trying unsuccessfully to realize his dream of passing the bar exam. Together, with his freelance writer sister, he begins investigating the circumstances surrounding their grandfather Kyuzo’s death in a kamikaze attack during the Pacific War. Kyuzo had an unusually strong fear of death and unmatched will to survive, so why would he volunteer for suicide? They unexpectedly discover that their grandfather’s Navy comrades referred to him as “gifted, but a coward”. The two of them uncover astonishing facts which have been sealed for 60 years.

Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Featured Cast: Junichi Okada, Mao Inoue, Haruma Miura, Gaku Hamada, Isao Hashizume
Genre: Family drama, Historical, Action


The Extreme Sukiyaki

Horaguchi’s (Arata) best moments occurred back in his university days. 15 years later, he has let time pass by idly. Horaguchi finally gives up and attempts to kill himself, but even that fails. Horaguchi now doesn’t know what to do. He does yearn for his university days, with all the brightness and optimism those times entailed. Horaguchi decides to find Ohkawa (Yosuke Kubozuka), a close friend from his university days. They haven’t spoken due to an incident that occurred 15 years ago.

Horaguchi and Ohkawa meet once again. At first, Ohkawa appears uncomfortable around Horaguchi, but soon they click like they did years ago. Horaguchi and Ohkawa then decide to plan a trip. Ohkawa’s girlfriend Kaede (Kana Kurashina) and Horaguchi’s ex-girlfriend Kyoko (Mikako Ichikawa) join their trip. They can’t explain why, but they bring along a sukiyaki pot and head for the beach. It’s a bit awkward between these four people, but their extreme trip begins. Horaguchi also has a secret and a reason for seeking out his friend after such a long time. [Asianwiki]

Director: Shiro Maeda
Featured Cast: Arata Iura, Yosuke Kubozuka, Kana Kurashina, Mikako Ichikawa
Genre: Drama, Road Trip


Fuan no Tane

A motorcycle accident in the city will be the precursor to a series of bizarre phenomena being revealed consecutively. Meanwhile, a girl named Yoko (Anna Ishibashi) possesses a second sight which allows her to see strange things invisible to others.

Director: Toshikazu Nagae
Featured Cast: Anna Ishibashi, Kenta Suga, Kodai Asaka, Kanji Tsuda
Genre: Horror


Ikenie no Dilemma

Would you kill for love, for jealously, for survival? One day a mysterious hole opens up at a high school and therein starts a deadly game. The students are told to kill someone, sacrifice another’s life for their own, or else die. A dilemma indeed.

Director: Shusuke Kaneko
Featured Cast: Kenta Suga, Seika Taketomi, Minehiro Kinomoto, 
Hikaru Yamamoto, Rio Kanno
Genre: High School, Horror, Disillusioned Youth


It’s a Beautiful Day

A South Korean exchange student named Ah-Joong is invited to to a camp area on the outskirts of Los Angeles to hang out with some Japanese students, but grows increasingly alienated due to the language barrier and the fact that the other students seem to be preoccupied with sex, drugs, and alcohol. Meanwhile, vicious siblings who earn money through robbery and murder target the cottage where the students are staying.

Featured Cast: Kim Kkobbi, Nanako Ohata, Akihiro Kitamura, Shijimi, Chika Kanamoto
Genre: Drama, Coming-of-Age, Disillusioned Youth


Jellyfish Eyes

An elementary school student named Masashi finds flat cardboard boxes at a home in which he just moved in. A strange creature like jellyfish comes from the cardboard. Masashi names the strange, but cute creature “Kurage Bo” and they become friends. Masashi places Kurage Bo in a bag and takes the creature with him to school his new school. The other students and adults can not see Kurage Bo.  [ AsianWiki ]

Director: Takashi Murakami
Featured Cast: Takuto Sueoka, Himeka Asami, Asuka Kurosawa, Takumi Saitoh, Kanji Tsuda
Genre: Kids, Animation, Action

Film Festivals

2013 (46th) Sitges Film Festival - Oficial Noves Visions - Experimenta


Kids Return: Saikai no Toki

Shinji recently retired from boxing and is now working a part-time job. Meanwhile, his high school friend Masaru is released from prison and rejoins his gang. After a chance reunion between the two men in their hometown, Shinji takes a comment by Masaru to heart and decides to make a boxing comeback. Meanwhile, Masaru also decides to make some changes.

Director: Hiroshi Shimizu
Featured Cast: Yuta Hiraoka, Takahiro Miura, Kana Kurashina, Akiyoshi Nakao, Shinpei Ichikawa
Genre: Sports, Disillusioned Youth


The Kiyosu Conference

After the forced suicide of Nobunaga Oda at the Incident at Honnō-ji, powerful figures Katsuie Shibata (Koji Yakusho), Hideyoshi Toyotomi (Yo Oizumi), Nagahide Niwa (Fumiyo Kohinata) and Tsuneoki Ikeda (Koichi Sato) meet to decide on a  successor. The conference would become Japan’s first group made political decision. The meeting was known as the Kiyosu Kaigi.

Director: Koki Mitani
Featured Cast: Koji Yakusho, Yo Oizumi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Koichi Sato, Kyoka Suzuki
Genre: Historical, Samurai

Film Festivals

2013 (37th) Montreal World Film Festival - World Greats *World Premiere
2013 (33rd) Hawaii International Film Festival - Spotlight on Japan *U.S. Premiere
2013 (26th) Tokyo International Film Festival - Closing Film


Kotatsu to, Mikan to, Nya

Kotatso (Maki Fukumi) learns that the person with the username Nya (Noriko Kijima) on an internet social network is her co-worker. Kotatso asks Nya to go on a hot spring trip together, but Nya’s friend Mikan (Hiroko Kamata) joins the trip.

Director: Ryutaro Kajino
Featured Cast: Noriko Kijima, Maki Fukumi, Hiroko Kamata
Genre: Romance, Yuri


Case of Kyoko, Case of Shuichi

The tsunami of March 11, 2011 destroyed most of the buildings in Minamisanriku, with over half of the town’s population being killed or displaced. Because of this, former residents Kyoko and Shuichi find themselves with no place to call home.

Director: Eiji Okuda
Featured Cast: Sakura Ando, Tasuku Emoto, Sohkoh Wada, Takanori Takeyama, Yoshiko Miyazaki
Genre: Mystery, Drama

Film Festivals

2013 (37th) Montreal World Film Festival - Focus on World Cinema


The Liar and His Lover

A 16-year-old school student named Riko becomes romantically involved with a 25-year-old named Aki Ogasawara, but he hides the fact that he’s actually the producer of her favorite band, Crude Play. Riko happens to be the singer of a band along with her two best friends called “Mush and Co.”, and one day Aki’s biggest rival discovers her and sets her on the path of stardom.

Director: Norihiro Koizumi
Featured Cast: Takeru Satoh, Sakurako Ohara, Saki Aibu, Takashi Sorimachi, Mitsuki Tanimura
Genre: Romance, Drama, Youth, High School



Director: Akiko Ohku
Featured Cast: Saki Takaoka, Masaya Kato, Jun Murakami, Ren Osugi
Genre: Horror, Thriller


Natsu no Owari

Tomoko maintains a relationship with an even-tempered older married man named Shingo at the same time she’s seeing an emotional younger man named Ryota.

Director: Kazuyoshi Kumakiri
Featured Cast: Hikari Mitsushima, Go Ayano, Kaoru Kobayashi, Yura Akanuma, Satoko Abe
Genre: Drama, Romance

Film Festivals

2013 (18th) Busan International Film Festival - A Window on Asian Cinema



Sayako (Mika Akizuki) was abused by her mother as a young child. She eventually moved into a foster care facility because of the abuse and has lived there ever since. She’s now a senior in high school. After Sayako graduates from high school she hopes to attend a ballet school, but Sayako can’t count on her parents for tuition fees.

One day, Sayako turns to her father for help. Her father betrays her trust again and this pushes Sayako over the edge. She escapes from the foster care facility and seeks out her mother and older sister. Eventually, Sayako meets an equally lost soul named Kenta (Junki Tozuka). Kenta wanders through the neighborhood on a bicycle asking random people if they know him. [Asianwiki]

Director: Masato Ozawa
Featured Cast: Mika Akizuki, Junki Tozuka, Maiko Kawakami, Osamu Shigematu
Genre: Disillusioned Youth, Drama

Film Festivals

2013 (14th) Jeonju International Film Festival - International Competition *World Premiere
2013 (21st) Raindance Film Festival - Way Out East *European Premiere


Schoolgirl Complex

Manami is the leader of her high school’s broadcasting club. While considering which a club member should read during the upcoming pre-graduation campus festival, Manami sees a girl named Chiyuki by the pool and subsequently becomes completely preoccupied with her, secretly peeping on her whenever possible. One day, Manami is taken by surprise when Chiyuki suddenly joins the broadcasting club, leading to a surge of strange new feelings.

Director: Yuichi Onuma
Featured Cast: Aoi Morikawa, Mugi Kadowaki, Ayuri Konno, Yuko Araki, Aoi Yoshikura
Genre: High School, Yuri, Friendship


The Serialist

A failed novelist named Ippei Akaba now writes serialized erotic stories for a living. His luck seems to change when he’s contacted by a notorious serial killer on death row who offers his story in exchange for some personalized erotic fiction involving his female devotees. However, Akaba soon finds a headless corpse left in the same manner the serial killer would leave his own victims. Police suspect Akaba, who suddenly finds himself on the run as he attempts to track down the person who set him up.

Director: Nobuaki Izaki
Featured Cast: Takaya Kamikawa, Shinji Takeda, Nana Katase, Keiko Takahashi, Aya Hirayama
Genre: Mystery, Action, Thriller


Tobe! Dakota

In January of 1946, a British military plane was forced to make an emergency landing on Sado Island. Due to propaganda from the war, the local residents are extremely wary of British military personnel. However, their spirit of compassion eventually takes over as an innkeeper’s daughter named Chiyoko takes five of the men in as guests and attempts to make them feel at home. Based on a true story.

Director: Seiji Aburatani
Featured Cast: Manami Higa, Masataka Kubota, Akira Emoto, Bengal, Toshiki Ayata
Genre: Historical, Action


Under the Nagasaki Sky

Kie Kitano stars as modern-day university student in Nagasaki who is three generations removed from the atomic bombing which occurred on August 9, 1945. The film portrays the lives of several people who lived in the area near the blast throughout the years.

Director: Taro Hyugaji
Featured Cast: Kie Kitano, Izumi Inamori, Yuya Yagira, Takahiro Hojo,
Genre: Family Drama

Film Festivals

2013 (16th) Shanghai International Film Festival - Golden Goblet Award



The film stars Ken Watanabe as an aging, grizzled samurai who takes one last job. It’s set in 1880, a time when the native Ainu people of Hokkaido were being displaced by Japanese settlers. Watanabe’s character, Jubee Kamata, lives a peaceful life with his Ainu wife and children, but is eventually lured out of retirement by a particularly large bounty.

Director: Sang-il Lee
Featured Cast: Ken Watanabe, Jun Kunimura, Koichi Sato, Yuya Yagira,
Akira Emoto
Genre: Historical, Action, Samurai

Film Festivals

2013 (70th) Venice Film Festival - Out of Competition *World Premiere
2013 (18th) Busan International Film Festival - Gala Presentation


Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

In the film, two men, Mutoh (Jun Kunimura) and Ikegami (Shinichi Tsutsumi) are filled with mutual hatred for each other for some reason. However, Ikegami unexpectedly falls in love with Mutoh’s daughter, Mitsuko (Fumi Nikaido), who’s an aspiring actress. Mutoh and his wife Shizue (Tomochika) want their daughter to get the starring role in a movie, so Mutoh decides to produce a film himself. Eventually a man named Hirata (Gen Hoshino), who is mistaken for a film director, and a young movie named Koji (Hiroki Hasegawa) become involved in Mutoh’s film. Even knowing Mitsuko is the daughter of his hated rival, Ikegami soon becomes involved in the troubled production, leading to a bizarre chain of events.

Director: Shion Sono
Featured Cast: Jun Kunimura, Fumi Nikaido, Tomochika, Hiroki Hasegawa, Gen Hoshino
Genre: Horror, Action, Comedy, Splatter Film

Film Festivals

2013 (70th) Venice Film Festival - Orizzonti *World Premiere
2013 (19th) L'Etrange Festival - September 5-15, 2013
2013 (38th) Toronto International Film Festival -.Midnight Madness *North American Premiere
2013 (9th) Fantastic Fest - September 19-26, 2013 *U.S. Premiere
2013 (18th) Busan International Film Festival - A Window on Asian Cinema
2013 (57th) BFI London Film Festival - Cult
2013 (33rd) Hawaii International Film Festival - HIFF Extreme *Hawaii Premiere
2013 (46th) Sitges Film Festival - Noves Visions - Ficció


A Woman and War

The film is set at the height of the war. Masatoshi Nagase plays a writer who starts living with a woman who works in a bar (Noriko Eguchi). However, the woman was sold into prostitution as a child and seems unable to experience joy. Surrounded by misery brought on by Japan’s loss in the war, the two people rely on their sexual relationship to fend off their own despair. Meanwhile, a man (Jun Murakami) returns from the war front in China after losing an arm and his mental state renders him impotent. However, he soon discovers the only way he can truly get excited is through murder and rape.

Director: Junichi Inoue
Featured Cast: Noriko Eguchi, Masatoshi Nagase, Jun Murakami, Sakiko Takao, Akira Emoto
Genre: Romance, Drama, Thriller

Film Festivals

2013 (8th) Osaka Asian Film Festival - Special Screenings
2013 (14th) Jeonju International Film Festival - World Cinemascape
2013 (7th) JAPAN CUTS - July 11-21, 2013


The Workhorse and the Bigmouth

Michiyo Mabuchi and Yoshimi Tendo meet by chance in a screenwriting class. Michiyo is in her 30s and has serious doubts about whether she’ll ever make it. Tendo, on the other hand, is completely overconfident. These two polar opposites are initially a volatile mix, but their differences eventually end up complimenting each other in various ways.

Director: Keisuke Yoshida
Featured Cast: Kumiko Aso, Shota Yasuda
Genre: Youth, Comedy, Romance


Yurusenai, Aitai

High school student Hatsumi (Aoi Yoshikura) lives with her mother. Her father passed away. She then meets 18-year-old Ryutaro (Yuya Yagira) who works at a waste paper collection field. They fall in love.

Ryutaro is then unable to contact Hatsumi and jumps to the conclusion that Hatsumi hates him. When they meet again, Ryutaro loses control of his emotions and a horrific incident occurs. Hatsumi becomes conflicted with her mixed emotions towards Ryutaro. She makes a decision. [Asianwiki]

Director: Junichi Kanai
Featured Cast: Yuya Yagira, Aoi Yoshikura
Genre: Youth, Drama

Film Festival

2013 (18th) Busan International Film Festival - New Currents *World Premiere

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