Japanese Films: 2013: Watched (and Recommended)

This is a list of the films watched during 2013….. anything highlighted is a must watch for the year (Several of them potential frontrunners for the 37th Japan Academy Prize). Some of these titles I was lucky enough to see at international film festivals.

This list doesn’t include tokusatsu titles or Anime watched throughout the year. Anything with a score above 2.5/5 is mentioned on this list, if you want a list of all the films I watched but didn’t make that score then check out this list.

Blindly in Love

Kentaro is an unsocial 35-year-old named who lives with his parents and has never dated a woman. When Kentaro’s parents set up an arranged marriage interview with a girl named Nahoko and her parents, he falls in love for the first time in his life. However, the pair soon run into unexpected obstacles. Nahoko is vision impaired and can’t seem to break free of her doting parents. Meanwhile, Kentaro has no idea how to deal with the surge of new emotions he’s feeling.

Director: Masahide Ichii
Featured Cast: Gen Hoshino, Kaho, Sei Hiraizumi, Ryoko Moriyama, Ren Osugi
Rating: 4/5

Film Festivals

2013 (14th) Jeonju International Film Festival - Cinema Palace *World Premiere
2013 (37th) Montreal World Film Festival - Focus on World Cinema

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A Boy Called H

Told from the viewpoint of the father Morio (Yutaka Mizutani), “A Boy Called H” follows a young boy named Hajime Senoh, nicknamed “H”. His father, Morio runs a tailor shop. With the onset of World War II, their family must endure difficult times. Nevertheless, H is filled with curiosity and a sense of justice. [Asianwiki]

Director: Yasuo Furuhata
Featured Cast: Yutaka Mizutani, Ran Ito, Tatsuki Yoshioka, Yurine Hanada, Taichi Saotome
Rating: 3/5

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The Brain Man

A mysterious unfeeling killing machine named Ichiro Suzuki commits murders in the name of justice. When he’s caught by a veteran detective named Chaya after turning a woman into a human bomb, forensic psychiatrist Mariko Washiya determines that Suzuki is a genius who’s able to carry out his murders with calculated precision while remaining completely devoid of human emotion. As Chaya continues his investigation, he comes to realize that Suzuki was not the only bomber, but simply a vigilante punishing those responsible for a previous rash of bombings throughout the city. Soon Noriko, partner of the woman Suzuki killed, kidnaps Dr. Washiya in an attempt to draw him out.

Director: Tomoyuki Takimoto
Featured Cast: Toma Ikuta, Yosuke Eguchi, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Fumi Nikaido, Lina Ohta
Rating: 3.5/5

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Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou

Masaki, Shuhei, and Ryo play a trio of ordinary high school boys that just want attention from girls. To win that attention the boys, along with other male students, organize a cultural festival with a nearby girls’ high school. Hilarity soon ensures.

Director: Daigo Matsui
Featured Cast: Masaki Suda, Shuhei Nomura, Ryo Yoshizawa, Louis Kurihara, Anri Okamoto
Rating: 3/5

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Detective in the Bar 2

“The Detective” and his partner Takada have their own case to investigate when their friend, a cross-dresser named Masako-chan, is murdered. Soon they begin a series of awkward conversations with Masako-chan’s colleagues in Susukino, leading to whispered rumors that a charismatic politician may be involved in the incident. Meanwhile, a beautiful violinist named Yumiko, who Masako-chan was an enthusiastic fan of, gets involved in the case.

Director: Hajime Hashimoto
Featured Cast: Yo Oizumi, Ryuhei Matsuda, Machiko Ono, Gori, Atsuro Watabe
Rating: 4/5

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The Devil’s Path

The film stars Takayuki Yamada as a magazine writer named Fujii who receives a letter from a death row inmate (Pierre Taki) detailing the horrific crimes of a man called “Sensei” (Lily Franky) who has never been caught. Sudo himself is a former gangster with very little credibility, but Fujii decides to follow through on the information.

Director: Kazuya Shiraishi
Featured Cast: Takayuki Yamada, Pierre Taki, Lily Franky, Chizuru Ikewaki, Kazuko Shirakawa
Rating: 3/5

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Enoshima Prism

High school students Shuta, Saku, and Michiru had been best friends since childhood, but things changed drastically after Michiru decided to move overseas and Saku died suddenly. Two years later, a train ride causes Shuta to be sent back in time to before Saku’s death and the three friends are back together in high school. Unfortunately, the time slip doesn’t last and Shuta finds himself back in the present. He becomes determined to return to save Saku’s life, but a mysterious girl named Kyoko warns him that his actions could have additional consequences.

Director: Yasuhiro Yoshida
Featured Cast: Sota Fukushi, Shuhei Nomura, Tsubasa Honda, Honoka Miki, Yo Yoshida
Rating: 3/5

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God Tongue Kiss Gaman Senshuken: The Movie

Come on a deadly journey with Gikidan Hirtori (Shogo Kawashima) the genius ad-libber as he ventures into a mission of resisting kisses for 24 hours, as well as, fighting Red shadow, zombies, and hotshot detectives.

Director: Nobuyuki Sakuma
Featured Cast: Shogo Kawashima (Gekidan Hitori), Ogiyahagi and Bananaman, Hideto Iwai, Mana Sakura, Masataka Kubota
Rating: 4/5

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The Great Passage

Mitsuya Majime is an eccentric worker in the sales department of Black Tortoise Bookstore who is appointed editor of an upcoming dictionary due to his unusual sense for lexicography. While engaged in the compilation of the brand new “Daitokai” dictionary, he works with a group of idiosyncratic characters including scatterbrained modern language expert Masashi Nishioka. While contending with an ocean of over 200,000 words by day, Mitsuya discovers he needs help the right words to convey his feelings for his boarding house landlady’s granddaughter, Kaguya.

Director: Yuya Ishii
Featured Cast: Ryuhei Matsuda, Aoi Miyazaki, Joe Odagiri, Haru Kuroki, Misako Watanabe
Rating: 3.5/5

Film Festivals

2013 (37th) Hong Kong International Film Festival - Gala Presentation
2013 (17th) Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival - Vision Express *Korean Premiere
2013 (17th) Fantasia Film Festival - Jul 18-Aug 7, 2013 *Canadian Premiere
2013 (10th) Japanese Film Festival (Kuala Lumpur) - Sep 12-17, 2013
2013 (32nd) Vancouver International Film Festival - Dragons and Tigers
2013 (57th) BFI London Film Festival - Oct 9-20, 2013 - Laugh

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The Intermission

Drinking on the job, smoking on the job, getting harassed my male employees, harassing female employees, knife attacks, a sudden death, and an unexpected earthquake is all part of the mundane job of working in a Tokyo cinema.

Director: Naofumi Higuchi
Featured Cast: Kumiko Akiyoshi, Shota Sometani, Satoshi Furuya, 
Yoko Hatanaka, Shinji Higuchi
Rating: 2.5/5

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Library Wars

In the year 2019, all forms of media deemed immoral are censored or banned under the “Media Betterment Act”. In order to fight back against this law, the nation’s libraries band together and form a para-military group called the “Library Defense Force” (LDF) to protect banned media from destruction. New recruit Iku Kasahara initially has trouble adjusting to the strictness of her squad leader Atsushi Dojo, but eventually comes to respect his dedication to protecting the freedom of knowledge at any cost.

Director: Shinsuke Sato
Featured Cast: Junichi Okada, Nana Eikura, Chiaki Kuriyama, Kei Tanaka, Sota Fukushi
Rating: 2.5/5

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Like Father, Like Son

Ryota is a career-driven, successful family man who discovers that his 6-year-old son was actually switched at birth with the son of another couple. Ryota, his wife Midori, and the other couple involved are forced to consider what it really means to be parents and which bonds are most important.

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Featured Cast: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Lily Franky,
Keita Ninomiya
Rating: 4/5

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Night People

Shinji (Kazuki Kitamura) runs a bar. A woman named Moeko (Eriko Sato) appears in front of Shinji. In the past, Moeko stole 200,000,000 yen from member of the National Assembly. Shinji , Moeko, Detective Sone (Tetta Sugimoto) and a gang soon begin to collide because of the money. [Asianwiki]

Director: Hajime Kadoi
Featured Cast: Eriko Sato, Kazuki Kitamura, Mayumi Wakamura, 
Masanori Mimoto, Tetta Sugimoto
Rating: 3/5

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Petal Dance

When friends Jinko and Motoko they hear a rumor that their mutual friend Miki recently jumped into the ocean, they decide to visit her in northern Japan. Meanwhile, Jinko meets another girl named Haraki at the library she works who winds up coming along as their driver.

Director: Hiroshi Ishikawa
Featured Cast: Aoi Miyazaki, Kazue Fukiishi, Sakura Ando, Shioli Kutsuna, Shunsuke Kazama
Rating: 3/5

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The Ravine of Goodbye

The story begins with an infant being murdered in a wooded valley. The baby’s mother, Satomi Tachibana, is arrested for the crime and it’s soon revealed that she had an affair with her neighbor, Shunsuke Ozaki. This fact is discovered through the testimony of Ozaki’s common-law wife, Kanako. Watanabe, a reporter for a weekly magazine, begins investigating the people involved and discovers that not only was Ozaki involved in a rape case 15 years earlier, but the victim was Kanako. Soon, the truth of their long-time relationship is slowly revealed.

Director: Tatsushi Omori
Featured Cast: Yoko Maki, Shima Onishi, Anne Suzuki, Nao Omori, Arata Iura
Rating: 3/5

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Real

In the film, Takeru Satoh and Haruka Ayase play lovers Koichi and Atsumi. A year earlier, Atsumi attempted suicide and lapsed into a coma, but an advanced form of neurosurgery allows Koichi to enter her thoughts. His goal is the figure out why she tried to kill herself and, if possible, to help her wake up. Soon, a picture of a Plesiosaur she drew as a child becomes the key to unlocking a long-buried memory.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Featured Cast: Takeru Satoh, Haruka Ayase, Joe Odagiri, Miki Nakatani, Kyoko Koizumi
Rating: 2.5/5

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See You Tomorrow, Everyone

The movie stars Gaku Hamada, a young man named Satoru who has grown up in a housing project originally built during Japan’s economic boom with all the amenities families could possibly need located in one small area. For some reason Satoru is determined live out his whole life without ever having to leave the safe confines of his neighborhood, but when his schoolmates start to move away and the buildings around him become increasingly run-down with age, events begin to conspire against his wishes.

Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura
Featured Cast: Gaku Hamada, Kana Kurashina, Bengal, Kei Tanaka, Nene Otsuka
Rating: 2.5/5

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Shield of Straw

Ninagawa is a powerful man in Japanese politics and with top economic connections.His granddaughter is then murdered. The suspect is Kunihide Kiyomaru (Tatsuya Fujiwara). Kunihide Kiyomaru has a prior conviction for assaulting and killing a girl 8 years ago. The police could never apprehend the suspect in the prior killing.

Three months after the murder of his granddaughter, Ninagawa places a whole page ad in the 3 big Japanese newspapers. The ad states “Please kill this man Kunihide Kiyomaru and I will pay you 1,000,000,000 yen as a reward.” Meanwhile, Kunihide Kiyomaru sees the ad and begins to fear for his life. Kunihide Kiyomaru then turns himself in at the Fukuoka Police Station. Five detectives from the security section (SP) of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department travel to Fukuoka to escort Kunihide Kiyomaru back to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. The distance between Fukuoka and Tokyo is apprixmately 1,200 km. During their fateful trip, a significant portion of the Japanese population plot to kill Kunihide Kiyomaru. Many of those people, actually pursue Kunihide Kiyomaru while he goes back to Tokyo to get the 1 billion yen reward. The lonely fight of the five detectives to protect this man begins … [ AsianWiki]

Director: Takashi Miike
Featured Cast: Nanako Matsushima, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Takao Osawa, Masato Ibu, Tsutomu Yamazaki
Rating: 3/5

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Shing Shing Shing

High school student Tomoyuki (Hoshi Ishida), his father (Kazuhiro Sano), and Yuki (Miwako Wagatsuma), a girl that Tomyuki likes, gather together as a family and performs road shows out of their truck. A sense of loss, farewells, and relations are all brought out.  [ AsianWiki ]

Director: Kouhei Sanada
Featured Cast: Hoshi Ishida, Miwako Wagatsuma, Yoriko Douguchi, 
Megumi Kagurazaka, Yu Nakamura
Rating: 4/5

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The Story of Yonosuke

Set in 1987, the film stars Kengo Kora as an ordinary, yet spirited 18-year-old named Yonosuke who moves from Nagasaki to Tokyo for university. Although he has trouble fitting in at first, he takes up dancing, gains the affection of a rich girl named Shoko (Yuriko Yoshitaka), and falls for an older woman named Chiharu (Ayumi Ito). From university to his later work life, Yonosuke touches the lives of everyone he meets.

Director: Shuichi Okita
Featured Cast: Kengo Kora, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Sosuke Ikematsu, Ayumi Ito, Go Ayano
Rating: 4.5/5

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Touching the Skin of Eeriness

After the death of his father, Chihiro (Shota Sometani) goes to live with older half-brother Togo (Kiyohiko Shibukawa). Although Togo and his girlfriend Satomi (Natsumi Seto) warmly take him in, Chihiro’s loneliness still lingers, and he becomes engrossed in practicing modern dance with classmate Naoya (Hoshi Ishida). However, disturbing events soon start to take place in the town where the two so innocently dance…

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Featured Cast: Hoshi Ishida, Shota Sometani, Jun Murakami, Seto Natsumi
Rating: 4.5/5

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Strawberry Night

Himekawa is investigating the slaughter of a low-ranking yakuza. Due to the victim’s affiliations, the case is initially written off as a gang dispute and put on the back-burner due to a lack of conclusive evidence. Later, they receive a phone tip implicating a man named Kento Yanai as the perpetrator, but the higher-ups order that no further investigation be done of that particular name. Going against that order, Himekawa begins her own investigation which leads her to cross paths with a yakuza named Isao Makita. Soon, the two become involved in a forbidden love affair.

Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura
Featured Cast: Yuko Takeuchi, Takao Osawa, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Takashi Ukaji, Keisuke Koide
Rating: 3.5/5

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Sue, Mai and Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship

“Su-chan Mai-chan Sawako-san” follows the lives of three women who are former co-workers.

34-year-old Su-chan works at a coffee shop and has feelings for the manager there. 34-year-old Mai-chan works at an OA machine maker. She is in a relationship with a married man. 39-year-old Sawako works as a web designer and also takes care of her grandmother. -san and her mother take care of her grandmother. [Asianwiki]

Director: Osamu Minorikawa
Featured Cast: Kou Shibasaki, Yoko Maki, Shinobu Terajima, Hana Kino, Ginpuncho
Rating: 2.5/5

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Suzuki Sensei

Teacher Akira Suzuki (Hiroki Hasegawa) breaks away from long held customs and norms at his school. He tries hard to have the ideal classroom by using his own “Suzuki method”.

The new semester begins. His homeroom 2-A class is about to have a student council election and preparations for a school festival. A man (Shunsuke Kazama) then takes a female student hostage …  [ AsianWiki ]

Director: Hayato Kawai
Featured Cast: Hiroki Hasegawa, Asami Usuda, Yasuko Tomita, Denden, Tomoko Tabata
Rating: 3/5

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Tokyo Family

An old married couple Shukichi Hirayama (Isao Hashizume) and Tomiko ( Kazuko Yoshiyuki) live on a small island in the Inland Sea. They go to Tokyo. The couple have 3 children. The eldest son Koichi (Masahiko Nishimura) runs a hospital. The first daughter Shigeko (Tomoko Nakajima) runs a beauty salon. The second son Shuji (Satoshi Tsumabuki) works in stage art. The families ask the parents to take a rest in Tokyo, but the parents do not like staying in Tokyo. One day, Tomiko visits Shuji’s apartment. There, Tomiko is introduced to Shuji’s fiance Noriko (Yu Aoi), but Tomiko collapses at Koichi’s house …

Director: Yoji Yamada
Featured Cast: Bunta Sugawara, Etsuko Ichihara, Masahiko Nishimura, Satoshi Tsumabuki, 
Shigeru Muroi
Rating: 3/5

Film Festivals

2013 (63rd) Berlin International Film Festival - Berlinale Special *International Premiere
2013 (37th) Hong Kong International Film Festival - Mar 17 - Apr 4, 2013 - Master Class
2013 (16th) Shanghai International Film Festival - Global Village - Japan Film Week
2013 (62nd) Melbourne International Film Festival - Jul 25-Aug 11, 2013 - Accent on Asia
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