Japanese Films at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival

Vancouver International Film FestivalThe Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) launches soon and lasts from September 29th to October 14th and, as is usually the case, there are a heck of a lot of great films from East Asia with some top-notch Japanese content programmed. There is a strong line-up of films for the Japanese cinema specialist with titles new and old, some seen at festivals like Cannes and Nippon Connection and others that got their premiere at Toronto.

The VIFF website has had a facelift and you can track down the titles with a quick search or by selecting the relevant stream from the myriad of cool-sounding options.

Thanks go out to the programmers of the VIFF for picking a good selection of films and I hope you, dear reader, can find something that interests you!

Here’s the line-up!


This strand, better known as Dragons & Tigers, has feature-films and shorts from East Asia and the Japanese contingent is made up of titles that have been at Berlin and Cannes with festival favourites Koreeda and Fukada showing up. As is usually the case there are a number of short films from Japan and they play with the features. To find out more head to the festival site.

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I write PR for a film festival that takes place in Wales. The festival has grown over the last few years and this edition has a large slate of some of the latest films. I’ll be in Japan when it takes place but I want to promote it here because I think there will be a lot for people to enjoy:


Anthem of the Heart Image 1


24th & 25th September 2016

Box Office: +44 (0)29 2030 4400 email: enquiry@chapter.org


Aberystwyth Arts Centre

15th October 2016

Box Office: 01970 62 32 32 email: artstaff@aber.ac.uk


The Largest Festival of Japanese Animation in Wales Announces Dates, Locations and Select Confirmed Films for 6th Annual Instalment

The Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival returns to Wales for its sixth year. Events kick off in Cardiff at Chapter Arts on September 24th before moving to Aberystwyth. Audiences at each venue will be able to enjoy a programme made up of the latest and very best in anime both mainstream and independent as well as a plethora of cultural activities related to Japan. This year’s line-up of films proves once again that Japan is the home to some of the best animation in the world and Japanese artists continue to make daring and experimental works that go beyond 3D CGI Hollywood movies.

With two venues holding the event there are different programmes available. This one covers Chapter Arts which takes place over two days and features workshops, musical performances and a marketplace.


The Great Passage TV Anime PV

The award-winning novel/live-action film The Great Passage (2013) is getting an anime adaptation which is due to air in October this year as part of Fuji TV’s Noitamina. It is being animated by Zexcs (Aku no Hana) and directed by Toshimasa Kuroyanagi (director on Say “I love you.”) and the series scripts are being overseen/written by Takuya Sato (writer/director on NieA_7 and Strawberry Marshmallow and storyboard artist on And Yet the Town Moves and Kino’s Journey). The big name for a lot of anime fans isn’t necessarily the writer/director but the character designer/manga author Haruko Kumota who won fans for her series Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu.

My review was super positive on how good the movie is and that went on to clean up at the Japan Academy Awards 2014. The anime looks classy and mature so I’m hoping to enjoy it as my re-entry into the world of anime after three months off.

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Museum – The Serial Killer is Laughing in the Rain Teaser Trailer

The psychological thriller manga Museum is getting a live-action adaptation. I wrote about it back in November last year and had a search for the manga but couldn’t find it. A teaser trailer came out in June and I tweeted about it but I want to blog about it because it looks good. Japan has seen a spate of gritty films recently but the teaser suggests this one has the atmosphere while the people in front of and behind the camera promise that this is going to be decent at the very least. Just look!

Museum Search

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Alice in Earnestland (2015)

Alice in Earnestland    

Alice in Earnestland Film Poster
Alice in Earnestland Film Poster

Release Date: August 13th, 2015

Running Time: 90 mins.

Director: Ahn Gooc-Jin

Writer: Ahn Gooc-Jin (Screenplay)

Starring: Lee Jung-Hyun, Lee Hae-Young, Seo Young-Hwa, Lee Joon-Hyuk, Bae Je-Ji, Ji Dae-Han, Jung Young-Ki,

Alice in Earnestland is the debut feature-length film from Ahn Gooc-Jin, a dark and at times horrific tale of a woman who is brutalised as she is forced to survive and commit increasingly deadly acts of violence as she disappears down the rabbit hole of savagery.

The young woman at the centre of the story is Soo-Nam (Lee Jeong-hyun). When we first see her she has tied up Kyung-Sook (Seo Young-Hwa), a therapist who has been specifically chosen to listen to Soo-Nam’s tale of woe which is told through a lengthy flashback sequence. Soo-Nam starts off as something of an innocent abroad who marries for true love but eventually emerges as a bloody angel of retribution as she endures bad luck, money problems, and power-hungry greedy people who try to derail her happiness which she is determined to hold onto and it all links back to the local therapist in a neat way.

Alice in Earnestland Opening

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Third Window Films will release Takeshi Kitano’s “A Scene at the Sea” on September 12th on Blu-ray

Third Window Films are releasing a series of films by Takeshi Kitano on Blu-ray since Office Kitano are updating their titles with 2K masters. Regular readers will know that I have reviewed Hana-bi and Kikujiro and Dolls, and the latest release is A Scene at the Sea which comes out on September 12th.

A Scene at the Sea Two Leads

I saw this one for the first time around five or six years ago and was bowled over by it. The story is simple but profound as it looks at the love and problems of a unique set of characters, especially the two leads. It has some of that comedy and tragedy present in all of Kitano’s films minus the director himself who usually takes a star role. This one features another great score by Joe Hisaishi.

Here’s some info from a press release!

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Dreams for Sale 夢売るふたり (2012) Dir: Miwa Nishikawa

Dreams for Sale                                  Dreams for Sale Movie Poster

夢売るふたり  Yume Uru Futari

Release Date: September 08th, 2012

Running Time: 137 mins.

Director: Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: Miwa Nishikawa (Screenplay/Original Novel)

Starring: Takako Matsu, Sadao Abe, Lena Tanaka, Sawa Suzuki, Tamae Ando, Yuka Ebara, Tsurube Shoufukutei, Tae Kimrua, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yusuke Iseya, Kanji Furutachi,

Website    IMDB

“Dreams for Sale” is the award-winning fourth feature film from Miwa Nishikawa and it was released in 2012 after having travelled around international film festivals such as the London Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival. It follows on from her previous film by being a tale of a family riven by deceit and compromised morals but it is far darker than “Wild Berries” and “Dear Doctor”, this feels more akin to “Sway”, tougher.

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Dear Doctor ディア ドクター (2009) Miwa Nishikawa

Dear Doctor    Dear Doctor Film Poster

ディア・ドクター  Dea Dokuta-

Release Date: June 27th, 2009

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director: Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: Miwa Nishikawa (Screenplay/Original Novel)

Starring: Tsurube Shofukutei (Dr. Osamu Ino), Eita (Keisuke Soma), Kimiko Yo (Akemi Ohtake), Teruyuki Kagawa (Masayoshi Saimon), Kaoru Yachigusa (Kaduko Torikai), Haruka Igawa (Ritsuko Torikai), Ryo Iwamatsu (Lieutenant Yoshifumi Okayasu), Yutaka Matushige (Sergeant Hatano),

Website    IMDB

Miwa Nishikawa follows up her perfect twisted Tokyo-based family drama Wild Berries with this title about a countryside doctor who may not be what he appears to be. Despite the bucolic setting replacing Tokyo the themes are much the same as in her debut film, deception and desperation.

Dear Doctor takes place in a remote town in the middle of the countryside. It’s nighttime and creatures lurking in the rice fields croak and murmur in the darkness.  A man riding into town on a bicycle along a poorly lit road stops and puts on a doctor’s coat he finds lying on the ground. He continues cycling all the way to the clinic where a cluster of elderly villagers and police officers question him. Where did he find the coat? Where’s the doctor it’s normally attached to?

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Wild Berries 蛇イチゴ (2003) Miwa Nishikawa

Wild Berries    

Wild Berries FIlm Poster
Wild Berries FIlm Poster

蛇イチゴ Hebi Ichigo

Release Date: September 06th, 2003

Running Time: 119 mins.

Director: Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: Miwa Nishikawa (Screenplay),

Starring: Hiroyuki Miyasako, Miho Tsumiki, Sei Hiraizumi, Naoko Otani, Toru Tezuka, Moeko Ezawa, Susumu Terajima, Matsunosuke Shofukutei, Shota Sometani,

Website    IMDB


This is a huge review because I really like the film. It goes into detail without spoiling anything but you may want to watch the film before reading any further. A quick summation of the review: this is a debut movie? It’s perfect! Miwa Nishikawa is a genius!

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Miss Hokusai 百日紅 ~Miss HOKUSAI~ (2015) Dir: Keiichi Hara

I recently landed a role as contributor to V-Cinema and I have reviewed a number of films for the website. I have been something of a fan and enjoyed listening to their podcasts when they have covered Japanese cinema so I’m pretty excited to be a part of the team and helping to highlight Japanese cinema. Writing reviews is something I enjoy doing and I hope people enjoy reading my reviews!

Here’s a snippet of my review of the film Miss Hokusai (2015), the latest from Keiichi Hara Colorful (2010). It tells the story of one of Katsushika Hokusai’s daughters, O-Ei, who was an artist in her own right. It is a historical tale played with some comedy and a touch of fantasy and rich in period detail.

Miss Hokusai Image

The film is based on a manga from an award-winning creator Hanako Sugiura who is an interesting person. She was the daughter of a kimono merchant and

Hinako Sugiura
From the website Prominent People of Minato City

made her manga debut in 1980 in the experimental magazine Garo, the place where artists Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Oji Suzuki, and Usamaru Furuya all came to fame. The website Prominent People of Minato City states that Sugiura defined her work with intricately researched historical stories about Japan’s Edo period with a focus on customs and manners and her unique storytelling won the Japan Cartoonists’ Association Award in 1984 and the Bunshun Manga Award in 1988. She retired from being a manga artist in 1995 and became a regular participant on NHK’s television program Comedy: Oedo de gozaru (Comedy; This is Edo) and was popular as the expert guide who gave interesting easy-to-understand commentaries about Edo culture. She passed away in 2005 at the age of 46.

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