Japanese Films at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto International Film Festival LogoThe Toronto International Film Festival is about to launch soon and the number and quality of Japanese films is ABSOLUTELY BLOODY BRILLIANT! Forget Venice, London, Berlin and Cannes. I wish I were living in Toronto! While there are a few titles that were screened at the Venice Film Festival, there are even more which are premieres and have yet to be released in Japan. They are all interesting. Whether you want the number one Japanese movie box office smash (Thermae Romae), a forthcoming drama involving otaku and sex (The Cowards Who Look to the Sky) or Yakuza tearing chunks out of each other (Outrage Beyond), it is all here.

Here is the line-up!

The Cowards Who Looked to the SkyThe Cowards Who Looked to the Sky Movie Poster

Japanese Title: ふがいない 僕 は 空 を 見た

Romaji: Fugainai Boku wa Sora wo Mita

Release Date: 17th November 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 142

Director: Yuki Tanada

Writer: Kosuke Mukai, Misumi Kubo (Novel)

Starring: Tomoko Tabata, Kento Nagayama, Masataka Kubota, Mieko Harada, Takahiro Miura

Otaku have proven fertile ground for but when I read more of the plot it sounded quite miserable. I haven’t read the original novel by Misumi Kubo but judging by the trailer, emotions are running very high! It stars the beautiful Tomoko Tabata (Blood and Bones, The Hidden Blade), the handsome Kento Nagayama (Crime or Punishment?!?), the young Masataka Kubota (13 Assassins), Takahiro Miura (Tokyo Playboy Club), and Mieko Harada (Helter Skelter).

Anzu (Tabata) is a depressed housewife who lives with a nagging mother-in-law and indifferent husband. When she attends an anime convention in cosplay she meets Takumi (Nagayama). The two start an affair at Anzu’s home. At this point, those already in Takumi’s life go through emotional upheaval of their own as a classmate confesses her love for him and his friend Fukuda (Kubota) finds himself at the mercy of a loan shark who has come to collect his mother’s debts. This is just the start of the emotional turmoil for all characters involved.


Dreams for SaleDreams for Sale Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 夢 売る ふたり

Romaji: Yume Uru Futari

Screening Dates: Monday, 10th September, 6:30 P.M. – TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, Wednesday 12th September 2:00 P.M. – Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 2, Sunday 16th September 2:45 P.M. – Scotiabank 3

Running Time: 137 mins.

Director: Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: N/A

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

The first of two films at the festival which stars Teruyuki Kagawa and both are dark comedies… but I’m getting ahead of myself here. This one involves a couple who scam lonely women out of money through conning them into marriage. The principal cast are lead by Takako Matsu (9 Souls, Confessions, April Story), Sadao Abe (Paikaji Nankai Sakusen, After Life), Sawa Suzuki (Loft), Tae Kimura (My House, Kaidan, Starfish Hotel, Infection), and Tamae Ando (Noriko’s Dinner Table, Phone Call to the Bar).

When Kanya (Abe) and Satoko (Matsu) celebrate the fifth anniversary of their restaurant they had no idea it would end with the place burning down. This disaster forces Satoko to take on a job at a noodle shop while Kanya gets depressed and does what most movie men do in such a situation: drink and gamble. Then, one night, he returns home with cash and claims he got it by spending time with a lonely woman.  Satoko is initially angry but then realises the full potential of the scame and so the two embark on a series of sham relationships to get money together to re-open their restaurant. Surely it wont go that smoothly?


EmperorEmperor Movie Poster

Screening Dates: Friday, 14th September, 6:30 P.M. – Ray Thomson Hall, Saturday 15th September 9:15 A.M. – Scotiabank 1, Sunday 16th September 12:15 P.M. – Scotiabank 3

Running Time: 98 mins.

Director: Peter Webber

Writer: David Klass, Vera Blasi

Starring: Matthew Fox, Eriko Hatsune, Tommy Lee Jones

This one stars some guys named Matthew Fox and Tommy Lee Jones alongside the wonderful Eriko Hatsune (Norwegian Wood, Uzumaki). I’m kidding. I know who Tommy Lee Jones is and I enjoyed Men in Black and The Fugitive. Matthew Fox on the other hand… I never really saw the appeal of Lost. Anyway this historical drama focusses on a young officer serving under General Douglas MacArthur at the tail-end of the Second World War and it is directed by the Briton Peter Webber who made the wonderful film adaptation of The Girl with the Pearl Earring.

General Douglas MacArthur (Jones) is the Supreme Commander of allied forces occupying Japan. This follows the devastating atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the humiliating surrender of the Japanese emperor to Allied forces. MacArthur has to decide the emperor’s fate and to aid him in his task he selects General Bonner Fellers (Fox), an expert on Japan who just happened to have a relationship with a Japanese exchange student named Aya (Hatsune) in his past. Fellers will find his convictions tested and his decision over the fate of the emperor will be put through a thorough testing when he searches through the wreckage of Japan for Aya and sees what war has done to Japan.


Key of LifeKey of Life Movie Poster

Japanese Title: 鍵 泥棒 の メソッド

Romaji: Kagi Dorobou no Meoddo

Screening Dates: Tuesday, 11th September, 8:00 P.M. – Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 10, Wednesday 12th September 2:00 P.M. – Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 10, Saturday 15th September 09:00 A.M. – Scotiabank 11

Running Time: 128 mins.

Director: Kenji Uchida

Writer: Kenji Uchida

Starring: Masato Sakai, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ryoko Hirosue, YosiYosi Arakawa, Yoko Moriguchi

This film gets its premiere just ahead of its theatrical release in Japan. It stars Teruyuki Kagawa (Tokyo Sonata), Masato Sakai (Sky High), Ryoko Hirosue (Depatures), YosiYosi Arakawa (Fine, Totally Fine), and Yoko Moriguchi (Casshern). The plot is not the slightest bit original(I recently watched Takeshi Kitano covering it in the film Getting Any?) but that cast list makes me think this could be very funny. Check the trailer!

Sakurai (Kondo) is an aspiring but unsuccessful actor who has recently attempted suicide but is unsuccessful at that. He decides to head to a local bathhouse to ease his suffering and whilst there he witnesses a stranger in the neighbourhood named Kondo (Kagawa) who slips and knocks himself unconscious. Sakurai takes advantage of this and helps himself to Kondo’s locker key. He loots Kondo’s belongings and assumes his identity which is a pretty bad idea considering that Kondo is an assassin working for a yakuza. For his part Kondo wakes up in hospital minus his memory and so assumes Sakurai’s life as an actor but applies his dedicated nature to the craft while trying to recover his memory.

The Land of HopeThe Land of Hope Movie Poster

Japanese: 希望 の 国

Romaji: Kibou no Kuni

Screening Dates: Friday 07th September, 9:45 P.M. – Winter Garden Theatre, Sunday 09th September, 3:30 P.M. – Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 3, Saturday 15th September 3:30 P.M. – Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 3

Running Time: 133 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono

Starring: Isao Natsuyagi, Naoko Otani, Jun Murakami, Megumi Kagurazaka, Yutaka Shimizu, Hikari Kajiwara, Denden, Mariko Tsutsui, Yusuke Iseya, Mitsuru Fukikoshi,

So Sion Sono’s latest film, The Land of Hope, gets its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film is apparently inspired by a true story and deals with a family struggling to survive the aftermath of the Tōhoku Earthquake and Tusnami and features footage shot at Fukushima. While I love Sono’s horror work like Suicide Club and Cold Fish, his dramatic titles like Himizu and Noriko’s Dinner Table are very powerful. This looks like it will be a stunning film and I would definitely see this.

An old couple named Yasuhiko and Chieko (Natsuyagi and Otani) live on a farm near a peaceful village in Nagashima prefecture with their son Yoichi (Murakami) and his wife Izumi (Kagurazaka). When an earthquake strikes the nearby nuclear power plant explodes and the village’s residents are forced to evacuate since the village is in the twenty-kilometre evacuation radius. The family are soon faced with a tough decision: evacuate with the rest of the village or stay on the land that generations of their family have lived on. Yoichi and his wife decide to head to a nearby urban community while Yasuhiko and Chieko remain on the farm. Both couples are beset by doubts and problems.

Like Someone in LoveLike Someone in Love Poster

Screening Dates: Friday 07th September, 9:30 P.M. – Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 7, Sunday 09th September, 9:00 A.M. – Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 6

Running Time: 109 mins.

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Writer: Abbas Kiarostami

Starring: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Denden, Ryo Kase, Mihoko Suzuki, Kaneko Kubota, Hiroyuki Kishi, Reiko Mori, Seina Kasugai, Tomoaki Tatsumi

Abbas Kiarostami followed Certified Copy with Like Someone in Love which is set in Japan. It stars Rin Takanashi who starred in Goth: Love of Death, Denden who was in Cure, Cold Fish and Himizu and Ryo Kase who starred in Outrage and Retribution. It got mixed reviews at Cannes, how will it fare here?

A young female student named Akiko (Rin Takanashi) works as a prostitute to pay off her university fees. One of her clients is an elderly academic (Tadashi Okuno) who is fond of her and merely wants to talk. Soon a grandfather/daughter relationship develops between the two which is just as well because her jealous boyfriend (Kase) assumes that is all it is and is kept in the dark.



Outrage BeyondOutrage Beyond Film Poster

Japanese Title: アウトレイジ ビヨンド

Romaji: Autoreiji Biyondo

Screening Dates: Wednesday 12th September, 5:30 P.M. – Scotiabank 1, Friday 14th September, 3:45 P.M. – Scotiabank 4, Saturday 15th September, 9:00 P.M. – TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Running Time: 110 mins.

Director: Takeshi Kitano

Writer: Takeshi Kitano

Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Ryo Kase, Tomokazu Miura, Fumiyo Kohinata, Toshiyuki Nishida, Hirofumi Arai, Akira Nakao, Yutaka Matsushige, Kenta Kiritani, Sansei Shiomi, Hideo Nakano

Outrage Beyond recently had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival in competition. I have yet to read any reviews for it but considering the original Outrage  was a stylish, lean and efficient gangster thriller and Takeshi Kitano (Kids Return, Boiling Point) is a master of that genre I can only see it being brilliant. The film stars Ryo Kase (Like Someone in Love, SPEC: Heaven), Tomokazu Miura (Adrift in Tokyo, Survive Style 5+), and Yutaka Matsushige (Ring).  This would be one of the films I would go to see!

When Tokyo’s anti-gang investigator is found dead the police crack down on the Yakuza. Corrupt cop Kataoka (Kohinata) is in charge of the investigation and he finds himself caught in the machinations of two rival families. Cue the release from prison of Ohtomo (Kitano) who finds himself part of a police plot to destroy his former Yakuza brothers. Not that he would object considering his shabby treatment at their hands.


PenanceShokuzai Drama Poster

Romaji: Shokuzai

Japanese Title: 贖罪

Screening Dates: Thursday 13th September, 7:00 P.M. – TIFF Bell Lightbox 4, Friday 14th September, 7:00 P.M. – Scotiabank 9, Sunday 16th September, 2:00 P.M. – Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 6

Running Time: 270 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Script), Kanae Minato (Original Novel)

Starring: Kyoko Koizumi, Eiko Koike, Sakura Ando, Chizuru Ikewaki, Yu Aoi, Mirai Moriyama

This is another title that screened at Venice but the fact that Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s five-episode TV drama/theatrical release is getting screened at festivals leaves me with the hope that this might get released in the U.K. on DVD. It is based on Kanae (Confessions) Minato’s novel of the same name and it stars Kyoko Koizumi (Tokyo Sonata, Adrift in Tokyo), Sakura Ando (Love Exposure, Crime or Punishment?!?), Yu Aoi (Memories of Matsuko, All About Lily Chou-Chou), Eiko Koike (Kamikaze Girls, 2LDK) and Chizuru Ikewaki (Haru in The Cat Returns). I am a major Kurosawa fan and I would definitely make the trip to see this!


When a girl named Emiri moves from Tokyo to Ueda she makes friends with four girls named Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuka. One day when the five girls are playing volleyball at school they are approached by a man dressed in work clothes who asks for their help in repairing the ventilation system. He picks Emiri. The two head towards the gym. When there is no sign of Emiri returning her friends head in the same direction and discover her dead. When questioned by the police they cannot describe the man which means leads to the investigation grinding to a halt. Several months later, Emiri’s mother Asako (Koizumi) invites the four girls to her house on Emiri’s birthday. It is there that she tells them that they will have to atone for their inability to describe the man and help in his capture. Fifteen years later, Sae (Aoi), Maki (Koike), Akiko (Ando) and Yuka (Ikewaki) are leading troubled lives and live in fear of the penance expected of them.

Thermae Romae                                                          テルマエ&スパワールド

Japanese Titleテルマエ ロマエ

Romaji: Terumae Romae

Screening Dates: Saturday 8th September, 1:30 P.M. – Roy Thomson Hall, Sunday, 09th September, 12:30 P.M. – Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 7, Saturday 15th September, 7:30 P.M. – Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 10

Running Time: 109 mins.

Director: Hideki Takeuchi

Writer: Mari Yamazaki (manga), Shogo Muto

Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Aya Ueto, Masachika Ichimura, Kai Shishido, Kazuki Kitamura

People who follow this blog will be aware that Thermae Romae, the live-action adaptation of Mari Yamazaki’s time travel, culture clash comedy manga of the same name has been in the Japanese top ten since its theatrical premiere back in April and has grossed around $75 million. I am stunned but then it looks like a good comedy and Hiroshi Abe probably has something like a legion of fans. Anyway an English language trailer has been posted due to the fact that it wil head to the 37th Toronto International Film Festival which takes place from the 6th to the 16th of September. If that isn’t enough to get excited about, Outrage Beyond will also be rocking up at the festival. Expect my festival preview next week.

Roman bath house architect Lucius (Abe) is a perfectionist and traditionalist who gets fired from his architectural practice. In order to cheer him up, a friend takes him to a bathhouse but Lucius slips through a time portal and ends up in modern day Japan. Although initially bewildered Lucius takes inspiration from modern day Japanese baths and implements the designs in his Roman bathhouses. This sees him become favoured by Emperor Hadrian (Ichimura) but clash with emperor-in-waiting Antoninus (Kitamura). Lucius soon finds himself caught up in political intrigue in between his time travel adventures but it is not all bad as he has met a beautiful aspiring manga artist named Mami (Ueto) who loves to sketch him.

All that remains to be said is that I hope these films are entertaining and get released in the UK.

18 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival

  1. Three of these are on the LIFF programme…Dreams for Sale, Key of Life and Like Someone in Love. Fairly sure we’ll see Land of Hope at some point too. Will keep my fingers crossed for the first one as well, because that’s one I want to see as well!

    1. The Toronto International Film Festival always has a better roster of Japanese films than other festivals I usually take notice of. I usually end up wanting to move to Canada whenever I see the festival programme.

      As far as the LFF goes, I want to see Key of Life and Dreams for Sale as well as The Wolf Children. I’m looking into hotels in London so I can attend the LFF. Getting time off work should be easy but the cost of staying in London might be painful. Also… No Outrage Beyond at the LFF????

      Edit: I just saw some of the Japanese line-up at the LFF. HELTER SKELTER, THE SAMURAI THAT NIGHT !!!!

      OCT. 11 – 13 Four day stay loads of films!!!

      1. The Toronto Film Festival generally strikes me as a pretty good one. I suppose it’s not as high profile as Cannes or Venice, and maybe not as important for the critics and the industry, but I kind of like it better from what I have seen: like its for film fans (you know, like us). The Japanese section is great (and the fact that they get premieres like for Land of Hope), but other film offerings too. Yeah, kind of makes me want to move to Canada too!

        I want to see Dreams for Sale, Ookami no Kodomo (they are totally selling it as a kiddie film! They did that with Shinkai’s film last year and all the kids I saw at the screening seemed rather bored), Ai to Makoto, Like Someone in Love. Some Korean ones (Helpless, maybe Romance Joe, the Asian shorts Beautiful 2012). And some others that I’ve had on Trailer Weeklies… but I will have to check the schedule, the costs, and everything…

        If you want to prebook anything (members’ booking), I can do that for you since I recently got myself a membership. 🙂

      2. I see we agree about Toronto 🙂

        I can live with just seeing two or three – Key of Life, Helter Skelter, Wolf Children… I’m writing down dates and times.

        I wouldn’t mind seeing a Korean film like Nameless Gangster.

        I may take you up on prebooking… I’ll have to work out transport/hotels for now.

      3. Captain Banana

        “the cost of staying in London might be painful.”

        Have you thought about a hostel? The Raindance site lists http://www.hostelbookers.com in their surviving London section…..might be of use.

        “No Outrage Beyond at the LFF????”

        I was expecting to see Outrage Beyond there too!

      4. Thanks for the tip. I never even considered a hostel. I checked hotel prices and some seem quite reasonable. I just have to find a hostel/hotel close to a tube station/the cinemas.

        I would have figured Outrage Beyond would have made the festival because Kitano is a major name and Outrage was pushed hard by it’s distributor. Even non-Japanese live action film fans I know had heard of it.

        The LFF has some pretty cool films anyway and I’m pretty certain I’ll watch Wolf Children and Key of Life on the 11th… for the 12th I’m not so sure. Both For Loves Sake and Helter Skelter got mixed reviews and while I’m not fond of musicals I’ll watch most things directed by Miike and while I like Erika Sawajiri, I’m not sure I want my final film to be Helter Skelter. Another factor is For Loves Sake finishes earlier than Helter Skelter so I can do some tourist things and leave sooner.

  2. goregirl

    I can’t wait for the Vancouver film festival (Sept. 27 – Oct 12)! I already booked days off. I am all over Outrage Beyond and Penance and it goes without saying Land of Hope!! Keeping my fingers crossed they will show up at our festival.

  3. Oh my…I wish I m there!!
    It’s funny how Toronto is so far from japan but they will play those great movies…while here in Indonesia, we are so close but Japan movie rarely comes here.

    The last two movies you mentioned are the most intriguing for me.

    1. Great picks! Thermae Romae looks like a lot of fun and Hiroshi Abe is a great actor. Penance comes from my favourite director – I really do hope it gets distributed over here!

      I’m going to watch some Japanese films now!

      1. Mai

        Thanks for the reply 😀
        Been looking for the release date for a long time now. Seems they have an official facebook page. Latest news can be found there. Too bad I don’t understand Japanese or else I could have tracked down the release date in future T_T
        Hope you will keep us updated. Thanks for all your hard works 😀

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