Japanese Films at the Toronto International Film Festival 2013

It is September and the greatest film festival in the world is about to take place. It is time for The Toronto International Film Festival.

Genki Toronto International Film Festival 2013 Banner

This year’s festival looks to be better than last year’s one. There are so many of my favourite Japanese directors like Sion Sono, Hirokazu Koreeda and Kiyoshi Kurosawa (a season dedicated to him starts here next week!) getting their works screened and great films from around the world in general. As I looked at the list of titles I have never felt so bad about not being in Canada. This time next year I will be Canadian. I will live in Toronto and I will do Canadian things… I’m not sure what Canadians do exactly but Goregirl is cool and she’s Canadian and they have this awesome festival in Toronto where there are lots of great Japanese and South Korean films and I want to be there…

Here are the Japanese titles (click on the titles to go to the page for more info)!!!


Real                                                                Real Film Poster               

Japanese Title: リアル 完全なる首長 竜の日

Romaji: Riaru Kanzen’naru Shuchou Ryuu no Hi

Toronto Screening Dates: June 01st, 2013 (Japan)

Running Time: 127 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay), Rokuro Inui (Original Novel)

Starring: Takeru Sato, Haruka Ayase, Jo Odagiri, Miki Nakatani, Shota Sometani, Keisuke Horibe, Kyoko Koizumi, Keisuke Horibe, Yuki Kan

I champion Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s films. Even the bad ones. Out of the ones I have seen, his best is Tokyo Sonata. I’ll admit, as much as I love his J-horror like Pulse, Cure and Retribution, his dramas and crime thrillers are pretty strong. I haven’t seen a science fiction film from him yet but he does have one. It’s this title, Real. I have heard mixed things about it but I’m staying hopeful. It reminds me a little of Inception but does it have the budget to make as much of an impact? What I do know is that it has a great cast of actors but with Takero Sato and Haruka Ayase taking the limelight, will they be up to the high standards set by Sometani, Koizumi, Odagiri, Nakatani and the rest of the supporting cast? Check the trailer!


Koichi (Sato) and Atsumi (Ayase) are childhood friends who have become lovers. Despite this closeness when Atsumi attempts suicide Koichi is at a loss as to what the reason that drove her to do such a thing could be. Now she is in a coma and Koichi needs to find out the reason. Since Koichi is a neurosurgeon he has access to the latest studies and so he takes part in a medical procedure that will allow him to enter Atsumi’s subconscious through her central nervous system.

When he arrives she asks him to find a picture of a plesiosaur she drew as a child. It is the key to a suppressed memory connected to a childhood trauma. Finding this picture will allow Koichi to truly get close to knowing his love.


R100                                    R100 Film Poster

Japanese Title: R100

Romaji: R100

Running Time: 100 mins.

Director: Hitoshi Matsumoto

Writer: Hitoshi Matsumoto (Screenplay)

Starring: Nao Omori, Mao Daichi, Atsuro Watabe, Shinobu Terajima, Hairi Katagiri, Ai Tominaga, Eriko Sato, You, Suzuki Matsuo, Hitoshi Matsumoto, Gin Maeda, Naomi Watanabe, Haruki Nishimoto

Hitoshi Matsumoto is unknown to me but lots of people like his feature Big Man Japan. A lot of the cast are familiar to me. Nao Omori (Mushishi), Atsuro Watabe (Love Exposure, Heat After Dark), Shinobu Terajima (Kitaro and the Millennium Curse, Vibrator), Eriko Sato (Crime or Punishment?!?), You (Nobody Knows, Still Walking) are all great actors and I believe they can make this comedy work. The concept is hilarious – a guy into a bit of S&M is hounded by dominatrixes in public.


Takafumi Katayama (Omori) is a mild-mannered father who escapes the pressures of everyday life by joining a mysterious S&M club where the dominatrix will visit the client in real life settings. At first the pinch and tickle treatment he receives from these girls in leather is fun but t becomes relentless. He is now at the mercy of a gang of dominatrixes who torment him!

Can I just say that while I’m not into S&M, Eriko Sato looks so good that I’d let her harass me at work or in public.

R100 Eriko Satwhoa

Why Don’t You Play in Hell?           Why Don't You Play In Hell Film Poster

Japanese Title: 地獄 で なぜ 悪い Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Romaji: Jigoku de Naze Warui Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Running Time: 126 mins

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay),

Starring: Jun Kunimura, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Fumi Nikaido, Tomochika, Hiroki Hasegawa, Kotou Lorena, Gen Hoshino, Tak Sakaguchi

Sion Sono has had a short run of issue films. The critically lauded Himizu and The Land of Hope are serious dramas that look at the after-effects of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami and radiation in Japan. Now he’s back making entertainment films like Love Exposure and Strange Circus , films that play with the cinema and are bloody fun as can be seen in this trailer. I’ve posted about this three times already because this looks so damn awesome. The festival blurb describes this as such: “this extravaganza has autobiographical undercurrents in its tribute to the undying pursuit of one’s cinematic dreams” and describes it as a rip-roaring tale of cinematic passions slashed and shredded into a bloody mess. Clearly this is going to be fun especially when Sono is in charge of so many elements like direction, editing, sound and blowing your mind! Let’s go!


Muto (Kunimura) and Ikegami (Tsutsumi) are rival gangsters who despise each other especially since Muto’s wife Shizue (Tomochika) butchered a boss in Ikegami’s gang. She gets sent to prison and jeopardises her daughter’s acting career. Ten years later and days before Shizue is due to be released, Muto is desperate to make his daughter a big-screen star and recruits Koji (Hoshino), a timid passer-by who is mistaken for being a film director.

When dealing with gangsters you don’t mess about so Koji gets a cinephile friend named Hirata (Hasegawa) who dreams of being a movie director and has a ragtag film crew named The Fuck Bombers. Hirata seizes his chance and loses his mind as he casts Mitsuko in a fictional gang war but it soon goes wrong when it turns real.


Like Father, Like Son              Like Father Like Son Cannes Poster            

Japanese Title: そして 父 に なる

Romaji: Soshite Chichi ni Naru

Running Time: 120 mins.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda (Screenplay)

Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Jun Fubuki, Keita Ninomiya, Lily Franky, Jun Kunimura, Kiki Kirin, Isao Natsuyagi

Hirokazu Koreeda’s Like Father Like Son won an award for Cannes and with its Japanese release next month it must be aiming to pick up even more critical plaudits on the festival circuit to boost box office takings. Koreeda deserves it because he is one of the best directors operating in Japan and from the reviews I have read this is another moving family drama. The film stars Masaharu Fukuyama (Suspect X), Machiko Ono (Eureka, The Floating Castle), Yoko Maki (Infection, The Grudge), Lily Franky (Afro Tanaka), Jun Fubuki (Séance, Rebirth) Kirin Kiki (Kiseki) and Jun Kunimura (Outrage, Vital) and Isao Natsuyagi (The Land of Hope, Warm Water Under a Red Bridge).

Successful architect Ryota (Fukuyama) and his wife Midori (Ono) have a happy family life with their six-year-old son Keita (Nonomiya) but a phone call from the hospital informing them of the fact that their child was mixed up with another at birth shatters their happiness. Their birth-son Ryusei has been raised by a poorer but more easy-going family run by Yudai (Franky) and Yukari (Maki) Saiki. Ryota and Midori must decide whether to hand over the son they have carefully raised for the last six years and take back their biological son or not.

An Autumn Afternoon                       An Autumn Afternoon Film Poster       

Japanese Title: 秋刀魚の味

Romaji: Sanma no Aji

Running Time: 113 mins.

Director: Yasujiro Ozu

Writer: Kogo Noda (Screenplay)

Starring: Chishu Ryu, Shima Iwashita, Mariko Okada, Shinichiro Mikami, Teruo Yoshida, Noriko Maki, Nobuo Nakamura, Kuniko Miyake, Eijiro Tono, Haruko Sugimura

Yasujiro Ozu is a titan of Japanese cinema who many directors either aspire to be or fight against. This is his last film and one of only four he made in colour. It is another family drama exploring the changes in Japan, the journey to wealth the nation was making, ageing parents and loyal children in an examination of family ties. I’m pretty sure that I’ve watched this…

Shuhei Hirayama (Ryu) is a widower who, despite some reluctance, wants his loyal daughter Michiko (Iwashita) to get married because he realises that she would be miserable if she spent her life as a single woman looking after him. He meets his secondary school teacher who also has a daughter in a similar position.

Ningen                              Ningen Theatre

Japanese Title: にんげん

Romaji: Ningen

Running Time: 104 mins.

Director: Guillaume Giovanetti, Cagla Zemcirci

Writer: Guillaume Giovanetti, Cagla Zencirci (Screenplay)

Starring: Masahiro Yoshino, Masako Wajima, Xiao Mu Lee. Megumi Ayukawa

This is a Japanese/Turkish co-production which uses Japanese folklore – kitsune and tanuki (fox and racoons) who have the ability to shape-shift in this comedy/fantasy story.

Yoshino is an old man who runs a company in decline. He is scared about his future and letting his wife and employees down so he turns to his friend, a Chinese restaurant owner for guidance. Little does he know that kitsune and tanuki are lurking around, waiting to enter his life.

The Wind Rises                     Kaze Tachi Nu Film Poster

Japanese Title: 風立ちぬ

Romaji: Kaze Tachi Nu

Running Time: 126 mins.

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Writer: Hayao Miyazaki (Screenplay)

Starring: Hideaki Anno, Miori Takimoto, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Masahiko Nishimura, Steven Alpert, Morio Kazama, Keiko Takeshita,

It has been five years since Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea but this year he has returned with a film that has stormed the Japanese box-office chart and has begun touring the festival circuit. This is another film screened at Venice only it’s a bit of a departure of Miyazaki as he drops the fantasy he is known for in order to focus on a real life person and their life over the decades. This real life person is Jirou Horikoshi, the designer of Japan’s famous Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane of World War II. Jirou Horikoshi is voiced by Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno. There are actors from the non-anime world like Hidetoshi Nishijima (License to Live, Zero Focus) and Miori Takimoto (Sadako 3D 2Rinco’s Restaurant).


Jiro Horikoshi (Anno) lives in the countryside but he dreams of flying in the skies. He meets Caproni, an Italian aeronautical engineer who designs flying machines and with Caproni’s guidance, Jiro manages to enter Tokyo university where he dedication and intelligence lead him to become a superb engineer.

Unforgiven                                      Unforgiven Japanese Film Poster

Japanese Title: 許されざる者

Romaji: Yurusarezaru Mono

Running Time: 135 mins.

Director: Lee Sang-Il

Writer: Lee Sang-Il (Adapted Screenplay), David Webb Peoples (Original Screenplay)

Starring: Ken Watanabe, Jun Kunimura, Eiko Koike, Yura Yagira, Koichi Sato, Akira Emoto, Shiono Kutsuna, Kenichi Takito, Youkiyoshi Ozawa, Takahiro Mirua, Sjiori Kutsuna

This is the remake of the 1992 Clint Eastwood film of the same name. It swaps out the US and cowboys for Japan in the late 1800’s and samurai. It got its international premiere at the Venice Film Festival last month where it garnered some rather … reviews. It is directed by Lee Sang-Il (Villain) and it stars Ken Watanabe (Letters from Iwo Jima, Inception, Tampopo), Akira Emoto (A Woman and War, Starfish Hotel), Koichi Sato (Infection),  Eiko Koike (Rebirth, Penance, Kamikaze Girls, 2LDK) and Jun Kunimura (Outrage, Vital, Audition). The festival details make this sound interesting what with its use of the Ainu people.


Jubei Kamata (Watanabe) was once a loyal samurai for the Edo shogunate government. Famous for being a skilled and deadly fighter he killed many and became infamous in Kyoto but disappeared during the battle of Goryoukaku. Ten years later and he is living with his child, looking after his wife’s grave in peace after vowing never to pick up his sword again but being in poverty forces him to do just that as he accepts the assignment of being a bounty hunter when an old comrade named Kingo Baba (Emoto) and young guy Goro (Yagira) turns up with a bounty for a man who mutilated a prostitute. They set off but will encounter a sadistic lawman (Sato) who has a distaste for mercenaries.  

The film goes on theatrical release in Japan on September 13th.

Short films:

There are a collection of short films brought together with varying themes and amidst these short films are ones from Japanese directors.

Wavelengths 2 Now & Then                              

Running Time: 75 mins.

Japanese Film: Flower

Director: Naoko Tanaka

Running Time: 21 mins.

Writer: Naoko Tanaka (Screenplay)

Starring: N/A

The theme here is about simplicity as opposed to intricacy. The Japanese fil is Naoko Tasaka’s Flower which is described as unfolding like a children’s story before it plumbs the depths of both a physical and metaphorical surface, as straightforward narration gives way to sublimated abstraction and was shot sing a number of multiformat techniques.

Wavelengths 3: Farther Than the Eye Can See 

Running Time: 63 mins.

Japanese Film: 45 7 Broadway

Director: Tomonari Nishikawa

Running Time: 6 mins.

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

This collection of short films are about “geographic, spatial and historical freefall”. Tomonari Nishikawa’s 45 7 Broadway films Times Square with black-and-white 16mm and different colour filters to capture the rhythms of the place.

That’s it. Awesome, right? Tickets go on sale on September 01st.

6 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the Toronto International Film Festival 2013

  1. I’m 99% sure we’ll get Soshite Chichi ni Naru and Kaze Tachinu at the London Film Festival. With Soshite Chichi ni Naru I’d say 100% even, since the UK and the BFI like Koreeda.

    I would be interested in seeing Real too, although the reviews have not been great.

    Hey, if you do go to Canada, you can supply me with maple syrup and especially maple butter which is very difficult to get hold of anywhere outside that country (I did see it in the international supermarket in at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam once, but never anywhere else).

    1. Like Father, Like Son is the most likely of all of these to get screened because Koreeda is the more well-known director and has critical cachet with the art-house crowd. Plus it has all of that positive critical reception off the back of Cannes. A safe choice, then.

      If I had to make a snap judgement about which three I most want to see then it would be Sono’s film (you weren’t put off by the blood-slide, were you?) followed by R100 and Real. On a related Kurosawa note, I’m working my way through Shokuzai. Stuck on episode 4.

      Also, if I do go to Canada I’m willing to supply you with maple syrup/butter. I’m sure it’s not against any laws or anything. Right, back to watching Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind!

  2. Finally have to read it all 🙂
    Canada is so lucky. Loved to see all those movies, not so much on Unforgiven tho.

    You’re moving to Canada? new job I assume 😉

    Btw, I have watched Blood C and dislike it

    1. I’m not moving to Canada! That was a joke 😉 I’m just very jealous that Toronto gets this excellent film festival which has people with great taste programming it. I would like to try living there at some point though.

      I haven’t watched the Blood-C movie but I have watched the television series. It started off so badly by plying moe tropes and making Saya a good-natured but ineffectual clutz that I moaned about it here. If I kept watching it then I would have found it was intentional and the story got much darker and grittier.

    1. OOOHHH YEEEAAAHH!!! Sono has delivered another entertaining title! Thank you for the news, Bonjour. Now I will email the BFI and demand that this film is played at the London Film Festival. By demand, I mean ask politely and bombard them with links to reviews 😉

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