Japanese Films at the Raindance Film Festival 2013

Genki Raindance Film Festival 2013 Banner

The films for the Raindance Film Festival (September 25th – October 06th ) have been announced and there are a lot of Japanese titles on offer in the Way Out East strand. There are some I have reviewed, some I have viewed and a lot that have come up in Saturday trailer posts I do every week. There are enough that I am willing to attend the festival. I will be heading down to London and watching Shindo, The Kirishima Thing, Shady and Remiges.

Here’s a trailer for the festival:

Here’s the line-up of titles:

Soul Flower Train            Soul Flower Train Film Poster

Japanese Title:  ソウル フラワー トレイン

Romaji: Souru Furawa- Torein

Running Time: 97 mins.

Director: Hiroshi Nishio

Writer: Miyuki Uehara, Hiroshi Nishio (Screenplay), Robin Nishi (Original Manga)

Starring: Mitsuru Hirata, Saki Seishi, Kensuke Owada, Mio Otani, Kaoru Kusumi, Megumi Wada, Shoichi Asano, Marin Sayoko

Robin Nishi, the mind behind the manga/anime Mind Game has another of his works adapted. It’s a road-trip movie with a soundtrack by Shounen Knife. This trailer was featured just last weekend and I liked it a lot but the screening date is a little too early for me so I’ll have to miss it.

In this tale, a father named Amamoto leaves his small village and heads to Osaka to track down his estranged daughter Yuki. He hooks up with a friendly young woman who helps him but ends up getting lost and caught up in a surreal adventure on the island before he finds her and discovers she is keeping secrets.

The Kirishima Thing                                                   The Kirishima Thing Poster

Romaji: Kirishima, Bukatsu Yamerutteyo

Japanese Title: 桐島、 部活 やめるってよ

Running Time: 103 mins.

Director: Daihachi Yoshida

Writer: Ryo Asai (Original Novel), Kohei Kiyasu, Daihachi Yoshida (Screenplay)

Starring: Ai Hashimoto, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Suzuka Ohgo, Mayu Matsuoka, Motoki Ochiai, Masahiro Higashide, Kurui Shimizu, Mizuki Yamamoto,  

The Kirishima Thing is a teen drama featuring a collection of bright young things who prove that the Japanese acting world has a new and strong generation of talent. Its depiction of the social mores and strata in high school is well-observed and real and for its efforts it was the big winner at the recent Japanese Academy Awards scoring Best Film and Best Director prizes. I’ve seen it and reviewed it and I can confirm it is worth all of the accolades. I’m surprised that it turned up here and not at the London Film Festival but at least I get the chance to see it on the big screen.


When high school volleyball star player Kirishima quits the team shockwaves are sent through the school. This is the story of the students surrounding Kirishima from his friend Hiroki Kikuchi (Higashide), girlfriend Risa (Yamamoto), Aya (Ohgo) a brass band musician with a crush on Kirishima, badminton player Kasumi (Hashimoto), and the president of the film club Maeda (Kamiki). The students will cross social boundaries and defy groups as they attempt to redefine themselves.


Shady                                                                            Shady Film Poster

Japanese Title: かしこい狗は、吠えずに笑う

Romaji: Kashikoi Inu wa, Hoezu ni Warau

Release Date: June 22nd, 2013

Director: Ryohei Watanabe

Writer: Ryohei Watanabe (Screenplay)

Starring: mimpi * β, Izumi Okamura, Isao Nakazawa, Gota Ishida, Ayumi Seko

This film was released in June 2013 and it has been wowing critics and distributors (Winner of the Entertainment Award at the PIA Film Festival) and has been picked up by Third Window Films for the UK. I’m doing my best to avoid details about this so I go in like a blank slate and can enjoy the surprises. Suffice it to say, I’m very excited at the prospect of watching this one.


Misa Kumada (mimpi * β), an outcast at her school who is mercilessly teased and has no friends. She hates the place but when the popular and pretty Izumi Kiyose (Okamura) befriends her the two develop bonds of friendship. What Misa doesn’t know is that the seemingly angelic Kiyose has quite a dark side.


Remiges                                                  Remiges Film Poster

Japanese Title: 風切羽 かざきりば

Romaji: Kazekiribane ka Zakiriba

Running Time: 88 mins.

Director: Masato Ozawa

Writer: Masato Ozawa (Screenplay)

Starring: Mika Akzuki, Junki Tozuka, Maiko Kawakami, Osamu Shigematu, Yuki Terada, Futoshi Sato, Nobuyuk Ishida, Michiko Godai

Remiges was on the same trailer post I did for Shady (above) and it caught my attention because the trailer was compelling and it reminded me of the anime Aku no Hana, which was my craze at that moment. I even mentioned that I’d turn it into a series of Gifs. I never did turn it into a series of Gifs in the end. What I did was mention the film to Adam Torel of Third Window Films, the programmer of the Japanese strand of the Raindance Film Festival and sent him a link to the trailer. Then the director Masato Ozawa caught us talking about his film and it ended up here at the festival! I guess my trailer posts really do have an impact! I’m pleased to say that I’ll be heading to see this one to see if it lives up to expectations!


Sayako (Akizuk) was abused by her mother as a young child and has lived in a foster care facility with the emotional scars since then. She’s now a senior in high school and wants to attend a ballet school but she needs her parents to pay the tuition fees and so she turns to her father but he betrays her and pushes Sayako over the edge. She skips out on the foster care facility to search for her mother and sister but runs into another lost soul named Kenta (Tozuka) who cycles through town asking random people if they know him.


Shindo – The Beat Knocks Her World –

Japanese Title: 震動

Romaji: Shindo

Running Time: 74 mins.

Director: Asami Hirano

Writer: Asami Hirano (Screenplay),

Starring: Shumpei Kawagoishi, Kana Kita, Kyutaro, Takuya Matsunaga, Gen Ogawa, Yuji Kaneda, Maya Kondo

Shindo is Asami Hirano’s debut feature film and it is a very confident one at that. This is a simple coming-of-age movie but in its simplicity it gains power to move through its well-crafted characters and focussed direction. Nothing revolutionary but very satisfying. It played earlier this year at the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival which is where this trailer comes from.

Haruki (Kawagoishi) is an overly serious high-school student in a close relationship with Nao (Kita) a deaf high-school girl. They have both lived in the same orphanage since they were young children but Haruki is about to graduate and wants the two of them to live in together. When a schoolmate named Aki asks Haruki to play guitar for his band over the summer he finds it broadens his horizons but as Haruki becomes more devoted to music and gains fans, Nao feels jealousy emerging.

Ku_On             Ku_On Poster

Japanese Title: クオン 久遠 

Romaji: Ku_On

Running Time: 78 mins.

Director: Takayuki Hatamura

Writer: Takayuki Hatamura (Screenplay)

Starring: Hidemasa Shiozawa, Yusei Tajima, Sou Sato

Ku_on is a tight and fun little sci-fi film where the cast of characters have the ability to transfer their consciousness’s to different bodies. The only downside is that they are easy to track due to a unique mark. The focus is definitely on the action and not on character building but the plot is fun and the film is pacey so it remains fun.

Hiroyuki Sano is an ordinary office worker who discovers he can transfer his mind into another person’s body by touching them. Unfortunately, the transfer results in unconscious bodies being left around which is why the police start chasing him. Sano is now on the run and is aided by a detective named Yamamoto has similar body-hopping powers. He also explains that there is a serial killer named Ushio who is targeting them and with the aid of a tough martial artist named Sayo they aim to stop the killer.

Sake-Bomb            Sake bomb film poster

Running Time: 91 mins.

Director: Koushi Nishio

Writer: Jeff Mizushima (Screenplay),

Starring: Gaku Hamada. Eugene Kim, Marlane Barnes, Josh Brodis, Samatha Quan, Hiroyuki Watanabe

I’m not too enthused with this one. For some reason I have lost interest in the lead actor Gaku Hamada. I liked him in The Foreign Duck, The Native Duck, I disliked him in See You Tomorrow, Everyone and now I’ve gone off him. More importantly to me I watched the trailer and thought the comedy and drama looked a little forced. I could be wrong about this one because it has an IMDB rating of 7.3 from 27 users, most of which are in the upper percentile. It certainly has an interesting premise around the divide between Asians and Asian-Americans and racial politics in general and Adam Torel of TWF said that the trailer may be awful but this one is very funny.

Naoto (Hamada) is a shy guy who just happens to have inherited a brewery. When his boss gives him a week off work, he heads to Los Angeles where he hooks up with his cousin Sebastian, a guy who hates Asian stereotypes and Amerucan attitudes to Asians. Naoto wants to look for his lost love and so Sebastian leads him on a road-trip. Hilarity ensues as they go on a journey both physical and metaphorical…


The Court of Zeus  Court of Zeus Film Poster

Japanese Title:  ゼウス の 法廷

Romaji: Zeus no Houtei

Running Time: 136 mins.

Director: Gen Takahashi

Writer: Gen Takahashi (Screenplay),

Starring: Hijiri Kojima, Hironobu Nomura, Shun Shioya, Shigeru Sugimoto, Jun Kawamoto

I know Gen Takahashi as the chap who directed the coming-of-age slow murder mystery Goth. He’s now seemingly carving out a career as a director exposing the problems in the Japanese criminal justice system with titles like Confessions of a Dog and this.

Megumi is going to marry to Kano, a judge with an iron fist and favours the police and prosecutors over defendants. Megumi’s decision is a shock to her friends because she is a liberal and she soon finds living with him difficult. Her former lover Yamoaka likens Kano to the omnipotent Greek god Zeus. Tellingly, he also reasons that this makes her Themis ­– Zeus’ wife who is considered to be the embodiment of justice. In a dramatic chain of events, Megumi finds herself in the dock as Kano takes on the hardest trial of his life.


A2-B-C  A2-B-C Film Poster

Running Time: 71 mins.

Director: Ian Thomas Ash

This is a 3/11 documentary from American documentary filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash who has lived in Japan for more than a decade. He has made a film about several families affected by the disaster. They live in Date City, 37 miles away from the Fukushima power plant, and the city was never evacuated so they know have to deal with living with radiation.

The Greatful Dead

Japanese Title:  グレイトフル デッド

Romaji: Gureitofuru Deddo

Running Time: 97 mins.

Director: Eiji Uchida

Writer: Eiji Uchida, Etsuo Hiratani (Screenplay),

Starring: Kumi Takiuchi, Takashi Sasano, Kkobbi Kim

Amidst all of the drama we get a film which is packed full of gore and black comedy which sounds pretty brutal.

Nami’s childhood was brutal: her mother ran away to Sri Lanka to help poor kids, her sister skipped town with her boyfriend and her father descended into despair and got himself a gothic mistress who played on this. Now that she’s grown up she takes pleasure in spying on people. Watching loners in society and enjoying seeing their pain.


The Black Square  The Black Square Film Poster

Japanese Title:  黒い 四角

Romaji: Kuroi Shikaku

Running Time: 144 mins.

Director: Hiroshi Okuhara

Writer: Hiroshi Okuhara (Screenplay),

Starring: Hideo Nakaizumi, Dan Hong, Chen Xixu, Miki Suzuki

This is a mysterious looking one. A meditative sci-fi drama? That’s the vibe from the trailer. The thing that’s interesting about this is that the film touches on the shared past of Japan and China.

Xhao-ping is an artist in Beijing who lives with his girlfriend named Hana and his younger sister named Lihua. When he sees a black square float across the city he follows it to a barren field where it lands. As he inspects it a naked man suffering amnesia emerges. Xhao-ping takes him home convinced he has met this man before, a feeling shared by his girlfriend and sister.



Japanese Title:  友達

Romaji: Tomodachi

Running Time: 75 mins.

Director: Mikihiro Endo

Writer: Mikihiro Endo, Hiroshi Okada (Screenplay),

Starring: Takeshi Yamamoto, Hana Matsumoto, Yusuke Oba

This is Mikihiro Endo’s feature-length debut and it has a concept similar to the film Noriko’s Dinner Table by Sion Sono where real life lonely and troubled people hire actors to play idealised characters from reality. It’s quiet and subtle and not operatic and intense like Sono’s film.

Shimada s a struggling actor who fails all of his auditions. His only supporters are his mother and his friend, a fellow actor. Said friend introduces him to a company named Friendship where, on custom built studio sets, he uses his acting skills to assume the role of a person requested by their customers. He finds that he brings happiness by being these people as people interact with him as a hated boss for a miserable salaryman, a spinster’s deceased husband and a terrorist for a disaffected high school girl.

Satoko Yokohama is an award-winning director and scriptwriter, considered to be one of the biggest breakout Japanese filmmaking talents to emerge in recent years. Identified early into her career as a filmmaker to watch, Satoko won many prizes for her indie films and has gone on to further develop an oeuvre of quirky and feel-good films. Often focusing on outcast protagonists and incorporating surrealism and extraordinary imagery, Satoko’s feature-length films German+Rain (2007) and Bare Essence of Life (2009), where Satoko worked with star actor Ken’ichi Matsuyama, toured internationally to many festivals, including the London Film Festival and the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme, to great critical acclaim.

Satoko Yokohama Short Films

Japan Foundation Satoko Yokohama Talk Image

Satoko Yokohama has three of her latest short films screened at the festival with A Girl in the Apple Farm, Jump From the Midnight and The Granny Girl

These films have pretty good cast lists and she’s quite highly regarded so here’s a great chance to be at a director’s talk on September 27th which has been organised by the Japan Foundation:

Prior to the screening of three of Satoko Yokohama’s latest short films at this year’s Raindance Film Festival, the Japan Foundation has invited her to introduce her work and career. In this illustrative talk, Satoko, who has recently turned her attention back to making short films, will explore how her experience with short and feature-length films have influenced her approach to filmmaking and why she continues to make films based on her own original scripts. Considering the marked increase of female Japanese film directors experiencing international recognition, Satoko will also be joined by Kate Gerova, Creative Director at Birds Eye View Film Festival, to discuss her position in the world of Japanese cinema and the current climate for women filmmakers in Japan today.

Date:  27 September 2013 from 6.30pm

Venue: The Japan Foundation, London

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