Japanese Films at the London International Animation Festival 2016

The London International Animation Festival is due to launch at the end of the week and it lasts ten days (December 02nd to December 11th). There are over 200 films getting screened and many of them are Japanese. The titles are spread across competitions and special screenings and there is a wide variety of Here’s a preview based on a press release and information from the festival site:

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Avant-garde Musician Koichi Makigami Talk and Performance in London December 03rd

It’s a grey day today and snowing in Tokyo. I have to go out into the cold to get more clothes fit for winter. It makes me think of home back in the UK which is also cold as winter gets a grip over there. That won’t stop me writing about events related to Japan and here’s one that has been in my email inbox for a while. The avant-garde Musician Koichi Makigami will give a talk and performance in London on December 03rd. I had to look up his work and it seems like fun based on the first couple of videos I found:

Here’s the information from the organisers:

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Metrograph in New York to Screen Takeshi Kitano Movies throughout November

People in New York have a nice winter treat since Metrograph will play host to a series of movies by the genius that is Takeshi Kitano. This event will see most of his major works screened on 35mm prints from November 17th to November 25th. It features highlights such as Sonatine, Boiling Point, A Scene at the Sea and Kids Return. There’s also one of his weaker efforts, Getting Any?, a comedy that wears out its welcome after 30 minutes… Otherwise, this is a stellar selection of films.

Kikujiro Takeshi Kitano Masao Yusuke Sekiguchi
Kikujiro Takeshi Kitano Masao Yusuke Sekiguchi

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Japan Foundation Documentary Event: Ogawa Shinsuke and Ogawa Pro: Collective filmmaking and the culture of dissidence

At a time I am currently working on a documentary in Japan I get an email about a cool season of Japanese documentaries filmed by indie creatives. The Japan Foundation and Institute of Contemporary Arts have teamed up for a retrospective of the documentaries of Shinsuke Ogawa and his acolytes. The event starts on November 17th and lasts until December 11th and it features films that chart the tumultuous period of the ‘60s and ‘70s when there were many student protests and a lot of social change as Japan modernised itself and controversial defence treaties were signed with the US which was embroiled in the Vietnam war. This is the best line-up of Japanese documentaries I have seen in the West so far and so it’s a great chance to learn more not just about Japan but filmmaking. I have written about one of these films (the Narita airport one) and recognise a couple of others but Japanese documentaries are a blindspot I have yet to watch any listed here so this I would have loved to see. Here’s a trailer:

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Genkina hito at the Tokyo Game Show 2016

I arrived in Japan on September 10th and while I had a few things I knew I wanted to do such as visiting specific museums I didn’t plan things out in too much detail and forgot about certain events such as the Tokyo Game Show (TGS). It wasn’t until a friend mentioned going to it on the final day that I realised that I was about to miss a weekend extravaganza of games.

Genkina hito in Japan Tokyo Game Show

TGS is the second biggest video game event in the world after E3 and it’s the chance for the Japanese video game industry to showcase what it can do. The majority of the event is for journalists only but on the final weekend the public get to experience the games on the show floor. The part of this year’s TGS that was open to the public ran from September 17th to the 18th and, as in previous years, took place in the Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture which is less than an hour away from Tokyo. Since I was based in Ikebukuro I had to catch a Yamanote Line train to get to Tokyo Station and then a Keiyo Line train to get to the Kaihin-Makuhari Station from where I could get to the convention hall. This was my first trip to Tokyo Station so I was unprepared for how huge it was but that wasn’t much of a problem due to the signs that were in Japanese and English and the logical layout of the station itself. The train ride was a short trip made slightly longer by the fact I missed my stop and had to double-back. I knew I was on the right train due to the high number of Westerners, otaku, and video gamers but totally didn’t register when they got out at the right station…

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Genkina hito in Akihabara

Akihabara – this is a long and rambling post so feel free to just look at the pictures. If you’re feeling brave you can listen to this music while you read:

Akihabara (Electric Town as it’s also known) is billed as the electronics and nerd-culture centre of Japan. If you like anime, manga, computers, video games, cameras or any other types of electronic and otaku goods then this is the area that you need to visit. I have been aware of it since at least my high school years when I heard of its legendary collection of video game and anime goods. I had pictured a densely packed warren of streets containing arcade dens full of herds of video game nerds clustered around classic beat-em-up game cabinets while anime fans pored through second-hand book stores and cute guys and gals cosplayed colourful anime characters and the scene was complete with the neon glow and anime music cast out by ads on video screens. I imagined myself pushing my way through aisles of goods crowded with other fanboys and fangirls, making my way to holy grails of videogamedom. Even as an adult with less interest in games and anime I still held onto that dream and made it a point to visit it during my first week.

Akihabara wasn’t like I imagined it.

Genkina hito in Japan

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Genkina hito in Japan

Regular readers might know that I set up this blog to review Japanese films and track my journey to Japan. Nearly six years after starting out I have made it to Japan. I am on a working holiday and have been in the country since September 10th but I haven’t had the chance or motivation to write anything. Instead, I have been out and about exploring places, trying things out, eating new food, and making friends. I have travelled from Osaka to Tokyo to Yokohama to other places in Kanagawa and Gunma. I am only just getting started since I have around ten months left in my working holiday. I timed my working holiday to take in as many film festivals as I possibly could. The first film festival I went to was the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF).

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The Tokyo International Film Festival was pretty awesome. I was there for four days and three films. It takes place in the rather upmarket area of Roppongi and the films I watched were in two locations – Toho Cinemas in Roppongi Hills and Ex Theater Roppongi. Both cinemas are earthquake-proof (as was constantly announced before film screenings) and look really cool – space-age structures of glass and steel and cool lighting.

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