Japanese Films at the London East Asian Film Festival 2017

The 2017 edition of the London East Asia Film Festival takes place from October 19th to the 29th. This is the second year of the festival and it features a great selection of films from Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, and Japan. The Japanese selection features some films fresh from Cannes, Camera Japan, Kotatsu, and other festivals and there are two new titles for me to write about, one live-action film and one anime.

London East Asia Film Festival 2017 Poster

Mind Game

マインド・ゲーム 「Maindo Ge-mu    Mind Game Film Poster

Running Time: 104 mins.

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Writer: Masaaki Yuasa (Screenplay), Robin Nishi (Original Manga),

Animation Production: Studio 4°C

Starring: Sayaka Maeda (Myon), Koji Imada (Nishi), Seiko Takuma (Yan), Jouji Shimaki (Yakuza Boss), Takahashi Fujii (Ji-san),


Masaaki Yuasa took a manga by Robin Nishi and filtered it through a number of experimental styles to create a surreal tale of love that has gone down as a cult-classic. It recently had a successful Kickstarter that will see it released worldwide on Blu-Ray. I recently saw it at a film festival and it. IS. BLOODY. INCREDIBLE. If you can only see one film at the London East Asian Film Festival, SEE MIND GAME!!!!!!!!!!!! GOD-TIER FILM!!! Ahem, sorry. It was so awesome I’m still recovering.

Synopsis: Nishi is a twenty-something with a simple dream: to become a manga artist and marry his childhood sweetheart Myon. Reality is much more complicated. She’s already been proposed to and she thinks Nishi is too much of a wimp. This changes when he visits her family’s diner and encounters a couple Yakuza. This leads to an epic adventure that involves meeting God and being trapped in the belly of a whale.

CleopatraCleopatra 1970 Anime Film Poster

クレオパトラ 「Kureopatora     

Running Time: 112 mins.

Release Date: September 15th, 1970

Director: Osamu Tezuka, Eiichi Yamamoto,

Writer: Shigemi Satoyoshi (Screenplay),

Animation Production: Mushi Production

Starring: Chinatsu Nakayama (Cleopatra), Hajime Hana (Julius Caesar), Osami Nabe (Marcus Antonius), Nachi Nozawa (Octavian), Jitsuko Yoshimura (Lybia), Tsubame Yanagiya (Rupa),


Ozamu Tezuka is famous for creating beloved characters/anime like Astro Boy but he also made anime for adults. Animerama was a series of three anime films he was involved with and they were based on classic tales with a unique take on history. The titles were 1001 Nights, Cleopatra, and Belladonna of Sadness. In fact, some say they were the first feature-length anime movie directed towards adults. Belladonna of Sadness had recently been restored and gone on tour around the world and now Third Window Films has picked up the distribution rights to Cleopatra and it will be screened at the London East Asia Film Festival. Here’s a trailer:

Synopsis: Some time in the far future, an alien race called the Pasateli launch an invasion of Earth. Three friends named Jiro, Harvey, and Mary discover this danger and find out that the Pasateli are using the “Cleopatra plan” so, in order to stop it, the three people use a time machine to transport their minds into the bodies of members of the historical Cleopatra’s court to discover and stop the plan. Alas, Harvey goes off-script and vows to use the opportunity to secure the title of the greatest lover who ever lived by having sex with Cleopatra…

Tokyo Sonata   Tokyo Sonata Film Poster

トウキョウソナタ   「Toukyou Sonata」

Released:  September 27th, 2008 (Japan)

Running time: 119 mins.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Max Mannix, Sachiko Tanaka (Screenplay),

Starring: Teruyuki Kagawa, Kyoko Koizumi, Kanji Tsuda, Yu Koyanagi, Haruka Igawa, Kai Inowaki, Koji Yakusho


Hands down, the best film Kiyoshi Kurosawa has ever made (or maybe it’s Cure), I gave this one a glowing review. This has to be seen!

Synopsis: When Ryuhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) is laid-off from his admin job his life as a salary-man is over and his family life is put at risk. The shame of unemployment means that he keeps his situation a secret from everybody including his wife (Kyoko Koizumi) and two sons, Kenji (Kai Inowaki) who wants to learn to play the piano and Takashi (Yu Koyanagi) who he barely speaks to. This means that each morning he dons his suit, picks up his suitcase and heads off to look for work and eat free soup with the homeless and other unemployed salary-men. Soon the lies and suspicion begin to take its toll.

Blank 13    Blank 13 Film Poster

ブランク13 「Buranku 13

Running Time: 70 mins.

Release Date: February 03rd, 2018

Director:  Takumi Saito

Writer: Mitsutoshi Saijo (Screenplay), Koji Hashimoto (Original Story)

Starring: Issei Takahashi, Mayu Matsuoka, Takumi Saito, Misuzu Kanno, Lily Franky, Jun Murakami, Riku Ohnishi, Sairi Itoh,

Website IMDB

We all know Takumi Saito as an actor from roles such as Ai to Makoto and For Love’s Sake but how about as a director? He has worked on two short films and this is his feature-film debut. It is based on the true story of a journalist named Koji Hashimoto who found out about the life of his estranged father 13 years after the man went missing.

Synopsis: A father (Lily Franky) disappears from his wife and two sons. 13 years later, he shows up. However, his life expectancy is short since he has cancer. With only 3 months left to live, the father and his family must come to terms with their short reconciliation. It’s not enough time but at the funeral ’13-year blanks are filled up by a number of fathers’ friends and acquaintances who all have tales to tell…

Outrage Coda    Outrage Code Film Poster

アウトレイジ 最終章Autoreiji Saishusho

Running Time: 104 mins.

Release Date: October 07th, 2017

Director:  Takashi Kitano

Writer: Takeshi Kitano (Screenplay),

Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Nao Omori, Pierre Taki, Toshiyuki Nishida, Ken Mitsuishi, Hakuryu, Ren Osugi, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Yutaka Matsushige

Website IMDB

Kitano returned to the director’s chair for a return to the world of yakuza in Outrage. If you thought there were no more middle-aged men in suits who could do more talking and shooting, think again! There’s plenty of talking about gangster politics until the final sequences when Kitano blows everyone away and offers up his sardonic grin. Expect more of what the last two films offered.

“…though it ramps up to an enjoyably definitive ending (impressive given that the series’ ultimate moral, about the cyclical futility of the yakuza lifestyle, means it could easily be reset for another go-round) the final outrage of this final ‘Outrage’ might just be how little real outrage there is within a constant, repetitive coda.” Jessica Kiang (Variety)

Synopsis: Otomo (Kitano) escaped Japan and his old Sanno-kai yakuza group after countless betrayals and gang wars and prison. He joined up with a South Korean gangster named Jang but he finds himself travelling back to Japan when a member of the Hanabishi-kai yakuza group named Hanada (Taki) kills a member of Jang’s gang and he has to settle some accounts. Otomo decides to reunite with his old clan and get revenge on the people who put him in prison at the end of the first film and he’s going to use his Korean connections to get the job done…



Before We Vanish (English Title) / Strolling Invader (Literal Title)   Before We Vanish Film Poster

散歩する侵略者 Sanpo suru Shinryakusha

Running Time: 129 mins.

Release Date: September 09th , 2017

Director:  Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Screenplay), Tomohiro Maekawa (Original Stageplay),

Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Masami Nagasawa, Mahiro Takasugi, Yuri Tsunematsu, Hiroki Hasegawa,

Website IMDB

In between teaching the next generation of filmmakers at Tokyo University of Fine Arts, Kiyoshi Kurosawa has regularly been making films himself and his latest is based on a stage-play by Tomohiro Maekawa which was first performed in 2005. Its story has the feel of something like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It stars Ryuhei Matsuda (Nightmare DetectiveThe Great PassageMy Little Sweet Pea), Masami Nagasawa (Our Little Sister) and Hiroki Hasegawa (priceless as the mad director in Why Don’t You Play in Hell?). 

Synopsis: Narumi (Masami Nagasawa) and her husband Shinji Kase (Ryuhei Matsuda) are having problems of the marital sort. Things may be bad but are they bad enough to justify Shinji disappearing for seven days? Masami is left wondering, especially because after his disappearance and return he seems like a totally different person, a kinder and gentler man who likes to go for a walk every day. This just happens to coincide with strange events in town and the brutal murder of a family. Masami begins to piece things together but Shinji surprises her again by telling her that he came to Earth to invade.

Millennium Actress

千年女優Sennen JoyuuMillennium Actress Film Poster 2

Release Date: September 14th, 2002

Running Time: 83 mins.

Director: Satoshi Kon

Writer: Satoshi Kon (Screenplay),

Studio: Madhouse

Starring: Fumiko Orikasa (Chiyoko Fujiwara), Shouzou Iizuka (Genya Tacibana), Masaya Onosaka (Kyouji Ida), Kouichi Yamadera (Man of the Key),


Synopsis from the Barbican screening a couple of months back: One very obvious way the movies have changed the world is by giving us the movie star.

Issues of stardom – and fandom – are at the heart of this sweeping Japanese animation by Satoshi Kon (Paprika, Perfect Blue). Actress Chiyoko Fujiwara, an icon of 1950s cinema but now retired and living in seclusion, is visited one afternoon by a devoted fan wanting to make a documentary about her career. As they – and we, the audience – plunge back into her past, we hop between events in her real and her on-screen life in roles in a variety of genres and time-periods.

Conceived as a homage to the samurai epics, domestic dramas, space odysseys and monster movies of post-WW2 Japanese cinema, the film sets up further resonances in the character of Chiyoko herself who recalls both Hideko Takamine, an icon of hope for post-war Japanese filmgoers, and Setsuko Hara, one of Yazujiro Ozu’s favourite actresses, who disappeared from the public eye at the height of her stardom.

Mourning Forest    The Mourning Forest Film Poster

殯の森 Mogari no Mori

Running Time: 97 mins.

Release Date: June 23rd , 2007

Director: Naomi Kawase

Writer: Naomi Kawase (Screenplay),

Starring: Machiko Ono, Makiko Watanabe, Shigeki Uda, Yoichiro Saito, Yusei Yamamoto, Shigeki Uda,

Website  IMDB

Naomi Kawase is a native of Nara and most of her films are either autobiographical as they touch on her turbulent early life living with a great-aunt after her mother and father split, or connected to Nara and the surrounding region in some way. She became the youngest winner of the Caméra d’Or award which is given to best new directors at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for her first 35mm film and ten years later, she returned to Cannes and won the Grand Prix for The Mourning Forest.

The Mourning Forest Cannes Film Festiavl Win

As mentioned previously, she is a regular fixture of the film festival circuit and one of the few women to be regularly seen amongst the likes of Michael Haneke and others. Her latest film, Radiance, was at Cannes 2017 and Toronto 2017Mourning Forest was released in the UK by Masters of Cinema.

Synopsis from Masters of CinemaMachiko (Machiko Ono) is a young nurse who still carries the burden of her young son’s death. Shigeki (Shigeki Uda) is an elderly widower and a resident at the nursing home where Machiko works. After celebrating Shigeki’s birthday, Machiko takes him for a drive in the countryside, but their car breaks down and Shigeki absconds into the nearby forest. Machiko has no choice but to follow, and they become lost in the dense woodlands, before their fates eventually become entwined.

Our Little Sister   

Umimachi Diary Film Poster
Umimachi Diary Film Poster

海街 Diary 「Umimachi Diary

Japanese Release Date: June 13th, 2015

UK Release Date: April 15th, 2016

Running Time: 126 mins.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Writer: Shin Adachi (Screenplay), Akimi Yoshida (Original Manga)

Starring: Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho, Suzu Hirose, Shinobu Otake, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Ryo Kase, Jun Fubuki, Ryohei Suzuki, Oshiro Maeda, Lily Franky, Kirin Kiki


This is a sweet film about family. I wrote a pretty lengthy review which goes into why this is good.

Synopsis: 29-year-old Sachi Kouda (Haruka Ayase), 22-year-old Yoshino Kouda (Masami Nagasawa), and 19-year-old Chika Kouda (Kaho) live in a house once owned by their grandmother in Kamakura. Their parents are divorced, their father having left them fifteen years ago. When they learn of their father’s death they decide to attend his funeral where they meet their 14-year-old half-sister Suzu Asano (Suzu Hirose) who has nobody to care for her. Sachi invites Suzu to join the in Kamakura and the three women gain a younger sister.

8 thoughts on “Japanese Films at the London East Asian Film Festival 2017

    1. Wow, it has been some time since I last saw you. I was cleaning out dead links last week and feeling a little melancholy over the bloggers I used to follow dropping away so it’s nice to see you again!

      1. I want to continue blogging but I was taking a break because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to focus only on writing about music. I still haven’t decided but I’ll go back to blogging 🙂 it’s nice to see you too! Hope you’ve been well!

      2. I feel like blogging has helped me connect with all sorts of different people so maybe it’s something you should try to sustain so long as it remains fun.

        I finally made it to Japan and stayed there for nearly a year. It was an awesome experience and I’ve grown up a lot since then and I’m continuing to grow which is what life is all about.

        Let me know when you come back to blogging and I’ll definitely comment!

      3. I am going to start using this blog to connect to more people, I started an Instagram page last year for my photography and I’ve connected to a lot of people. But I want to get back to blogging because I love it.

        Wow, that’s awesome. Where did you stay in Japan? I actually was planning to go and live in Japan too for a year, I had an interview with AEON, but I didn’t pass. So now I’m wondering if I should try again.

        I will 🙂 and thank you!

      4. Great to hear you’re coming back! I started using Instagram but it’s not really a platform I have time for yet. I’ll check yours out.

        I lived in Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima and some smaller cities such as Izumi and Urawa. It was an amazing experience because I met so many kind and generous people and made lots of friends.

        If you can, just travel. I think Canada has a working holiday visa scheme or something close to it with Japan.

      5. That’s awesome! I will try again and apply for the company JET. It’s highly competative, but might as well try. I am actually officially back to blogging but I decided to keep this blog only about music and I created a separate blog here for the other stuff I used to write about.

        If you want to check out my Instagram, there is an Instagram widget on my blog 🙂

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