Nippon Connection 2020: A Look at Nippon Cinema and Nippon Classics

This is a follow-up post to one on Tuesday where I list all of the films in certain sections of Nippon Connection. First up…

Nippon Cinema

After the Sunset    Yuho no ato Film Poster

夕陽のあと Yuuho no ato

Release Date: November 08th, 2019

Duration: 133 mins.

Director: Michio Koshikawa

Writer: Ureha Shimada (Screenplay), Ryuho Ookawa (Novel)

Starring: Shihori Kanjiya, Maho Yamada, Masaru Nagai, Satoru Kawaguchi, Midori Kiuchi, Towa Matsubara, Shohei Uno, Saori Watanabe,

Website IMDB

There are some fine actors who are usually seen in supporting roles taking the lead in this family drama which looks like it will have the heartbreak of Rebirth (2011).

This one is available to view online in Germany only.

Synopsis: Satsuki lives on an island in Kagoshima. She is a local through-and-through having grown up and started a family there. She has taken the step of fostering a seven-year-old boy and wants to adopt him legally. It all appears to be going smoothly but the arrival of a woman named Akane from Tokyo begins a stormy series of events…

Dancing Mary    Dancing Mary Film Poster

ダンシング・マリーDanshingu Mari-

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 105 mins.

Director: SABU

Writer: SABU (Script) 

Starring: EXILE NAOTO, Aina Yamada, Ryo Ishibashi


Following on from  jam (2018), SABU continues his collaboration with LDH production, the parent company of which manages the Gekidan EXILE group, whereby members from that group take roles in the films made. This one features EXILE Naoto, model-turned-actress Aina Yamada and musician-turned-actor Ryo Ishibashi (he who picked the wrong girl in Audition) in a love fantasy film with some yakuza action. It is based on an original script and was filmed in Kitakyushu, Tokyo and Taiwan.

This one is available to view online in Germany only.

Synopsis: Kenji (EXILE Naoto) is a civil servant taking part in the creation of a gigantic shopping centre. When Kenji is assigned the task of overseeing the demolition of an old dance hall he discovers his job becomes impossible because some mysterious force stops every attempt. Turns out that the place is cursed so Kenji turns to a young woman who is a medium who can grant him access to the spirit world of spirits. But ghosts may be the least of his problems because the local yakuza clan gets involved…

Labyrinth of Cinema      Labyrinth of Cinema Film Poster

Labyrinth of Cinema=海辺の映画館 キネマの玉手箱Labyrinth of Cinema = umibe no eigakan kinema no tamatebako

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 179 mins.

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi

Writer: Nobuhiko Obayashi (Screenplay),

Starring: Takuro Atsuki, Takahito Hosoyamada, Yoshihiko Hosoda,

Website IMDB

Nobuhiko Obayashi recently passed away but two films involving him are on the festival circuit. Both were at the Tokyo International Film Festival, the documentary hasn’t reached Europe yet, as far as I know, whereas this one has played at Rotterdam. Labyrinth of Cinema is an anti-war film that mixes in a love of cinema, a subject mix which Obayashi relished with so many of his project. 

This one is available to view online in Germany only.

Also screening at Nippon Connection is Nobuhiko Obayashi’s cult-classic House (review) which is available to viewers in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Synopsis: Three young people at a soon-to-be-shuttered cinema are enjoying the final screening: a marathon of old war films. The three become so immersed in the action that they find themselves time-slipping through the screen to various historical events connected to cinema and war such as witnessing death during the Sengoku period and on a battlefront in China, being in Hiroshima just before the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of the city. This was shot in Obayashi’s hometown in Onomichi and has an anti-war message.

Family Romance, LLC Family Romance LLC Film Poster

Release Date: May 18th, 2019 (Cannes)

Duration: 100 mins.

Director: Werner Herzog

Writer: Werner Herzog (Screenplay)

Starring: Yuichi Ishii, Mahiro Tanimoto,

Website IMDB

Werner Herzog (Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Nosferatu, Bad Lieutenant Port of Call: New Orleans) read a newspaper article about people who rent themselves out as actors to play roles for other people such as work colleagues, friends etc. It’s something seen in Sion Sono’s film Noriko’s Dinner Table (2006). Inspired, he travelled to Japan to shoot the film. With just a small budget, he hired amateur actors and actresses for a docu-fiction where the moral quandries of this service and living in an atomised are explored. Anyway, this service and the man in the film was featured on a funny bit for Conan O’Brien.

This one is available to view online in Germany only.

Synopsis: Yuichi Ishii is the focus of the film. He the manager and an actor for an agency called Family Romance LLC. We see him on various jobs but the one role that is shown throughout the film is pretending to be the missing father for a teenage girl named Mahiro Tanimoto. Their interactions in this semi-fantasy provide ground for the moral quandries he feels which he voices between jobs.

Little Miss Period      Little Miss Period Film Poster

生理ちゃん Seiri-chan

Release Date: November 08th, 2019

Duration: 75 mins.

Director: Shunsuke Shinada

Writer: Shin Akamatsu (Screenplay), Ken Koyama (Manga)

Starring: Fumi Nikaido, Sairi Ito, Yoshinori Okada, Ren Sudo, Hana Toyoshima, Manami Iida, Risaki Matsukaze, Kyohei Kanomi,

Website IMDB

This one is available to watch worldwide except Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar

Synopsis: Aoko works as an editor at a publishing house who, alongside heaving to content with deadlines, has to balance a horrible boss and a romance with a well-off widower boyfriend (Yoshinori Okada) who wants to marry her, but he has an 11-year-old daughter (Hana Toyoshima) who hates her. When her period strikes, she is resigned to its presence and its presence takes the shape of a big plush that follows her around. Indeed, this plush visits every woman and maybe some of the guys, too, in this comedy-drama. 

A Life Turned Upside Down: My Dad’s an Alcoholic  A Life Turned Upside Down My Dad’s an Alcoholic Film Poster

酔うと化け物になる父がつらい You to bakemono ni naru chichi ga tsurai

Release Date: March 06th, 2020

Duration: 95 mins.

Directors: Kenji Katagiri

Writers: Kenji Katagiri, Ayumu Kyuma (Script), Mariko Kikuchi (Original Book)

Starring: Honoka Matsumoto, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Rie Tomosaka, Shohei Uno, Joe Odagiri, Tamae Ando, Kenta Hamano, Yui Imaizumi,

Website IMDB

This one is available to watch worldwide except Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan, USA and Italy.

Synopsis: Adapted from a comic essay by Mariko Kikuchi who turned her troubled life into a story about a girl named Saki (Hoka Matsumoto) whose father (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) is an alcoholic and whose mother is a follower of a new religion. He likes to come home drunk every night after work and down a bottle of whiskey with his chums as they play mahjong. Saki hate’s her father’s behaviour when he is drunk and loutish. The support of her sister and best friend, and the ability to turn her life into a comic gets Saki through the collapse of her family.

Red    Red Film Poster

Release Date: February 21st, 2020

Duration: 123 mins.

Director: Yukiko Mishima

Writer: Yukiko Mishima, Chihiro Ikeda (Script), Rio Shimamoto (Original Novel)

Starring: Kaho, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Tasuku Emoto, Shotaro Mamiya, Reiko Kataoka, Kimiko Yo,

Website IMDB

Kaho (Pink and Grey) had a super couple of years with lots of dramas being released and she takes the lead in this steamy number where she plays a married woman who gets into an affair with Satoshi Tsumabuki (RageThe World of Kanako) – totally understandable – and Tasuko Emoto (Dynamite Graffiti).

This one is available to view online in Germany only.

Synopsis: Toko Suguri (Kaho) has a house, is married to a handsome and successful guy and has a charming daughter. Despite these signs of stability, she is unhappy. When Toko meets her ex-boyfriend Akihiko Kurata (Satoshi Tsumabuki) at a friend’s wedding, the two rekindle their love and launch into a passionate affair. Akihiko looks after Toko in ways her husband doesn’t but as she gets sucked into the passion, she loses her sense of responsibility and her life begins to fall apart whilst also discovering a desire for self-determination.

My Sweet Grappa Remedies    My Sweet Grappa Remedies Film Poster

甘いお酒でうがいAmai osake de ugai

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 107 mins.

Director: Akiko Ooku

Writer: Jiro (Script), Yoshiko Kawashima (Original Novel)

Starring: Yasuko Matsuyuki, Hana Kuroki, Hiroya Shimizu, Kanji Furutachi, Kozo Sato, Tomoya Maeno,

Website IMDB

Jiro is a member of the manzai group Sissonne and he has written a novel in the voice of a woman named “Yoshiko Kawashima”. The novel is a diary that notes her thoughts and it has been adapted for the big screen. This is Jiro’s second collaboration with Akiko (Tremble All You Want) Ohku after they worked on Marriage Hunting Beauty.

This one is available to watch worldwide except Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan, USA and Italy.

Synopsis: Yoshiko (Yasuko Matsuyuki) is a single woman in her 40s who works in a publishing company and enjoys drinking grappa and writing in her diary. She enjoys her simple life but when she is introduced to a younger guy in his 20s, she falls in love and a new, welcome complexity changes her easy days…

Makuko  Makuko Film Poster

まく子 Makuko

Release Date: March 15th, 2020

Duration: 108 mins.

Director: Keiko Tsuruoka

Writer: Keiko Tsuruoka (Script), Kanako Nishi (Original Novel)

Starring: Hikaru Yamazaki, Ninon, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Risa Sudo, Toshie Negishi, Jun Murakami,, Miho Tsumiki, Atsushi Hashimoto,

Website IMDB

Keiko Tsuruoka is a name that has floated around the festival circuit having popped up at Berlinale 2013 and the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2016.

This one is only available to view in Germany

Synopsis:Elementary school student Satoshi already leads an unhappily confused life due to a troublesome home life so whena new transfer student named Kozue shows up at school, he isn’t that phased untilthe girl starts hanging around him. When she and her mother move into the guesthouse Satoshi’s family runs, Satoshi realises that there is no escape. The boy should be thankful because Kozue will bring a love that is out of this world to Satoshi in a sunny fantasy.

The JournalistThe Journalist Film Poster

新聞記者 Shimbun Kisha

Release Date: June 28th, 2019

Duration: 113 mins.

Director: Michihito Fujii

Writer: Akihiko Takaishi (Screenplay), Kosuke Kawamura, Isoko Mochizuki (Original Non-fiction Book)

Starring:Shim Eun-Kyung, Tori Matsuzaka, Tsubasa Honda, Amane Okayama, Tomohiro Kaku, Seiya Osada, Hina Miyano,


This seems to be based on a real-life scandal involving Japan’s current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and his right-wing government. Suicide involving public officials and government-funded schools.

This one is only available in Germany.

Synopsis: News is what somebody does not want you to print. All the rest is advertising. This is the code that Yoshioka (Eun-kyung Shim) lives by. She is a Tokyo reporter who investigates things for the public good, a way of life haunted by her father’s destroyed journalism career and subsequent suicide. When she gets a mysterious fax relating to a government scandal, she is put on a collision course with a young career bureaucrat Sugihara (Tori Matsuzaka), one of the “elite” who has a crisis of conscience when he comes upon a shady government-funded school that could point to a historic cover-up. Together, they must decide what to do when doing the right thing feels like self-sabotage.

Under Your Bed    Under Your Bed Film Poster

アンダー・ユア・ベッド Anda- Yua Beddo

Release Date: July 19th, 2019

Duration: 98 mins.

Director: Mari Asato

Writer: Tatsuya Ishii (Screenplay), Kei Ohishi (Novel)

Starring: Kengo Kora, Kanako Nishikawa, Kenichi Abe, Ryosuke Miyake, Yugo Mikawa,

Website IMDB

Kengo Kora takes on a daring role that in this film, a stalker movie directed by Mari Asato, someone who has specialised in horror films and thrillers like Bilocation prior to this. 

This one is only available in Germany.

Synopsis: Naoto (Kengo Kora) was ignored by other people growing up. Whether at home or at school, he was ignored. The first person to call his name was a classmate named Chihiro (Kanako Nishikawa) and that sealed her fate as his dream girl. Naoto becomes obsessed with her and spends 11 years searching with nothing but her sweet memory during his school days as a reference until he finds her and discovers she is a different person. Naoto discovers how different by sneaking into her house and staying under her bed and tracking her every move…

Nippon Classics

All of these are available in Germany, Austria or Switzerland except The World of Kanako which is unavailable in Switzerland.

Miss Hokusai   Miss Hokusai Film Poster

百日紅 ~Miss HOKUSAI~  「Sarusuberi ~Miss HOKUSAI~」

Release Date: February 20th, 2015

Running Time: 89 mins.

Director: Keiichi Hara

Writer: Miho Maruo (Screenplay), Hinako Sugiura (Original Creator),

Studio: Production I.G

Starring: Anne Watanabe (O-Ei), Yutaka Matsushige (Tetsuzo/Katsushika Hokusai), Shion Shimizu (O-Nao), Kumiko Aso (Sayogoromo), Kengo Kora (Utagawa Kuninao),  Gaku Hamada (Zenjiro/Keisai Eisen), Jun Miho (Koto), Michitaka Tsutsui (Katsugoro/Totoya Hokkei), Danshun Tatekawa (Manjido), 

ANN   MAL  IMDB  Website 

Hokusai is famous but it is only recently that his daughter, a woman who assisted him all his life, has gained recognition for greatly contributing to his art and making wonderful works of her own. This is the untold story of O-Ei, Master Hokusai’s daughter: a lively portrayal of a free-spirited woman overshadowed by her larger-than-life father, unfolding through the changing seasons.

Synopsis: The time: 1814. The place: Edo, now known as Tokyo. It is the biggest city on Earth and is teeming with peasants, samurai, townsmen, merchants, nobles, artists, courtesans, and perhaps even supernatural things. Amidst these characters is a celebrated artist now in his mid-fifties named Hokusai. He creates magnificent art, usually with the help of his daughter, the 23-year-old O-Ei. She has inherited her father’s talent and stubbornness artistic skill. Her own art is so powerful that sometimes leads to trouble.

The Night is Short, Walk on Girl

夜は短し歩けよ乙女 Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome

Release date: April 07th, 2017    The Night is Short, Walk on Girl Film Poster

Duration: 93 mins.

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Writer: Masaaki Yuasa, Reiko Yoshida (Screenplay) Tomihiko Morimi (Original Novel),

Animation Production: Science SARU

Starring: Kana Hanazawa (Kurokami no Otome), Gen Hoshino (Senpai), Kazuya Nakai (Seitarou Higuchi), Yuuko Kaida (Ryouko Hanuki), Nobuyuki Hiyama (Johnny), Aoi Yuuki (Princess Daruma), Junichi Suwabe (Nise Jougasaki),

MAL     IMDB    Website

The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is the latest film from anime auteur Masaaki Yuasa and his studio Science Saru. One of two award-winning movies he released in 2017 (the other being Lu Over the Wall which took top prize at Annecy), this film is the very definition of the word exuberant in terms of story and style and should cement Yuasa as one of the best anime directors around. This is my second recommendation for the film festival. It was programmed at a fest I work for and I can say, without a doubt, that the audience has a riot of a time! Here’s my review!!!

Synopsis: The narrative is simple: a girl with black hair (voiced by the ubiquitous and super-talented Kana Hanazawa) is attending the wedding reception of a friend. As far as she is concerned the party doesn’t have to end there and she follows the Komagawa river and walks around the streets of Kyoto at night. From the alleyways and izakayas of Pontocho to the university campus, she makes detours along the way to many hidden events. She is pursued by a male admirer, Sempai (voiced by the musician Gen Hoshino who also played the hapless lover of Fumi Nikaido’s gangster girl in Why Don’t You Play in Hell?), who tries to catch her attention by appearing before her as often as possible. As this rather one-sided romantic dance unfolds they experience surreal magical-realist moments that grow increasingly absurd thanks to a cast of unique characters, all of which tests Sempai’s resolve in love and the girl’s capacity for drink and fun because all the while, everyone keeps drinking and having a good time.

Fuku-chan of Fukufuku Flats      Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats Film Poster

福福荘の福ちゃん  「Fukufuku-sou no Fuku-chan」

Release Date: November 08th,  2014

Running Time: 111 mins.

Director: Yosuke Fujita

Writer: Yosuke Fujita (Screenplay)

Starring: Yosiyosi Arakawa, Miyuki Oshima, Yuuki Tokunaga, Asami Mizukawa, Takeshi Yamamoto, Kanji Furutachi,

Website    IMDB

Fine, Totally Fine (2008) is one of my favourite films ever. It is so funny with characters I can relate to so when I was at the Raindance Film Festival a few years ago and I went to see Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats, which is by the same director Yosuke Fujita, I was super excited. The film did not disappoint and is a real contender for my film of the year thanks in no small part to a fantastic performance from Miyuki Oshima and some classic songs. Even better is the fact that I got to talk to Yosuke Fujita and tell him how much I loved Fine, Totally Fine. I just wish I asked better questions! Anyway, this is packed with comic stars like Yosiyosi Arakawa who was in Fine, Totally Fine as well as the very funny in the 2014 comedy Judge!. Here’s my review.

Synopsis: Tatsuo is a nice guy and has the nickname ‘Fuku-Chan’. He lives and works in “FukuFuku Flats”, a run-down apartment complex where he paints kites as a hobby. Despite being such a nice fellow he finds it hard to socialise with people and, despite his friend Shimacchi trying to set him up with a girl, he refuses all attempts at romance. This is down to the fact he suffered a prank in junior high school and the reappearance of a girl named Chiho who was at the centre of the prank signals that he may change…


House    House Film Poster

ハウス 「Hausu」

Released: July 30th, 1977 (Japan)

Running time: 88 mins.

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi,

Writer: Nobuhiko Obayashi, Chiho Katsura (Screenplay),

Cast: Kimiko Ikegami – Oshare,  Miki Jinbo – Kung-Fu, Kuniko Oba – Fantasy, Ai Matsubara – Prof., Kiyohiko Ozaki – Mr. Togo, Yoko Minamida – Auntie,


The highlight, in my opinion. This film is a riot of fun and good music with a haunted house setting to die for as a bunch of girls will find out. It comes from Nobuhiko Obayashi and his daughter and features so much imagination and flair for visual spectacle and cool music that it is a delight to watch. I highly recommend it. Here’s my review.

Synopsis: The summer holidays have arrived and for seven high school girls named Melody, Prof, Sweetie, Kung-fu, Mac, Fantasy and Oshare (Kimiko Ikegami) they have the chance to go camping with their teacher Mr. Togo. Oshare declines because her father is back from Italy and she’s looking forward to staying at a villa with him. Her plans are ruined when he introduces her to his potential new wife. Oshare is upset at the presence of the woman and decides to visit an eccentric spinster aunt, inviting her friends along for the trip. After a long journey the girls arrive at the aunt’s house but find their presence has triggered a hostile force that immediately attacks them, picking them off one by one while the eccentric aunt watches.

100 Yen Love      100 Yen Love Film Poster

百円の恋 「Hyaku-en no Koi」

Running Time: 113 mins.

Director: Masaharu Take

Writer: Masaharu Take (Screenplay),

Starring: Sakura Ando, Hirofumi Arai, Miyoko Inagawa, Saori, Shohei Uno, Tadashi Sakata, Yuki Okita,

Website   IMDB

100 Yen Love (review) stars Sakura Ando in a career-best performance as a woman who goes from zero to boxing hero with all of the genre tropes expected but done brilliantly and in a rather gritty way. It’s a film with a lot of heart thanks to Sakura Ando’s performance.

Synopsis: Ichiko (Sakura Ando) is a borderline hikikomori who lives at her parents’ home but that situation changes when her younger sister divorces and moves back with her child. Ichiko and her sister’s relationship is pretty rocky and so following a fight Ichiko decides to move out and find a place of her own. She takes up a job in a 100 Yen shop but is still pretty miserable with her new life and stuck with unpleasant people for co-workers but while working at her store she keeps encountering a middle-aged boxer (Hirofumi Arai) who practices at a local boxing gym. She is attracted to him and the two start a relationship but after a series of horrible experiences she becomes more interested in boxing, a sport which will fuel the continuing change in her life.

The World of Kanako   The World of Kanako Film Poster

渇き  「Kawaki」

Release Date: June 27th, 2014 (Japan)

Running Time: 113 mins

Director: Tetsuya Nakashima

Writer: Tetsuya Nakashima (Screenplay), Akio Fukamachi (Novel),

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Nana Komatsu, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Joe Odagiri, Fumi Nikaido, Ai Hashimoto, Miki Nakatani, Jun Kunimura, Asuka Kurosawa,

Website   IMDB

The guy in the director’s chair is Tetsuya Nakashima who was the director of school-drama Confessions. Here, he makes the hypest and scariest crime film out of Japan. Take a look at this, The World of Kanako review


Synopsis: Ex-detective Showa Fujishima (Yakusho) investigates the disappearance of his daughter Kanako (Komatsu), a girl who seemed to be a model student. What he finds leads him into a disturbing situation…


The Whispering Star    

The Whispering Star Film Poster The Whispering Star Film Poster

ひそひそ星「Hiso Hiso Boshi」

Release Date: May 24th, 2016

Running Time: 101 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay)

Starring: Megumi Kagurazaka, Kenji Endo, Yuto Ikeda, Mori Kouko,

Website    IMDB

The Whispering Star was originally created and screened as part of an art exhibition which had the theme of dystopia running through it. The film was shot in different locations in Fukushima Prefecture, turning depopulated and irradiated areas into a futuristic landscape that speaks of hopelessness, pollution, and abandonment. It stars people who live in the areas and Sion Sono’s wife Megumi Kagurazaka. It was Sono’s first feature with his newly established independent production company and the realisation of a script he wrote two decades ago but reworked to reflect the present.


Synopsis: A spaceship shaped like a Japanese bungalow careens through the galaxy. It carries a humanoid robot named Yoko (Megumi Kagurazaka), a sort of interstellar UPS delivery person. Her job is simple: to distribute packages to human beings scattered across sundry planets. Whispering to Yoko is the child-like voice of her spaceship’s operating machine. Neither understands why humans have the need to send each other seemingly insignificant objects that take years to be delivered but with so much spare time between deliveries, Yoko begins to wonder what’s in those packages.

Lesson of the Evil                           Lesson of the Movie Poster

悪の教典 Aku no Kyoten

Release Date:  10th November 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 129 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer:  Yusuke Kishi (Original Novel), Takashi Miike (Screenplay)

Starring: Hideaki Ito, Fumi Nikaidou, Shota Sometani, Kento Hayashi, Hirona Yamazaki, Sairi Ito, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Mayu Matsuoka, Takayuki Yamada,


Lesson of the Evil was Takashi Miike 2012 film and was made around the time of For Love’s Sake and Thirteen Assassins. The final result is something less than stellar despite a promising opening and this makes it mid-tier Miike.

Synopsis: Hasumi (Hideaki Ito) is a popular teacher among students and well respected by the faculty and the PTA at Shinko Academy, a private high school. However, some of the students like Reika (Fumi Nikaido) and Keisuke (Shota Sometani) feel something menacing lurking beneath his shining reputation. As problem issues and people disappear, Reika is uneasy about the way Hasumi solves them but Tsurii (Mitsuru Fukikoshi), an unpopular teacher at the school, is already a step ahead. He despises the popular and handsome Hasumi and has been investigating his past and discovers that deadly occurrences happen when he is about. The three realise he is starting to take control of the school but what is his end game? 

2 thoughts on “Nippon Connection 2020: A Look at Nippon Cinema and Nippon Classics

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