A Preview of the Tokyo International Film Festival 2020


The 33rd Tokyo International Film Festival (TokyoIFF) runs from October 31st to November 09th and it is a physical event. Information on this page shows the various measures that will be taken by staff such as temperature checks, ensuring audiences wear masks, empty seats around viewers and other methods of ensuring physical distancing.

In terms of films, TokyoIFF has a pretty busy and diverse programme that pitches a lot of dramas alongside restored classics, animation and super sentai. On top of that, there are many interesting talks and other events scheduled with a range of guests.

Here is the festival’s trailer!

Like my last TokyoIFF post, I’ll keep this brief by writing in detail about films I haven’t covered before (or not that often) and I’ll also focus on titles from the indie end of the spectrum as well as utilising the main sections TokyoIFF has created to provide structure to this post.

Tokyo Premiere 2020

Films in this section are going to be released over the next couple of months so they get a big of a marketing boost with festival laurels from TokyoIFF.

Underdog    Underdog Film Poster


Release Date: November 27th, 2020

Duration: 131 mins.

Director: Masaharu Take

Writer: Shin Adachi (Script), Shin Adachi (Original Novel)

Starring: Mirai Moriyama, Takumi Kitamura, Ryo Katsuji, Asami Mizukawa, Kumi Takiuchi, Minori Hagiwara, Ami Tomite, Ryotaro Ninomiya, Mami Kumagai, Akira Emoto,


Synopsis: “Underdog” follows three boxers who are all underdogs. Akira Suenaga (Mirai Moriyama) is a boxer, who struggles to succeed as a boxer. Ryuta Omura (Takumi Kitamura) is a young boxer, who grew up in an orphanage. Shun Miyagi (Ryo Katsuji) challenges a boxer, following the plans of a TV program.

Come and Go

カム・アンド・ゴー Kamu ando Go-

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 158 mins.

Director: Lim Kah Wai

Writer: Lim Kah Wai (Script), 

Starring: Lee Kang-sheng, Manami Usamaru, Seiji Chihara, Makiko Watanabe, Lien Binh Phat, David Siu, Nang Tracy, Katsura Jakujaku, Shogen, JC Chee, Orson Mochizuki,

An ensemble drama depicting scenes of Asians surviving in Osaka, directed by Malaysian director Lim Kah-wai.

Festival Report

Synopsis: A group of Korean women are rushed to entertain Chinese businessmen demanding time with Japanese AV actresses. A Japanese woman from the countryside who is new in town who falls into the hostess industry. A Nepalese youth who has a big dream and a Japanese-language teacher who loves him. A lonely Taiwanese AV fan seeking his favourite actress. A movie director from Okinawa who is in debt to yakuza. A Japanese-American mixed up with criminals. Their lives intersect in Osaka.

Eternally Younger Than Those Idiots    Eternally Younger Than Those Idiots Film Poster

君は永遠にそいつらより若いKimi wa eien ni soitsu-ra yori wakai

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 118 mins.

Director: Ryohei Yoshino

Writer: Ryohei Yoshino (Script), Kikuko Tsumura (Original Novel)

Starring: Yui Sakuma, Nao, Seiichi Kohinata, Sho Kasamatsu, Yo Aoi, Kokoro Morita,


Synopsis: Horigai is an ordinary young woman merely waiting for the day she graduates from college but when she falls in with a girl named Inoki, she begins to notice the violence that hides in her past and that she keeps hidden from others under the facade of her ordinary everyday life.

Mr. Suzuki – A Man In God’s Country

鈴木さん Suzuki-san

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 90 mins.

Director: Omoi Sasaki

Writer: Omoi Sasaki (Script),

Starring: Asako Ito, Norihiko Tsukuda, Nao Yasunaga, Iwao, Daisuke Matsunaga, Ken Nakajima, Mie Kirihara, Akko Takano,


A dystopian Sci-fi film that depicts middle-aged men and women persecuted by society.

Festival Report

Synopsis: In a city where unmarried people are drafted to solve the declining birthrate, 44-year-old unmarried Yoshiko tries to find a marriage partner in order to escape from recruitment.

Light of a Burning Moth

蛾の光 Ga no Hikari

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 120 mins.

Director: Liao Jiekai

Writer: Liao Jiekai (Screenplay)

Starring: Ha Young Mi, Han Arai, Akko Tadano, Reiko Asano,


Synopsis: Rin, a dancer, stops speaking to become a “voice” for silent people. Meeting an old mime artist to exchange artistic views, she faces her trauma of her mother’s disappearance. One day, Shizuka receives a final letter saying, “I want to explore death in the mountains like an old monk.” This is a boldly-structured new film by Singaporean director Liao Jiekai that depicts the journey of the heroine’s soul.

Sasaki in My Mind      Sasaki In My Mind Film Poster

佐々木、イン、マイマイン Sasaki, In, Mai Main

Release Date: November 27th, 2020

Duration: 118 mins.

Director: Takuya Uchiyama

Writer: Takuya Uchiyama, Gaku Hosokawa (Script), 

Starring: Kisetsu Fujiwara, Gaku Hosokawa, Minori Hagiwara, Sakurako Konishi, Yusako Mori, Yuya Shintaro,


Synopsis: Yuji reunites with his high school classmate Tada after trying to make it as an actor in Tokyo. They recall their high school days with Sasaki, who was a hero when he was in school and the film slips between past and present.

Hold Me Back   

私をくいとめて Watashi o Kuitomete

Release Date: December 18th, 2020

Duration: 135 mins.

Director: Akiko Ohku

Writer: Akiko Ohku (Script), Risa Wataya (Original Novel)

Starring: Non, Kento Hayashi, Asami Usada, Hairi Katagiri, Takuya Wakabahayshi, Ai Hashimoto,

Website IMDB

It is good to see Non getting more work!

Festival Report

Synopsis: 31-years-old Mitsuko Kuroda (Non) is happily enjoying her single life after getting used to living alone. A big reason is that she has a consultant, counsellor “A”, a voice in her mind which gives her advice on how to behave and on her relationships. She believes her happy and peaceful single life with “A” will continue, but she falls in love with Tada-kun (Kento Hayashi), a salesman who is younger than her. Mitsuko decides to take a step forward, even though she is confused by her new lack of courage.

First Job

初仕事 Hatsu Shigoto

Release Date: October 16th, 2020

Duration: 135 mins.

Director: Syunsuke Koyama

Writer: Syunsuke Koyama (Script),

Starring: Eiichi Sawada, Syunsuke Koyama, Yuki Hashiguchi, Tomohisa Takeda, Hanako Shiraishi,

Synopsis: A story of two men in an ethical maze. Yamashita is a newbie photographer working at a small company who takes on an assignment offered by his boss: to take a memorial photograph of a dead baby. The man who commissioned it is Anzai, a doctor who has been left devastated by both the death of the baby and his wife. This explains some of the reasoning behind this request but Yamashita finds the job difficult and Anzai is very demanding. As the job proceeds, reality hits them in different ways. Yamashita forces himself to understand and capture a perfect image.


Company Retreat

ある職場 Aru shokuba

Release Date: October 16th, 2020

Duration: 135 mins.

Director: Atsushi Funahashi

Writer: N/A

Starring: Saki Hirai, Megumi Ito, Takafumi Yamanaka, Mikoto Yoshikawa, Azusa Nakazawa, Yoshio Taguchi,

Website IMDB

Atsushi Funahashi, an Osaka-born director who studied filmmaking in Tokyo and New York, has made documentaries and dramas like Cold Bloom which are based on 3/11 as well as road movies set in the US, recently made Lovers on Borders, which was the first international co-production between Japan and Portugal.

Festival Report

Synopsis: A Described as a docu-fiction, the story looks at the effects of sexual harassment on everyone, from victim and perpetrator to the people around them.



Release Date: 2021

Duration: 113 mins.

Director: Naoto Takenaka, Takayuki Yamada, Takumi Saitoh

Writer: Yutaka Kuramochi (Script), Hiroyuki Ohashi (Original Manga)

Starring: Riho Yoshioka, Fuku Suzuki, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Yurina Yanagi, Sara Minami, Masanobu Ando, Pierre Taki, Yusaki Mori, Jo Kujo, Mai Kiryu, Kumi Koda, Pistol Takehara, Yunho, Rena Matsui, Yutaro Watanabe, Koji Ishizaka, Ryuhei Matsuda, Jun Kunimura.


Hiroyuki Ohashi, whose manga On-Gaku was made into a hit animated film, gets another of his works adapted, this one from earlier in his career and a title that he previously published independently before it was picked up by a published in 2017. The manga contains many stories with humorous and pointed observations on life. There are three top actors working as co-directors and they have assembled a brilliant cast.

Synopsis: A woman has many secrets she keeps as treasures. A child discovers an incident that happened in another country. A young man recalls a strange experience he shared with his missing father. A man heads south on a bicycle with no destination in mind. A boy with no sisters is puzzled when his friend tells him that he likes his sister.

Japan Now

This section is meant to provide an overview of contemporary Japanese cinema and the focus this year is a showcase of the works of Koji Fukada through screening five of his works, including his shorts and a number of his features from his most early works like Human Comedy in Tokyo to his most recent, Harmonium (which premiered in Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2016 and won the Jury Prize) and The Real Thing which was chosen for this year’s Cannes.

Not all of his films will be screened. Hospitalite  Sayonara and  Au revoir l’ete  seem to be missing.

The ones that have been programmed are here Human Comedy Tokyo  (TokoIFF Page) A Girl Missing (TokoIFF Page) and Harmonium  (TokoIFF Page)

The short film collection contains five films including East of Jefferson Inabe and Yalta Conference Online (TokoIFF Page)

The Real Thing The Real Thing (Movie Version) Film Poster

本気のしるし 劇場版 Honki no Shirushi Geekijouban

Release Date: October 09th, 2020

Duration: 232 mins.

Director: Koji Fukada

Writer: Shintaro Mitani, Koji Fukada (Script), Mochiru Hoshisato (Original Novel)

Starring: Win Morisaki, Kaho Tsuchimura, Kei Ishibashi, Akari Fukunaga, Yukiya Kitamura, Shohei Uno, Shugo Oshinari, Masaki Naito,

Website IMDB

This is a feature film adapted from a Nagoya Broadcasting Network TV drama that is based on a manga by Mochiru Hoshisato. So, the TV show has been edited down for a movie version. It was named as one of the Cannes Film Festival’s 2020 Official Selection. Koji Fukada has a lot of other films to his name and you can find a list of films reviewed by me on this page (if you are interested). It stars Win Morisaki from the Steven Spielberg film Ready Player One.

Synopsis: Billed as a suspense, the story follows Kuzumichi Tsuji (Win Morisaki). He has a good reputation and lives a boring life. Even though he is involved with two women in his workplace, he feels he has never fallen in love but when he saves the life of Ukiyo Hayama (Kaho Tsuchimura), who was stuck at a railroad crossing, his heart is swayed. Ukiyo has a mysterious aura that sucks Kuzumichi in… 

TokyoIFF/Pia Film Festival Collaboration

This section is a collaboration between the two film festivals as Tokyo gives a platform for this year’s Pia Film Festival Grand Prix winning film and the runner-up.


へんしんっ! Henshin!

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 93 mins.

Director: Tomoya Ishida

Writer: N/A

Starring: Tomoya Ishida, Osamu Jareo, Shizue Sazawa (Nozaki)

Synopsis: A documentary in which a director in a wheelchair explores the possibility of activities that allow people with disabilities to express themselves to and with others. While interacting with various people through filmmaking, he discovers various “differences”. He also pays attention to how he makes a movie that involves the people around him.

Japanese Animation

This year’s Japanese Animation section will showcase the theatrically released animated films from the “Pokémon” franchise along with a retrospective of The Super Sentai Series starting with “Gorenger” which is celebrating its 45th anniversary. Another highlight will be a series of screenings that will offer an overview of the current state of today’s Japanese animated features with titles released over the last couple of years like Seven Days War.

Violet Evergarden: The Movie Violet Evergarden The Movie Film Poster

劇場版ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデン   Gekijouban Baioretto Eba-ga-den Gaiden

Release Date: September 18th, 2020

Duration: 140 mins.

Director: Taichi Ishidate

Writer: Reiko Yoshida (Screenplay), Kana Akatsuki (Original Creator)

Starring: Yui Ishikawa (Violet Evergarden), Daisuke Namikawa (Gilbert Bougainvillea),

Animation Production: Kyoto Animation

Website ANN MAL

Synopsis: Following the end of the Great War, Violet Evergarden, a young girl raised to destroy the enemy, was left with a shattered body and only words from the person she held dearest, but with no understanding of their meaning. She finds new purpose acting as an “Auto Memory Doll,” amanuenses that transcribe people’s thoughts and feelings into words on paper and travels the world in an adventure that will reshape the lives of her clients and hopefully lead to self-discovery.

In this film, Violet still holds the memory of her former employer Gilbert dearly because it was he who taught her of love. Even when his older brother Dietfried tells her that she should forget about him, she refuses. Soon after, Violet hears that the post office has discovered a letter with no address sitting in their warehouse.

Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop    Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop Film Poster

サイダーのように言葉が湧き上がる   「Saida- no You ni Kotoba ga Wakiagaru

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 87 mins.

Director: Kyohei Ishiguro

Writer: Dai Sato (Screenplay),

Starring: Hana Sugisaki (Cherry), Somegoro ICHIKAWA VIII (Cherry), Kikuko Inoue (Tsubasa Fujiyama), Koichi Yamadera (Mr. Fujiyama), Natsuki Hanae (Japan),

Animation Production: Signal.MD, Sublimation,

Website ANN MAL

Festival Report

Synopsis from ANN: Words and music bridge the gap between Cherry, a boy who is terrible at communicating with other people, and Smile, a girl who hides behind a mask. They meet in a mundane suburban shopping mall in a provincial city. Cherry always wears headphones and puts the feelings he cannot utter into his hobby, Japanese haiku poems. Smile always wears a mask to conceal her large front teeth, for which she has dental braces. As a popular video star, she streams a video about seeking “cuteness.”

Other animated titles: 

Pokemon: The First Movie (1998)

Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai (2007)

Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us (2018)

Super Sentai (A Selection of titles marking the 45th anniversary of Tokusatsu):

Super Sentai Movie Party: Ryusoulger vs Lupinranger vs Patranger / Kiramager Episode Zero

Super Sentai 199 Heroes Daikessen: Gokaiger vs Goseiger


Sumikkogurashii: Good to Be in the CornerSumikko Gurashi Tobidasu Ehon to Himitsu no Ko Film Poster

映画 すみっコぐらし とびだす絵本とひみつのコ  Sumikko Gurashi: Tobidasu Ehon to Himitsu no Ko

Release Date: November 08th, 2019

Duration: 65 mins.

Director: Mankyuu

Writer: Takashi Sumita (Script/Series Composition), San-X (Original Creator)

Starring: Narrators – Yoshihiko Inohara, Manami Nanjo

Animation Production: Fanworks

Website ANN MAL

Synopsis: The slightly negative characters who like to hide away from sight are back as Shirokuma, a polar bear who is sensitive to cold, Penguin?, a penguin suffering an existential crisis. Tonkatsu, a piece of uneaten pork cutlet, Neko, a shy cat; and Tokage, the last dinosaur find themselves on the big screen.

Sushi Sumo    Sushi Sumo Film Poster

どすこいすしずもう  「Dosukoi Sushi Zumou

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 60 mins.

Director: Yuta Sukegawa

Writer: N/A (Script), Masako Ahn (Original Creator)

Starring: Miyuki Oshima (Tea Commentator), Kenjiro Tsuda (Nasubi Master), Kento Hama (Bamboo Shoot Master) Chiharu Sawashiro (Gari Call),

Animation Production: N/A


Synopsis: What if sushi wrestles? This film aims to answer the question by presenting “sushi wrestlers” who make use of their own ingredients to perform various techniques for some cute surreal fun.

Special Screenings 

The Special Screenings section offers audiences the chance to get an early viewing of films due to be released in the coming months. Many guests associated with the films will make appearances at events held throughout the festival.

Aristocrats    She is Noble Film Poster

あのこは貴族 Ano ko wa Kizoku

Release Date: February 26th, 2021

Duration: 124 mins.

Director: Yukiko Sode

Writer: Yukiko Sode (Script), Mariko Yamauchi (Original Novel)

Starring: Mugi Kadowaki, Kiko Mizuhara, Kengo Kora, Shizuka Ishibashi, Rio Yamashita, Yukiko Shinohara, Kei Ishibashi,

Website IMDB

Based on Mariko Yamauchi’s novel of the same name, it follows two women with different lives who live in Tokyo.

Synopsis: Hanako Haibara (Mugi Kadowaki) is in her late twenties and is from a well-to-do background (perhaps cloistered) in Tokyo and is looking for a man to marry. After getting dumped by her boyfriend Koichiro (Kengo Kora), she hits the dating scene but she questions her path in life. Meanwhile, Miki Tokioka (Kiko Mizuhara) is from a less affluent background having come from Toyama prefecture but studied and worked hard to get to into a prestigious university and, after tough times where she questioned the meaning of everything, she now works at an IT company but is also uncertain about life. They are introduced through an intermediary man. Due to a man, Hanako Haibara and Miki Tokioka meet each other and contrast their lives.

HOKUSAI      Hokusai Film Poster

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 129 mins.

Director: Hajime Hashimoto

Writer: Ren Kawahara (Script), 

Starring: Yuya Yagira, Min Tanaka, Hiroshi Abe, Haruka Imou, Munetaka Aoki, Eita, Miori Takimoto, Hiroshi Tamaki, Kanji Tsuda, Yuski Tsujimoto,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: This film depicts scenes from the life of Katsushika Hokusai, both in youth (Yuya Yagira) as an unpopular and poor painter struggling to find his place in the art world, and in old age (Min Tanaka) as someone who still has passion for painting and strives to improve his work. The film shows key moments, such as the patronage of Shigezaburo Tsutaya (Hiroshi Abe), a publisher who would support his talent and help him create his own innovative paintings at a time when the shogunate cracked down on art.

Food Luck    Food Luck Film Poster

フード・ラック!食運Fu-do Rakku! Shaun

Release Date: November 20th, 2020

Duration: 104 mins.

Director: Jimon Terakado

Writer: Jimon Terakado (Script), 

Starring: Naoto, Tao Tsuchiya, Ken Ishiguro, Satoru Matsuo, Yasufumi Terawaki, Chizuru Azuma, Miwako Kakei, Yo Oizumi,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Following the death of his father, Yoshito (Naoto) and his mother Yasue (Ryo) continued to live in the yakiniku restaurant he ran. His mother worked hard to make it a success and Yoshito enjoyed his mother’s cooking and their restaurant was loved by many people. Unfortunately, when a popular food critic named Tatsuya Furuyama (Satoru Matsuo), ruins the reputation of the restaurant, Yasue had to work harder than ever to recover business and Yoshito began to act out to get her attention. 18 years later, Yoshito lives alone and has lost contact with his mother. As a freelance writer he takes work from a new online foodie website about yakiniku. Around that time, Yoshito hears that his estranged mother Yasue has collapsed.

Flight on the Water    Flight on the Water Film Poster

水上のフライト Suijo no Furaito

Release Date: November 13th, 2020

Duration: 106 mins.

Director: Atsushi Kaneshige

Writer: Akihiro Dobashi, Atsushi Kaneshige (Script), 

Starring: Ayami Nakajo, Yosuke Sugino, Nene Otsuka, Sara Takatsuki, Ami Tomite, Yukiyoshi Ozawa,


Akihiro Dobashi wrote the script as an original story inspired by the interaction with the real Japanese paracanoe player, Monica Seta.

Synopsis: Haruka (Ayami Nakajo) is a promising athlete aiming to be the best at the high jump but her career is cut short by an accident which leaves her paralysed from the waist down. Haruka loses hope and sinks into misery but regains hope when she meets people who  view disabilities as individuality traits and she hears about paracanoe which motivates her to train in the sport.

Runway    Runway Film Poster

滑走路 Kassoro

Release Date: November 20th, 2020

Duration: 135 mins.

Director: Norichika Oba

Writer: Sayaka Kuwamura (Script), Shinichiro Hagihara (Original Poetry)

Starring: Asami Mizukawa, Kodai Asaka, Uta Yorikawa, Kei Kinoshita, Yuto Ikeda, Kenji Mizuhashi, Maki Sakai, Shota Sometani,


A human drama that depicts the anguish and hope of people struggling to live in the present age, based on the poetry collection that was the debut work of Shinichiro Hagihara, a poet who died at the age of 32.

Synopsis: Takano (Kodai Asaka) is a 25-year-old bureaucrat at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. He is under severe stress at work and loses his vigour. One day, an NPO he works with gives him a list of people who committed suicide due to temporary employment. On that list, he becomes interested in a 25-year-old man and begins to investigate the background of the death. Meanwhile, Midori (Asami Mizukawa) is a woman in her late 30’s and is a cutout picture artist. She has anxiety about her future since she is uncomfortable with her husband and yet the idea of having children is still floating around. And just to add more misery to this story, a high schooler becomes the target of bullying but keeps his problems to himself so as not to worry his mother. The lives of these three people, each with their own worries, will eventually lead to a single path.

One in a Hundred Thousand    One in a Hundred Thousand Film Poster

10万分の1 10 Man-bun’no 1

Release Date: November 27th, 2020

Duration: 112 mins.

Director: Koichiro Miki

Writer: Chieko Nakagawa (Script), Kaho Miyasaka (Original Novel)

Starring: Eiji Okuda, Alan Shirahama, Jin Shirasu, Yuna Taira, Mio Yuki,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Rino Sakuragi is a high school student who is the manager of the high school kendo club which Ren Kiritani, the most popular boy in school, is a part of. They have known each other since junior high school and Rino harbours a crush on him but lacks the confidence to ask him out because he is so popular. Then, one day, Ren confesses to Rino that he likes her and they begin to date and a sweet high school romance ensues that makes them the envy of everybody. They enjoy their time together, but Rino is diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a cruel fate that only occurs with a probability of “1 / 100,000” people.

It’s a Summer Film

サマーフィルムにのって Sam- Firumu ni notte

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 97 mins.

Director: Soushi Matsumoto

Writer: Naoyuki Miura, Soushi Matsumoto (Script), 

Starring: Marika Ito, Daichi Kaneko, Yumi Kawai, Kirara Inori, Shunya Itabashi, Mahiro Koda,


Naoyuki Miura of the theatre troupe Lolo and director Soushi Matsumoto make science-fiction coming-of-age film about three high school girls obsessed with Japanese period drama and a mysterious boy who may be from another time. This project re-teams Matsumoto with lead actress Marika Ito, a former member of Nogizaka46, after they worked on the Tokyo MX drama ガールはフレンド.

Synopsis: High school student Hadashi (Marika Ito) loves historical films, but the film club she belongs to only makes only glittering youth films. She is desperate to make a period drama but it seems unlikely until a mysterious boy named Rintaro appears out of nowhere. He is perfect for the role of a samurai and it feels like destiny that they meet so a newly inspired Hadashi gathers unique schoolmates to start making a movie for the school festival. However, what none of the crew knows is that Rintaro has travelled back in time from the future.


Josee, the Tiger and the Fish   

Josee The Tiger and the Fish Film Poster

ジョゼと虎と魚たち Josee to Tora to Sakana-tachi

Release Date: December 25th, 2020

Duration: 90 mins.

Director: Kotaro Tamura

Writer: Sayaka Kuwamura (Script), Seiko Tanabe (Original Short Story)

Starring: Kaya Kiyohara (Josee), Taishi Nakagawa (Tsuneo Suzukawa), Chiemi Matsutera (Chizu Yamamura), Kazuyuki Okitsu (Hayato Matsura), Lynn (Kana Kishimoto), Yume Miyamoto (Mai Ninomiya),

Animation Production: BONES

Website ANN MAL

This is an anime adaptation of Seiko Tanabe’s novel of the same name, which was made into a live-action movie by director Isshin Inudo in 2003.

Synopsis: Tsuneo is a university student studying marine biology and working part time. His dream is to see a phantom fish that lives in Mexico. One day, he sees a young woman in a wheelchair plunge down a slope. When he goes to check on her, he discovers she is named Josee and she has rarely gone out of the house by herself due to her being unable to walk. She spends most of her days reading and painting and occasionally going out with her grandmother Chizu but her encounter with Tsuneo is the catalyst for her to face the real world. It also helps that Chizu offers Tsuneo a part-time job as a helper!

Looking for Magical DoReMi        Looking for Magical DoReMi Film Poster

魔女見習いをさがして Majo Minarai o Sagashite

Release Date: November 13th, 2020

Duration: 90 mins.

Director: Junichi Sato, Yu Kamatani

Writer: Midori Kuriyama (Script), 

Starring: Chiemi Chiba (Doremi Harukaze), Rena Matsui (Mire Yoshizuki), Aoi Morikawa (Sora Nagase), Kanako Momota (Reika Kawatani), Tomoko Akiya (Hazuki Fujiwara),

Animation Production: Toei Animation

Website ANN MAL

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the popular magical girl anime Magical Witch Doremi, a series that was broadcast for four years from 1999, a movie version has been created that depicts a magical story for adults with three new heroines in the lead. The voices of the three heroines are Aoi Morikawa, Rena Matsui, and Kanako Momota.

Synopsis: 27-year-old Tokyo office worker Mire Yoshizuki has just returned to Japan, while 22-year-old fourth-year college student Sora Nagase aspires to be a teacher, and 20-year-old boyish Reika Kawatani is a part-time Hiroshima okonomiyaki shop worker and freelancer. What draws together these three women from completely different walks of life is a magic gem related to “Doremi” that allows them to embark on a journey and remember things they once thought important but forgot as adults.

Ora, Ora Be Goin’ Alone   Ora Ora Be Goin' Alone Film Poster

おらおらでひとりいぐも Ora Ora de Hitori Igumo

Release Date: November 06th, 2020

Duration: 137 mins.

Director: ShuichOkita

Writer: ShuichOkita (Script), Chisako Wakatake (Original Novel)

Starring: Yuko Tanaka, Yu Aoi, Masahiro Higashide, Gaku Hamada, Amane Okayama, Machiko Washio, Kankuro Kudo, Munetaka Aoki, Tomoko Tabata,

Website IMDB

Shuichi Okita, director of A Story of Yonosuke (2013), The Woodsman and the Rain  (2012), gathers together a great cast to bring to life a story that looks a little like a tear-jerker.

Festival Report

Synopsis: Momoko (Yuko Tanaka) is seventy-five-years old and lives alone in Tokyo. It wasn’t always like this. In 1964, Momoko (Yu Aoi) arrived in Tokyo and met a handsome man named Shuzo (Masahiro Higashide) who she married. An increase in their family soon followed as she gave birth to two children but then her husband dies and Momoko was left bereft in life. Then, she began to go to a library and found solace and companionship in the books on offer. These books become the voices in her heart (played by various actors) and they helped her change her life and still do. 

World Focus

Along the Sea   Along the Sea Film Poster

海辺の彼女たちUmibe no Kanojotachi

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 88 mins.

Director: Akio Fujimoto

Writer: Akio Fujimoto (Script),

Starring: Hoang Phuong, Anh Huynh Tuyet, Nhu Quynh

Website IMDB

Akio Fujimoto has, so far, specialised in telling Asian stories that reveal profound connections between Japan and its continental neighbours. He previously travelled to Myanmar to make Passage of Life (2017), a film about a family dealing with the pressures of emigrating to Japan, and Bleached Bones Avenue (2019), which shows the process of recovering Japan’s war dead from the Battle of Imphal. I interviewed him about that film. With this movie, he re-assembles his team, including cinematographer Kentaro Kishi, and looks at the fate of three Vietnamese women who are in Japan on a technical internship programme but go on the lam.

Festival Report

Synopsis: Phuong, An, and Nhu are Vietnamese women in their early 20s. The three become illegal residents in Japan after escaping from their workplace as technical trainees. An contacts a broker to help them find work. The broker takes them to a fisherman’s ice-covered hut where they can stay in exchange for labour. They are happy because, as well as finding a job, they have also doubled their salary. As they start their work, Phuong suddenly falls, stricken with severe pain. Worried, An and Nhu take Phuong to a hospital, but they are refused admission for not having an ID card.

Japanese Classics

Three films from Sadao Yamanaka have been restored, all of which feature kabuki actors from left-wing theatre troupe in stories that highlighted the suffering of the poor. There is also the first version of Hiroshi Inagaki’s The Rickshaw ManI (a later version starred Toshiro Mifune) which is accompanied by a documentary.

Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo [4K Digitally Restored and the Longest Version]    Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo Film Poster

丹下左膳余話 百萬両の壺 Tange sazen yowa hyakuman ryou no tsubo

Release Date: June 15th, 1935

Duration: 92 mins.

Director: Sadao Yamanaka

Writer: Shintaro Mimura (Script), 

Starring: Denjiro Okochi, Kiyozo, Kunitaro Sawamura, Ranko Hanai, Soji Kiyokawa, Reizaburo Yamamoto,


Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo Film Image

Synopsis: The Lord of the Yagyu region gives an old “Kokezaru” pot to his brother Genzaburo, who sells it without noticing that is contains a treasure map inside. When this mistake is made and comes to light, everyone wants to get their hands on the map, including Tange Sazen, the one-eyed one-armed samurai.

Humanity and Paper Balloons [4K Digitally Restored Version]    Humanity and Paper Balloons Film Poster

人情紙風船 Ninjo Kami Fusen」   

Release Date: August 25th, 1937

Duration: 96 mins.

Director: Sadao Yamanaka

Writer: Shintaro Mimura (Script), Risa Wataya (Original Story)

Starring: Chojuro Kawarasaki, Kanemon Nakamura, Tsuruzo Nakamura, Takako Misaki, Kikunosuke Ichikawa, Rakusaburo Ichikawa,


Humanity and Paper Balloons Film Image

Synopsis: It is the Edo period and in a slum live two very different people: Shinza, though a hairdresser by trade, actually makes his living by running illicit gambling rooms and pawning his belongings. Matajuro Unno, who lives with his wife next door, is a ronin. He is the son of Matabei Unno, a great samurai, but has been unable to find a master. The two get involved with the affairs of a powerful samurai official and his gangsters.


Priest of Darkness [4K Digitally Restored Version]  Kochiyama Soshun 河内山宗俊 Film Poster 2

河内山宗俊Kochiyama Soshun

Release Date: August 30th, 1936

Duration: 96 mins.

Director: Sadao Yamanaka

Writer: Shintaro Mimura, Sadao Yamanaka (Script), Mokuami Kawatake (Kabuki Story)

Starring: Chojuro Kawarasaki, Kanemon Nakamura, Shizue Yamagishi, Setsuko Hara, Choemon Bando, Sensho Ichikawa, Daisuke Kato, Fumie Miyoshi,


Kochiyama Soshun 河内山宗俊 Film Poster

Synopsis: In a slum are a group of people whose lives will become intertwined. Onami runs a sake stall while her good-for-nothing brother Hirotaro lives life as a troublemaker. Meanwhile. Kochiyama Soshun runs a gambling joint with his wife, Oshizu, and scams people out of money while disguised as a priest. Kaneko Ichinojo, a former samurai who works for a local bigwig collects money from traders, which means he visits Onami’s sake stall. Kochiyama also has a connection with the stall through Hirotaro who likes to gamble. When Hirotaro steals a small but valuable knife from a samurai, he unknowingly takes possession of a valuable heirloom given by the shogun. Onami must make amends and must sell herself to repay her brother’s debt. Enter Soshun and Ichinojo, who both like Onami and aim to save her.

The Rickshaw Man [4K Digitally Restored Version]    無法松の一生 Poster

無法松の一生 Muhomatsu no Issho

Release Date: October 28th, 1943

Duration: 80 mins.

Director: Hiroshi Inagaki

Writer: Mansaku Itami, Shunsaku Iwashita (Script), Shunsaku Iwashita (Original Story)

Starring: Tsumasaburo Bando, Keiko Sonoi, Yasushi Nagata, Kamon Kawamura, Hiroyuki Nagato, Ryunosuke Tsukigata, Kyoji Sugi,


Festival Report

Synopsis: It is the end of the Meiji era and we follow Matsugoro (Tsumasaburo Bando), a poor and rough around the edges rickshaw man in Kokura who has a good heart and a personality that makes him popular with his richer clients. He comes to help a young mother when her army captain husband is killed in action, and Matsugoro even becomes a surrogate father to her son and develops feelings for the mother. This story was made at the height of World War II and censored by the Japanese government.

Wheels of Fate: The Story of the Rickshaw Man

ウィール・オブ・フェイト~映画『無法松の一生』をめぐる数奇な運命~ Ui-ru Obu Feito ~ eiga “muhomatsu no issho” o meguru sukina unmei ~

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 20 mins.

Director: Ema Ryan Yamazaki

Writer: N/A

Starring: Masahiro Miyajima, Yoshio Shirai, Ryo Tamura, Yoneo Ohta

Wheels of Fate The Story of the Rickshaw Man Film Image

Synopsis: An emotional journey into the fateful history of The Rickshaw Man, which, despite being chopped down by two governments, remains an irreplacable work of humanist cinema

Screening of an Award-winning Film from SKIP CITY INTERNATIONAL D-Cinema FESTIVAL 2020

Woman of the Photographs   Woman of the Photographs Film Poster

写真の女Shashin no Onna

Release Date: June 27th, 2020

Duration: 89 mins.

Director: Takeshi Kushida

Writer: Takeshi Kushida (Script),

Starring: Hideki Nagai, Itsuki Otaki, Toshiaki Inomata, Toki Koinuma, Takaaki Kikuchi, Keiko Katsukura, Ryo Tsuchida,

OAFF Website

Writer/director Takeshi Kushida makes his feature debut with Woman of the Photographs has been wowing people across the world with its pristine and inventive visuals and solid story of love in a time of social media madness.

Here’s my interview with the director and my review of the film.

Synopsis: Middle-aged photographer Kai (Hideki Nagai) is committed to living a bachelor’s life due to his gynaphobia but when an Instagram model named Kyoko (Itsuki Otani) crashes into his life, an offbeat meet-cute turns into a psycho-romance as her search for social media success draws him into helping her.

Bunka-Cho Film Week 2020 Documentary Award


Prison Circle   Prison Circle Film Poster

プリズン・サークル  Pursizun Sa-kuru

Release Date: January 25th, 2020

Duration: 136 mins.

Director: Kaori Sakagami

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

Website IMDB

Synopsis: A documentary that took six years to authorise and two years to film due to it being set in a prison in Japan. It is set in Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Promotion Center, a new public-private prison and the only prison in Japan that has introduced a program called “TC (Therapeutic Community)” that seeks out the causes and cures of crime through engaging prisoners in dialogue in a system that encourages rehabilitation. This is one of a number of educational programmes at the prison and one where prisoners must face their past. Audiences of this documentary will see the causes of crime the, bitter memories of childhood, such as poverty, bullying, abuse, and discrimination, as well as the crimes they committed, such as theft, fraud, robbery, injury and death. The camera follows the four prisoners in prison and shows them gaining new values ​​and ways of living through TC. Directed by Kaoru Sakagami, who has worked with American prisoners.

Songs of Entoko -The Power of Feebleness- En to kono uta netakiri kajin endou shigeru Film Poster

えんとこの歌 寝たきり歌人・遠藤滋  Entoko no uta netakiri kajin endou shigeru

Release Date: July 06th, 2019

Duration: 96 mins.

Director: Shinichi Ise

Writer: N/A

Starring: Shigeru Endo


Synopsis: Shigeru Endo is a tanka poet who has been forced to live in bed for the last 35 years due to his cerebral palsy, but has still been able to make poetry thanks to young caregivers. The documentary, made over 25 years by a long-standing friend, captures how the poet and his caregivers support each other and he makes poetry despite his situation. “Entoko” (meaning “where there is an end, where there is a relationship”).

Documentary Award

Planet of the Crabs   Kani no Wakusei Film Poster

蟹の惑星  Kani no Wakusei

Release Date: July 13th, 2019

Duration: 68 mins.

Director: Hiroyasu Murakami

Writer: Hiroyasu Murakami (Screenplay),

Starring: N/A

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Yui Yoshida observes the many different crabs in the tidal flats of the Tama River estuary in Tokyo. It is rare to see so many crabs in a large city, and Yoshida, who has been observing crabs independently for 15 years, visits the tidal flats every few days and records the ecology of the crabs. The documentary goes out on a tour of the tidal flat with Yoshida and looks at the amazing activities of the crabs.

Fanta Premier Movie Fes Grand-Prix Winning Film Screening

Dong Teng Town   Dong Teng Town Film Poster

ドンテンタウン Donten Taun

Release Date: July 17th, 2020

Duration: 61 mins.

Director: Kouhei Inoue

Writer: Kouhei Inoue (Script),

Starring: Ryo Sato, Show Kasamatsu, Ai Yamamoto, Ryui Ushio, Saki Iwasaki, Gantsu Morita, Ryo Anraku,


Synopsis: Another MOOSIC LAB 2019 project, this won the best Actor Award. It is the story of a singer-songwriter named Sora who has moved into a danchi (public housing complex). She is struggling to regain her creativity when she discovers a cassette tape left by Tokio, a former resident who made money as a man who forges painters… 

Child of Kamiari Month Start-up Event – no feature film screening, just a look at the behind the scenes of the film and a musical performance

神在月のこども  Kaminari no kodomoChild of Kamiari Month Film Poster

Release Date: 2021

Duration: N/A

Director: Takana Shirao

Writer: N/A

Starring: Aju Makita as Kanna, Maaya Sakamoto as Shiro, and Miyu Irino as the oni boy Yato.

Animation Production: LIDEN Films

The company Cretica Universal is trying to utilise the unique culture and nature of Japan to create IP and here they have done so through an animation based on the legends surrounding an area of Izumo city, Shimane prefecture.

Synopsis: October is known as Kamiari month, a time when the gods are believed to leave their dwelling places for a bonding rite in the Izumo region. Kanna is a 12-year-old girl who lives a life similar to us but she learns from a rabbit named Shiro that she and her late mother Yayoi are descendants of gods and that Yayoi had the responsibility of delivering food to the Izumo conference. Now Izumo must fill her mother’s responsibilities, and as she travels to the land of the gods, she does so in the hope she can get them to revive her mother.

Other films:

Talking the Pictures plays at the Minato Cinema Festival

Born Bone Born (review) plays as part of Directors Guild of Japan New Directors Award Film Screening and Symposium

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