A Glimpse at the Films at the Tokyo Student Film Festival 2021

The 32nd Tokyo Student Film Festival runs from October 19th to October 23rd in Shibuya Eurospace and 25 films have been selected for audiences to enjoy. The line-up consists of indie and feature films, all produced by students. You will notice familiar names in the line-up. This is because the festival programmers have worked with experienced directors like Kaori Oda (Toward a Common Tenderness, Cenote) and Rikiya Imaizumi (Over the Town) to some of their early career-defining works in each of the sections.

Here are the films with information pulled from the festival site which is a great resource and very well laid out so click on the links to find out more!

Programme A, October 19, 18:25

Blink in the Desert    Blink in the Desert Film Poster

プリテンダーズ Puritenda-zu

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 11 mins.

Director: Shinobu Soejima

Writer: Shinobu Soejima (Script), 

Starring: Karin Ono, Ai Mikami, Kanji Furutachi, Eita Okuno, Kaito Yoshimura, Yurina Yanagi, Ryo Sato,

Shinobu Soejima creates sculptures and stop-motion animation. Her inspirations come from researching Asian folklore and ethnic culture and her attempts to create narrative video expression that incorporates images shared by people of all ethnicities and eras, based on the theme of the otherworldly in the everyday, such as shadows and death. The Spirits of Cairn was Shinobu Soejima’s first film and it won major plaudits. She followed it up with another great stop-motion film called The House Rattler and that also took home awards.

Synopsis: When a young desert hermit kills a winged insect in a fit of malice, the boy is pursued by the shadow of the winged insect. This is a morality tale in which the facial expressions of the models are very important for conveying information.

Destiny    Destiny Film Poster

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 7 mins.

Director: Minori Matsuoka

Writer: Minori Matsuoka (Screenplay),

Starring: Minori Matsuoka

Minori Matsuoka graduated from the Graduate School of Film and New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts in 2021 with a degree in animation. Her works have been screened in Japan and abroad at Ottawa and Stuttgart international animation festivals as well as DigiCon Asia. Her works include PARTY PLANET (2017), Goodnight, Convenience Store. (2018) and the wonderful Turtle’s Stroll (2020) won the Dizzt Prize at DigiCon ASIA JAPAN. You can find more of her work here.

Synopsis: Yui’s life is stagnant and her boyfriend ignores her. When her friend, Aya, introduces her to a fortune teller, she soon faces her destiny. A stop-motion romantic comedy filmed in the director’s own home.

Amane Nikki    Amane Diary Film Poster

あまねにっき Amane Nikki

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 5 mins.

Director: Amane Oda

Writer: Amane Oda (Screeplay),

Starring: Wang Jun-jie, Amane Oda (voice over/humming)

Amane Oda graduated from Hiroshima City University, Faculty of Art, Department of Design and Crafts in 2020, and is currently enrolled in Tokyo University of the Arts, Graduate School of Film and New Media, Department of Animation. 

Synopsis: This work is based on 15 years of entries in the diary the director has kept since the age of eight. Through creating this work, she was searching for freedom from her preconceptions about animation and herself.


ミッちゃん  Micchan

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 21 mins.

Director: Tadao Morohashi

Writer: Tadao Morohashi (Screenplay),

Starring: Minami Ozono (Akane), Rio Ogawa (Micchan), Atsushi Takashina (Neighbour),

Tada Morohashi is a graduated of Musashino Art University’s Department of Visual Arts. His metier is 3DCG. His inspiration for this film was his use of social media and virtual reality during the coronavirus pandemic. Through meeting people online, he heard their tales of losing loved ones and he wanted to explore these two contrasting things in animation. 

Synopsis: In a world where it has become difficult for people to see each other in real life, the virtual SNS “Virtuopia” is becoming the standard place for socializing in the world. Akane, a fourth year university student, meets her childhood friend and confidant, Micchan, who has been absent from Virtuopia for a long time…

Our Pond

わたしのトーチカ  Watashi no To-chika

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 15 mins.

Director: Namiko Ishidate

Writer: Namiko Ishidate (Screenplay),

Starring: Miyuki Sawashiro, Ryo Hirohashi, Fumie Mizusawa, Saya Tanaka, Eriko Kadokura

Namiko Ishidate graduated from Tama Art University’s Department of Graphic Design in 2013, and has worked as an animator for five years. This year, she completed her course at Tokyo University of the Arts’ Graduate School of Film and New Media, Department of Animation. To make this film, she wrote, directed, animated and even composed the music herself. It was recently screened as part of DigiCon6.

Synopsis: The diving suit is the only part of the underwater world that can’t live without a cylinder. Surrounded by egotistical girls and friends from complicated family backgrounds, she pretends to ignore them, no matter how suffocating it is, so that her peaceful life will not be broken.

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: July 22nd 2021

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

This was at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year and reviews paint a good film. Here’s an Anime News Network review and a TIFF Festival Report

Kyohei Ishiguro’s major works include Your Lie in April, Occultic;Nine and forthcoming the Netflix original anime film Bright; Samurai Soul.

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.”

Programme B, October 20, 16:25

Break.    Kowasu Film Poster

こわす。 Kowasu.

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 38 mins.

Director: Mizuho Goto

Writer: Mizuho Goto (Screenplay),

Starring: Rico Endo, Seita Shibuya, Seiji Nakamura, Anna Tashiro, Noriko Yahagi, Yusuke Okamoto

Mizuho Goto originally graduated from a fashion college and worked for an apparel company but she always had the dream of working in working in the film industry. It wasn’t until she saw a film directed by Rikiya Imaizumi that she learned about it ENBU Seminar and so she quit her job, moved to Tokyo, and enrolled in the school.

Synopsis: Nagako is a loner who struggles to express herself. Her daily grind is running her family’s dry-cleaning business. To relieve herself, she quietly destroying things on the riverbank near her house. One day, a customer brings a jacket to her store and she discovers that it contains a photo of an object she destroyed. “I thought it was beautiful.” When Nagako hears this, she is elated and starts breaking more things.

The City Remembers

ある街の記憶 Aru Machi no Kioku

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 25 mins.

Director: Satoshi Nakahata

Writer: Satoshi Nakahata (Screenplay),

Starring: Nanako Shibata, Ren Shintake, Atsushi Maekawa, Goh Iwamoto, Misaki Watanabe,

Satoshi Nakahata has been a member of Tokyo University’s film club “Filmmaking Spica 1895” since 2017. His film is all about existential angst as well as the infinite possibilities afforded to people and how they live, which is given through their depiction in film.

Synopsis: A woman armed with a camera wanders around the city. What is the nature of her relationship to her environment and the people in it? What is her own nature? 

Aya Kawazoe Triple-bill

Aya Kawazoe is a graduate from Tama Art University’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts and is currently enrolled in the master’s program at Tokyo University of the Arts. In 2020, her film Humongous (2020/16mm), was selected for the Critics’ Week Short Film Competition at the 2020 Cannes International Film Festival and was screened at various fests like the New York Film Festival. 

Kirihajimete, Hana o Musubu.

きりはじめて、はなをむすぶ。 Kirihajimete, Hana o Musubu.

Release Date: 2012

Duration: 10 mins.

Director: Aya Kawazoe

Writer: Aya Kawazoe (Screenplay),


Synopsis: This was the winner of the Grand Prix in the Japan Tomorrow category at the 26th Image Forum Festival.

Night Train

夜の電車 Yoru no Densha

Release Date: 2019

Duration: 15 mins.

Director: Aya Kawazoe

Writer: Aya Kawazoe (Screenplay),

Starring: N/A

Synopsis: Kawazoe’s entry work for Tokyo University of the Arts.

Humongous Humongous Film Poster

とてつもなく大きな Totetsumonaku Ookina

Release Date: April 23rd, 2021

Duration: 11 mins.

Director: Aya Kawazoe

Writer: Ayako Suzuki (Screenplay)

Starring: Miki Tatewaki, Shion Sasaki, Ayako Sasaki, Yoi Suzuki, Ibuki Yokoyama, Keito Suzuki,

Website IMDB

This short film was selected for the Critics’ Week Short Film Competition at Cannes International Film Festival in 2020. If you read her bio on the site, you can see that she has studied under some major directors.

Synopsis: The story concerns a young woman named Eiko. She has flashbacks of childhood memories that come in different layers of images and sounds. Digital and film techniques are mixed together as Eiko drifts through memories that may be her own or those of someone else…

Official Selection of the 73rd Cannes International Film Festival

Programme C, October 20, 19:10

Fuckin Spring Has Come

また春が来やがって Mata Haru ga Kiyagatte

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 58 mins.

Director: Yuki Horiuchi

Writer: Yuki Horiuchi (Screenplay),

Starring: Ryo Igarashi, Masahiro Narahara, Risa Miyake, Karin Nishina, Maya Yasui,

After graduating from the College of Business Administration at Ritsumeikan University, Yuki Horiuchi enrolled in the Film Production Course at Toho Gakuen Film School. He wrote and directed this film while on the course. 

Synopsis: This is a story about the daily lives of two immature men. 

Send to You Lovely    Send to You Lovely Film Poster

素敵なあなたに Sutekina anata ni

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 34 mins.

Director: Natsumi Someya

Writer: Natsumi Someya (Screenplay),

Starring: Yu Saotome, Rika Hou, Miho Koitabashi, Saki Ikeda

Natsumi Someya is a graduate from Musashino Art University and was inspired to make this film after viewing old photos with precious memories.

Synopsis: When Chun revisits the share house she used to live in as a university student, she reunites with Uzuki for the first time in ages. For a brief time before parting, they will share nostalgia and memories.


最低 Saitei

Release Date: 2009

Duration: 34 mins.

Director: Rikiya Imaizumi

Writer: Rikiya Imaizumi (Screenplay),

Starring: Tateto Serizawa, Aya Tenshou, Nozomi Kawakami,

Born in Fukushima prefecture in 1981, Imaizumi won the Grand Prix at the Mito Short Film Festival with his work Bion and the TAMA NEW WAVE from TAMA CINEMA FORUM with Saitei. He made his commercial debut with the 2010 music documentary Tama no Eiga. His talent for relationship dramas quickly emerged with a quick succession of titles, Sad Tea (2014), Their Distance (2016), Our Blue Moment (2017), Just Only Love, and Little Nights, Little Love (both 2019), and His (2020), all getting critical and commercial attention.


Synopsis: Ami is suspicious that her partner Masao is cheating on her and so when she receives a package with a DVD from a mystery sender, she thinks she has evidence. Meanwhile, Masao is skipping work and playing pachinko with his cheating partner.

Programme D, October 21, 16:25

Tada, Ima o Zutto.

琥珀色のキラキラ   Kajikanda Hikari, Kobore

Release Date: 2008

Duration: 11 mins.

Director: Ryu Naito

Writer: Ryu Naito (Screenplay),

Starring: Sota Fukushi, Tomo Komi, Sara Maegaki,

Ryu Naito graduated from Nihon University College of Art’s Department of Film Studies in 2021 and is currently working as a freelance editor. His intention was to explore social issues. He also recaptures a sense of youth.

Synopsis: It is the final summer of high school and best friends Sota, Eishi, and Shuri are enjoying a trip together but changes are afoot as Sota has feelings for and Shuri does too… 

Try Not to Drop Fading Lights    Try Not to Drop Fading Lights Film Poster

かじかんだ光、こぼれ落ちないように   Kajikanda Hikari, Koborechinai you ni

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 41 mins.

Director: Aiko Ogura

Writer: Aiko Ogura (Screenplay),

Starring: Reiko Tanaka, Makoto Hibiya, Saori Mizusawa, Airi Himeno, Chinatsu Yachi, Mai Shimoyama,

Aiko Ogura made this film as a graduation project from J. F. Oberlin University. This is her debut. Intriguingly, on the festival site, she states that she decided to make this film because she felt threatened by the fact that the word “mengele” has been hidden from the world. 

Synopsis: Asako Mizusawa has developed suicidal tendencies but her mother’s lover, Makoto, prevents her from taking her own life. Can his influence blunt Asako’s self-destructive desire? 

Musan de Hiraite    Musan de Hiraite Film Poster

むすんでひらいて    Musan de Hiraite

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 29 mins.

Director: Ayaka Yoshino

Writer: Ayaka Yoshino (Screenplay),

Starring: Rirai Minamiyama, Nagino Kontani, Fumito Kawanaka, Yuri Osawa, Mitsuki Nakamura,

Ayaka Yoshino has emerged from Toho Gakuen Film School and takes a naïve view of interpersonal relations in this school-based work. 

Synopsis: High schoolers Mugi and her best friend Miwa invent a strange style of wearing pants and it catches on… 

Kohakushoku no kirakira

琥珀色のキラキラ   Kohakushoku no kirakira

Release Date: 2008

Duration: 30 mins.

Director: Ryota Nakano

Writer: Ryota Nakano (Screenplay),

Starring: Machiko Ono, Nana Matsubara, Kenichi Takito, Yoko Nagamune, Jotaro Koichi

Ryota Nakano is an award-winning filmmakers with films like Capturing Dad, The Asadas, and Her Love Boils Bathwater. He graduated from Japan Academy of Moving Images. This is one of his early works. 

Synopsis: Ever since Ryoko’s mother passed away, she and her father, Shozo, have lived together. Then, one day, a woman named Michiko arrives. She speaks with a Kansai accent and has her hair tied up in a tight bun. They sort of form a new family… 

Programme E, October 21, 19:25

The Wind that Shakes the Ooshikamyra The Wind that Shakes the Ooshikamyra Film Poster

大鹿村から吹くパラム   Oujikamura kara fuku paramu

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 87 mins.

Director: Kim Myoung-yoon

Writer: N/A

Starring: Simon Pigott, Tim Takasaki, Karin Nakamura, Taiden Nakamura, Bob Uchida, Midori Noh, Noboru Taniguchi, Masako Nakamura,

Film Freeway

Kim Myoung-yoon is a documentarian and journalist who lives in Japan but is originally from Korea. He studied Theatre at Incheon University and went on to study at Japan Academy of Moving Images. A chance encounter with a woman handing out flyers against the construction of the Linear Shinkansen led him to Oshika Village in Nagano Prefecture where he made this documentary.

Synopsis: Oshika village is considered a special place by those who live there but now it is under threat from construction work on the Linear Shinkansen. We hear their stories. Simon Piggott, a translator originally from England, and his family moved to the place 30 years ago, after living in and around Tokyo for many years. Noboru Taniguchi fled Osaka to find freedom there. Kumi Maeshima, whose family has lived in Oshika for several centuries and now runs a traditional inn, talks about her opposition to the Linear project. They, and others, speak out more.

Thus a Noise Speaks

ノイズが言うには  Noizu ga Iu ni wa

Release Date: 2010

Duration: 38 mins.

Director: Kaori Oda

Writer: N/A

Starring: Kaori Oda, Chigusa Oda, Sayuri Oda


Kaori Oda is an award-winning documentarian. She learned her craft under Béla Tarr in Europe, during which time she made her first feature film, ARAGANE (2015), about a coal mine in Bosnia. The film won a special award in the New Asian Currents section of the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival. In 2017. Following that, she made the self-documentary Towards a Common Tenderness and Cenote, the latter of which won the first Nagisa Oshima Award. This is one of her earliest films, a self-documentary.

Synopsis: When Kaori Oda returned to Japan for her summer holiday, and on her 23rd birthday, she told her family that she was a lesbian. This caused ructions that hurt the director. To analyse and overcome this, Oda asked her family to participate in making this documentary.

Programme F, October 22, 16:25

Smart Boy, Good Phone.

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 13 mins.

Director: Kohei Yamada

Writer: Kohei Yamada (Screenplay),

Starring: Kohei Yamada, Mari Hasamoto, Rin Watanabe, Tatsuro Yoshida, Masahiro Fukada,

Kohei Yamada has been active in theatre since junior high school. His first university course was Engineering at Hokkaido University, but he realised that he wanted to make films, so he transferred to Osaka University of Arts. He is currently in his second year. 

Synopsis: A smart boy meets a weird girl named Kurage Yokoyama, who thinks smartphones are dangerous, and a bond forms between the two as she gets him caught up in a crazy scheme…


鯨波   Toki

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 31 mins.

Director: Miki Tatewaki

Writer: Miki Tatewaki (Screenplay),

Starring: Ai Machida, Shiori Ueno, Risa Shibayama,

Miki Tatewaki is an actor, writer, and director who might be most familiar from her lead role in The Wandering Plants, directed by Yurina Kaneko.

Synopsis: Haruka’s encounter with a hikikkomori who leaves her a painting puts her on a path with the discovery of a childhood that was wounded by life.

Toe Yumoi    Toe Yumoi Film Poster

トエユモイ   Toe Yumoi

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 58 mins.

Director: Sawako Fukuoka, Satsuki Hamada

Writer: Sawako Fukuoka, (Screenplay),

Starring: Satsuki Hamada, Shiho Naruse, Mitsuteru Ikeda, Ayumi Takada, Naoki Okada, Kaoru Minami

Sawako Fukuoka is a fourth-year student at Nihon University College of Art, Department of Cinema Studies. She is majoring in writing. 

Satsuki Hamada is a fourth-year student studying directing at the same university. 

After meeting in university, they formed a creative unit and have done things such as radio, comedy, and film production.

Synopsis: Moeko Sato is a university student who has been living a depressed life due to coronavirus. When, Moeko develops a crush on Tadako, who works part-time at her favourite convenience store, she asks her to live with her…

23 Hanashime

23話目   23 Hanashime

Release Date: 2008

Duration: 9 mins.

Director: Hiroshi Shoji

Writer: Hiroshi Shoji (Screenplay),

Starring: N/A

Hiroshi Shoji is the man behind Ken and Kazu He is a graduate of Tokyo Broadcasting System College of Arts and Cinema Actors.

No Trailer

Synopsis: Hiroshi made this film during his second year at the Tokyo Broadcasting System School of Arts and Cinema Actors.  It was my first film to be selected and screened at a film festival when it was picked up by Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia.

Programme G, October 22, 19:20

The House Left Behind in Summer    The House Left Behind in Summer Film Poster

夏だまりの家   Natsu damari no Ie

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 74 mins.

Director: Riho Ishii

Writer: N/A (Screenplay),

Starring: Sayaka Yamaguchi, Syunpei Hosoi, Yu Yoshii, Nako Hasegawa, Sachihito Ikeuchi,

Riho Ishii began making films in high school and has worked on a couple of feature films as staff professionally, the most notable being BOLT (2020) by director Kaizo Hayashi (To Sleep so as to Dream).

Synopsis: Hatsumi returns to her parents’ house to live with her siblings. It is the first time in two years that she has returned and she sees that nothing has changed since her grandmother’s death…

Mashima Miyabi    Mashima Miyabe Film Poster

真島ミヤビ  Mashima Miyabi

Release Date: 2021

Duration: 15 mins.

Director: Yukiko Miyata

Writer: Yukiko Miyata (Screenplay),

Starring: Nanaka Ozawa, Yudai Tateishi, Masahiro Yabu,

Yukiko graduated from a film director course at Nihon University College of Art and has made the film Seventeen (2020).

Synopsis: 29-year-old Riku considers himself a nobody but he is brought back to the past by a nostalgic scent caught on a breeze and before him lies the memory of a girl staring at the sea with a fragile look…

Hitokoroshi no Ana

人コロシの穴  Hitokoroshi no Ana

Release Date: 2002

Duration: 36 mins.

Director: Chihiro Ikeda

Writer: Chihiro Ikeda (Screenplay),

Starring: Yuki Kirino, Sachiyo Iso, Takahiro Kida, Midori Saito, Katsunori Takazaki, Yoichi Nishiyama, Akiko Imazeki

Ikeda began making independent films while still in high school. A graduated from Waseda University, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Film School of Tokyo, one of her early works, Hitokoroshi no Ana, was officially selected for the Cinéfondation section at the 2003 Cannes International Film Festival. She has worked in TV and film since then as a director, co-director, and writer. As a screenwriter, he co-wrote the screenplays for Creepy (2016), directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Red (2019), directed by Yukiko Mishima, and Living in Your Sky (2020), directed by Shinji Aoyama.

Synopsis: A girl who will soon give birth aborts the baby without telling anyone must split away from her family. Part of her escape is to dig a hole where she can bury the shameful things. And so she digs a hole while singing a song on a hill where the wind is blowing strongly.

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