Gukoroku – Traces of Sin 愚行録 Dir: Kei Ishikawa (2017)

Gukoroku – Traces of Sin   Gukoroku Film Poster

愚行録  Gukoroku」    

Running Time: 120 mins.

Director: Kei Ishikawa

Writer: Kosuke Mukai (Screenplay), Tokuro Nukui (Original Novel),

Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Hikari Mitsushima, Keisuke Koide, Asami Usuda, Yui Ichikawa,

Website IMDB

A brutal crime is committed in Tokyo where a picture-perfect family is knifed to death by an unknown assailant. With the killer having disappeared, questions are left unanswered but the central protagonist of this film aims to answer them. Kei Ishikawa’s tightly controlled directorial debut ostensibly looks like a murder mystery similar to Rage (2016) where an ensemble cast lead the audience into the conclusion of a terrible atrocity but this is a mystery where it is less about the how and more about the why the perpetrator committed the crime. Based on a novel by Tokuro Nukui and adapted by veteran scriptwriter Kosuke Mukai, this is a disturbing film gives us a chilling portrait of people driven to murder by issues of class and background in a society where hierarchy is everything. In this tale, lies and deceit are inherent in everyone who bears traces of sin.

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Genkina hito’s Top Ten Films of 2017

Welcome to my top ten films of 2017.

The Long Excuse Mistress

LAst year was dominated by work/fun at two festivals. There was the Osaka Asian Film Festival at the start of the year while I was in Japan and the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2017 during the autumn when I returned to the UK. Both experiences were great because I got to do what I love the most, writing about films. I also got to work with some really great people and made friends. I have to say thank you to all of them. I hope these people stay with me. As far as I’m concerned, they have my loyalty for what it’s worth. Once I got back from Japan, I made sure to take my family to see as many films as possible. Going to the cinema was something we already did as a family but spending more time together is important. As a result of all this activity, I saw lots of films this year. Due to the type of films I cover or circumstances or pure choice, I flit between years so not everything has been released in 2017. Here’s an article on VCinema I contributed to about a year in cinema and here are my top ten for 2017:

I hope you discover something in this list that interests you.

I’ve updated my Top Ten Films page for these entries.


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Kako: My Sullen Past ふきげんな過去 Dir: Shiro Maeda (2016)

Kako: My Sullen Past   

Kako My Sullen Past Film Poster
Kako My Sullen Past Film Poster

ふきげんな過去 「Fukigen na Kako」 

Running Time: 120 mins.

Director: Shiro Maeda

Writer: Shiro Maeda (Screenplay)

Starring:  Kyoko Koizumi, Fumi Nikaido, Kengo Kora, Mei Kurokawa, Yuki Yamada, Itsuji Itao,

Website IMDB

Playwright and novelist Shiro Maeda has long been working in films, adapting A Story of Yonosuke (2013) and his novels Isn’t Anyone Alive? (2012) and The Extreme Sukiyaki (2013) for the big-screen. Indeed, his adaptation of The Extreme Sukiyaki was his directorial debut and he followed it up with Kako: My Sullen Past (2016), an exquisite character-driven story of a teenager plagued by uncertainty and cynicism who finds her dull life turned upside-down when her long-dead aunt dashes back into her life and a whole lot of skeletons tumble out of the closet.

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The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue 夜空はいつでも最高密度の青色だ (2017) Dir: Yuya Ishii

The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blueyozora-wa-itsudemo-saiko-mitsudo-no-aoiro-da-film-poster

夜空はいつでも最高密度の青色だ Yozora wa Itsudemo Saiko Mitsudo no Aoiro da   

Running Time: 108 mins.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Yuya Ishii (Screenplay), Tahi Saihate (Original Poet)

Starring: Shizuka Ishibashi, Sosuke Ikematsu, Ryo Sato, Takahiro Miura, Mikako Ichikawa, Ryuhei Matsuda, Paul Magsalin, Tetsushi Tanaka,

Website   IMDB

Yuya Ishii has gone from indie kid to director of award-winning adaptations of major books with films like Sawako Decides (2010), A Man with Style (2011), Mitsuko Delivers (2012), The Great Passage (2013). Despite the growth in projects, he has kept looking directly at his characters and in his incisive looks at human nature he spots the oddities and uniqueness of everyone regardless of the story and gets the actors to perform perfectly.

Here, he works with newbie actor Shizuka Ishibashi (later to star in Parks) and pairs her up with the more experienced Sosuke Ikematsu (How Selfish I Am!) and Ryuhei Matsuda (Nightmare Detective, My Little Sweet Pea) who was the lead in The Great Passage. The actors all portray characters caught up in the whirlwind world of Tokyo, a place which is fearsome or fantastically rewarding depending upon a person’s perspective. Film festival synopses paint the characters as alienated, stressed, and looking for relief from the everyday grind making the film sound grimdark. Far from being a miserable time, The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue is a tribute to the magic of Tokyo and the people living in it. It exhorts its audience to seize life and appreciate all the small blessings and all the positives, to work hard no matter the good times and bad times and embrace the people who offer love.

Continue reading “The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue 夜空はいつでも最高密度の青色だ (2017) Dir: Yuya Ishii”


Emi-Abi エミアビのはじまりとはじまり Dir: Kensaku Watanabe (2016)


Emi-Abi Film Poster
Emi-Abi Film Poster

エミアビのはじまりとはじまり 「Emiabi no Hajimari to Hajimari」 

Running Time: 88 mins.

Director: Kensaku Watanabe

Writer: Kensaku Watanabe (Screenplay)

Starring:  Ryu Morioka, Tomoya Maeno, Haru Kuroki, Hirofumi Arai, Mari Yamachi,

Website IMDB

Emi-Abi is a film marked by death but it is incredibly life-affirming. Written and directed by Kensaku Watanabe (he adapted the novel The Great Passage  into a script for the big screen), it tells the tale of artistic endeavour in the face of disaster and comes up trumps with a happy ending in a film that perfectly balances tragedy and comedy.

The story begins at the end of the manzai act Emi-Abi. The duo has lost its funny-man Unno (Tomoya Maeno) in an accident. All that remains is the handsome straight man Jitsudo (Ryu Morioka) and his dutiful manager Natsumi (Haru Kuroki) who has a comedy streak funnier than her remaining charge. With Unno’s funeral in the past and an uncertain future as a mere pretty-boy performer in a pretty crowded field, Jitsudo is on his way to his comedy sempai Kurosawa’s (Hirofumi Arai) home to pay respects and to get advice.

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A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light あえかなる部屋 内藤礼と、光たち Dir: Yuko Nakamura (2016)

A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light   

A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light Film Poster
A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light Film Poster

あえかなる部屋 内藤礼と、光たち「ae ka naru Heya Naitō Rei to, kotachi

Running Time: 87 mins.

Director: Yuko Nakamura

Writer: N/A (Screenplay),

Starring:  Rei Naito, Hina Yukawa, Ran Yaniguchi, Keiko Oyama, Kyoko Tanaka,

Website IMDB

Art is life and life is art. That sounds like hyperbole but Yuko Nakamura’s documentary, A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light, takes a look at a remarkable artist’s extraordinary installation work which uses light and delicate objects to make life-affirming works that give insight into the world and human existence. Again, sounds like hyperbole but this film is inspirational in the way its shot and reveals a lot about its subject even if she remains a mysterious figure.

Nakamura takes audiences to the genesis of this project, when she learned she would have to support her terminally ill mother. While contemplating how to look after her parent and feeling the serious weight of her connection, she took a trip to Teshima Art Museum, on an island in the Seto Inland Sea, and she encountered an integrated artwork named “Matrix” by architect Ryue Nishizawa and artist Rei Naito (more info). The visit was a profound moment that gave Nakamura an insight into life but how to explain it? How to understand it? How to understand the artist, Rei Naito? A film had to be made.

Continue reading “A Room of Her Own – Rei Naito and Light あえかなる部屋 内藤礼と、光たち Dir: Yuko Nakamura (2016)”


The Long Excuse 「永い言い訳 」 Dir:  Miwa Nishikawa 2016

The Long Excuse The Long Excuse Film Poster

永い言い訳 Nagai Iiwake

Running Time: 123 mins.

Director:  Miwa Nishikawa

Writer: Miwa Nishikawa (Screenplay/Original Novel),

Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Eri Fukatsu, Pistol Takehara, Maho Yamada, Tamaki Shiratori, Kenshin Fujita, Keiko Horiuchi, Haru Kuroki,

Website IMDB

Miwa Nishikawa loves writing about the worst traits of people. Nishkawa’s previous feature films, Wild Berries (2003), Sway (2006), Dear Doctor (2009), and Dreams for Sale (2012) have protagonists who are unctious liars, unappreciative egotists, unrepentant cheats, and utter scoundrels. In this film, based on a novel she wrote, Nishikawa asks the audience to follow a character whose emotional life is a cold-hearted absence borne by self-absorption, a man who has disappeared into himself and lost sight of what really matters in life, other people.

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Being Good きみはいい子  Dir: Mipo O (2015)

You Are a Good Kid   / Being Good   

You're a Good Kid Film Poster
You’re a Good Kid Film Poster

きみはいい子  「Kimi wa iiko」

Release Date: June 27th, 2015

Running Time: 121 mins.

Director: Mipo O

Writer: Ryo Takada (Screenplay), Hatsue Nakawaki (Original Novel)

Starring:  Kengo Kora, Machiko Ono, Chizuru Ikewaki, Michie Kita, Mei Kurokawa, Kazuya Takahashi,

Website IMDB

One of the most important lessons I took away from being a teacher was the idea of being a guardian. An important part of our role is to care for the well-being of our students, to consider their personal circumstances, and emotional needs as well as educational ones. These responsibilities make the role slightly analogous with being a parent. It is a weighty responsibility but gratifying when you genuinely help someone. You don’t need to be a teacher or a parent to care for others. The simple act of caring can save lives. Being Good (2015) shows why.

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Bitter Honey    蜜のあわれ  Dir: Gakuryu Ishii (2016)

Bitter Honey    

Mitsu no Aware Film Poster
Mitsu no Aware Film Poster

蜜のあわれ 「Mitsu no Aware

Running Time: 105 mins.

Director: Gakuryu Ishii

Writer: Takehiko Minato (Screenplay), Saisei Muro (Original Manga)

Starring: Fumi Nikaido, Ren Osugi, Yoko Maki, Kengo Kora, Masatoshi Nagase, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Seiko Iwaido,

Website    IMDB

Director Gakuryu Ishii made his name with crazy indie films fizzing with punk energy, works like Burst City (1982) and Crazy Thunder Road (1980), but that is just one aspect of his career since he has an imagination capable of covering different genres from gloomy serial killers films like the brilliant Angel Dust (1994) and talky apocalypse movies like Isn’t Anyone Alive? (2012). I recommend watching them but of his other works, The Crazy Family and August in the Water are my personal favourites. Most of his films burst with voluptuous visuals and costumes, dense dialogue, and big name actors and over his long career he has maintained his flare for shooting scenes in energetic ways, something much needed here in a story that takes a while to get traction despite an exuberant performance from Fumi Nikaido as a goldfish turned human.

Based on a 1959 novel by the author Saisei Muro, Bitter Honey is set in 1950’s Tokyo. Although shot in a few outdoor locations like a yokocho, some streets, and temple grounds, most of the action takes place indoors, particularly the well-appointed house of an old male writer (Ren Osugi) who is busy making works of literature that will stand the test of time. Well, he would be if he wasn’t enthralled with a red goldfish who is able to transform into a beautiful voluptuous young woman (Fumi Nikaido).

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Haruneko はるねこ Dir:  Sora Hokimoto (2016)




Running Time: 85 mins.

Release Date: December 16th, 2016

Director:  Sora Hokimoto

Writer: Sora Hokimoto (Screenplay),

Starring: Yohta Kawase, Lily, Min Tanaka, Lion kawai, Minako Akatsuka, Ryuto Iwata, Keisuke Yamamoto, Yo Takahashi,

Website IMDB

Produced by experienced writer/producer Takenori Sento and producer/director Shinji Aoyama (Eureka), this curious mash-up of a film is the distinctive debut of Sora Hokimoto and the type of thing that will most-likely only be seen at festivals and that’s a shame because it is strikingly beautiful and haunts the memory.

Essentially a supernatural musical, the movie takes place deep in a forest where there is a cosy and well-furnished café nestled in a grove of trees by a river. It is run by The Manager (Yamamoto), an earnest young man who makes pour-over coffee. He lives with an elderly woman (Lily) and a boy called Haru (Iwata). The café is an idyllic place and a refuge for anyone who wants to die. These people vary, good and bad but they all want to escape something.

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