Anime at Nippon Connection 2020

You can’t have a festival dedicated to Japan without mentioning animation and vice versa as you see with the Annecy International Animation Festival every year (and last year which was dedicated to Japan). Nippon Connection has collected a nice selection of mainstream anime movies and indie shorts scattered in different sections and this post summarises all of the anime and animation on display. It’s the follow-up and last of the Nippon Connection highlight posts, following a look at Nippon Visions, Nippon Cinema/Classics, and Nippon Docs.

To find out more about the films, click on the titles.

Here are the films:

Continue reading “Anime at Nippon Connection 2020”

Japanese Films at Annecy International Animation Film Festival 2020

This year’s edition of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival is the 60 anniversary of the fest and it takes place from June 15th to the 30th and, due to the COVID-19 situation, it’s a totally online edition. Unlike last year’s event, which was jam-packed with films, there are about four Japanese animated films and some international co-productions on the roster. The festival welcomes back Masaaki Yuasa, who has directed a Netflix show, and there are some newbie directors.

As per usual, titles contain links to the festival and sources used for information range from the festival site itself to My Anime List (MAL) and Anime News Network (ANN). Let’s start with…

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A Silent Voice 声の形 Dir: Naoko Yamada (2016) [Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2019]

A Silent Voice  

koe-no-katachi-film-poster-2声の形Koe no Katachi

Release Date: September 17th, 2016 (Japan)

Duration: 129 mins.

Director: Naoko Yamada

Writer: Reiko Yoshida (Screenplay), Yoshitoki Ooima (Original Manga)

Starring: Saori Hayami (Shouko Nishimiya), Miyu Irino/Mayu Matsuoka (Shouya Ishida),  Aoi Yuuki (Yuzuru Nishimiya),

Animation Production: Kyoto Animation

Website MAL ANN

If love brings out our best qualities, hatred deform us. A lack of empathy and ignorance lead to hatred and victimisation. This is perfectly illustrated in A Silent Voice. Based on Yoshitoki Ooima’s award-winning seven-volume manga, Kyoto Animation (KyoAni), with their trademark eye for revealing the humanity in their characters through their focus on exquisite character designs and animation, create a quiet and searing tale of teens experiencing the poisonous effect of bullying, the fragmenting of relationships and their self-perception in a story that takes the rather unconventional step of showing it from the perspective of the bully.

Directed by Naoko Yamada, she and her team of animators at KyoAni create one of the most honest portrayals of guilt and perseverance in the name of redemption through every character, each of whom carries some form of guilt and each of whom has been lovingly drawn and animated to give them a life that emanates from the screen so we can relate to them. Lingering shots on facial expressions or mid-shots that focus body-language and sign language show the subtly shifting emotions of hate and love so we feel for all of the characters.

Continue reading “A Silent Voice 声の形 Dir: Naoko Yamada (2016) [Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2019]”

Japanese Animation at the London International Animation Festival 2019

Genki London International Animation Film Festival 2013 Banner

This year’s London International Animation Festival (LIAF 19) will be at the Barbican from Friday, November 29th to Sunday, December 08th. The organisers have combed through 2,600 entries and whittled them down to 85 films that best represent the international indie animation universe.

I’m interested in everything Japanese so here’s what’s on offer:

Continue reading “Japanese Animation at the London International Animation Festival 2019”

Penguin Highway  ペンギン・ハイウェイ Dir: Hiroyasu Ishida (2018) [Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2019]

Penguin Highway      Penguin Highway Film Poster

ペンギン・ハイウェイ 「Pengin Haiuei

Release Date: August 17th, 2018

Running Time: 119 mins.

Director: Hiroyasu Ishida

Writer: Makoto Ueda (Screenplay), Tomihiko Morimi (Original Script)

Starring: Kana Kita (Aoyama), Yuu Aoi (Mysterious Lady), Hidetoshi Nishijima (Aoyama’s Father), Megumi Han (Hamamoto), Naoto Takenaka (Hamamoto’s Father),

Animation Production: Studio Colorido

Website  ANN  MAL

Ten years since his three-minute student short film Fumiko’s Confession brought him to worldwide attention, Hiroyasu Ishida has taken the helm of his first feature, Penguin Highway, for Studio Colorido. A little more calm and controlled than his manic and comedic debut, what remains the same is his knack for telling a tale from a kid’s perspective and with a lot of heart.

Based on a same-named book by Tomihiko Morimi, the story takes a child’s-eye view of the world by following the adventures of Aoyama and his coterie of friends who live in a quiet suburban town. These bright and bubbly kids are charmers as they all display cute foibles while getting lost in their everyday squabbles and learning more about their world in a laid-back summertime atmosphere. Things take a turn for the fantastical as penguins start popping up everywhere without warning.

Continue reading “Penguin Highway  ペンギン・ハイウェイ Dir: Hiroyasu Ishida (2018) [Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2019]”

Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution 交響詩篇エウレカセブン ハイエボリューション, Dirs: Tomoki Kyoda, Hisatoshi Shimizu (2017) [Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2019]

Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution    Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution I Film Poster

交響詩篇エウレカセブン ハイエボリューション Kokyo shihen Eureka sebun Hai eboryu-shon 1

Release Date: September 16th, 2017

Duration: 109 mins.

Chief Director:  Tomoki Kyoda

Director:  Hisatoshi Shimizu

Writer: Dai Sato (Screenplay),

Starring: Kaori Nazuka (Eureka), Yuko Sanpei (Renton Beams/Renton Thurston), Aya Hisakawa (Ray Beams), Juurouta Kosugi (Charles Beams), Tohru Furuya (Adrock Thurston), Michiko Neya (Talho Yuuki),

Animation Production: BONES

Website ANN MAL

When did anime compilation films become a thing and which greedy capitalist initiated it? Most months of the year feature a spin-off or a sequel to a TV anime, all of which are fine, but the compilation seems like the most cynical cash-grab since it is often only the most salient parts of a TV show blown up on the big screen, something that could only satisfy a pre-existing audience who have watched the entire story and will have a high level of familiarity with the characters and what is going on in the narrative and bring all of that linking material to a truncated story. This film is a great example of everything wrong with compilation films and then some.

Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution is the first of three movies that serve as a reboot for the Eureka Seven mecha anime which ran for 50 episodes on TV from 2005 to 2006. It takes footage from the first 10 episodes and adds a brand new beginning and end while the remixing footage from the TV anime for the middle section – you’ll notice which parts were made for the cinema and for TV with the change in aspect ratio.

Continue reading “Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution 交響詩篇エウレカセブン ハイエボリューション, Dirs: Tomoki Kyoda, Hisatoshi Shimizu (2017) [Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2019]”

Fate/stay night Heaven’s Feel I. Presage Flower (2017) Dir: Tomonori Sudo [Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2019]

The traditional Halloween movie review is back and I wanted to try something different with an action anime I had seen at the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival earlier this month.

Fate/stay night Heaven’s Feel I. Presage Flower   gekijouban fate stay night heaven's feel ii lost butterfly film poster

劇場版 Fate/stay night Heaven’s Feel I. presage flower Gekijouban Fate/stay night Heaven’s Feel I. lost butterfly

Duration: 120 mins.

Release Date: October 14th, 2017

Director: Tomonori Sudo

Writer: Akira Hiyama (Screenplay), Kinoko Nasu, TYPE-MOON (Original Creator),

Starring: Ayako Kawasumi (Saber), Noriaki Sugiyama (Shirou Emiya), Jouji Nakata (Kirei Kotomine), Noriko Shitaya (Sakura Matou), Kana Ueda (Rin Toosaka), Mai Kadowaki (Illyasviel von Einzbern),

Animation Production: ufotable

ANN MAL Website

Fate/Stay Night is a venerable series for those who know of it. Originally starting in 2004 as a visual novel from indie video game company Type-Moon, it is an operatic story where the protagonist can join three heroines offering different routes to the finish – Fate, Unlimited Blade Works, Heaven’s Feel. What was an underground game won hardcore fans and became esoteric with every addition to the franchise over the years. This includes the many anime adaptations courtesy of animation production powerhouse ufotable (Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack). Close collaborators of Type-Moon, they have attempted to try and be faithful to the game’s story and pack in everything into a short running time. Fate/stay night Heaven’s Feel I. Presage Flower is a fateful adaptation that takes on the same-titled, lesser-explored route.

Continue reading “Fate/stay night Heaven’s Feel I. Presage Flower (2017) Dir: Tomonori Sudo [Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival 2019]”

A Preview of the Tokyo International Film Festival 2019

Tokyo International Film Festival Banner

The Tokyo International Film Festival (TokyoIFF) (October 28th-November 05th) is back with a programme that is set to appeal to as broad an audience as ever as it casts its net wide to take in a slew of new releases alongside restored classics and promoting indie cinema.

Trailer time!

This year, the artists in focus are Nobuhiko Obayashi and Machiko Kyo, both of whom get retrospectives, there is a 65th Anniversary tribute to Godzilla, and, in the absence of an anime director to fete, the development of visual effects is the highlight. Unlike my last TokyoIFF post, I’ll keep it 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 and a couple of Competition titles.

Opening Film

Tora-san, Wish You Were Here    Tora-san Wish You Were Here Film Poster

男はつらいよ お帰り 寅さん  Otoko wa tsuraiyo Okaeri Torasan

Release Date: December 27th, 2019

Duration: 116 mins.

Director: Yoji Yamada

Writer: Yoji Yamada, Yuzo Asahara (Screenplay)

Starring: Kiyoshi Atsumi, Chieka Baisho, Gin Maeda, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Kumiko Goto, Mari Natsuki, Ruriko Asaoka, Chizuru Ikewaki, Jun Miho, Mari Hamada,

Website IMDB

It is the 50th Anniversary of the Tora-san series and this is the 50th film. Long-time director Yoji Yamada, returns to the series to  bring back the travelling salesman and his adventure in love but as seen from his family’s perspective.

Synopsis: Mitsuo, Tora-san’s nephew, has arrived at Kurumaya Cafe in Shibamata, Tokyo, on the sixth anniversary of the death of his wife for a memorial service. Tora-san’s family ran the place as a traditional confectionery store before it was turned into a cafe but the living quarters in the back remain unchanged. It is here that the family gather to reminiscence about the past, including Tora-san’s adventures in love up and down Japan. It is now, at Tora-san’s childhood home, that Mitsuo runs into Izumi, his first love.


Two J-films in the competition and they couldn’t be further from each other which is good.

Tezuka’s Barbara    Tezuka's Barbara Film Poster

ばるぼら  Barubora

Release Date: November 2019

Duration: 100 mins.

Director: Macoto Tezuka

Writer: Hisako Kurosawa (Screenplay), Osamu Tezuka (Manga)

Starring: Goro Inagaki, Fumi Nikaido, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Shizuka Ishibashi, Minami, Eri Watanabe, Moemi Katayama,

Website IMDB

Macoto Tezka, son of famous manga-ka Osamu Tezuka, turns his father’s novel into a film with Goro Inagaki and top actress Fumi Nikaido taking the lead in the “writer and his muse” story. The cinematography is done by Christopher Doyle and it looks extremely erotic and a little magical. This one is backed by Third Window Films so it will get a great international release.

Synopsis: Osamu Tezuka re-imagines The Tales of Hoffmann which creates a series of meetings wrapped up in lust, forbidden love, the occult, art and all-round weirdness for a famous writer named Yosuke Mikura and a mysterious girl named “Barbara”. This was made for the 90th Anniversary of Osamu Tezuka’s birth.

A Beloved Wife

喜劇 愛妻物語  Kigeki Aisai Monogatari

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 76 mins.

Director: Shin Adachi

Writer: Shin Adachi (Screenplay/Novel)

Starring: Gaku Hamada, Asami Mizukawa, Chise Niitsu,

Shin Adachi is best known for his script for 100 Yen Love (2014) and has worked on other projects, including directing a warmly received comedy 14 That Night (2016). He adapts his autobiographical novel for his sophomore film as a director and it was produced by Aoi Pro, whose works include Shoplifters (2018) and The Long Excuse (2016).

Synopsis: Gota Yanagida (Gaku Hamada) is a scriptwriter with a family and a desperate need for a hit film. His wife of 10 years, Chika (Asami Mizukawa), is the family breadwinner and very unhappy about their lack of money. His daughter Aki (Chise Niitsu) is beginning to view him as a bit of a loser. His desperation for a break is finally answered when a film producer tasks Gota with writing a screenplay for his story of “a high school girl who makes udon noodles at a tremendous speed”. Gota has a chance to travel to Kagawa Prefecture to write a screenplay and so he persuades Chika and Aki to go with him, but when he arrives he discovers a different film project has already been decided…

Japanese Cinema Splash

Reiwa Uprising    Reiwa Uprising Film Poster

れいわ一揆  Reiwa Ikki

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 255 mins.

Director: Kazuo Hara

Writer: N/A

Starring: Ayumi Yasutomi

Website IMDB

Despite the scheduler’s best efforts to suppress this film (a 255 minute movie screened at midnight), you can’t silence Kazuo Hara (The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On) and international interest in political dissent over the corrupt and geriatric LDP Party (another one of those right-wing nationalist parties running the human race into the ground) will be high. I suspect that this one will get play at festivals around the world. Fight the power!

Synopsis: Kazuo Hara follows Ayumi Yasutomi, a transgender Tokyo University professor and a candidate from the anti-establishment party Reiwa Shinsengumi as she embarks on a national campaign for a seat in Japan’s Upper House.

i -Documentary of the Journalist-  i -Documentary of the Journalist- Film Poster

i -新聞記者ドキュメント-  I – shinbun kisha dokyumento –

Release Date: November 15th, 2019

Duration: 120 mins.

Director: Tatsuya Mori

Writer: N/A

Starring: Isoko Mochizuki

Tatsuya Mori is a documentarian famous for the films A (1998), 311 (2011) and Fake (2016). He also acted as producer on The Journalist (2019) which is based on a book by the real-life female journalist, Isoko Mochizuki. She forms the centre of this film as she pursues the truth.

Synopsis: Traditional news media is in a spin as social media, financial forces and political tribalism batter them around. Maybe film documentary might be the best place for news if not for some of brave journalists still working for newspapers who are unafraid to look for the truth. Isoko Mochizuki of The Tokyo Shimbun is one of them as she asks all the awkward questions that keep those in power on their toes and ferrets out the truth. This in a country which is still patriarchal, in an industry which is male-dominated, in a media environment that prefers not to challenge those in power lest they lose access to government press conferences. Here’s an article about her in The New York Times (written by Motoko Rich) which gives an excellent overview of the environment she works in.


叫び声  Sakebigoe

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 75 mins.

Director: Hirobumi Watanabe

Writer: Hirobumi Watanabe (Screenplay), 

Starring: Hirobumi Watanabe, Riko Hisatsugu, Keita Hisatsugu, Nanaka Sudo, Takanori Kurosaki, Gaku Imamura, Yuji Watanabe, Misao Hirayama,

I met the Watanabe brothers and their cinematographer at the 2014 Raindance Film Festival‘s screening of And the Mud Ship Sails Away and I got their autographs. Little did I suspect that they would turn into familiar faces at the Tokyo International Film Festival as they get backing from the event to keep produce their brand of offbeat comedy shot in black-and-white. It’s an alternative to the urban voices and a lot of sideways fun.

Synopsis: A man who lives with his ageing grandmother works silently in a pigpen… That’s the synopsis…

Flowers and Rain

花と雨  Hana to Ame

Release Date: January 17th, 2020

Duration: 114 mins.

Director: Takafumi Tsuchiya

Writer: Takafumi Tsuchiya, Takahiro Horieta (Screenplay), Takafumi Tsuchiya, SEEDA (Original Album/Work)

Starring: Sho Kasamatsu, Ayaka Onishi, Chihiro Okamoto, Ozuno Nakamura, Kyohei Mitsune

Website IMDB

Synopsis: The rapper SEEDA’s 2006 album  Flowers and Rain forms the basis of this work about a young man’s travails. You can hear the SEEDA’s work on this webpage dedicated to Japanese hip-hop. Rising stars Sho Kasamatsu and Ayaka Onishi (Randen) take the lead roles.

For Him to Live

どうしようもない僕のちっぽけな世界は  Dou shiyou mo nai boku no chippokena sekai wa

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 87 mins.

Director: Tomoyuki Kuramoto

Writer: N/A

Starring: Tomohiro Kaku, Yuina Furuta, Jun Miho,

Synopsis: Cases of child abuse have hit the headlines a lot more frequently over the last two years after some harrowing stories. Child welfare services are being examined but as that happens, films come in to show what happens on the ground. In this one, a girl named Hiiro away from her parents when they suspect she’s being abused.


猿楽町で会いましょう  Sarugakuchou de aimashou

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 121 mins.

Director: Takashi Koyama

Writer: Takashi Koyama, Yu Shibuya (Screenplay), 

Starring: Daichi Kaneko, Ruka Ishikawa, Shuntaro Yanagi, Sakurako Konishi, Ikuma Nagatomo, Hitoe Ookubo,

Website IMDB

The winner of last year’s Unfinished Movie Trailer Grand Prix MI-CAN where filmmaker’s can win a cash prize based on a trailer around 3 minutes, this takes place in Sarugakuchou in Shibuya and looks at the lives of two young people who meet there.Here’s more about the area from Tokyo Weekender

Synopsis: A young photographer who is dating a model he met in Shibuya’s Sarugakuchou finds that their sweet romance which she has fostered begins to fall apart because of her dishonesty.

Life: Untitled    Life Untitled Film Poster

タイトル、拒絶  Taitoru, kyozetsu

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 98 mins.

Director: Kana Yamada

Writer: N/A

Starring: Sairi Ito, Yuri Tsunematsu, Reiko Kataoka, Denden, Aimi Satsukawa, Kokoro Morita, War Marui, Aika Yukihira,


Synopsis: Based on a stage play by the director, this film stars Sairi Ito (Love and Other Cults) as Kanou, one of a number of escorts trying to make it in life.

Mrs. Noisy    Mrs. Noisy Film Poster

ミセス・ノイズィ  Misesu Noizi

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 98 mins.

Director: Chihiro Amano

Writer: Chihiro Amano (Screenplay), 

Starring: Yukiko Shinohara, Yoko Ootaka, Takuma Nagao, Chise Niitsu, Masanari Wada, Yoriko Doguchi, Raiki Yanemoto,


Synopsis: Maki Yoshioka is a novelist and mother. She’s suffering a slump in her work and things get worse when her neighbour, Miwako, begins harassing her. Maki goes on the counterattack and makes Miwako a character in her novel but that causes the fight between the two to spiral out of control as the media and internet get involved…

Take Over Zone    

テイクオーバーゾーン  Teiku O-ba- Zo-n

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 90 mins.

Director: Shinpei Yamasaki

Writer: Tomomi Iwashima (Screenplay), 

Starring: Riku Yoshina, Chika Uchida, Yota Kawase, Masashi Gouda, Aki Moriyama, Nanaha Itose,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: A talented 14-year-old female sprinter living in Nara lives in a family with a complex background in Nara.

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.


おばけ Obake

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 64 mins.

Director: Hiromichi Nakao

Writer: Hiromichi Nakao

Starring: Hiromichi Nakao, Sakutaro Nakao, Misora Nakao


Synopsis: A lonely filmmaker who works by himself with nobody and nothing but the stars which watch over him for company finds that his small filmmaking dream that nobody knows about eventually leads to a vast universe.

When the Rain Stops

雨のやむとき Ame no yamutoki

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 28 mins.

Director: Yui Yamaguchi


Starring: Takumi Takita, Yuma Karino, Yuri Osawa,

Synopsis: Junior high-schoolers Rikako and Kouta are having trouble fitting in with others. They become friends and find their own place at a riverside.

Screening of an Award-winning Film from SKIP CITY INTERNATIONAL D-Cinema FESTIVAL 2019


サクリファイス  Sakurifaisu

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 76 mins.

Director: Taku Tsuboi

Writer: N/A

Starring: Yuzu Aoki, Michiko Gomi, Miki Handa, Kosuke Fujita, Yasuyuki Sakurai, Hatsune Yazaki, Hana Shimomura, Chieko Misaka,


This is Taku Tsuboi’s directorial debut. He has a background in working with Makoto Shinozaki (Sharing) and Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Journey to the Shore).

Synopsis: Told primarily in flashbacks, the film follows Midori, a college student who once belonged to a cult named Shio no kai. She predicted the Great East Japan Earthquake while she was a member but has shaken off her past and is now a college student. When disturbing incidents such as cat killings occur near the college she attends, it draws others in, including other former cultists. One other college student, Toko, suspects that the cat killer is her schoolmate Okita.


This section highlights some of the more recent films to have garnered a release on the theatrical and festival circuit and features a strand called Nobuhiko Obayashi: The Wizard of Cinema with Hanagatami being among the titles selected.

Labyrinth of Cinema

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

Synopsis: A group of young people at a soon-to-be-shuttered cinema find themselves time-slipping through the screen to various historical events such as witnessing death during the Sengoku period and on the 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 seems to have an anti-war message.

The Discarnates    The Discarnates Film Poster

異人たちとの夏 Ijin-tachi to no natsu

Release Date: September 15th, 1988

Duration: 108 mins.

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi

Writer: Shinichi Ichikawa (Screenplay), Taichi Yamada (Novel)

Starring: Morio Kazama, Kumiko Akiyoshi, Tsurutaro Kataoka, Atsuko Kawata, Bengal, Takashi Sasano, Eiko Hikari, Shoko Oda, Nao Asuka,


Synopsis: Harada is a successful scriptwriter who learns that his ex-wife is about to marry his best friend. Shocked by the news, Harada heads back into the past and goes to the old family neighbourhood in Asakusa where he encounters a couple who bear a striking resemblance to his own parents, who were killed nearly 30 years ago when he was twelve…

The Young and Wild    The Young and Wild Film Poster

野ゆき山ゆき海べゆき Noyuki yamayuki umibe yuki

Release Date: October 04th, 1986

Duration: 135 mins.

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi

Writer: Haruo Sato, Shinobu Yamada (Screenplay),

Starring: Yasafumi Hayashi, Isako Washio, Junichiro Katagiri, Koichi Sato, Aiko Shoriki,


Synopsis: Summer, 1937, Onomichi. A group of children find themselves surrounded by jingoistic adults as Japan begins a war with China but the kids have issues closer to home to worry about as they try to rescue a beautiful girl from being sold off into prostitution.

Miss Lonely/Lonelyheart    Sabishinbou Film Poster

さびしんぼう Sabishinbou

Release Date: April 13th, 1985

Duration: 112 mins.

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi

Writer: Tadashi Naito, Nobuhiko Obayashi, Wataru Kenmotsu (Screenplay), Hisashi Yamanaka (Novel)

Starring: Yasuko Tomita, Toshinori Omi, Nenji Kobayashi, Kirin Kiki, Nenji Kobayashi, Ittoku Kishibe, Risa Akigawa, Nao Asuka, Masae Hayashi,


Synopsis: Hiroki is in love with a girl but another one mysteriously appears in his life and he can’t be sure if she is real or a figment of his imagination…


Other films in the Japan Now section:

5 Million Dollar Life  (review)

37 Seconds

Farewell Song

Listen to the Universe


Taro the Fool

To the Ends of the Earth

Samurai Shifters

We Are Little Zombies


Innovation in animation is the theme and it spans movies from the first colour animation to the most recent releases, four of which have been submitted for the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar for the 92nd Academy Awards – Children of the Sea, Promare, Weathering With You, Okko’s Inn.

This strand called Japanese Animation: The Evolution of Japanese Animation / VFX. It features a talk on Major Turning Points in Animated Film History and a live voice-over performance from Vanilla Yamazaki.

The White Snake Enchantress The White Snake Enchantress Film Poster

白蛇伝 「Hakujaden

Release Date: October 22nd, 1958

Duration: 78 mins.

Director: Taiji Yabushita

Writer: Shin Uehara, Taiji Yabushita, Seiichi Yashiro (Screenplay)

Starring: Hisaya Morishige, Mariko Miyagi,

Animation Production: Toei

MAL Website IMDB

This is the first animated feature film in colour from Japan and it has been given a 4K scan and restoration job by Toei Animation Company and the National Archive of Japan to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Japanese animation and 60th anniversary of this film’s original theatrical release. Only two voice actors were cast for the film which would be one of the first of three anime features released in North America.

Original negative, 35mm print, tape materials, and animation cels were used by Toei lab tech and Toei digital centre to produce restored data which is in 2K. It was screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

Synopsis: Xu-Xian was forced to free his pet, a small snake, as a young boy. What he didn’t know was that the snake is actually a goddess named Bai-Niang and she loved him. In fact, she never stopped loving him and years later, when they are both adults, they meet again only she has been magically transformed into a human. Their love goes against the local wizard who separates them by banishing Xu-Xian from the village. Fortunately his pet pandas Panda and Mimi set out to save him and bring him, in the process becoming leaders of an animal gang.

Aim For The Best!    Aim For The Best! Film Poster

エースをねらえ! 劇場版  E-su no o nerae! Gekijouban

Release Date: September 08th, 1979

Duration: 72 mins.

Director: Osamu Dezaki

Writer: Keisuke Fujikawa (Script), Sumika Yamamoto (Original Creator)

Starring: Makoto Kousaka (Hiromi Oka), Masako Ikeda (Reika “Ochoufujin” Ryuuzaki)Goro Naya (Soichiro Ryuzaki), Kazue Komiya (Kyoko Otowa), Shinji Toyota (Yuu Ozaki),

Animation Production: Tokyo Movie Shinsha

Website ANN MAL

Synopsis: Hiromi Oka aims to be an ace tennis player but she must endure lots of hardships as she struggles to become someone who can stand among the best junior players in Japan.

You can’t have a focus on special effects without mentioning tokusatsu and there is a talk about the origins of the monsters from Ultraman Q and four episodes from that venerable show, each of which is a 4K restoration and has a talk attached to it.

Challenge From the Year 2020 Dir: Toshihiro Iijima

Garamon Strikes Back Dir: Samaji Nonagase

Tokyo Ice Age Dir: Samaji Nonagase

Kanegon’s Cocoon Dir: Harunosuke Nakagawa

Other films in this section include:



Ride Your Wave

Okko’s Inn 

Weathering with You

In This Corner of the World will be re-released in cinemas in an extended cut with extra footage. It is featured in two TokyoIFF screenings, one as the Hibiya Opening Film and an Advanced Screening named In This Corner (and Other Corners) of the World.

The recent Ni no Kuni anime movie will be shown outdoors as part of Nov. 3 is Home Video Day.

There is also Human Lost

I’ll end with a full description for the next film because everyone I know who has seen it has been blown away.

Children of the Sea   

海獣の子供  Kaijuu no Kodomo

Release Date: May 19th, 2019

Duration: 111 mins.

Director: Ayumu Watanabe

Writer: Daisuke Igarashi (Screenplay/Original Creator),

Starring: Mana Ashida (Ruka Azumi), Hiiro Ishibashi (Umi), Seishuu Uragami (Sora), Goro Inagaki (Masaaki Azumi), Yuu Aoi (Kanako Azumi), Win Morisaki (Anglade),

Music: Joe Hisaishi

Animation Production: Studio 4°C

Website ANN MAL

Synopsis: When Ruka’s parents separated she went to live with her father who works in an aquarium. It is there that she meets two boys, Umi and Sora, who were raised in the sea by dugongs. Ruka feels drawn to them and begins to realise that she has the same sort of supernatural connection to the ocean that they do and she becomes connected to strange events such as the disappearance of sea creatures from around the world. Ruka investigates what is going on…

Special Screenings 

Talking the Pictures, Earthquake Bird and the sci-fi anime Human Lost

The Horse Thieves. Roads of Time    The Horse Thieves. Roads of Time Film Poster

オルジャスの白い馬Oruhasu no Shiroi Uma

Release Date: January 18th, 2020

Duration: 84 mins.

Director: Yerlan Nurmukhambetov, Lisa Takeba

Writer: Yerlan Nurmukhambetov (Screenplay),

Starring: Dulyga Akmolda, Madi Minaidarov, Mirai Moriyama, Samal Yeslyamova,

Website IMDB

This road movie/western is a co-production between Kazakhstan/Japan and brought to the big screen via Tokyo New Cinema. It is the work of two directors, Yerlan Nurmukhambetov who won the New Currents Award in Busan International Film Festival 2015, and Lisa Takeba. Yes, that Lisa Takeba with the fierce imagination who made The Pinkie (2014) and Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory (2015). In his first overseas role, Mirai Moriyama (The Drudgery Train) takes one of the lead characters amongst a predominantly Kazakh cast.

It looks like an ambitious and fresh new movie production for Japan as it follows To the Ends of the Earth to new territories and stories. 

Synopsis: We are in the plains of the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, a world where horse thieves operate under vast skies and on huge grass plains. A family man is murdered by those thieves as he heads to a town market to sell his horses. This leaves his wife a widow and his children fatherless. The village comes together to help the wife hold the man’s funeral and then the wife decides to return to her family with her children. Then, another man who vanished from her life eight years ago appears and helps the woman move and takes one of the children, the son, under his wing, teaching him how to ride horses. The son of the wife resembles that man. The man and the boy go out on horseback together and track down the horse thieves…

I Was A Secret Bitch    I Was A Secret Bitch Film Poster

隠れビッチ”やってました  “Kakure Bicchi” Yattemashita

Release Date: December 06th, 2019

Duration: 112 mins.

Director: Koichiro Miki

Writer: Koichiro Miki (Screenplay), Piroyo Arai (Manga)

Starring: Yui Sakuma, Nijiro Murakami, Suzuka Ohgo, Tomoya Maeno, Ken Mitsuishi, Makiko Watanabe, Mirai Moriyama,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Hiromi (Yui Sakuma) is a 26-year-old who is popular with guys because of her cutesy and innocent ways which she uses as a flirtation strategy. In reality, she can be quite cruel because she will lead guys on and then dump them when it suits her. Her housemate Akira (Nijiro Murakami) and her friend Aya (Suzuka Ohgo) call her “Kakure Bitch” (a type of women who uses innocence to flirt with men) and she enjoys being one until she meets a man named Tsuyoshi (Yuta Koseki) and she realises she genuinely does like him…

He Won’t Kill, She Won’t Die    He Won't Kill She Won't Die Film Poster

殺さない彼と死なない彼女 Korosanai Kare to Shinanai Kanojyo

Release Date: November 15th, 2019

Duration: 123 mins.

Director: Keiichi Kobayashi

Writer: Keiichi Kobayashi (Screenplay), Seikimatsu (Novel)

Starring: Shotaro Mamiya, Hinako Sakurai, Yuri Tsunematsu, Mayu Hotta, Yutaro, Ryo Sato, Aimi Satsukawa, Yumena Yanai,

Website IMDB

Keiichi Kobayashi directed indie movies About the Pink Sky and Bon Lin and I’m pleased to see him back with another film!

Synopsis: Rei is an apathetic highschooler who is bored and lives a boring existence. When he sees his class-mate Nana bury a dead bee with care and respect he becomes interested in her and that is when Nana confides in him that she has no will to live and is harming herself…

The 47 Ronin in Debt    The 47 Ronin in Debt Film Poster

決算!忠臣蔵 Kessan! Chushingura

Release Date: November 15th, 2019

Duration: 125 mins.

Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura

Writer: Yoshihiro Nakamura (Screenplay), Hirofumi Yamamoto (Novel)

Starring: Shinichi Tsutsumi, Takashi Okamura, Gaku Yamada, Satomi Ishihara, Yuko Takeuchi, YosiYosi Arakawa, Satoshi Tsumabuki,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: When Lord Takuminokami Asano is ordered to kill himself due to a scheme by Kozukenosuke Kira, his loyal samurai plan an attack but they need the help of the accountant Chosuke Yato (Takashi Okamura) because but they don’t have enough in their budget.

One Night    One Night Film Poster

ひとよ  Hitoyo

Release Date: November 08th, 2019

Duration: 123 mins.

Director: Kazuya Shiraishi

Writer: Izumi Takahashi (Screenplay)

Starring: Takeru Satoh, Ryohei Suzuki, Mayu Matsuoka, Yuko Tanaka, Kuranosuke Sasaki, Mariko Tsutsui, Hanae Kan, Megumi,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: Koharu (Yuko Tanaka), in an effort to protect her three children from their abusive father, she murdered the man. It shattered their family and sent them on wildly different paths. 15 years later, the family reunites again, each bearing scars from their traumatic background…

Wings Over Everest  Wings Over Everest Film Poster

Release Date: November 15th, 2019

Duration: 110 mins.

Director: Fay Yu

Writer: Fay Yu (Screenplay)

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Jingchu Zhang, Po-Hung Lin, Victor Webster, Noah Dalton Danby, Babak Haleky, Graham Shiels,


Synopsis: When a plane carrying important documents crashes in the Death Zone of Mount Everest, two men claiming to work for India’s research and analysis department offer a large sum of money to Team Wings to take them up to recover them.

Special Program

This is a mix of documentaries and an omnibus movie and jidaigeki.

Seijo Story – 60 Years of Making Films

ノンフィクションW 大林宣彦&恭子の成城物語 [完全版] ~夫婦で歩んだ60年の映画作り~  Nonfikushon W ōbayashi nobuhiko& Kyōko no Seijō monogatari [kanzenhan] ~ fūfu de ayunda 60-nen no eiga-tsukuri ~

Release Date: November 08th, 2019

Duration: 115 mins.

Director: Isshin Inudo, Eiki Takahashi

Writer: Isshin Inudo (Planning),

Starring: Nobuhiko Obayashi, Kyoko Obayashi

Website IMDB

Synopsis: After meeting as college students in the cinema town of Seijo, husband and wife Nobuhiko and Kyoko Obayashi have gone on to direct and produce acclaimed films together for 60 years. They have created more than 40 films and he remains one of the most famous names in Japanese cinema. This documentary looks back on their youth and their independent films. It comes with testimony from friends and family who talk about the special bond between the two.

Tokyo Paralympics: Festival of Love and Glory

東京パラリンピック 愛と栄光の祭典  Tokyo Pararinpikku Ai to Eiko no Saiten

Release Date: 1965

Duration: 63 mins.

Director: Kimio Watanabe

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A


Synopsis: This documentary was shot during the 1964 Tokyo Paralympics and looks at the conditions faced by the physically disabled in Japan at the time. Many of the athletes were affected by World War II, some returning from the battlefields as wounded soldiers, and this was seen as a way to rehabilitate them.  The then Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko — now former emperor and former empress — are seen with them.

That Moment, My Heart Cried    That Moment, My Heart Cried -CINEMA FIGHTERS project- Film Poster

その瞬間、僕は泣きたくなった -CINEMA FIGHTERS project  Sono shunkan, boku wa nakitaku natta – CINEMA FIGHTERS project –

Release Date: November 08th, 2019

Duration: 115 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike, Isao Yukisada, Daishi Matsunaga, Hiroki Horanai, Hiroki Inoue

Writer: N/A

Starring: EXILE AKIRA, Naoki Kobayashi, Ryuji Imaichi, Reo Sano, Taiki Sato, Natsuko Akiyama, Gouichi Mine, Misako Renbutsu, Ruka Matsuda, Sayu Kubota,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: An omnibus film featuring five stories from five directors. Takashi Miike’s one shows the relationship between a man and a woman after she tries to commit suicide following an earthquake.

No Smoking    No Smoking A Haruomi Hosono Documentary Movie Film Poster

帰郷  Kikyou

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 96 mins.

Director: Taketoshi Sado

Writer: N/A

Starring: Haruomi Hosono, Van Dyke Parks, Keigo Oyamada, Yukihiro Takahashi,


Synopsis: A documentary about Haruomi Hosono, famous for his solo work, his work with Yellow Magic Orchestra and the music he composed for Cannes Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters. The footage spans his career from his early days to his recent first overseas performances in London, New York and Los Angeles. In London, he was joined by Yukihiro Takahashi, and when Ryuichi Sakamoto made a surprise appearance onstage, the YMO members were reunited for the first time in five years, a must-see spectacle captured on film.

The Return

帰郷  Kikyou

Release Date: January, 2020

Duration: 119 mins.

Director: Shigemichi Sugita

Writer: Shigemuchi Sugita, Masahiro Kobayashi (Screenplay), Shuhei Fujisawa (Novel)

Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Takako Tokiwa, Kazuki Kitamura, Naoto Okada, Ayumi Tanida,


Synopsis: An ailing outlaw who returns to his hometown after a 30-year journey. In the village of his youth, he decides to save a girl in dire straits.

CinemaKabuki Onna Goroshi Abura no Jigoku (Murder in a Hell of Oil) CinemaKabuki Onna Goroshi Abura no Jigoku (Murder in a Hell of Oil) Film Poster

シネマ歌舞伎 女殺油地獄  Shinema Kabuki Onna Goroshi Abura Jigoku

Release Date: December 06th, 2019

Duration: 103 mins.

Director: Masanori Inoue

Writer: N/A

Starring: Koshiro Matsumoto, Ennosuke Ichikawa,


Synopsis: Based on a true incident, this is a timeless story of a hot-headed young man who rebels against his parents and is forced into desperate straits, eventually losing himself in madness.

Japanese Classics

This strand from the festival features three films programmed as Memorial Screenings for the actress Machiko Kyo who passed away earlier this year. HEre’s an obituary written for Sight and Sound magazine.

Street of ShameStreet of Shame Film Poster 1

赤線地帯 Akasen Chitai

Running Time: 86 mins.

Release Date: March 18th, 1956

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi

Writer:  Masashige Narusawa (Screenplay), Yoshiko Shibaki (Original Novel)

Starring: Machiko Kyo, Ayako Wakao, Aiko Mimasu, Michiyo Kogure, Kumeko Urabe, Yasuko Kawakami, Hiroko Machida, Eitaro Shindo, Sadako Sawamura,


Synopsis: A film about female sex workers in a licensed brothel near the Sensouji Temple in Tokyo’s Yoshiwara district at a time when the Japanese government is considering a ban on prostitution. We see the women’s daily dramas as each tries to navigate different situations and achieve their dreams. Hanae supports her family while, Yumeko, a widow, uses her earnings to raise and support her son, who is now old enough to work and care for her. Yasumi aims to pay off a debt and leave while the ageing Yorie has the opportunity to get married. Miki finds her situation changes when her father comes from Kobe to bring her news of her family and ask her to come home.

Gate of Hell    Jigokumon Film Poster

地獄門 Jigokumon

Release Date: October 31st, 1953

Duration: 76 mins.

Director: Teinosuke Kinugasa

Writer: Teinosuke Kinugasa, Masaichi Nagata (Screenplay), Kan Kikuchi (Play)

Starring: Machiko Kyo, Kazuo Hasegawa, Isao Yamagata, Kenjiro Uemura, Michiko Araki, Yoshie Minami,

Website IMDB

Gate of Hell Film Image

Synopsis: It is 1159 and the Heiji Rebellion is underway and it is during this commotion that a samurai named Morito pursues a lady-in-waiting named Kesa. She is already married to another samurai named Wataru which means that Morito will have to bump him off… 




Release Date: August 25th, 1950

Running Time: 88 mins.

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Writer: Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto (Screenplay), Ryunosuke Akutagawa (Original Novel)

Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Masayuki Mori, Minoru Chiaki, Noriko Honma, Daisuke Katp.


Synopsis: Based on a Ryunosuke Akutagawa novel, this is the story of a vicious murder and a rape but where does the guilt lie and how can justice be served? The vicious bandit Tajomaru is the suspect but he claims the killing resulted from a fair fight and the woman welcomed his attentions. Others offer different, contradictory accounts of the events. The truth of what happened at the storm-tossed Rashomon Gate is explored from different perspectives.  

Return of Tokyo International Fantastic Film Festival

Two films are shown in this section, the exciting and cracked macho Korean police procedural/off-beat buddy movie The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil (review) and…

Rise of the Machine Girls    Rise of the Machine Girls Film Poster

爆裂魔神少女 バーストマシンガール Bakuretsu Machine Shoujo Burst Machine Girl

Release Date: November 22nd, 2019

Duration: 76 mins.

Director: Yuki Kobayashi

Writer: Yuki Kobayashi (Screenplay)

Starring: Himena Tsukimiya, Kanon Hanakage, Tak Sakaguchi, Rie Kitahara, Toshie Negishi, Kokone Sasaki, Taro Yabe, Ryuju Sumikawa, Yuya Ishikawa,

Website IMDB

Sushi Typhoon was an outfit that took America by storm with its line-up of splatter films in the early 2000s. One film stood out above all other titles, Noboru Iguchi’s Machine Girl (2008) which is now getting a reboot thanks to a new director.

Synopsis: Ami and her sister Yoshie find themselves mortal enemies of the criminal enterprise known as the Dharma Family. Yoshie is kidnapped by the Battle Bust Sisters, female killing machines designed by Dharma Aoyama, and is turned into a human cyborg programmed to kill Ami who has had her arm cut off and decided the best way to rectify the situation is to attach a machine gun to the stump. Bullets and carnage are the only way to take her sister Yoshie back!

American Airlines Award Inter College Short Film Competition and TIFF2019: Teens Meet Cinema both see students work with a budget and professional filmmakers to create shorts.

One Cut of the Dead (review) is the focus of the Directors Guild of Japan New Directors Award Film Screening and Talk

Magical Doremi will be subject of a 20th anniversary screening and talk.

HBO’s Folklore Series sees Takumi Saitoh direct an episode called Tatami and it gets screened at TokyoIFF.


A Japanese Boy Who Draws  ある日本の絵描き少年 Dir: Masanao Kawajiri (2018) [Japan Cuts 2019]

A Japanese Boy Who Draws  Aru Nihon no ekaki shonen Film Poster

ある日本の絵描き少年 Aru Nihon no ekaki shonen

Release Date: March 02nd, 2019

Duration: 20 mins.

Director:  Masanao Kawajiri

Writer: Masanao Kawajiri (Screenplay),

Starring: Takeshi Uehara, Yasumi Yajima, Kenta Abe, Yoshiko Ishii, Shota Suzuki,


Masanao Kawajiri’s experimental short animation depicts the life of a boy aiming to be a manga artist. It took the Runner-up Award for the Grand Prize at last year’s Pia Film Festival awards (missing out to Orphan’s Blues) but took the Gemstone Award which is given to, “the most progressive and daring film made beyond the common ideas of filmmaking”. A Japanese Boy Who Draws definitely fits this bill as it marries the magic of art and animation and their many different styles to a mockumentary to tell an enjoyable story of someone pursuing their dream.

The film follows the life and career of Shinji Uehara, someone who pursues his passion for drawing, from the age of one to his life as a professional enduring the vicissitudes of the manga industry.

Continue reading “A Japanese Boy Who Draws  ある日本の絵描き少年 Dir: Masanao Kawajiri (2018) [Japan Cuts 2019]”

A Preview of the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Film Festival 2019

This year’s Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival has 8 feature films packed with adventure, emotions, action and awesome animation, all of which should entertain a wide audience. Alongside the film screenings are the marketplace and raffle and we welcome two special guests from Japan.

Penguin Highway Key Image

The festival begins on October 04 at 18:00 at Chapter Arts, Cardiff, with a screening of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection, the reintroduction and continuation of the Code Geass mecha saga where giant robots and political intrigue provide the drama. This will be followed by the Reception and an Anime Song Disco hosted by DJ Ryojin at 20:00 where guests can mingle and show off their moves on the dance-floor.

Continue reading “A Preview of the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Film Festival 2019”