Her Sketchbook 世界は今日から君のもの Dir: Masaya Ozaki (2017)

Her Sketchbook    Her Sketchbook Film Poster

世界は今日から君のもの  Sekai ha Kyou Kara Kimi no Mono

Release Date: June 15th, 2017

Duration: 106 mins.

Director: Masaya Ozaki

Writer: Masaya Ozaki (Script) 

Starring: Mugi Kadowaki, Takahiro Miura, Yu Hirukawa, Junpei Yasui, Ryusuke Komakine, Makita Sports, You, Takeaki Shima,

Website IMDB

Japan is a densely populated country and in order to survive living there it is important to make connections with others as well as finding your niche. Achieving both can be exhausting, especially for those who lack confidence and find themselves in schools and workplaces where fierce competition drives everything. With so much pressure many people drop out of society and become hikikomori or NEETs. Her Sketchbook dramatises this for a story about a young woman making incremental improvements to her life, usually at odds with those around her, to find her voice and integrate with the regular world.

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Samurai Marathon  サムライマラソン Dir: Bernard Rose (2019) [New York Asian Film Festival 2019]

Samurai Marathon 

サムライマラソン Samurai MarasonSamurai Marathon Film Poster

Duration: 104 mins.

Release Date: February 22nd, 2019

Director:  Bernard Rose

Writer: Hiroshi Saito, Kikumi Yamagishi Bernard Rose (Screenplay), Akihiro Dobashi (Original Novel)

Starring: Takeru Satoh, Shota Sometani, Mirai Moriyama, Nana Komatsu, Munetaka Aoki, Hiroki Hasegawa, Etsushi Toyokawa, Naoto Takenaka, Danny Huston, Junko Abe, Mugi Kadowaki, Mariko Tsutsui,

Website IMDB

Every May in Annaka city, Gunma Prefecture, a marathon is held that claims to be the oldest in Japan. Its origins can be traced back to when Commodore Perry arrived off the coast of the country in 1854 with his black ships and, through threat of aggression, ended 260 years of Japan’s self-imposed isolation. Leaders across the land reacted differently to his arrival. One cautious feudal lord, Katsuaki Itakura of the Annaka clan, tested the abilities of his samurai by holding a marathon. This story is brought to life by British director Bernard Rose – famous for Candyman (1992) – who worked from the novel “The Marathon Samurai: Five Tales of Japan’s First Marathon” by Akihiro Dobashi. The resulting film, Samurai Marathon will sweep audiences away in its neatly executed adventure that, once it gets running, provides plenty of action and amusement.

The film’s set-up is a sprint to get everyone to the starting line. Opening with the arrival of Commodore Perry (Danny Huston) and his treaty demands it dashes into Katsuaki Itakura’s (Hiroki Hasegawa) organising a marathon 36 miles long to toughen up his warriors in mind and body for potential attacks from foreigners. The promise of a wish being granted to the winner is the motivation for the ensemble of runners which consists of fighting men of all stripes from lower-class spear-men like Hironoshi Uesugi (Shota Sometani), who dreams of being raised to the status of a higher-class samurai, an aged samurai recently put out to pasture named Mataemon Kurita (Naoto Takenaka), to the chief retainer’s son, Heikuro Tsujimura (Mirai Moriyama) who wants to marry Itakura’s daughter Princess Yuki (Nana Komatsu). All are vying to win and all are introduced quickly as are the people connected to them such as wives and children. By the time we get to the starting line at the 40-minute mark we get a vertical view of samurai society and become connected to characters who are all distinctly sketched.

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Hanagatami 花筐 Dir: Nobuhiko Obayashi (2017)

Hanagatami    Hanagatami Film Poster

花筐 「Hanagatami

Running Time: 169 mins.

Release Date: December 16th, 2017

Director:  Nobuhiko Obayashi

Writer: Nobuhiko Obayashi, Chiho Katsura(Screenplay), Kazuo Dan (Original Novel)

Starring: Shunsuke Kubozuka, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Keishi Nagatsuka, Tokio Emoto, Mugi Kadowaki, Tetsuya Takeda, Takako Tokiwa, Hirona Yamazaki,

IMDB Website

Is there subject-matter that film as a medium is better than others at capturing? Perhaps it is emotions. Or maybe memories. Filmmakers can examine them in many expressive ways and with an incredible arsenal of technical tools open to the cast and crew, imagination really is the limit. Enter the adventurous Nobuhiko Obayashi, a man not shy of being creative as proven in his career which stretches back to the 1950s and features a long filmography that trades in fantasy, experimentalism, and surrealism. He is best known for the haunted-house musical House (1977) but nothing will prepare those familiar solely with that fun film for Hanagatami! Obayashi’s limiters are off in this deep-dive into the precious memories of a man who lived through an age of emotional turbulence as Japan hurtled headlong into the chaos of World War II.

Hanagatami Image 4

It is the summer of 1941 in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture. 17-year-old Toshihiko Sakakiyama (Shunsuke Kubozuka) has just travelled from his parents’ home in Amsterdam to stay with his wealthy aunt Keiko Ema (Takako Tokiwa) in her large manor. He will share it with his sickly cousin Mina (Honoka Yahagi) who suffers from tuberculosis. While there, he is attending a school where falls under the influence of the grim and philosophical Kira (Keishi Nagatsuka) who is physically infirm, and Ukai (Shinnosuke Mitsushima), a boy both strong in body and mind and with a pure soul that attracts Toshihiko. There are girls his age, too. Kira’s cousin, the melancholy Chitose (Mugi Kadowaki) who carries a camera she loves to use to capture people’s existence and the more playful and positive Akine (Hirona Yamazaki) whose mischievous grin and compassion for others lights up all occasions.

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Double Life  「二重生活」 Dir:  Yoshiyuki Kishi 2016

Double Life   Double Life Film Poster

二重生活 「Niju seikatsu

Running Time: 83 mins

Director:  Yoshiyuki Kishi

Writer: Yoshiyuki Kishi (Screenplay), Mariko Koike (Original Novel)

Starring: Mugi Kadowaki, Hiroki Hasegawa, Masaki Suda, Lily Franky, Setsuko Karasuma, Naomi Nishida, Yukiko Shinohara, Shohei Uno,

Website IMDB

Double Life is the debut feature-film from Yoshiyuki Kishi but it is done with such control you would have no idea. It is based on a novel by Mariko Koike and features a strong cast that bring audiences an interesting drama of a student who becomes obsessed with her neighbour ‘s life.

The student at the centre of the story is Tama (Mugi Kadowaki in her first lead role). She is a philosophy student who lives with her video game designer boyfriend Takuya (a low-key Masaki Suda) in a comfortable apartment.

A Double Life Film Image

When we first see her, she’s slogging through her masters thesis and even questioning the meaning of her own life when her inspirational professor, Shinohara (Lily Franky playing his role in a physically and emotionally constricted manner), gives her some guidance by telling her to follow in the footsteps of the French writer Sophie Calle and follow, in turn, in the footsteps of some random stranger on the street to discover their life.

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