Spring Explorers: Japan Foundation Shows Four Free Films in London

Spring Explorers Header Image

Spring is all about new beginnings and the Japan Foundation has programmed four films for its Spring Explorers screenings. They stretch from 1954 to 2013 and feature characters forced to enter new stages in their lives and even new worlds. Protags range from a little girl who walks on ceilings to a middle-aged man who hasn’t left his family home in years.

Here are the details:

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Genkina hito’s Top Twelve Films of 2014

Better late than never! And why twelve? Because it’s hard to decide! This is my list of top twelve films I saw in 2014 so it covers movie releases both new and old. I watched a lot of films in 2014. I was going to the cinema nearly two or three times a month and renting/buying a lot of films so I have built up an impressive list that spans genres and eras ‘60s (Kuroneko, Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41) and ‘80s (Blade Runner, Ghostbusters) and 2014s…

The World of Kanako TsumabukiMy cinematic year began not with a Japanese film but American Hustle, a nice distraction before I headed down to London for the 2014 edition of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme. I came away from that film festival profoundly moved by the humanism and simple beauty of everyday life I saw in Kimi no Tomodachi, the perfect drama with a plucky protagonist in Shindo and the very dark existential drama Parade. I followed that with a trip to the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Film Festival where I cried buckets over Colorful and saw the future of anime in Patema Inverted. Despite loving these films so much it has taken me nearly a year to write/publish reviews of them because I was constantly going to the Belle (Mbatha-Raw) and Elizabeth (Gadon) in Bellecinema to see the likes of Blue Ruin, The Wind Rises, Deliver Us From Evil, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Belle. Kotatsu was followed by the 2014 Terracotta Far East Film Festival in May which is where I met Akira Nagai, director of Judge!, the actors of Be My Baby, and I enjoyed watching The Snow White Murder Case. In September/October/November I was in London for the Raindance Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival where I met and interviewed/talked to even more directors. Out of all the films I watched between the two festivals it was Fuku-chan of Fukufuku Flats and The World of Kanako which impressed me the most.

Overall, 2014 was a good year for my Japanese film viewing but my final list contains a lot of western films. Here are my top films from 2014.

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Patema Inverted サカサマのパテマ (2013)

Patema Inverted                               Patema Inverted Film Poster

Japanese Title: サカサマ の パテマ

Romaji: Sakasama no Patema

Running Time: 99 mins.

Release Date: November 09th, 2013

Director: Yasuhiro Yoshiura

Writer: Yasuhiro Yoshiura (Screenplay/Original Creator)

Starring: Yukiyo Fujii (Patema), Nobuhiko Okamoto (Age), Shintarou Oohata (Porta), Shinya Fukumatsu (G), Masayuki Katou (Lagos),

Patema Inverted is a story of boy-meets-girl only the writer/director Yasuhiro Yoshiura makes the phrase “falling head over heels in love” literal by twisting gravity around for the central couple so that they must cling together lest they lose not only each other but their lives… If protagonists getting their gravity mixed up is not a new and novel concept, it is one that is explored with much life and energy here in a deceptively light film where superb animation and imagination creates a world where ever shifting perspectives on life give a slight story much substance.

The girl in the pairing is the titular Patema, a brave princess of an underground village where the inhabitants, descendants of a group of scientists caught up in an experiment gone wrong, live in the tunnels and confined spaces of a scientific facility built long ago.

Patema Inverted Patema Explores

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Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival Preview

Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival Banner

The Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival is a small event that takes place over the course of a day at Chapter Arts, a small but trendy (read, hipsterish) art house cinema and theatre space tucked away in a borough of Cardiff, South Wales.The festival may be small but thanks to the passion of its founder it is bright and rapidly expanding with an increasingly ambitious line-up of feature-length and short anime films across a number of genres and for a number of ages. A sign of the changes comes in the change of date, instead of the wintry atmosphere of November, this year’s festival takes place in the heat of Spring and in two locations with the sea-side town Aberystwyth joining the action.

I attended last year’s festival where I made the mistake of not pre-booking a ticket and missed the chance to see Makoto Shinkai’s Children Who Chase Lost Voices which was sold out. Instead I had to spend three hours at the cafe bar nursing a couple of coffees before I watched the rather good Berserk Golden Age Arc I: The Egg of the KingI have been following this festival with great interest because the line-up of films programmed picks some of the best of the titles released in Japan and touring the UK.

The festival is less than a fortnight away and the details have been released. Here are the dates and the films on offer.

Cardiff: Chapter Arts, Saturday 7th June 2014

Aberystwyth: Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Saturday 21st June 2014

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Films I Wish I Had Seen in 2013 and will Hopefully see in 2014

Genki Fuse Best of 2013 Header Banner

2013 has ended and I haven’t published my best ofs yet. I better start now. I have to admit that 2013 year has been rather excellent in terms of my experience with Japanese films considering I saw so many in their year of release, played a small part in helping bring one over to the UK and interviewed a few directors and yet, and yet… There were a few releases that I wish I had seen. Every trailer post always brings up a few titles I wish I could see in a cinema and so here’s a list of 14 Japanese films released in 2013 I hope I get to see in 2014!

Shin Shin Shin                               Shin Shin Shin Film Poster

Japanese Title: しんしんしん

Romaji: Shin Shin Shin

Running Time: 135 mins.

Release Date: January 12th 2013 (Japan)

Director: Kouhei Sanada

Writer: Kouhei Sanada

Starring: Ikeda Houshi, Miwako Wagatsuma, Kazuhiro Sano, Yuya Okutsu. Megumi Kagurazaka

Shin Shing Shin is a film which was directed by Kouhei Sanada who was mentored by Kiyoshi Kurosawa at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. That same university played a massive part in another title below, Fairy Tale. The film’s title comes from a song of the same name by the folk rock band Happy End who hail from the 70’s. Is this it and it is a road movie which stars Miwako Wagatsuma who was in Sentimental Yasuko and End of Puberty and Megumi Kagurazaka who was in Cold Fish and The Land of Hope.

 

Tomoyuki (Ishida) is a high school student who lives with the Tekiya family, a group of strangers with no other place to go. A girl named named Yuki (Wagatsuma) joins the group but when their home is demolished they head off on a journey that leads them from town to town with no particular destination in mind.

Website

 

A Fairy Tale        Yuki Sasaki Film Poster

Japanese Title: あるいは佐々木ユキ

Romaji: Aruiwa Sasaki Yuki

Running Time: 79 mins.

Release Date: January 12th 2013 (Japan)

Director: Kenji Fukuma

Writer: Keiko Fukuma (Screenplay),

Starring: Saori Kohara, Akira Yoshino, Hideyo Sengoku, Makiko Kawano, Yumi Fuzuki

This was a victim of my bad translation skills… The first in a long line of victims… Anyway this is written and directed by the poet Kenji Fukuma, a man with two other directorial efforts to his name – Summer for the Living (2011), which starred Saori Kohara, and My Dear Daughter of Okayama (2008). He reunites with the actress Kohara for this fantasy drama about the emotions of a 20-year-old Tokyoite which interweaves interviews, poetry and dances so that the film blurs dreams and reality.

 

Watashi wa Sasaki Yuki. Hatachi desu. 

20-year-old Yuki Sasaki who lives by herself in Tokyo. One day she chances upon a poetry reading by poetess Yumi Fuzuki and the experiences makes her lose sight of her purpose in life. In the process, another Yuki (Kawano) appears before her. We see her reality and dreams in a series of interviews and performances like dancing and poetry that are captured on film. 

Website

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Japanese Film Trailers Part 2 The Tiger Mask, Patema Inverted, Tokyo Newcomer, Sunk into the Womb, Seiza, Neo Ultra Q Special Screening Part 1, Takamiy Melodic Metal History 2007 – 2013 “Steel Angel’s Feast”, Tightrope and Others

Hamerun 3This is the second part of my trailer post for this week. Normally I would publish one a week to capture the films getting shown in cinemas in Tokyo but there were too many to fit into one post – 25 embedded YouTube videos will derail an average browser with lots of tabs open. So yesterdayI posted a bunch of trailers for great looking films released this weekend. Today’s post is packed full of documentaries and while it looks larger than the first, there are fewer trailers due to the distributor of some of the 3/11 documentaries not releasing any clips. A look at next week’s release schedule shows that I’ll have to split up the weekly trailer post again.

What was my soundtrack for this post? This music and this music! Nostalgia for the 80’s, a time I barely remember.

The Tiger Mask                        The Tiger Mask Film Poster

Japanese: タイガー マスク

Romaji: Taiga Masuku

Running Time: 91 mins.

Release Date: November 09th, 2013

Director: Ken Ochiai

Writer: Ken Ochiai (Screenplay), Ikki Kajiwara (Original Manga)

Starring: Eiji Wentz, Natsuna Watanabe, Sho Aikawa, Mao Miyaji, Aya Hirano

Ikki Kajiwara’s hugely popular Tiger Mask manga undergoes the movie treatment following the adaptation of his other major hit, Ai to Makoto. The film stars Eiji Wentz (Kitaro films) and the brilliant Sho Aikawa (Serpent’s Path, Eyes of the Spider, License to Live).

Naoto Date was once an orphan selected by the mysterious organisation Tiger’s Cae to become a villainous wrestler and earn big money. Naota survived the harsh training to become the fearsome Tiger Mask but rebels against Tiger’s Cave to prevent other orphans facing the same fate. Not only that, he donates all of his earnings to the orphan he grew up in. Considered a threat, Tiger’s Cave send assassins! Something tells me that these assassins are wrestlers and don’t pack guns!

Website

Patema Inverted                             Patema Inverted Film Poster

Japanese Title: サカサマ の パテマ

Romaji: Sakasama no Patema

Running Time: 99 mins.

Release Date: November 09th, 2013

Director: Yasuhiro Yoshiura

Writer: Yasuhiro Yoshiura (Screenplay/Original Creator)

Starring: Yukiyo Fujii (Patema), Nobuhiko Okamoto (Age), Shintarou Oohata (Porta), Shinya Fukumatsu (G), Masayuki Katou (Lagos),

Yasuhiro Yoshiura is the director/creator of the wonderful Time of Eve, a futuristic drama about androids in a café and the humans that visit them. It was a whimsical show full of great details and gorgeous animation and do you know what was best of all? The characters were relatable and funny. This is his latest film and it looks to be just as good. I love that poster!

The story takes place in an underground world where the inhabitants exist in tunnels and confined spaces and must wear protective clothing. Despite this, these underground people still enjoy life, especially Patema, the princess of her underground village who loves to explore. Her fascination with exploration leads her to a forbidden area where she meets a boy named Age who operates under different gravitational circumstances. The two may come from very different societies but will face strange situations together! 

Website

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Japanese Films at the Leeds International Film Festival 2013 Part 1: Anime

Genki Leeds International Animation Film Festival 2013 Banner

The 27th Leeds International Film Festival takes place from November 06th to the 21st and there is plenty of anime getting screened on the Fanomenon Anime Day on Sunday, November 17th. There are so many Japanese live-action films that they will get a separate post. Here is the selection of anime titles on offer and these are just as great. Just click on the titles to get more information such as times and ticket prices: 

11:00 a.m.

The Garden of Words                     Garden of Words Film Poster          

Running Time: 46 mins

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Writer: Makoto Shinkai

Starring: Kana Hanazawa (Yukino), Miyu Irino (Takao)

Makoto Shinkai’s latest film is typically visually and audibly stunning and is set to get a UK release thanks to Anime Limited. Why wait for the DVD when you can see it at the festival on the big screen.

“We met, for each of us to walk forward.

Takao is a 15-year-old boy with dreams of becoming a professional shoe designer and was skipping high school, sketching shoes in a Japanese garden when he encounters a mysterious older woman, a 27-year-old named Yukino. Without arranging it they end up meeting again and again, but only on rainy days, deepening their relationship and opening up to each other. But the end of the rainy season soon approaches…

 

HAL                                  Hal Film Poster

Running Time: 50 mins

Running Time:

Director: Ryōtarō Makihara

Writer: Izumi Kizara (Screenplay),

Starring: Yōko Hikasa (Kurumi), Yoshimasa Hosoya (Haru), Mamoru Miyano (Ryuu)

This near-future romance is called Hal and it sounds like a romantic Time of Eve with its mixture of androids and falling in love.  It stars the voices of Yōko Hikasa (Saeki in Aku no Hana), Mamoru Miyano and Yoshimasa Hosoya (Level E). The director Ryōtarō Makihara has a lot of experience with TV anime like directing an episode of Tatami Galaxy and MonsterSummer Wars and Le Chevalier D’Eon. Music comes from Michiru Oshima who scored the awesome flamenco inspired Fuse: A Gungirl’s Detective Story and the melancholy Le Chevalier D’Eon. The anime is produced by Wit Studio who are bringing a thrillingly dark title to television screens with Attack on Titan.

 

Kurumi (Hikasa) likes Haru (Hosoya) but their seemingly happy life ends when a plane accident takes Haru from the mortal world. A robot version of Haru, Hal, emerges as a substitute. As the two live together Kurumi gradually opens her memories and mind to him.

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the Leeds International Film Festival 2013 Part 1: Anime”

Scotland Loves Animation 2013 Festival Line-Up

Genki Scotland Loves Animation 2013 Banner

On the day that Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement from the production of feature-length films has been announced, I report about this year’s Scotland Loves Animation takes place in Glasgow (October 11th-13th) and Edinburgh (October 14th-20th). If the former bit of news is sad for the loss tat the film and anime world will suffer then the line-up offers positivity because these titles have so much imagination and originality that, even with the Miyazaki-sized hole in anime, great works will still be made.

The line-up features a lot of the biggest anime films released in Japan over the last two years. There are some genuinely lovely surprises like Fuse: A Gun Girl’s Detective Story, Garden of Words, and Gusko Budori and some great surprises like Hal and Patema Inverted. Some of these films already have UK distribution deals and some are classics that are getting re-released.

I have already covered a lot of the titles in previews and even reviewed one so here’s the list titles by location then that will be followed by the trailers:

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