Reiwa Uprising れいわ一揆 (2019) Dir: Kazuo Hara

Reiwa Uprising   Reiwa Uprising Film Poster

れいわ一揆  Reiwa Ikki

Release Date: September 11th, 2020

Duration: 248 mins.

Director: Kazuo Hara

Writer: N/A

Starring: Ayumi Yasutomi

Website IMDB

Popular discontent and disillusionment with governments and traditional media are increasingly a feature of societies worldwide as economic conditions and alienation deepens for many. People are now seeking alternative voices that promise some semblance of change, even in Japan where the conservative Liberal Democratic Party has maintained a near unbroken grip on the steering wheel of the country since World War II. While this continuance of command has conferred the veneer of stability to the nation, beneath the surface is a history of corruption, incompetence, and persistent social problems which many people have linked to regressive official attitudes and an uncaring ruling party. What one finds is that these factors have led to a general sense of malaise amongst the populace. So, what hope is there for change?

Enter documentarian Kazuo Hara who, in his first film made without his wife and producer, Sachiko Kobayashi, spent three months in 2019 tracking a set of outsiders who tried to break into the conservative world of Japanese politics. He turns in a fun film that presents an optimistic picture of citizen engagement and collective action that upturns any cynical assumptions of what a politician should be and just how normal people can challenge the status quo.

Reiwa Uprising starts with Hara receiving an invitation to join a political campaign run by Ayumi Yasutomi, a transgender Tokyo University professor who specialises in economics and whose hobby is horse riding. She is one of ten candidates handpicked at short notice by actor-turned-politician Taro Yamamoto (Kawada in Battle Royale) to represent his then newly established Reiwa Shinsengumi party in their first national election. Up for grabs are seats in Japan’s House of Councillors. There is an understanding that the politically and financially dominant LDP are sure to retain power, but the hope is that some sort of breakthrough can be made and the party established. After briefings lay out a general strategy, each of the candidates sets off to campaign however they want.

And so Hara and his team follow Yasutomi with handheld cameras and smartphones. They record her as she goes on a whistle-stop tour of Japan, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, selling her message and listening to local issues like the Henoko base move. Her PR methods are lo-fi, especially when compared to the moneyed LDP figures: armed with a banner, sash, and microphone, Yasutomi travels alongside a horse and a small orchestra whose instruments include kazoos, melodicas, and an iPad and, as a group, they rock up in front of train stations, on street corners, and in community centres where Yasutomi gives speeches while her eccentric orchestra plays and spectators are invited to contribute, by dancing, drawing, and commenting.


It is easy to dismiss these rallies as cute, especially when the film shows the quality gap between the focus-group-tested precision-engineered messaging of the LDP candidates who ride along on vans with a huge entourage of handlers – we see them in action when the LDP candidates send heavies and spies in to shut Yasutomi down – but she remains a calm and intelligent figure even if her presentation leaves a lot to be desired. Initially, her wandering speeches espouse two vague messages – “save the children” and “bring horses into cities” – and she is light on policy but as election day approaches, a clearer political rhetoric emerges as she takes inspiration from what she has seen and she rails against the strictures of society and unites it with the humanism and environmentalism she believes in. This stands in contrast to the LDP candidates who are like automatons who parrot insincere lines with inauthentic smiles that seem to wash off the crowds who breeze by with nary a glance. And this is where the film begins to show how the LDP can be overturned.

What we notice is that the novelty Yasutomi’s outreach catches attention and her sincerity and progressive and inclusive messaging inspires people to join in until her audiences grow larger, more diverse, and more dedicated. Even kids joyfully contribute drawings and comments praising her. While Yasutomi is never perfect on messaging, as evidenced by a talk about LGBTQ rights which feels too blasé, the public are genuinely swayed by her. Hara shows this through vox pops and in the many rally scenes caught in cinéma vérité style where we see people are drawn in to participate and are moved to tears by the increasingly impassioned Yasutomi who, herself, frequently bursts into tears, especially as she returns to her home prefecture of Osaka near. Sometimes, Yasutomi’s methods are magic, especially a Michael Jackson-inspired street concert that is definitely toe-tapping and grin-inducing, but what we see is her steadily building coalitions and active engagement with all sectors of society, especially those who are marginalised, and this provides the impetus for change. It is something that leftist parties tend to forget as they retreat away from working with unions and charities and communities and become professional politicians divorced from reality. The fact is status quo parties, especially conservative ones, tend to have the money, the way to beat them is to bring the people.


While the film follows Yasutomi, we are introduced to the other candidates including Teruko Watanabe, a single mother, Eiko Kimura and Yasuhiko Funago, who are both disabled, and Taro Yamamoto himself who is using his star power to boost the prospects of his fellow party members. There are others, some slightly more polished, others more rough around the edges, but what is felt is that they are real people and of the people and committed to bringing difficult issues that the LDP ducks to the docket.

One of the other compelling strands in the film comes near the end where normal people begin to berate of the fourth estate. One woman, inspired by Reiwa Shinsengumi to travel from the distant Awaji islands to the election night gathering in Tokyo – watch the audience for raised eyebrows when she announces where she is from – chastises big news outlets for offering little coverage and this is followed up by many other stern comments. The lack of  media interest is an idea that is seeded throughout the film by Hara who uses YouTube and social media visuals to convey how Reiwa Shinsengumi use the internet to disrupt the normal political narratives and this allows them to secure recognition for their party. This really gets across just how grassroots and genuine the party are. Whatever the election results, it does seem like change is possible.

If Hara’s early works focussed on individuals and gave a glimpse of the collectives that formed around them, his late work, starting with Sennan Asbestos Disaster, is all about collectives and the individuals within them, each of whom pulls together to make a change. Through following Reiwa Shinsengumi, the film shows picture of people championing the rights of the disabled and the marginalised and offering an alternative vision for the way society is run. It’s a refreshingly unvarnished and cheerful experience that offers real slices of Japan, from Henoko base protests to stump speeches in Nishinari where the local crowd have little time for airs and graces. As the film played out, I felt myself swept along by the messaging and even getting emotional alongside Yasutomi whose genuineness definitely won my vote. Alright, I was really impressed by Taro Yamamoto, too!

Uplifting, fun, and hip to contemporary issues, Reiwa Uprising breezes through its near 5-hour duration quite easily and offers plenty to think about and relate to.

Reiwa Uprising was part of a season of films made by Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi run by Japan Society.

Heroic Purgatory Podcast Covers Japan Society’s Cinema as Struggle: The Films of Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi (June 04 – July 02)

Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi are a husband-and-wife team of filmmakers who emerged out of the Japanese New Wave and have spent their careers documenting iconoclasts and outsiders in Japan. Their films have had a major impact on filmmakers and now audiences in North America can view them from their own homes.


On the 50th anniversary of the founding of Shisso production, Japan Society is currently screening the films of Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi in the US (and in some cases, Canada) via their virtual cinema in a season called Cinema as Struggle: The Films of Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi (June 04 – July 02). This season contains many of their works (7 documentaries and 1 narrative feature) made during this period.

Thanks to the people at the Japan Society, I have been able to review the films and also talk about them on the Heroic Purgatory podcast with fellow writer, John Atom (here’s a link to his work).

In the podcast we cover each of the films in this retrospective series, starting with their first production, Goodbye CP (1972), their most famous work, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987), the rarely-seen The Many Faces of Chika — the pair’s only narrative feature – and, briefly (very briefly because we had yet to watch it), the five-hour long MINAMATA Mandala (2020), which is currently on the festival circuit. I hope you take the time to listen to the podcast and get the chance to watch some of these films.

Here are links to where you can rent the films:

Goodbye CP    Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974    The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On    A Dedicated Life     The Many Faces of Chika    Sennan Asbestos Disaster    Reiwa Uprising     MINAMATA Mandala

Here are the prices:

Rentals: $10 / 20% off members

Bundle 1: $30 / 20% off members
Includes: Goodbye CP, Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, A Dedicated Life and Sennan Asbestos Disaster – Available in the US and Canada.

Bundle 2: $20 / 20% off members
Includes: The Many Faces of Chika, Reiwa Uprising and Minamata Mandala


Cinema as Struggle: The Films of Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi (June 04 – July 02) – View Ground-breaking Documentaries via Japan Society

Currently underway at the Japan Society is a season of films made up of the works of Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi, all of which can be streamed in the US (and in some cases, Canada) via their virtual cinema.


Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi are a husband-and-wife team of filmmakers who emerged out of the Japanese New Wave.

Hara started out as photographer with an interest in disability after working at a school for disabled children. Kobayashi was an aspiring screenwriter living with the effects of polio. They met when Hara had his first photographic exhibition in Ginza in 1969 with the subject being the pupils at the school he worked at. Their relationship grew quickly from being acquaintances to becoming artistic collaborators with the founding of Shisso production and the making of their first film – with Hara as director and Kobayasi as producer – before culminating in their marriage in 1973.

Influenced by the social unrest at the time and inspired by New Wave figures such as Shohei Imamura and Nagisa Oshima, Hara and Kobayashi began to explore the lives of the underprivileged and iconoclasts through deeply humanist and challenging documentaries done in cinema vérité style. Their films are a realm where the camera not only documents what is going on but also acts as a tool to render their subject more open to intimate involvement with the filmmakers. The end result is that the “protagonists” expose their private lives in moments that move the film away from any sense of objectivity and moral judgements. Boundaries of various kinds disappear and viewers are left with a document that is quite revealing on both a personal and societal level but also challenging in how we regard the subjects and their position in society.

The film of Hara and Kobayashi have gone on to be highly regarded around the world with many documentary filmmakers citing them as inspirations. To understand the impact of their works, Japan Society has put together a career-spanning online retrospective that celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the founding of Shisso Productions. This retrospective series includes nearly all of the pair’s films, starting with their first production, Goodbye CP (1972) and culminating in their latest, MINAMATA Mandala (2020).

Highlights include The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, which follows a veteran named Kenzo Okuzaki who enlists his wife and some others to join him in a crusade to expose war crimes that took place in World War II; Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 sees Hara turn the camera on his own life and document the fallout of his marriage/divorce with radical feminist, Miyuki Takeda; and the rarely-seen The Many Faces of Chika—the pair’s only narrative feature. Also featured are their most recent works such as Reiwa Uprising, which charts the political fortunes of candidates in a newly established leftist political party, and MINAMATA Mandala, which was shot over 15 years and documents the legal and medical battles endured by the residents of Minamata, a city where some of the populace suffered the infamous neurological disease due to industrial wastewater from a chemical factory causing severe mercury poisoning.

In order to get a better sense of the season, the curator, K. F. Watanabe, gave an interview.

Continue reading “Cinema as Struggle: The Films of Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi (June 04 – July 02) – View Ground-breaking Documentaries via Japan Society”

A Beloved Wife, Reiwa Uprising, Humanoid Monster Bela, The Magnificent Kotobuki Complete Edition, Umibe no Étranger, Lost Baby Lost, Tokyo Butterfly and Other Japanese Film Trailers

Happy weekend, everyone!

A Beloved Wife 喜劇 愛妻物語  Film Image 5

I hope you are all genki.

September is going to be very busy in terms of this blog as I aim to cover a grip of festivals and also release reviews. I’ve got one post planned for tomorrow. So far this week, I’ve posted a review for Beneath the Shadow and Miyamoto and, over at Anime UK News, an article about the Inter-College Animation Festival 2020, a showcase of the talent in the Japanese university system, and how it is possible to watch it via the internet.

What is released this weekend?

Continue reading “A Beloved Wife, Reiwa Uprising, Humanoid Monster Bela, The Magnificent Kotobuki Complete Edition, Umibe no Étranger, Lost Baby Lost, Tokyo Butterfly and Other Japanese Film Trailers”

A Preview of Japan Cuts 2020 (July 17th – 30th)

Japan Cuts Hollywood Header

From July 17th – 30th, Japan Cuts will launch for its 2020 edition which is going to be an entirely online experience. There are 30 features and 12 shorts that will be shown across 14 days with filmmaker video introductions, live virtual Q&As and panel discussions for audiences across the entire United States (yes, this fest is geo-locked, much like the upcoming Fantasia festival).

The selection is, as ever, good as it covers indies and mainstreamers, features and shorts, anime and live-action and all covering a diverse array of subjects. I’ve covered all of these in other festival posts and seen quite a few and will be plugging my own reviews and interviews in this highlight post which has been split up into the following sections, all of which, I hope will help people decide what they want to see:

 Opening Film | Centrepiece Presentation | Animation |Feature Films | Shorts | Documentaries | Tora-san

Continue reading “A Preview of Japan Cuts 2020 (July 17th – 30th)”

Japanese Films at the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2020

Rotterdam International Film Festival Logo

From January 22nd to February 02nd 2020, the Rotterdam International Film Festival will screen a diverse mix of films from old masters and new talents and the Japanese contingent epitomises this with familiar names like Kazuo Hara and Nobuhiko Obayashi having their latest works picked up, after they had their premieres at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year, alongside the freshest titles from newer voices like documentarian Kaori Oda and Isamu Hirabayashi who has worked a lot in anime.

Here are the Japanese movies, the newest titles first:

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2020”

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.