Top 10 films you must see during the JFF: Plus Online Festival
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Tremble All You Want (2017)
This comedy-drama directed by Akiko Ohku (Tokyo Serendipity, My Sweet Grappa Remedies) follows the life of Yoshika (Mayu Matsuoka), a 24-year-old accountant who has a keen interest in extinct animals. Yoshika’s never had a boyfriend and still daydreams about her first love, Ichi (Takumi Kitamura), who commented on her drawings one time in high school. However, during a work dinner, a coworker Yoshika calls Ni (Daichi Watanabe) confesses that he wants to go out with her! But before Yoshika agrees to be Ni’s girlfriend, she attempts to reunite with Ichi one more time…
The Great Passage (2013)
Based on Shion Miura’s best-selling novel of the same name, The Great Passage is a compelling drama about a team of editors spending 15 years of their life dedicated to compiling a brand new Japanese dictionary. Mitsuya Majime (Ryuhei Matsuda), a socially awkward employee with a postgraduate degree in linguistics transforms into a mature and professional leader in his editing team to release the greatest modern living dictionary. Director Yuya Ishii (Sawako Decides, The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue) manages to make the seemingly mundane activity of inputting words into a spreadsheet into a compelling story.
Featured in JFF2013!
Tsukiji Wonderland (2016)
This documentary delves into the lively and exotic world of the famous Tsukiji Fish Market (now relocated and reopened as Toyosu Market), dubbed by René Redzepi, owner of Noma, a two-Michelin-star restaurant in Denmark, as “one of the seven food wonders of the world”. Tsukiji Fish Market remains the result of a long-standing tradition and dedication to the appreciation of seafood, a place that does not exist to make a profit but in the service of providing quality fish. Documented over 16 months, Tsukiji Wonderland explores the perspectives of intermediate wholesalers, renowned sushi chefs and more in celebrating the unwavering devotion and appreciation of the Japanese in the art of providing an exquisite culinary seafood experience.
Featured in JFF2016!
Production I.G Short Films: The Girl From The Other Side (2019)
This masterfully directed short film, animated by I.G’s sister company WIT Studio (Attack on Titan, Great Pretender) and based on the eponymous graphic novel by manga artist Nagabe, tells a story of acceptance and coexistence between two beings of apparently incompatible natures. With no spoken dialogue, the characters evoke their personal struggles through minute details of subtle movements and interactions with each other. Mixing the artistic madness of Yutaro Kubo and the painting-like style of Satomi Maiya, both directors and animators of this short, The Girl from the Other Side is a dark fairytale ingeniously told through delicate colours and soul-stirring music.
Gon, The Little Fox (2015)
Gon, The Little Fox is a beautifully crafted stop motion animation directed by Takeshi Yashiro inspired by the children’s story of the same name by Niimi Nankichi. It follows a mischievous little fox named Gon who one day takes an eel out of the basket of a softhearted villager named Hyoju which was meant for his mother. Gon tries to make up for taking the eel away by secretly giving Hyoju gifts from the wild. The strength of this film lies in the details – the little movements of the crickets, the splashes of water, and the sheer amount of effort given to particularities in the characters’ movements and emotion.
Production I.G Short Films: Kick-Heart (2013)
Directed by Masaaki Yuasa (Devilman Crybaby, The Tatami Galaxy, Japan Sinks: 2020),Kick-Heart is notable as the first animation in Japan to be financed entirely by crowdfunding through Kickstarter. It is a love story between Romeo, a successful pro-wrestler who goes by the name ‘Masked Man M’, and Juliet, a nun at an orphanage who is living a secret double life as a pro female wrestler named ‘Lady S’. With Yuasa’s penchant for vibrant animation and surreal character design, this Mexican wrestling-inspired short film will make you laugh from its sheer outlandishness.
One Night (2019)
Kazuya Shiraishi (The Blood of Wolves, Dawn of the Felines) is back with a drama centered on a family still haunted fifteen years later by the actions of Koharu (Yuko Tanaka), a desperate mother who wanted to free herself and her children from the trap that was her violent husband. The movie explores the varying reactions of her children, Yuji (Takeru Satoh), Daiki (Ryohei Suzuki), and Sonoko (Mayu Matsuoka) to their mother’s return from prison, and how the absence of a father and the abandonment of their mother affected their upbringing to adulthood.
Director Kazuya Shiraishi’s The Blood of Wolves was featured in JFF2018!
This three-hour drama directed by Momoko Ando follows Sawa Yamagishi (Sakura Ando), a nurse who is fired after accepting a request to sleep with the elderly man she is in charge of taking care of, the transaction quickly going south when the elderly man forces himself on her. Sawa is then left to the streets, encountering various old men who, in some way or another, she takes care of. Through these encounters, we see Momoko Ando’s critiques of Japan’s imperialistic past and the pervading themes of patriarchal structures skewing the way women such as Sawa are seen and are beholden to men.
A Story of Yonosuke (2013)
Based on the novel of the same name, A Story of Yonosuke is about an eccentric young man from Nagasaki named Yonosuke Yokomichi who studies Business Administration in Tokyo at Hosei University. The film explores the impact Yonosuke has had on people’s lives, highlighting meaningful interactions between Yonosuke and his friends that, upon reflection, have shaped their experiences. Just as Yonosuke’s friends felt incredibly lucky to have known Yonosuke, this film also affords the same sentiment for its viewers.
Featured in JFF2013!
Production I.G Short Films: Drawer Hobs (2011)
Unfulfilled call-center operator Noeru suddenly receives an old chest of drawers from her mother … only to find her apartment all clean, tidy, and invaded by six weird kids! Drawer Hobs was one of the short films produced by Production I.G under the Young Animator Training Project which was launched in 2010 as a means of supporting and training young animators within Japan. Through splashes of watercolour and childlike animation, this short is an uplifting and heartwarming story about embracing changes in your life, gaining confidence in yourself, and moving away from the monotony that you can sometimes find yourself in.
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