Match your weird obsession to the Japanese movie that's right for you
Everyone has a favourite thing about Japan. Whether it’s ramen, J-pop, Studio Ghibli or underwear in vending machines, the land of the rising sun never ceases to fascinate.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons Australia’s Japanese Film Festival, presented by the Japan Foundation, is the largest festival of Japanese movies in the world – both in terms of audiences reached and the number of films screened.
In 2015, the festival’s 19th year, 47 films will screen in Melbourne. To narrow down your viewing choice, we’ve selected ten popular/pervasive Japanese trends and pinpointed the film you should see if you’re into it. To help, we’ve enlisted the help of Japanophile Aussie and the JFF’s Coordinator, Nick Howe.
J-trend 1: Otaku
See: Princess Jellyfish
Otaku are nerds fixated on one topic. In this comedy an otaku girl obsessed with jellyfish lives in an all-girl dorm. “She lives a very insular lifestyle, and a new resident turns out to be not a girl but a young guy good at cross-dressing,” says Howe. They become embroiled in a battle with property developers. Watch the trailer!
J-trend 2: J-Horror
See: Ju-On: The Final Curse
This continuation of the saga of the Grudge, Japan’s most popular horror franchise, follows the experiences of four women affected by the curse of Toshio and his mother Kayoko. “The title alludes to a possible wrap-up of the series – but these horror things can always be resurrected.” Watch the trailer!
J-trend 3: Samurai
See: Ran (1985)
For its 30th anniversary JFF is screening a brand new print of Akira Kurosawa’s late period masterpiece, a spectacular jidaigeki (period piece) based on Shakespeare’s King Lear. “It’s one of the last great epics and it’s a 4K restoration, so it’s going to look beautiful and crisp on the big screen.” Watch the trailer!
J-trend 4: Anime
See: Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie
Ghost in the Shell is practically a genre in its own right with TV series, manga, films and games. The new feature in the cyborg series involves the assassination of the Prime Minister of Japan. “This one stands alone but also brings a lot of context to the films that came prior to it.” Watch the trailer!
J-trend 5: Manga
In the opening night film, two high school friends (Takeru Sato and Ryunosuke Kamiki) join forces to write and draw a manga. “It really captures the excitement and youthful passion that go into the creation of manga comics. I learned a lot and had a renewed appreciation for the art.” Watch the trailer!
J-trend 6: Kawaii (cute)
See: Poison Berry in My Brain
Ichiko is 30 years old and encounters a good-looking guy she has met at a party, but is frozen in indecision about whether to speak to him. “All these characters in her mind can’t decide what she should do: the optimist, the pessimist, the inner child, the record keeper. There are obvious parallels to the Pixar film Inside Out.” Watch the trailer!
J-trend 7: High-pressure schooling
See: As the Gods Will
Godlike monsters invade schools all over Japan, forcing students to play for their lives, à la Battle Royale. “There’s a dark comic edge in the way these alien beings force the students to engage in typical children’s games. Anyone who knows anything about Japanese culture will get additional insights.” Watch the trailer!
J-trend 8: Hikikomori
See: 100 Yen Love
Japan’s entry into next year’s Oscars is about a hikikomori (recluse) who has very low self-esteem but gets involved in boxing and regains control of her life. “There’s a generation of kids who have difficulty relating to people outside their bedrooms. This film provides redemption for a shut-in, and it’s inspiring.” Watch the trailer!
J-trend 9: Kabuki
See: An Actor’s Revenge (1963)
In one of the most praised films by Ken Ishikawa, a male kabuki actor who plays female roles stumbles across the people who caused his parents’ suicide and hatches a plan to crush them. “It’s styled like a kabuki play and the lead actor, Kazuo Hasegawa, was a famous kabuki actor in real life.” Watch the trailer!