Tag Archives: japan

Best Japanese Movies of the 2010s

Again, I have not really seen enough of these outside of a festival environment to do a best and worst list.

Outrage Coda (2017)

Beat Takeshi is still turning out solid movies and I didn’t feel like I missed anything not seeing the other films in this series.


Shin Godzilla (2016)

Very Japanese in the way the Legendary pictures movies are not. People may claim that Godzilla is hardly in those other movies but this movie is mainly meetings. The director’s experience on Neon Genesis Evangelion comes through as the monster is dealt with as if it is a natural disaster and then a military threat with combined arms tactics used.


Love and Peace (2015)

This was the first movie I watched after a stay in hospital as I had been wanting to see it for years. Worth it.

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013)

“Oh no I left the goats out!” Great to see a documentary about Hayao Miyazaki finally and as it turned out it was not his final movie after all.


The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)

This movie took so long to complete no one thought it would ever be finished. This director is the more prickly of the Studio Ghibili directors. A unique story and sweet visuals to go with it.


Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (2013)

Wooo-boy! A nice action movie and severe burn on do-nothing film “experts” who sit around talking about how they can make the best movie ever if they ever did anything.


13 Assassins (2010)

A huge ensemble cast take on a brutal lord. Everyone gets their chance to shine. There are many different cuts of this movie for some reason?



Shin Godzilla (2016)

Directors: Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi
Starring: Hiroki Hasegawa, Hideki Akasaka, Satomi Ishihara, Ren Ohsugi, Akira Emoto, Satomi Ishihara, Kengo Kôra, Mikako Ichikawa

Yes, Godzilla has returned. No, it is not like any other Godzilla movie up until now. After producing Final Wars for Godzilla’s 50th anniversary Toho decided to rest the franchise for 10 years and even destroyed some sets to ensure this.
This movie can be considered Toho’s reboot of their franchise and marks the beginning of a new era of movies from the studio with a separate continuity to the Showa, Heisei and Millennium series. Even more confusing the recent US remake is also separate and is going to continue off on its own storyline.

How this movie is different is that it mainly concentrates on Godzilla as if it is a natural disaster being managed by various Japanese government agencies so you see everything from their point of view as they react to it and manage disaster recovery and trying to counteract the monster.

There are a lot of different ministers introduced, but the closest to main characters would be Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) a junior advisor who ends up leading the anti-Godzilla taskforce and sassy US ambassador Kayoko Ann Patterson (Satomi Ishihara). In any other movie there would be a love story between the two but it is barely even considered here.
While there are a lot of meetings in the movie you at least get to see Godzilla earlier than the 2014 movie. He looks nothing like you would remember but to give away what it looks like when you first see the monster would ruin the surprise. It sure does look goofy looking.

Goofy-looking or not upon coming ashore the monster leaves a trail of destruction and causes many deaths, there is an attempt made to attack the monster, but it has to be stopped at the last minute due to civilians. The monster then returns to the sea.

The USA ends up getting involved but many in the Japanese government do not think they have their best interests at heart and the sassy Japanese ambassador has trouble getting her point across with the government officials. The leader of the ant-Godzilla taskforce is a lot more receptive to her and they end up working together.

There is a lot of planning and meetings and these culminate when Godzilla reappears having grown in size and the self-defence force tries to stop it from advancing on Tokyo and fails. Not like they did not try as they attack it with three waves of forces including helicopters, tanks and jets. In the movie they use footage of real vehicles for the scenes which is great along with the models for when some of them get wrecked.

The USA sends over its B2 bombers which seem to be doing well at first, but Godzilla evolves and destroys them easily with powers that it had not had before and are new even in the history of the Godzilla movies. Having used up its reserves it goes into hibernation leaving Tokyo in a sea of flames and many thousands of people dead.

Leaning on the UN council the USA it is going to make a nuclear strike when Godzilla starts moving again. Most of the Japanese government is understandably upset at this but agrees to start evacuating Tokyo. Yaguchi disagrees and wants to try his team’s plan of making a blood coagulant to try and freeze Godzilla. At this point it is a race against time for the teams’ plan to be carried out before Tokyo is destroyed for good. I am not going to reveal which plan succeeds or fails as that is half the fun.

This is not a movie for those people who complain “when are they going to get to the fireworks factory” you have to have a high tolerance of people in meetings and a lot of ancillary characters being introduced and discarded.
I did like the anti-Godzilla task force as Yaguchi himself says they are a bunch of “freaks and rejects” and he wants people with strong opinions and who have no qualms of expressing them. The group ends up working so hard that the cleaning staff feels sorry for them and brings them food and the other staff start complaining that Yaguchi smells.

The senior government ministers are a bunch of senior Japanese actors who I mostly did not recognise apart from Jun Kunimura as Chief of Staff who was recently in the Korean movie the Wailing. The older actors did have a lot of gravitas especially the Prime Minister Ren Ohsugi.

The monster effects seemed to be a combination of suit work and CGI and you could not really tell the difference between the two as they were so well integrated. I did like seeing actual models be destroyed like in the old days and there was some clever use of infrastructure with trains being used as weapons in one sequence.

The original music for the series also makes a cameo during some scenes, but if you want to hear the full tunes wait for the end credits where they play in full.

While the Neon Genesis Evangelion fans will soon be online posting comparisons in shots and so forth, there are quite a few here. In the NGE TV show the EVA units could only operate for five minutes due to their internal battery and the rest of the episode was spent building up to it. The same is the case here. The evolving state of Godzilla does remind me of the Angels in some ways as they were different each time as they changed after each one was defeated.

The previous short by the two directors the Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo is the direct predecessor to this movie and well worth watching.

While there was space left in the resolution of the movie for sequels it may not be by the same directors or even with the same set of characters. It was great to see Godzilla back in Japan but if you prefer more action in your Godzilla movies then I would recommend an earlier film in the series.

QAGOMA – Cult Japan – All the trailers

I saw this program was on at QAGOMA this year, I will probably not go up for any screenings having seen most of them but I would recommend going to see the films if you are in Brisbane.

More information

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Ringu (Ring) 1998 MA15+

Rupan sansei: Kariosutoro no shiro (Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro) 1979 PG

Kaze no tani no Naushika (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind) 1984 PG

Hausu (House) 1977 Ages 18+

Ju-on (Ju-on: The Grudge) 2002 M

Joshu Nana-maru-ichi Go: Sasori (Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion) 1972 R18+

Ôdishon (Audition) 1999 R18+

Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta (Castle in the Sky) 1986 PG

Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbour Totoro) 1988 G

Tokyo nagaremono (Tokyo Drifter) 1966 M

Shurayukihime (Lady Snowblood) 1973 R18+

Batoru rowaiaru (Battle Royale) 2000 R18+

Jisatsu Sakuru (Suicide Club) 2002 R18+

Majo no takkyûbin (Kiki’s Delivery Service) 1989 G

Hauru no ugoku shiro (Howl’s Moving Castle) 2004 PG

Akira 1988 M

Kôkaku kidôtai (Ghost in the Shell) 1995 M

Tetsuo (Tetsuo: The Iron Man) 1989 R18+

Tokyo Zankoku Keisatsu (Tokyo Gore Police) 2008 R18+

Kurenai no buta (Porco Rosso) 1992 PG

Mononoke-hime (Princess Mononoke) 1997 M

Jigoku (Hell) 1960 Ages 18+

Onibaba (Demon Hag) 1964 Ages 18+

Koroshiya Ichi (Ichi the Killer) 2001 R18+

Autoreiji (Outrage) 2010 MA15+

Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away) 2001 PG

Gake no ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea) 2008 G

Bara no Soretsu (Funeral Parade of Roses) 1969 Ages R18+

Tomato Kecchappu Kôtei (Emperor Tomato Ketchup) 1971 Ages R18+

Hana-bi (Fireworks) 1997 MA15+

Bizhita Kyu (Visitor Q) 2001 R18+

Gokudô kyôfu dai-gekijô: Gozu (Gozu) 2003 R18+

Kaze tachinu (The Wind Rises) 2013 PG

Papurika (Paprika) 2006 M

Deddo Ribusu (Dead Leaves) 2004 MA15+

RoboGeisha 2009 R18+

Hanai Sachiko no karei na shogai (The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai) 2003 Ages R18+

Katakuri-ke no kôfuku (The Happiness of the Katakuris) 2001 M

Bakuretsu Toshi (Burst City) 1982 Ages R18+

Suna no Onna (The Woman in the Dunes) 1964 M

Kyua (Cure) 1997 MA15+

Ai no korîda (In the Realm of the Senses) 1976 R18+

Furankenshutain no Kaiju: Sanda tai Gaira (The War of the Gargantuas) 1966 Ages 18+

Dai-Nihonjin (Big Man Japan) 2007 M

Gojira (Godzilla) 1954 PG

Ai no mukidashi (Love Exposure) 2008 MA15+

Jigoku de naze warui (Why Don’t You Play in Hell?) 2013 R18+

Honogurai Mizu no soko kara (Dark Water) 2002 M

Matango (Attack of the Mushroom People) 1963 Ages R18+

Kaiju Soshingeki (Destroy All Monsters) 1968 PG

MIFF 2014 – The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)

Director: Isao Takahata

Based on the folk story The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter we see a simple bamboo cutter finding a tiny girl inside a bamboo stalk, who turns into a baby once he hands her over to his wife. The baby is no ordinary baby and seems to be growing at an extraordinary rate, leading her friends to call her Lil’ Bamboo while her adopted father calls her Princess.

After finding a bamboo stalk full of gold and one full of fine kimonos, the father decides that his princess should live in the city and take her place amongst nobility. His daughter is not so sure, but goes along with it any way.

Fitting in with the Japanese nobility at the time isn’t easy, but the princess tries her best and even ends up with five suitors. As she wants them to prove their love, she asks each of them to bring her something that is impossible and they leave disappointed. Things do not turn out as expected as three years later they return claiming to having done the impossible and now even the Emperor of Japan is interested in her.

This film is quite extraordinary. From the “other” director at Studio Ghibli , Isao Takahata, I can see why it took so long to finish. In the documentary Kingdom of Dreams and Madness they were worried it was never going to be finished as the director seemed like he did not want to finish it. I can see why you would not want to finish it as if you could keep working on your best work forever you would want to do that.

More than any of the other Studio Ghibli films, you can tell this film is all hand drawn as the style starts off all sketchy and broken up during the scenes in the country and gets more refined as the characters move into the world of the nobility.

At times it does go back to being sketchy and strange when emotion is being shown. Some of the characters have funny shaped heads even though most of them are meant to be human, but it just gives them more character.

There is a lot of emotion in the movie with the woodcutter prone to blowing up and also crying. I should have expected as much from the director after seeing Grave of Fireflies.

It does not really explain why the Princess came to be where she was or how she manages suddenly to have super powers but these things do fit with the story.

I would recommend this film if you are a fan of this director or folk stories as it is a great example of a good story told well.

MIFF 2014: Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (2013)

Director: Shion Sono


Movies about making a movie are so cliché now that you may as well make them out as joke from the start, which is what this film does and is not even trying to hide the fact that the entire film is a meta joke in the infinite mirror sense. It is also quite a savage backhander to the type of film makers who talk more than they make movies with the Fuck Bombers being all talk and so little action that ten years pass and they still have not made a movie despite filming every day.

The Yakuza in the movie are the standard stock characters with Muto (Jun Kunimura) in his tacky threads, Michiko (Fumi Nikaidô) his wild daughter and the rival Yakuza leader Ikegami (Shin’ichi Tsutsumi). The look on Ikegami’s face when he finally gets to meet Michiko after obsessing about her all those years is priceless.

I am being a bit light on with the plot as that is half the fun with the movie as you don’t know what it is going to do next. There is a point in the film where they decide to drop any suspension of disbelief and heads and limbs start flying and the film crew suddenly has machine guns that they use to gun down the Yakuza while filming the dolly shots.

Michiko is a terror and the broken glass kiss is one of the more intense things in the movie. I had to watch that part of the film through my fingers.

Deranged carnage has been one description of this movie, well yes, but it knows why it is doing it and it has a lot of heart. It is not like Tokyo Gore Police that was all gore and no plot, you are actually engaged with these characters and want to see how it turns out.

If you are a fan of Yakuza action movies or appreciate films that question the medium I would recommend this film. Some people may wonder what the hell is going on and are probably best to watch something else that is more straight forward.