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  1. Miyamoto (2019) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Miyamoto (2019) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Ikematsu Sosuke (Actor) | Aoi Yu (Actor) | Iura Arata (Actor) | Pierre Taki (Actor)
    The volatile world of Miyamoto
    July 31, 2020 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Oftentimes when TV dramas get a feature film sequel, the film starts out with some kind of recap or introductory context for viewers who don't know or don't remember the events of the TV drama. Mariko Tetsuya's Miyamoto does no such favors for its audience. Based on Arai Hideki's 90s seinen manga about a stationery salesman, the film plops audiences right into the midst of the eponymous hero's seemingly mundane yet overwhelmingly messy life. A roughed-up-looking Miyamoto (Ikematsu Sosuke, at his jittery best) is going through the ritual of visiting the parents to inform them of his planned marriage with girlfriend Yasuko (Aoi Yu), who is expecting. This disorienting feeling of being dropped... [read more]
  2. Children of the Sea (2019) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Children of the Sea (2019) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Morisaki Win | Hisaishi Joe | Ashida Mana | Inagaki Goro
    A beautiful and confounding aquatic odyssey
    June 30, 2020 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Despite the title, the young protagonists and the pretty animation of sea animals, Watanabe Ayumu's Children of the Sea is probably not something you'd show your children. Based on Igarashi Daisuke's manga Kaiji no Kodomo, the confounding animated fantasy feature is from Studio 4°C, the makers of Tekkon Kinkreet, Mind Game and Harmony. The film starts out like a sensitive story about discovering friendship and the wonders of the ocean – and gradually morphs into a mind-blowing meditation on the meaning and mysteries of life itself. Children of the Sea begins with protagonist Ruka getting into a fight at soccer practice and being forced out of her summer club activity. The moody girl then... [read more]
  3. Bento Harassment (2019) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Bento Harassment (2019) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Shinohara Ryoko (Actor) | Yoshine Kyoko (Actor) | Matsui Rena (Actor) | Sato Ryuta (Actor)
    I want to be harassed with bentos.
    March 30, 2020 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Nobody wants to be harassed, unless it's with meticulous homemade bento lunchboxes – in which case, bring it on! Like When I Get Home, My Wife Always Pretends to be Dead, Tsukamoto Renpei's amusingly titled Bento Harassment is a slice-of-life family comedy-drama based on a true story shared online in Japan. Shinohara Ryoko is single mom Kaori whose once precious little girl, Futaba (Yoshine Kyoko), is now a rude, disgruntled teen going through the "do not enter room" stage of adolescence. Since Futaba can't even be bothered to speak to her, Kaori decides to combine communication and retaliation through her daughter's daily packed lunches. Every day, she puts extra time and effort into... [read more]
  4. Fly Me to the Saitama (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition)  (Japan Version) Fly Me to the Saitama (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Nikaido Fumi | Iseya Yusuke | Maya Mineo | Mamiya Shotaro
    Saitama forever!
    March 18, 2020 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Somehow, this happened: Fly Me to the Saitama won Best Director and Best Screenplay at the 43rd Japan Academy Prize. Some may want to point out that last year was a particularly weak year for Japanese cinema, and that this is the kind of stuff that happens when Kore-eda Hirokazu uses his one-film-a-year output on a French co-production instead of a Japanese film that everyone can safely award. But I'd like to think that it's all part of the Saitama Liberation Front's master plan to spread the influence of the suburban prefecture. Directed by Takeuchi Hideki, Fly Me to the Saitama is the kind of crazy Japanese film that you would show your friends to perpetuate the stereotype of Japanese... [read more]
  5. Mori, The Artist's Habitat (2018) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Mori, The Artist's Habitat (2018) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Okita Shuichi (Actor, Director) | Kase Ryo (Actor) | Yamazaki Tsutomu (Actor) | Kiki Kirin (Actor)
    Living the hermit life
    January 29, 2020 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    What would it be like to not step out of your home for three decades? Okita Shuichi's charmingly simple drama Mori, The Artist's Habitat imagines a day in the latter life of Kumagai Morikazu, who was famous for his distinctly stylized and colorful paintings of plants, animals and everyday scenery. He was also famous for being a recluse who never left his home for the last few decades of his long life. It would be tempting to call the artist a hikikomori – his name is even Mori – but Okita's wonderful little film provides a gentle, whimsical look into the rich world of a happy hermit who rightfully has no need to step outside. As portrayed by the great Yamazaki Tsutomu, the nonagenarian... [read more]
  6. 12 Suicidal Teens (2019) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) 12 Suicidal Teens (2019) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Arata Mackenyu (Actor) | Sugisaki Hana (Actor) | Kitamura Takumi (Actor) | Kuroshima Yuina (Actor)
    12 Angry Teens
    October 31, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Even without knowing anything about 12 Suicidal Teens, the film grabs attention right away with its alarming title. Once you know more, the film only gets more interesting. Adapted from Ubakata Tow's 2016 novel, the teen mystery has a clear and intriguing construct that sets up the puzzle. One sunny morning, 12 teens gather at an abandoned hospital to die together. The teens, who don't know each other, arrive one by one and follow instructions provided by the organizer to enter the hospital, retrieve a number tag, and find a designated room. However, they realize there's an extra person in the room, a lifeless body already lying on a 13th bed. One of the teens notices that this 13th person... [read more]
  7. Modest Heroes (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled & Audio) (Japan Version) Modest Heroes (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled & Audio) (Japan Version) Yonebayashi Hiromasa (Director) | Kimura Fumino | Ono Machiko | Momose Yoshiyuki (Director)
    Heroes come in small sizes
    October 17, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Studio Ponoc continues down the Studio Ghibli path with a collection of whimsical, lovingly animated short films, and you don't have to go to a museum in Tokyo to watch them like the Ghibli shorts. The anthology Modest Heroes features original shorts written and directed by three former Ghibli animators, including Yonebayashi Hiromasa. The three charming shorts are very different in story but carry the common theme of small heroes. In the case of Yonebayashi's Kanini & Kanino, the heroes are quite literally small. Yonebayashi created a beautiful yet perilous countryside world for thimble-sized people in 2010's The Borrower Arrietty. Kanini & Kanino creates a beautiful yet perilous... [read more]
  8. Radiation House (DVD Box) (Japan Version) Radiation House (DVD Box) (Japan Version) Hirose Alice | Kubota Masataka | Honda Tsubasa | Suzuki Nobuyuki
    Hurrah for radiology
    September 30, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    There's a new medical drama or two just about every season in Japan, but Fuji TV's spring 2019 drama Radiation House particularly caught my interest for its focus on radiology. Earlier this year, a sudden illness landed me in the hospital. Prior to this, I hadn't thought too much about radiology, but my bout with a unicorn infection made me realize just how much rides on radiology. I was seen by specialists of different departments with various conjectures about what might be wrong with me, but the diagnosis depended on the radiology results. After each inconclusive report, I got booked for another type of radiology test. The last test, a PET scan, ultimately provided the needed answer.... [read more]
  9. I Will Not Work Overtime, Period (DVD Box) (Japan Version) I Will Not Work Overtime, Period (DVD Box) (Japan Version) Yoshitaka Yuriko | Hirano Yoshihisa | Nakamaru Yuichi | Emoto Tokio
    Lessons in overtime
    August 29, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    I Will Not Work Overtime, Period... is what I wish I could say about myself while I write this well past office hours. As that familiar feeling of staying late in a mostly empty office settles in, I am particularly inspired to talk about TBS's spring 2019 drama starring Yoshitaka Yuriko. In recent years, greater awareness has been raised about Japan's unhealthy overwork culture and "black companies" that force long hours on employees. Pointedly, this workplace series is not set at one of those black companies. Instead, heroine Higashiyama Yui works at a website design company whose CEO's stated policy encourages staff to leave on time. But few people do besides Yui, who sets herself the... [read more]
  10. Every Day A Good Day (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Every Day A Good Day (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Tabe Mikako (Actor) | Kuroki Haru (Actor) | Kiki Kirin (Actor) | Omori Tatsushi (Director)
    Tea for the soul
    July 31, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    The tea ceremony has a long history and esteemed status in Japanese culture. Besides being a refined art and ritual for the preparation and enjoyment of tea, the Way of Tea embodies zen principles of harmony, purity and tranquility. One particularly famous saying that is associated with the tea ceremony is ichi-go ichi-e, or "one time one meeting"; each tea ceremony is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While such poetic pursuits and principles may seem rather abstract and far off, Omori Tatsushi's gentle drama Every Day A Good Day brings the meaning and beauty of the tea ceremony into ordinary life through the growth and experiences of an everyday woman. We first meet heroine Noriko (Kuroki... [read more]
  11. When I Get Home, My Wife Always Pretends to Be Dead (2018) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) When I Get Home, My Wife Always Pretends to Be Dead (2018) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Eikura Nana (Actor) | Yasuda Ken (Actor) | Hotaru Yukijiro (Actor) | Shinagawa Toru (Actor)
    Much ado about something
    May 6, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    With a strange and straightforward title like When I Get Home, My Wife Always Pretends to Be Dead, it's hard to not take notice of Toshio Lee's comedy-drama. I'm happy to report that the title is absolutely representative of the film's content. Yasuda Ken plays typical salaryman Jun who is suddenly faced with an atypical conundrum: his wife (Eikura Nana) of three years keeps pretending to be dead. When he comes home from work, he's greeted with ridiculous props and fake death scenarios. Chie surprises him with her latest creative death, and then nonchalantly serves dinner. After the initial shock, Jun tries to play along and support his wife through whatever mysterious tough patch she must... [read more]
  12. Code Blue: The Movie (2018) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Code Blue: The Movie (2018) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Aragaki Yui (Actor) | Yamashita Tomohisa (Actor) | Arioka Daiki (Actor) | Toda Erika (Actor)
    Ten years of Code Blue
    April 28, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    As someone who's followed the Code Blue series since the start, the movie was pretty much a must-watch for me. Apparently I wasn't alone as Code Blue: The Movie was the biggest Japanese film of 2018. Code Blue started on Fuji TV in 2008 with Yamashita Tomohisa, Aragaki Yui, Toda Erika and Asari Yosuke playing flight doctors-in-training and Higa Manami playing a nurse for a hospital's helicopter dispatch emergency medical team. The hit medical series was followed by an equally popular second season in 2010, and then finally returned for a third season in 2017. The 2018 movie picks up from the third season with the original protagonists continuing to deal with career and life decisions while... [read more]
  13. Ossan's Love (Blu-ray Box) (Japan Version) Ossan's Love (Blu-ray Box) (Japan Version) Uchida Rio | Tanaka Kei | Hayashi Kento | Yoshida Kotaro
    Men's Love
    November 30, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    There may be plenty of releases in the boys love genre in Japan, but gay romance stories rarely emerge so prominently from the mainstream realm of network television like the way Ossan's Love did this year. The workplace romantic comedy about a 30-something real estate agent who suddenly receives love confessions from two male colleagues – his middle-aged boss and a younger colleague – first appeared on TV Asahi in December 2016 as a one-episode special. The late-night broadcast earned decent response, enough so that TV Asahi brought it back in spring 2018 as a seven-episode series that turned into a surprise hit. Tanaka Kei and Yoshida Kotaro returned to play the hapless protagonist Haruta... [read more]
  14. Gintama 2: Rules Are Made To Be Broken (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Gintama 2: Rules Are Made To Be Broken (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Oguri Shun | Yagira Yuya | Yoshizawa Ryo | Miura Haruma
    More gags, more Gintama
    November 30, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    In the "Countdown" introduction at the start of the first Gintama, Oguri Shun referred to the film as "the one-time-only Gintama live-action adaptation." But when a manga adaptation makes over three billion yen at the Japanese box office, you can bet there's a sequel coming, and fast! Hence, a mere year later, we have Gintama 2 and even more of the giddy gags, insider jokes and manga-mined stories that made the first film such a crowd-pleasing hit. When I wrote about Gintama last year, I noted that the Shinsengumi were well cast but underused. Well, they take front and center this time! For most of the film's first half, the Yorozuya trio of Sakata Gintoki (Oguri Shun), Shimura Shinpachi... [read more]
  15. The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue (2017) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue (2017) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Ishii Yuya (Director, Writer) | Ishibashi Shizuka (Actor) | Ikematsu Sosuke (Actor) | Tanaka Tetsushi (Actor)
    Lonely pulse of the city
    November 28, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    "The moment you love the big city, it's like you've killed yourself." Ishii Yuya's The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue is full of pithy and pensive lines drawn from Saihate Tahi's poetry collection, but the above thought, expressed in voiceover by protagonist Mika early in the film, struck me as the most representative of the film. After taking a step backward with the conventional Vancouver Asahi, Ishii returns more to indie sensibilities in this 2017 drama that presents less of a story and more of a loose portrait of love, death and loneliness in the city. The Tokyo Night Sky follows two typical lonely outsiders that you may find in the big city – Mika (Ishibashi... [read more]
  16. Mary and the Witch's Flower (Blu-ray + Digital Copy) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) Mary and the Witch's Flower (Blu-ray + Digital Copy) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) Sugisaki Hana | Mitsushima Hikari | Kamiki Ryunosuke | Yonebayashi Hiromasa (Director)
    Almost Ghibli
    July 27, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    After Studio Ghibli shuttered its filmmaking arm in 2014, veteran producer Nishimura Yoshiaki founded the new animation house Studio Ponoc with the help of other key Ghibli alumni, most notably Yonebayashi Hiromasa. In its thirty-year history, besides Miyazaki Hayao and Takahata Isao, Studio Ghibli has only had two other in-house directors with more than one feature film credit: Yonebayashi and Miyazaki Goro. As the rare Miyazaki protégé to gain directing reins, Yonebayashi seemed to be Studio Ghibli's future when he stepped out with The Borrower Arrietty in 2010. Though Nishimura and Yonebayashi are no longer with Studio Ghibli, they have brought the themes and aesthetics that they spent... [read more]
  17. Psychic Kusuo (2017) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Psychic Kusuo (2017) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Yamazaki Kento | Hashimoto Kanna | Sato Jiro | Arai Hirofumi
    With great power comes great exasperation
    July 11, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Between Gintama and Gintama 2, director Fukuda Yuichi found time to adapt Aso Shuichi's The Disastrous Life of Saiki K., another manga about a reluctant smart-talking hero with distinctly colored hair. Fukuda translates the physical comedy, deadpan humor and general ridiculousness of the gag manga into an appropriately over-the-top live-action high school comedy about the misadventures of Psychic Kusuo. Prolific young actor Yamazaki Kento takes on yet another manga adaptation, but like with the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable adaptation, Psychic Kusuo sees him expanding beyond the shojo manga heartthrob fare that has been his bread and butter in the last few years. As the... [read more]
  18. Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura (Blu-ray) (Deluxe Edition) (Japan Version) Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura (Blu-ray) (Deluxe Edition) (Japan Version) Takahata Mitsuki | Tsutsumi Shinichi | Sakai Masato | Kaname Jun
    Always - Sunset on Kamakura
    June 28, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Yamazaki Takashi is the undisputed master of Japanese films that are simultaneously loaded with state-of-the-art special effects and old-fashioned nostalgia. After applying his visual effects expertise and palpable sentimentalism to wartime dramas Eternal Zero and Fueled, the Parasyte series and even Doraemon, the director circles back to the nostalgic works of mangaka Saigan Ryohei for Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura. Yamazaki is perhaps best known for his three adaptations of Saigan's long-running Always - Sunset on Third Street series. The blockbuster award-winning film franchise gently pushed the envelope of Japanese visual effects with stunning renditions of postwar Tokyo in the 1950s... [read more]
  19. Mixed Doubles (Blu-ray) (Deluxe Edition) (Japan Version) Mixed Doubles (Blu-ray) (Deluxe Edition) (Japan Version) Aragaki Yui | Eita | Sano Hayato | Hirosue Ryoko
    For the love of ping pong
    May 25, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Table tennis fills the emptiness in your heart in the lively yet low-key sports film Mixed Doubles. The sports romantic comedy is the second feature film by TV director Ishikawa Junichi, who has helmed series like Strawberry Night, The After-Dinner Mysteries, Ninkyo Helper and, most notably, Legal High. Like with his first film April Fools, Ishikawa works with Legal High writer Kosawa Ryota, and this time Legal High star Aragaki Yui is also onboard for the star-studded ensemble. Mixed Doubles' original story follows the familiar highs and lows of the sports film formula. Aragaki charms as always as heroine Tamako, a former ping pong prodigy who gave up the sport after her mother (an... [read more]
  20. Orange (2015) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Orange (2015) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Tsuchiya Tao (Actor) | Yamazaki Kento (Actor) | Ryusei Ryo (Actor) | Sakurada Dori (Actor)
    Not another shojo teen romance
    February 27, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    It's easy to group Orange in with all the other light and fluffy shojo manga-based teen romances, especially since it even stars the genre's current two most prolific representatives, Yamazaki Kento and Tsuchiya Tao. Indeed, Orange, based on Takano Ichigo's manga, does have many typical elements of the genre, including a core group of friends, crushes and familiar youth film rites and imagery like sports day, summer festival, fireworks and cherry blossoms. However, more than a story of young love and friendship, Orange is a story about coping with feelings of guilt, loss and depression. Tsuchiya Tao plays high school sophomore Naho who suddenly finds a letter from her future self in her... [read more]
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