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  1. Ossan's Love (Blu-ray Box) (Japan Version) Ossan's Love (Blu-ray Box) (Japan Version) Tanaka Kei | Uchida Rio | Yoshida Kotaro | Hayashi Kento
    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]
  2. 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 | Miura Haruma | Yagira Yuya | Yoshizawa Ryo
    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]
  3. 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) Ikematsu Sosuke (Actor) | Ishii Yuya (Director, Writer) | Ishibashi Shizuka (Actor) | Ichikawa Mikako (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]
  4. 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) Yonebayashi Hiromasa (Director) | Amami Yuki | Mitsushima Hikari | Sugisaki Hana
    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]
  5. Psychic Kusuo (2017) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Psychic Kusuo (2017) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Yamazaki Kento | Hashimoto Kanna | Yoshizawa Ryo | Sato Jiro
    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]
  6. Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura (Blu-ray) (Deluxe Edition) (Japan Version) Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura (Blu-ray) (Deluxe Edition) (Japan Version) Takahata Mitsuki | Sakai Masato | Hashizume Isao | Ando Sakura
    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]
  7. Mixed Doubles (Blu-ray) (Deluxe Edition) (Japan Version) Mixed Doubles (Blu-ray) (Deluxe Edition) (Japan Version) Aragaki Yui | Eita | Yoshida Kotaro | Suzuki Fuku
    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]
  8. Orange (2015) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Orange (2015) (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Yamazaki Kento (Actor) | Tsuchiya Tao (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]
  9. Teiichi no Kuni (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Teiichi no Kuni (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Suda Masaki | Takeuchi Ryoma | Nomura Shuhei | Shison Jun
    Politics As Usual: High School Edition
    November 29, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Back in 2013 when they were still on the cusp of stardom, Suda Masaki and Nomura Shuhei played ordinary immature students at an all-boys high school in The Daily Lives of High School Boys. Four years later, the two actors are back together as immature students of an all-boys high school, but this time they are political rivals. Based on the manga Teiichi no Kuni by Furuya Usamaru, Teiichi: Battle of Supreme High manages to be both wondrously stupid and sneakily smart as it colorfully conjures the facetiously entertaining world of an elite high school known to produce future politicians and bureaucrats. In what seems likes his umpteenth film of the year, Suda Masaki plays Teiichi, a... [read more]
  10. Nanimono (2016) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Nanimono (2016) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Satoh Takeru (Actor) | Arimura Kasumi (Actor) | Nikaido Fumi (Actor) | Yamada Takayuki (Actor)
    Finding jobs, searching dreams
    November 16, 2017 Picked By Pisces See all this editor's picks
    Most Japanese corporations start recruiting new employees in the spring every year. During the job-hunting season, hopeful graduates in identical black suits busily participate in various job fairs and interviews. Set against the backdrop of Japan's stressful job-seeking culture, young author Asai Ryo's 2012 award-winning novel Nanimono provides a deep and intriguing study of five new grads who struggle to survive in the highly competitive job market. Played by Satoh Takeru (Rurouni Kenshin), Takuto gives up on his theater dream and decides to enter the workforce. Setting aside his passion for music, his carefree roommate Kamiya (Suda Masaki, Death Note Light up the NEW world) also starts... [read more]
  11. Reverse (DVD Box) (Japan Version) Reverse (DVD Box) (Japan Version) Fujiwara Tatsuya | Tamamori Yuta | Toda Erika | Ichihara Hayato
    Unraveling a decade-old mystery
    October 31, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Since making a splash with her debut novel Confessions, mystery writer Minato Kanae has been a popular pick for adaptations. Most of her books have been licensed for film or TV, and one of the latest to get the live-action treatment is the 2015 novel Reverse. Aired in spring 2017, the engrossing TBS adaptation follows a group of college acquaintances as they gradually confront and uncover the decade-old mystery surrounding a friend's death. Fujiwara Tatsuya gives a more understated performance than usual as the everyman protagonist of the story, introverted and nondescript salaryman Fukase Kazuhisa. Though he graduated from an elite university, he is just tiredly getting by with an... [read more]
  12. Gintama (2017)  (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Gintama (2017) (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Oguri Shun | Hashimoto Kanna | Suda Masaki | Domoto Tsuyoshi
    Made for fans and soon-to-be fans
    October 30, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    In his two live-action adaptations of the 90s gag superhero manga Hentai Kamen, Fukuda Yuichi demonstrated that he may not be the best of directors or writers, but he does appreciate and understand the appeal of the source material. Working again with Oguri Shun, who helped bring the first Hentai Kamen film to fruition, Fukuda adapts Sorachi Hideaki's best-selling manga Gintama into one long insider's joke for manga/anime fans. If the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy set the standard for how to adapt a popular manga about colorful-haired samurai into thrilling and respectable cinema for broad audiences, Gintama has now presented the alternative route to blockbusterdom: how to adapt a popular manga... [read more]
  13. Close-Knit (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) Close-Knit (Blu-ray) (English Subtitled) (Japan Version) Ikuta Toma | Ogigami Naoko (Director) | Koike Eiko | Kiritani Kenta
    How to knit a family
    October 12, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    From Kamome Diner to Glasses to Rent-a-Cat, Ogigami Naoko is known for warm and quirky dramas that create escapist havens from the troubles and loneliness of modern society. In her latest Close-Knit, the writer-director knits another peaceful haven in the welcoming home of a makeshift family formed by a transgender woman, her boyfriend and the niece they take in. When we first meet Rinko (Ikuta Toma), she has already reached a place in her life that many people can only dream of. She has transitioned completely, though she hasn't yet legally changed her gender. She works at a nursing home where everyone seems accepting, and she's living with her mild-mannered boyfriend Makio (Kiritani... [read more]
  14. The Anthem Of The Heart (2015) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) The Anthem Of The Heart (2015) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Nagai Tatsuyuki (Director)
    Silence is not golden
    August 31, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Once upon a time, there was a chatty little girl with a vivid imagination who saw her father leaving the "castle" on the hill with another woman. She tells her mom, not realizing the significance of her words, and her parents soon divorce. Both her dad and mom tell her that she's too much of a chatterbox, and so does the egg fairy that casts a curse on her so that she can no longer hurt with her words. Produced by A-1 Pictures, the gentle animated drama Anthem of the Heart begins like a fairy tale, the kind with a dark undertone and a cautionary lesson for children. But this cruel fairy tale continues into adolescence for protagonist Naruse Jun. Every time she talks, her stomach begins to... [read more]
  15. Too Young to Die! (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Too Young to Die! (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Nagase Tomoya | Kamiki Ryunosuke | Kudo Kankuro (Writer, Director) | Ono Machiko
    Hell of a comedy
    July 25, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    It takes a certain kind of person to turn the tragic deaths of a busload of teenagers and the terrifying images of Japanese hell into an over-the-top comedy, and that person is Kudo Kankuro. The master of wacky, talky and strangely thoughtful comedies returns to the director's chair for his fourth feature film, Too Young to Die!, which may be his weirdest yet. Too Young to Die! begins with a bus full of high school kids meeting an untimely end on a field trip. Bratty protagonist Daisuke (Kamiki Ryunosuke) wakes up in "jigoku," a fiery Buddhist-based vision of hell in which sinners suffer in different levels of gruesome punishments. Horned demon Killer K (Nagase Tomoya), the leader of the... [read more]
  16. NINAGAWA Macbeth (2015) (DVD) (Japan Version) NINAGAWA Macbeth (2015) (DVD) (Japan Version) Ninagawa Yukio | Tanaka Yuko | Ichimura Masachika | Hashimoto Satoshi
    Ninagawa's last Macbeth
    June 29, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Japan's foremost theater director Ninagawa Yukio passed away last May at the age of 80. The renowned director leaves behind a tremendous legacy as one of the world's most masterful and imaginative interpreters of Shakespeare, continuously transforming the Bard's classics into distinctly Japanese productions over a four-decade career that garnered wide acclaim at home and abroad. Boldly bearing the director's name right in the title, Ninagawa MacBeth was first staged to lukewarm reception in Tokyo in 1980. Five years later, it became his first Shakespeare production to travel to Europe, and from there on, Ninagawa would take the world by storm. Ninagawa MacBeth had several re-runs in Japan... [read more]
  17. A Silent Voice (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) A Silent Voice (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Japan Version) Oima Yoshitoki | Yuki Aoi | Nishiya Taishi | Irino Miyu
    A painful journey of redemption and self-discovery
    June 9, 2017 Picked By Pisces See all this editor's picks
    In November 2016, the case of a 13-year-old Japanese boy being bullied by classmates was revealed. An evacuee from the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, the young victim was called "germ" at school and beaten by classmates who extorted money from him. However, this case is just the tip of the iceberg. Bullying happens everywhere and it has become a common theme in manga. Dealing with the issues of bullying and disability, Oima Yoshitoki allows audience to listen to the inner voices of both the bullies and their victims in her award-winning manga A Silent Voice, which has been adapted into an anime film by K-On! director Yamada Naoko and studio Kyoto Animation. A Silent Voice is a... [read more]
  18. Creepy (2016) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Creepy (2016) (DVD) (English Subtitled) (Hong Kong Version) Takeuchi Yuko (Actor) | Nishijima Hidetoshi (Actor) | Kawaguchi Haruna (Actor) | Fujino Ryoko (Actor)
    Kurosawa Kiyoshi's return to psycho horror
    May 23, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Based on the roles he plays, Nishijima Hidetoshi has to be the unhappiest man in Japanese cinema. In Mozu, he's an anguished public security officer trying to find the truth behind his wife and daughter's mysterious deaths. In Genome Hazard, he's an anguished framed man trying to find the truth behind his wife's mysterious death. In Ryusei Wagon, he's an anguished unemployed man whose wife mysteriously leaves him. In Double Face, he's an anguished undercover officer planted in the mob. In Strawberry Nights and the currently airing Crisis as well, he's an anguished officer. The actor goes through yet more onscreen suffering in Kurosawa Kiyoshi's Creepy as anguished criminal psychology expert... [read more]
  19. Someone (Blu-ray) (Deluxe Edition) (Japan Version) Someone (Blu-ray) (Deluxe Edition) (Japan Version) Satoh Takeru | Arimura Kasumi | Suda Masaki | Okada Masaki
    To know you is to not know you
    May 17, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Playwright-turned-director Miura Daisuke draws from his theater background to effectively adapt Asai Ryo's 2012 Naoki Prize-winning novel Someone. The discomfiting drama uses a group of friends' deflating process of job hunting to not only capture the ambitions, insecurities and hypocrisies of young people competing for employment, but also to construct an astute study of social interactions and public identities in the age of social media. Headlined by a top-drawer young ensemble cast that pretty much sells itself, the story revolves around five college seniors of different personalities and wants who are wading through the daunting process of job hunting. Leading protagonist Takuto (Satoh... [read more]
  20. Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (2016) (Blu-ray Box) (Japan Version) Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (2016) (Blu-ray Box) (Japan Version) Kobayashi Kaoru | Morishita Yoshiyuki | Mitsuishi Ken | Odagiri Joe
    Food for thought
    April 26, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    After three seasons on TBS/MBS, late-night foodie human drama series Midnight Diner was licensed by online streaming giant Netflix in 2016 for its fourth season. Presumably to appeal to its potential international audience, an explanatory "Tokyo Stories" was harmlessly tagged on to the title, but otherwise, nothing has changed from its tried-and-true formula. Based on Abe Yaro's manga, Midnight Diner continues to be the reliable late-night watering hole of choice for viewers seeking food for thought and recipe inspirations. Like the previous three seasons, Midnight Diner's fourth season comprises of ten episodes, each titled after a comforting dish that holds deeper meaning for the patrons... [read more]
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