The Banana Guide to Asian Entertainment: It’s All About Japan: Part III

Greetings, YAMMies!

We are on the third part of my Japanese entertainment journey of a series on the Banana views on Asian entertainment. From very early on, I was exposed to quite a bit of Japanese programming on television, and it seems like it’s the one that has influenced me the most throughout the years.

As you know, all this Asian fever started out because of that one Jdrama, that one movie and that one actress. Being fully introduced to Japanese cinema through a master like Shunji Iwai creates some unbelievable expectations for Japanese film that, sometimes, they’re not able to meet… but oftentimes, they do.

My favorite Japanese film directors, outside of Shunji Iwai and Hayao Miyazaki, of course, are two very distinct men who couldn’t be more different from each other: Hirokazu Kore-eda and Tetsuya Nakashima.

Japanese film directors Hirokazu Koreeda (是枝 裕和) and Tetsuya Nakashima (中島哲也).

While Kore-eda is minimalistic in his film technique, with subdued colors, delicate use of music showing quiet simple moments of life like in Aruitemo, Aruitemo (歩いても 歩いても), Tetsuya Nakashima’s filmmaking style is a beautiful attack on the senses. Bold color saturation, loud music and dynamic editing are Nakashima’s staples better employed in masterpieces like Memories of Matsuko (嫌われ松子の一生), which has quickly climbed up my list of favorite movies.

The reason I love Japanese cinema is probably explained with my liking of these two very opposing takes on film. Sometimes they can be about nothing at all, yet hold so much meaning or be so entertaining. Some other times they can be so bizarrely good that “they can only be Japanese films.


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

9 Responses

  1. Camiele says:

    All I know is that Grave of the Fireflies could be the most heartbreaking film I’ve ever seen. Certainly, there’s nothing “cartoonish” about Japanese animation. Obviously, they’ve got films and shows geared towards children, of course. However, their animation is so beyond mature sometimes that I marvel at people’s lack of respect for the genre. I even love the old school animation Akira comes to mind (obviously… HaHA). Japanese animation is some of the most thoughtful, most interesting storytelling to ever be put on film.

    • amy says:

      @Camiele, I was a mess. A MESS watching Grave of the Fireflies. There was a live action version done a couple of years ago for television… I haven’t dared to watch it. LOL

      It appalls me how many of my friends refer to animated films as “dibujitos” (as in little drawings) LOL. In school, I used to… almost, get offended. hahaha.

      • Camiele says:

        @amy, Well, that’s when you say, “And what you watch is any better?” Lame people are LAME!!! Any time anyone sees anything animated, they automatically think it’s the same thing as, like, Animaniacs. WRONG! People are so ready to be close-minded and I just don’t have time for them… HaHa.

        Yeah, I made the mistake of watching it at work and I was an emotional wreck while processing people’s taxes… HaHa.

        • amy says:

          @Camiele, LOL. And were you like “I’m just crying because this person is going to lose so much money”?

          Not like there’s anything wrong with Animaniacs… xP

  2. Camiele says:

    @amy, Yeah, nothing wrong with Animaniacs. Love Pinky and the Brain as much as the next person.

    HaHa. People mostly were coming around my office like, “Why are you so quiet?” HaHa. I wasn’t crying… well, I was crying on the inside. I mean, it’s probably the most depressing film every made.

  3. oh my gosh Grave of the Fireflies.
    Kon’s “Milennium Actress” is another fave anime.

    I think I just started at three points with Japanese live-action film – through J-horror, looking for other weird stuff, and classics. My favorite book is Kamikaze Girls (Shimotsuma monogatari), and I liked Nakashima’s adaptation. I also like what I’ve seen of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s work. I’ve seen much of Miike, and I recommend The Bird People in China to show that he does things other than outre horror. The guy makes like six movies a year, so there’s plenty of variety (in quality and genre) among his work. Sion Sino’s Suicide Circle has stuck with me, as has Nakashima’s Confessions. I’m also making my way through the works of classic directors Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi (a favorite), and Masaki Kobayashi. I’m also hoping to watch some films by female Japanese directors.

    Finally, for those seeking truly odd only-from-Japan horror experiences, I recommend Hausu and Jigoku (Hell). The latter is slow going until the insane third act.

    • amy says:

      @Diandra Rodriguez, wow. That’s a broad list! There’s really way too much too watch, and so little time to do it!

      I’ve noticed Miike does have an extensive… VERY extensive filmography with a lot of variety, but I haven’t really dived into it (for the length of it haha). And I still have to catch up on Akira Kurosawa xD

  4. Roxanne says:

    Wow!! I’ve seen most of Miyazaki’s movies all of which I’ve loved. I’ve seen some more ‘commercial’ type movies like Nana and recently Uchuu Kyoudai (also a manga adaptation). I really need to get into all this wonderful Japanese cinema. I might just take up a Tsutaya subscription so I can rent all the movies I want!!

    Thanks for this wonderful insight into Japanese cinema ^_^

  5. amy says:

    I really liked Nana, which made me get into Mika Nakashima’s music. LOL Make sure one of the first films you watch be Swing Girls. Juri Ueno is LOL funny on that one.

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