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

These can only be Japanese.

Of course, slow films aren’t for everyone.

Sometimes it takes some getting used to the silences and the pacing, so what’s left for us who need a little UMPH in our movie-watching? Movies so out of this world that they can only be Japanese, like Sion Sono’s 4-hour epic love story of the panty-snapper pervert in Love Exposure (愛のむきだし), or Kinji Fukasaku’s student-hunting survivor cult classic, Battle Royale (バトル・ロワイアル).

Films that fit this category tend to be so unique they would be impossible to adapt into other cultures. You would never be able to fully understand an American version of Takeshi Kitano pushing a bunch of students to kill each other off in a Hollywood remake of Battle Royale, just like you wouldn’t imagine an American actor pulling off Takahiro Nishijima’s role as religious panty-snapper Yu in a remake of Love Exposure.

In that case, Memories of Matsuko fits this description perfectly. A story made for melodrama heights, Tetsuya Nakashima’s treatment of the film (and Miki Nakatani’s acting) elevates the film to soaring measures of pure weird, from animated Disney-esque numbers to Sin City/Moulin Rouge sequences of music, love and hurt.

Note: All of Tetsuya Nakashima’s filmography is so deliciously bizarre, he is TRULY Japanese.

Other films that “can only be Japanese” are: Paprika (パプリカ), Welcome to the Quiet Room (クワイエットルームにようこそ), Hijoshi Zukan (非女子図鑑), Survive Style 5+, Turtles Swim Faster than Expected (亀は意外と速く泳ぐ), Instant Swamp (インスタント沼), and Ultra-Miracle Love Story (ウルトラミラクルラブストーリー).


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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