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

Then there’s everything else~

If quiet movies are too slow, or bizarre movies are just too weird, we’ve got your middle point. Sometimes they’re manga/anime live action adaptations, movies about friendship, romances, or family dramas that hit just the right notes. There’s a lot to watch in Japanese cinema if you’re willing to give it a look.

Some of the most beloved manga/anime live action adaptations are movies like Nana (ナナ), about the building friendship between two girls named Nana — Mika Nakashima and Aoi Miyazaki are great in it, or maybe something like Densha Otoko (電車男) or the super popular Nodame Cantabile (のだめカンタービレ) series (but you have to have watched the Jdrama [1] for that one).

I love Japanese films because they’re not always necessarily about a girl having to get together with a boy, instead they give a lot of emphasis in the building of friendships like in the underdog stories for Shinobu Yaguchi’s Waterboys (ウォーターボーイズ) and Swing Girls (スウィングガールズ), or a tear-jerking tale of a dog and its owner in Hachiko Monogatari (ハチ公物語), or something as crowd-pleasing as Lee Sang-il’s Hula Girls (フラガール).

Family dramas are also pretty popular with films like The Makioka Sisters (細雪), Academy Award winner Okuribito (おくりびと), Hirokazu Kore-eda’s heart-wrenching family drama Nobody Knows (誰も知らない), or Yoji Yamada’s Kabei: Our Mother (母べえ) or About Her Brother (おとうと), which reminds me that he is also amazing with period films like his Samurai trilogy The Twilight Samurai (たそがれ清兵衛), The Hidden Blade (隠し剣 鬼の爪), as well as Love and Honor (武士の一分), with The Twilight Samurai being my favorite of the three.

So that’s my journey through a bit of contemporary Japanese films.

If you already watch Japanese movies, how did you get started on them?

If you’re dipping your feet for the first time, where would you like to start?

Stay tune for our next post on Japanese music!


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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