Japan Cuts 2015

It’s that time of year again! Japan Society has announced it’s lineup for North America’s largest festival of Japanese cinema – Japan Cuts. The festival takes place July 9-19. As always, if I had the money, I’d so go to New York while this was going on and take in some of the films. Last year’s offerings were pretty good, so what offerings do they have this year?

On July 9th you can watch Joker Game and HIBI ROCK: Puke Afro and the Pop Star. Joker Game stars KAT-TUN member Kamenashi Kazuya as Jiro Kato, a member of D Agency, an independent unit of the Japanese army that uses hustlers and thugs instead of military cadets to carry out harrowing missions.

HIBI ROCK is based on a popular manga series by Katsumasa Enokiya and follows Hibinuma (Nomura Shuhei) who moved to Tokyo to become a rock star but who has no luck until he meets pop idol Utagawa Saki.

After the opening party, there will be a Q&A with director Irie Yu. Wouldn’t that be cool to attend?

July 10 has three films for your viewing pleasure: Round Trip Heart, Makeup Room, and Belladonna of Sadness.

Round Trip Heart stars former AKB48 member Oshima Yuko in the starring role of Hojo Hachiko, a train attendant who works on Romancecar which links Tokyo with various tourists destinations. A strange encounter with a sleazy movie producer passenger (Ookura Koji) makes her face what’s blocking her path in life. There’s an introduction and Q&A with director Tanada Yuki.

Seasoned AV director Morikawa Kei adapted Makeup Room from his original stage play. The movie takes place in the makeup room of a porn shoot and even starts real AV actresses.

Belladonna of Sadness is a special sneak peak of the third installment of adult anime series Animerama produced by Tezuka Osamu and directed by Astro Boy‘s director Yamamoto Eiichi. The anime is based on Satanism and Witchcraft by Jules Michelet and is a about a young woman defiled by a lord who makes a pact with the devil.

July 11 has four films: And the Mud Ship Sails Away, The Vancouver Asahi, Out of My Hand, and Seven Weeks.

And the Mud Ship Sails Away stars Shibukawa Kiyohiko as slacker Takashi who lives in a small town where only his ancient grandmother and best friend Shohei listen to his rants. A mysterious woman Yuka (Takahashi Ayasa) appears one day claiming to be his half sister thanks to his deadbeat father.

And we have another film starring Kamenashi Kazuya! Plus, there’s also the awesome Tsumabuki Satoshi. This movie based on the true story of The Vancouver Asahi (a baseball team) follows the lives of young men who are the sons of Japanese immigrants living in Canada. They struggle to make ends meet among racism and play baseball. They always lose until Regge (Tsumabuki Satoshi) becomes the new captain and turns the team around with his good friend Roy (Kamenashi Kazuya). Just when everything is looking good, WWII’s storm clouds start gathering.

Director Fukunaga Takeshi will introduce his film Out of My Hand and it will be followed by a Q&A session. Fukunaga traveled to Liberia to make this film and cast mostly non-professionals.

Seven Weeks opens with Suzuki Mitsuo taking his last breath at the ripe old age of 92. When a mysterious woman appears, we then get to learn the man’s history.

July 12 features Her Granddaughter, Cruel Story of Youth, I Alone, Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory, and a spotlight on experimental shorts films.

Her Granddaughter is based on the popular manga by Nishi Keiko. Eikura Nana moves to her recently deceased grandmother’s home after a disastrous affair where she ends up cohabiting with an elderly, crude gentleman who lives in the annex of the house.

Cruel Story of Youth follows the doomed love story of two rebellious teens. This movie gets a 4k restoration.

I Alone brings a middle-aged salaryman and high school delinquent to the middle of a political scandal thanks to a common horoscope.

Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory follows Haruko who always wished to experience a real paranormal phenomenon. Her wish comes true one day when her TV comes to life as a TV-head humanoid who fascinates and attracts her romantically.

July 14 features Snow on the Blades and Pieta in the Toilet. The former is a jidaigeki based on the events of the Sakuradamon incident of 1860 and the latter follows a young man named Hiroshi who pays a headstrong high schooler to go to the doctor with him as he’s given bad news.

On July 15 you can watch What Are You Afraid Of? and The Light Shines Only There. The first movie is filled with personal accounts from the people involved in the women’s liberation movement that began in Japan in the 1970s. The second movie is set in Hokodate and follows the love of a former quarry dynamiter played by Ayano Go and the sister of a young parolee who invited him home for a free meal.

July 16 brings opportunities to watch Asleep and 100 Yen Love. Asleep follows Terako (Ando Sakura) who is having an affair with a married man (Iura Arata) whose wife is in a coma. She spends her spare time sleeping while she waits for her lover’s call. 100 Yen Love also starts Ando and follows the life of a 32-year-old living at home with her parents and elder sister until her mom pushes the youngest out into the world. She befriends a young boxer and eventually takes up boxing herself. Both movies will have an intro and a Q&A session with the star.

July 17 features A Farewell to Jinu and The Voice of Water. The first movie is a comedy starring Matsuda Ryohei as a former bank clerk who moved to a small town after developing a money allergy and the second is a drama revolving around religious cults, family relationships, fractured identities, and the yakuza.

June 18 features The Wages of Resistance: Narita Stories, Undulant Fever, This Country’s Sky, and Neko Samurai 2: A Tropical Adventure.

The first documentary follows farmers resistance against Tokyo’s major flight hub Narita International Airport.

Undulant Fever is based off a successful novel that scandalized readers with its views on female sexuality and desire. Ichikawa Yui stars as high schooler Emiko who falls for senior Hiroshi who is only interested in sex and the two being a year-long romance.

This Country’s Sky is based on the novel by Takai Yuchi and is set in the final years of WWII. Satoko (Nikaido Fmi) is 19 and falling for her married neighbor (Hasegawa Hiroki) who has not seen combat due to failing the physical examination.

Neko Samurai 2 features the grumpy samurai and his cute white cat. I’d really love to see this since I love Kitamura Kazuki. He’s such a versatile actor. This movie follows our samurai as he heads off to an island to teach swordsmanship.

The final day, July 19, features Forget Me Not, Strayer’s Chronicle, and Sanchu Uprising: Voices at Dawn.

Forget Me Not follows the dating adventures of Azusa and Takashi. Azusa suffers from a unique fate in that everyone she meets, and even her family and close friends, all forget her existence. Can Takashi escape this fate?

Mutant superpowers thanks to genetic manipulation by the government? Why am I thinking of Dark Angel? Strayer’s Chronicle follows two groups of babies who were government experiments as they reach their 20s. Some use their powers to help and others to create chaos. Sounds interesting. The movie features Okada Misaki and Sometani Sota. Yes, please.

The final film is a jidaigeki set in the 1700s where farmers were getting ready to tebel against feudal lords over rising taxes. The story follows one coward who contemplates the risk of rebellion and its aftermath.

There’s a little something for everyone and there are several movies that look and sound interesting. You can get full information on Japan Society of New York’s website.

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