Updates! The Kirishima Thing is the big winner of the recently concluded Japan Academy Prize grabbing two major awards - Best Picture and Best Director. Wolf Children won Animation of the Year while Hiroshi Abe is Best Actor for Thermae Romae and Kirin Kiki is Best Actress for Chronicle of my Mother.

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Ryunosuke Kamiki as Ryoya Maeda in The Kirishima Thing, directed by Daihachi Yoshida. Copyright NTV, Showgate, 2012, All Rights Reserved.

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Favorites Erika Sawajiri and Aoi Miyazaki failed to grab the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards respectively, while Kengo Kora (nominated for Best Supporting Actor for The Drudgery Train) and Mirai Moriyama (with dual nomination for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for The Drudgery Train and Chorus of Angels) suffered the same fate.

There was 7 Rookie of the year winners:

Emi Takei
Fumi Nikaido
Ai Hashimoto
Shota Sometani
Shim Chang-Min
Masahiro Higashide
Tori Matsuzaka

Emi Takei was last seen in Takashi Miike's "For Love's Sake" opposite Satoshi Tsumabuki and Takumi Saito, while Fumi Nikaido is the lead star in Himizu together with fellow Rookie winner Shota Sometani. Masahiro Higashide is part of The Kirishima Thing, and has a significant role in the currently Wowow TV drama xxxHolic, together with Sometani.

Shim Changmin, is, of course, the fab South Korean celebrity who played a North Korean spy in Fly with the Gold, while Tori Matsuzaka did some amazing performances in Tsunagu and Wings of the Kirin.

In the past, the words "Japanese film" may have conjured up an image of Godzilla trashing downtown Tokyo to most Americans, or perhaps in other audiences, black-and-white remembrances of gruff samurai from Kurosawa Akira's famed pictures. While these iconic images still remain central to the American image of Japanese film, now where once they stood by themselves they have become surrounded by a myriad of other varied characters and visuals. Greasy-haired yakuza gangsters, eccentric fully-realized future worlds, horrific monsters hiding in the shadows of our televisions and psyches, samurai warriors with swords dripping blood, uniformed schoolgirls navigating the busy neon-drenched streets of Tokyo and Osaka, beautifully animated landscapes and dreamworlds; these images and many more have come to embody what Japanese film means to Americans. These visuals and the stories and themes that accompany them have increasingly captured the attention of American filmgoers.

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Spirited Away (Japanese: 千と千尋の神隠し Hepburn: Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi?, "Sen and Chihiro's Spiriting Away") written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli

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There is much to like that attracts Americans to Japanese film genres, be they samurai jidaigeki, J-horror, yakuza, anime, slice-of-life coming of age, or even kaibutsu monster features. In order to understand the progression of Japanese film in the US, a brief history of the topic is illustrative:

Japanese films first made waves in America in the form of the aforementioned destructive tendencies of everyone's favorite irradiated dinosaur, Godzilla. The film itself was deemed "too Japanese" at the time, and the end result was the reconstruction of the original plot and the splicing of Hollywood actor Raymond Burr into the film. Godzilla was a huge success in America, and as the first film since World War II to represent the Japanese as heroes to an American audience, it helped pave the way for viewers to be able to sympathize with Japanese characters in film.