Loneliness and human connection - two 'slice of life' features that Japanese movies are known for - make up most of our ten favorite Japanese productions for the year. Just to give you a rundown of previous numero uno lists - Himizu (2012), Tomogui (2013), The Light Shines Only There (2014), La La La at Rock Bottom (2015). However, I have to say Bakuman, which I was not able to watch in time, should have taken the top spot for last year. 

Setoutsumi - 2016 best Japanese movies

Wolf Girl and Black Prince - 2016 Best Japanese movies

2016 serves as a banner year for a number of personal biased actors - Ryunosuke Kamiki, Kento Yamazaki, Yuya Yagira, Mugi Kadowaki, Mayu Matsuoka, Fumi Nikaido, Masaki Suda, and yes, Takeru Satoh. They came up with some of their best projects to date. 

Forty-six million dollars (more or less) separate Miyazaki's 'Spirited Away' from Makoto Shinkai's 'Your Name' in terms of box office receipts, and it's just a matter of time the position may change. Of course, that remains to be seen.

Your Name (Kimi No Na Wa) 2016 Year in Review

The latest results from China is impressive - $4.4 million in pre-sales tickets and a grand opening in 7,000 theaters to boot! While Shinkai insisted that Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are his inspiration, there is no denying that we have a new animation hero in 'his name.' 

A couple, Hisashi (Takeru Satoh) and Mai (Tao Tsuchiya), is about to get married when the girl fell into a coma. Instead of abandoning her, the boy remains at her side. When Mai wakes up, she fails to recognize Hisashi and so the story continues.

Takeru Satoh + Tao Tsuchiya for 8 Year Bride

Following the tradition of undying love - as exemplified by such films as April Bride (Eita + Nana Eikura) and Koizora: Sky of Love (Haruma Miura + Yui Aragaki), Shochiku ventures into the romantic drama genre. While April Bride tackles cancer, and so is Koizora, among others, The Eight Year Bride brings the complication of disease with lapses in memory (or perhaps even amnesia) as the movie revolves around the loyalty and steadfast duty of a man waiting for his loved one to recover from an illness.

I want to understand how exactly actors get movie or TV drama roles in Japan. We can only make a list of the best and worst casting choices without knowing anything that goes behind the casting. But then again, it's easy to make a list and hard to get those 'facts.' 

Casting choices - Bakuman + Aoi Honoo

Here's what we know:

  1. Production Committees make all the important choices, including the director and the cast;
  2. Talent agencies are part of these boards, and they have their roster of talents. Amuse got Haruma Miura, Takeru Satoh, Ryunosuke Kamiki; while Stardust manages Kento Yamazaki, Masataka Kubota, Yuya Yagira. Topcoat has Masaki Suda and Tori Matsuzaka. Of course, Johnny's got the idols including Junichi Okada, Nino, Kame, Toma Ikuta, Yuto Nakajima. Ken-On promotes Sota Fukushi.
  3. Cast and crew get low pay compared to their Hollywood counterparts; they can't even match what the Chinese or the Koreans are getting, according to many reports;
  4. The producers of a successful TV series, when adapted into a movie, will have 'priority seats' in the committee. Cast and crew can be same, or some casting choices have to be made to assure that there is a success in the box office;
  5. There is enough income to be had in the local market. 

Genki Kawamura, the producer of such acclaimed movies as Villain (Akunin), Confessions, and Detroit Metal City, said years ago that the Japanese film industry is in a state of "sakoku" (the period when Japan shuts out to the outside world).  More recently, it was Hirokazu Koreeda who said:

... But we do have a crisis in Japan.  However it is difficult to see from the outside because Japanese films can support themselves in the Japanese market, so it’s not an open-aired crisis. The problem is that Japanese films get enough revenue from inside, but don’t look outward.  The problem is that our films have difficulty exporting themselves and getting outside Japan. [ source ]

Blade of the Immortal, starring Takuya Kimura

Is it all that bad? I think not. The thing is, there is no more Kurosawa or Ozu and to say that the 'golden age of Japanese cinema' is long gone serves no purpose other than to cling to the past. Of course, today's audience of Japanese films needs to appreciate the work of the great filmmakers and at the same time look forward to today's movie offerings. 

Kawamura also said that Japanese filmmakers are no longer feeling any "inferiority complex about Hollywood anymore. " Though I just watched Shin Godzilla and to say that it's an inferior film to some of Hollywood's recent releases is an understatement. 

Ok, let's have some list.


Psycho Drama list of 100 favorite Japanese films through the years.