There was a time when Japanese romantic comedies rule. Now, it's the Koreans, the Chinese and more recently the Thais and the Filipinos who are producing some exciting new shows. But hey, are some of these popular titles inspired by such beloved Japanese romcoms? I'm not going to dwell more into the current craze, this site being a loyal Japanese entertainment blog will do the "job" its supposed to do. 

Japanese manga, the source of most of these romantic comedies, maybe the "culprit" in what some people described as the decline in Japanese movies, but then again, how are the viewers supposed to react? Boycott them? Change genre and settle for horror? Go to the Koreans? Nah. While I have my complaints, I'd rather embrace them rather than reject them...

Anyway, what are some of the most exciting Japanese rom-com nowadays? Let's start with Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso - 四月は君の嘘). Now, you see I just watched the latest video clip for Your Lie in April, featuring favorites Kento Yamazaki and Taishi Nakagawa, with Japan's current darling Suzu Hirose. Joining the lead cast is one of Solomon's Perjury's standouts, Anna Ishii (who looks so gorgeous here!).

Music accompanies the path of the human metronome, the prodigious pianist Kousei Arima. But after the passing of his mother, Saki Arima, Kousei falls into a downward spiral, rendering him unable to hear the sound of his own piano. Two years later, Kousei still avoids the piano, leaving behind his admirers and rivals, and lives a colorless life alongside his friends Tsubaki Sawabe and Ryouta Watari. However, everything changes when he meets a beautiful violinist, Kaori Miyazono, who stirs up his world and sets him on a journey to face music again. Based on the manga series of the same name, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso approaches the story of Kousei's recovery as he discovers that music is more than playing each note perfectly, and a single melody can bring in the fresh spring air of April. [ source ]

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I'm still convinced that Kento will - some day, perhaps in the near future - venture into portraying dark, brooding characters (in the tradition of Yagira, Sometani, et al), but it seems he's destined to do some more rom-com, unless the casting gods will begin to look at him at a different light. His co-star Taishi Nakagawa can take up his place. Nakagawa, mind you, is no small fry. The young actor has also shown some of his acting 'sparks', so having him play lead romantic roles in also a sort of blessing in disguise for rom-com lovers.

Renowned filmmaker Sang-il Lee (李相日) already have a casting history with Ken Watanabe and Satoshi Tsumabuki, among the talented stars in his latest project, Anger (Ikari).

A man brutally murders a married couple and leaves behind the words "Ikari" ("Anger") written with their blood. The killer undergoes plastic surgery and flees. [ AsianWiki ]

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Tsumabuki was the lead in il-Lee's 2004 coming of age movie, 69, with Masanobu Ando and Hirofumi Arai. They had a reunion via Villain, il-Lee's most award-winning film, where Tsumabuki won his first Japan Academy Best Actor trophy. The film also went on to win various awards inside and outside Japan. In Anger, Tsumabuki is playing a gay character. I'm not sure if this is his first gay role, but this is one of the highlights of the film for me. He is supposed to be involved with the character played by Gou Ayano. Ayano is one of the three individuals suspected in perpetrating the crime, upon which the 3 arcs in the movie are supposed to be connected to.

In Part 1, we talked about five rather 'old' BL (Yaoi) Japanese movies. Most of them were produced with a limited budget and cast relatively unknown actors - though one of the lead stars, Takumi Saito turned out to become a popular and respected dramatic actor later on. He's one of the few who successfully avoided being typecast as a gay character. Some were not so lucky - including the charming Yasuka Saito.

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Fast forward to 2015, the sleek, sexy and delightful Seven Days hit the big screen and re-ignited the BL craze. Of course, the previously released Doushitemo Furetakunai (starring Yonehara Kousuke and Masashi Taniguchi) can be considered essential Japanese BL as well. Both may not have huge budgets, but they managed to enchant the Yaoi audience who are hungry for a BL-themed movie.

Updated for 2016: This article first appeared on May 2012 and remains one of the site's flagship articles. A lot of people have requested me to update the list to include new titles, and I also want to rewatch the movies with a different (albeit with a more critical pair of eyes). Among the new titles worthy of recommendation are Seven Days (starring James Takeshi Yamada and Tomoki Hirose) and Doushitemo Furetakunai (starring Yonehara Kousuke and Masashi Taniguchi). I will talk about them in details in the next part. Also, we're going to celebrate the Takumi kun series, featuring the one and only Kyuosuke Hamao in Part 3, stay tuned!

So you think you've seen the best BL (Boys Love) movie already, right? Guess again! If it's not Japanese then you ain't seen nothin' yet. If it's not made in Japan, then it's not really Yaoi. While I've seen a good number of BL themed movies such as Thailand's The Love of Siam and Bangkok Love Story, HongKong's Amphetamine and Bishonen, there are certain distinctions that make Japanese BL-themed movies different.

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Probably the most important distinction is the creator of BL-themed movies. There are some extremely talented female manga authors who create the best Yaoi stories in Japan. Their take on love and relationship between young men is different from everyone else - especially from the filmmakers who produced BL-themed movies outside - the kind of characters, how they behave, how they react and relate to other characters are the distinctions of Yaoi as compared to, say the German movie Summerstorm, the Canadian hit C.R.A.Z.Y, the TV series Queer as Folk and the movies I've mentioned above. There is a particular emphasis on tenderness, jealousy, insecurity and reconciliation in most of the Yaoi movies I've watched. There is also the distinction between the roles - following the Seme-Uke formula, where one is usually the dominant partner, while the other is the submissive one. In other movies, there is still that constant struggle for dominance in the relationship.

In Part 1, we featured 10 favorite Japanese live action films, in Part 2, we'll celebrate our top 10 favorites. 

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Hana Yori Dango and Crows Zero are like staple live action Japanese movie recommendations. Both represent beloved genres - the romantic side of youth and its violent, thrilling opposite. With Shun Oguri featured prominently in both series (and movies), he represented quite a few famous manga/anime characters throughout his acting career. Mao Inoue, who is considered one of Japan's most talented actresses, has made quite a lasting impression in Hana Yori Dango, not to mention her reportedly romantic relationship with her co-star, Jun Matsumoto.

Both HYD and Crows also feature personalities going against the 'establishment', with Genji (Shun Oguri) fighting to take on the gang in Suzuran High, while Makino (Mao Inoue) fighting for her right to co-exist inside the posh, prestigious escalator school Eitoku Gakuen. Genji's struggle to become the #1 boy in the ultra-violent school is more than a coming of age tale since it depicts friendships, loyalty, and even family issues. On the other hand, Makino brings to focus class struggle and the arrogance of the elite. The romance between Makino and Domyouji (Matsumoto) provided more than just excitement and thrills for fans of both actors. The chemistry between them remained unmatched by subsequent adaptations.

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