So what makes a good rom-com? In this case, a Japanese romantic comedy. Let's see...

1. It must be filled with characters we care about, even if we hate some of them;

2. There are minimal plot holes - acceptable even if we question them or have flimsy explanation ( or none at all), but the point is, it shows a certain sincerity and honesty that we can somehow accept or live with;

3. There is a sense of humor - how would you really enjoy a romcom if there is no funny, comedic relief, at least with all the expected scenarios (or plots) including cancer, abortion, bullying, amnesia and the likes?

4. Complemented with memorable, romantic, at least appealing music (yes, soundtrack) not necessarily sugary-sweet, but appropriate for the scene (or scenes). I don't care if they have Metallica or death metal music but at least it sounded 'appropriate' for the scene if you know what I mean...

5. Offers breathtaking (at least picturesque) shots where you expect the leads to have a kiss. It's not necessary to have a location shoot in Paris (though it might be a good idea) or some other famous romantic locations since there are plenty of nice places in Japan that foreigners have not yet seen or at least, love to explore a bit more ( of course, from the PoV of the locals, places where they have fond memories).

Anyway, here's a definition that may be acceptable to many:

Romantic comedy films are films with light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centered on romantic ideals such as that true love is able to surmount most obstacles. One dictionary definition is "a funny movie, play, or television program about a love story that ends happily". Another definition states that its "primary distinguishing feature is a love plot in which two sympathetic and well-matched lovers are united or reconciled". In a typical romantic comedy the two lovers tend to be young, likable, and apparently meant for each other, yet they are kept apart by some complicating circumstance (e.g., class differences, parental interference; a previous girlfriend or boyfriend) until, surmounting all obstacles, they are finally wed. A wedding-bells, fairy-tale-style happy ending is practically mandatory.

Some may argue with me that a rom-com must have a happy ending to be considered a rom-com, but even the genre has to grow and expand and allow some form of innovation. So, which Japanese movies of recent years are in my top list? Let's see...

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.

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