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The 100 Best Contemporary Japanese Movies - Psycho Drama has launched an ambitious project to compile 100 of the best modern-day Japanese movies from the last 2 decades or so. Featuring the best young actors of their generation - from Joe Odagiri, Takako Matsu and Tadanobu Asano, to Satoshi Tsumabuki, Hikari Mitsushima, Mao Inoue, Ryuhei Matsuda, Shun Oguri and Masanabu Ando to the current crop of exciting young talents - Shota Sometani, Yuya Yagira, Kamiki Ryunosuke, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kento Yamazaki, Fumi Nikaido and Ai Hashimoto. [ click here ]

Viewed at Namba Parks Cinema in Osaka, Japan.
I was vacationing in Japan and decided to take in a movie. Since I don't speak Japanese, I based my selection off of the poster art alone. "Hana No Ato" (aka "After the Flowers") was the film that looked most worthy of consideration, so I gave it a shot and it turned out to be a thrilling period piece.


The storyline, from what I gather, concerns a woman (named Ito) who trains in swordfighting with her father. Ito at one point challenges a samurai acquaintance to a friendly, competitive duel involving bamboo sticks which ignites an attraction between the two. Subsequent to this event, a few conflicts involving honor and justice are introduced that drive the rest of the proceedings.

The most apparent observation regarding "Hana No Ato" is that it feels very similar to Yoji Yamada's samurai trilogy – "Twilight Samurai" (2002), "The Hidden Blade" (2004), and "Love and Honor" (2006). So much so, in fact, that I was actually surprised to find out that Yamada did not direct this. The similarities, however, are no coincidence. The screenplay was adapted by a short story written by the late Shuhei Fujisawa, whose writings were the basis for Yamada's trilogy. "Hana No Ato" has a comparable focus on character/conflict development to effectively build anticipation for a final confrontation.

The storyline is a familiar premise, but the execution is so strong that it will almost surely impress fans of this genre. There is one training duel and one swordfight, both of which are excellent as they employ realism and proficient choreography. Acting is restrained with emotion expressed through slight mannerisms, and Keiko Kitagawa is entirely convincing as the lead. The cinematography and capturing of natural environments are also fantastic.

It's important to note that I was definitely not in the mood for this type of film when I sat down to watch it, yet it captivated me nonetheless. I plan to purchase it on DVD as soon as it's available.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Have you watched this movie? Are you a fan of Keiko Kitagawa? Let us know what you think!


Tagged in: Keiko Kitagawa
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East Winds Film Festival from October 31st-Nov 2nd

In partnership with Coventry University and Third Window Films, East Winds will be celebrating East Asian film and culture through a selection of 11 International, European and UK Premieres from Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand, ranging from star-studded action blockbusters and chilling horrors to touching dramas and delightful comedies.

Alongside some pretty major titles such as the European Premieres of 'Partners in Crime', 'Z Storm', 'Record of Sweet Murder' and 'Teacher's Diary' (Thailand's Oscar submission) there are also many other UK premieres and 2 new Third Window genre titles: 'Greatful Dead' and 'The Lust of Angels' which will play.

More details at the Film Festival website

Essential Sites & Blogs

13oys and Men  - Promoting the awesome and talented young Japanese actors, with lots of screenshots and insights into the careers of top and upcoming young talents. 

Asian Addicts Anonymous - Comprehensive reviews and recaps of exciting Japanese drama, including interesting post on Asian music and movie news.

Dorama Doll - a new blog that will feature recaps of selected Japanese dramas, most probably related to Johnny & Associates talents, with some great recommendations on what to watch if you're new to the J-drama scene.

Genkinahito's Blog - Reviews, news, box office results & some amazing insights into Japanese films, including manga and anime.

My Drama Tea - Honest and insightful reviews of Japanese drama, also reviews of Chinese, Korean and Taiwanese dramas, with music news and movie reviews.

Ritsu No Dorama Land - J-dorama reviews with a difference, complete with recaps that really complements the review. 

One Take on Japan - A series of articles about the Japanese movie industry written by Don Brown, who makes English subtitles for Japanese films.

OtherWhere - Excellent and varied trailer showcase, insightful reviews of Japanese movies (both indies and mainstream), and a great resource for news on Studio Ghibli too!

The Corner of the Mind - Drama reviews (with detailed analysis of up and coming dramas via first impressions) and anime spotlights.

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