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I am not particularly sure how many movies are made in Japan each year, but the fact that there are a lot of movie critics and bloggers who really consider Japanese films as one of the best in the world, I would not be surprised if it's in the hundreds. According to IMDb, from 2000-2007, there were more than 25,000 movies made in Hollywood alone.


Also, if you think about it, Japanese filmmakers are not limited to creating 'live action' films only. There are animated films based on manga and novels, and from other sources, including cellphone novels and stories.

As I look forward to this year, I will be posting my 5 most anticipated Japanese movies on a regular basis, starting with this one. My focus, as usual, is on youth-oriented movies, or featured films. The first 5 films on the most anticipated list after the jump!

01. I'm Flash

About the Movie: Rui (Tatsuya Fujiwara) is the charismatic leader of a new religious group. Consequently, he starts to gain attention from the mass media. After becoming involved in a car accident, Rui goes to a remote island with ex-gangster now bodyguard (Ryuhei Matsuda). On the island, Rui reveals more about his religious group, while a set of ominous events are about to occur ...

Cast:Tatsuya Fujiwara and Ryuhei Matsuda, with Kiko Mizuhara.

Release Date: September 2012

The Buzz: I am quite excited and really looking forward to watch Tatsuya Fujiwara once again. I just watched Battle Royale a few days ago since I got intrigued with the buzz surrounding The Hunger Games and the comparison with Battle Royale. I tend to favor the latter because it remained an absorbing and powerful movie experience even after many years. The Hunger Games is too polished for my taste, while Battle Royale offered something raw - like an uncut gem - but the anticipated beauty and value - is fully realized. Fujiwara played a vital role, and his agony and struggle remained in my memory for a long time. Fast forward to Death Note, and I can appreciate his growth as an actor.


Says JFilm Powwow:

It now looks like Toyoda is finally putting the finishing touches on his long discussed yakuza drama, a film that reunites him with a favorite actor from his early films and an actor known to fans of such films as "Battle Royale" and "Death Note". Toyoda's "I'm Flash" (yes, that's the title) is being prepped for a September release in Japan, and a couple of stills featuring its two lead actors, Ryuhei Matsuda and Tatsuya Fujiwara [ source ]

I'm also excited to see Ryuhei Matsuda. The only movie I saw featuring the actor is Bang Bang Love Juvenile A, where he played one of the lead roles. It's one of my favorite Japanese movies and I'm really planning to dig deep and discover more movies that featured this amazing actor.

The young actress from Norwegian Wood, Kiko Mizuhara plays the leading lady in this film. You can read more about it here.

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02. For Love's Sake

About the Movie: Ai to Makoto aka For Love’s Sake is a high school love story between two young people who live in two different worlds: Ai, a naive girl coming from a good family, and Makoto, a juvenile delinquent…
It’s based on the manga of the same name written by Ikki Kajiwara, best known for Ashita No Joe. In some of his works, there’s a social dimension, depicting the harsh reality of Japan in the 1960s & 1970s – and the manga Ai to Makoto really seems to focus on social inequalities.
Several live-action adaptations have been produced during the 70s, but it seems none of them look as crazy & colorful than this new version from Takashi Miike. It’s a real treat for the eyes – gorgeous cinematography & settings. As always with Miike, he keeps going in unexpected directions! [ Wildgrounds ]


Cast: Satoshi Tsumabuki in the lead role, with Emi Takei as his leading lady.

Release Date: June 2012

The Buzz: I don't know if you think otherwise, but for me Satoshi Tsumabuki is the most talented young Japanese actor today. You may argue that Kenichi Matsuyama is a better actor or maybe even Shun Oguri or Tatsuya Fujiwara, and all the names mentioned are fantastic actors in their own rights. However, the acting range and the characters Satoshi has played through the years is something else. The fact that he was chosen to play a role as a delinquent student in this film is enough to convince me about his versatility. 

The movie will be shown at the current Cannes Film Festival. Nippon Cinema posted an update:

Just a few days ago, Takashi Miike was joking about how he went to Cannes last year for Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, but probably wouldn’t be invited back this year for his latest work, the multi-genre manga adaptation that even its star is incapable of describing - For Love’s Sake. [ source ]

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03. Signal: Getsuyobi no Luca

About the Movie: Based on a 2008 novel by Hisashi Sekiguchi, the movie stars Takahiro Nishijima  of the pop group AAA as a college student named Keisuke who takes a summer job at a local movie theater called “Gineikan”. While there, he meets a mysterious young woman named Luca (Azusa Mine) who works as the theater’s projectionist. Following an incident which occurred three years ago, she developed a phobia of being outside and has chosen to permanently shut herself inside Gineikan. [ source ]


Cast: Takahiro Nishijima and Azusa Mine, with Jun Inoue in a supporting role. Also stars Kengo Kora.

Release Date: June 2012

The Buzz: Masaaki Taniguchi directorial debut is The Girl who Leapt through time. It was an awesome film, and in his next film, he took on the novel of Hisashi Sekiguchi and cast Takahiro Nashijima, the same young actor who was fantastic in Love Exposure. Not to mention Kengo Kora in an important role.


04. Another

About the Movie: After a chain of deaths at a junior high school, new transfer student Koichi Sakakibara (Kento Yamazaki) turns to a mysterious girl (Ai Hashimoto) who holds the key to the dark mystery ... It is based on the novel "Another" by Yukito Ayatsuji (first published October, 2009 by Kadokawa Shoten).

Cast: Kento Yamazaki and Ai Hashimoto

Release Date: August 2012

The Buzz: Ai Hashimoto's performance in Confessions made her one of the most sought-after young actresses in Japan, and with her growing popularity it is not surprisiing that she is part of a horror movie such as Another. She has this charisma and youthful innocence, but with a dark side sort of appeal. I'm reminded of the elegant and awesome Saoirse Ronan when I first saw her in Atonement. While both young actresses have separate careers, I just think both have the capacity to really capture the audiences' imagination.

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05. Ōgon wo Daite Tobe (Fly With Gold)

About the Movie: Based on the best-selling novel "Ogon O Daite Tobe" by Kaoru Takamura (published January, 1994). Kota (Satoshi Tsumabuki) hears about an impending 1.5 billion yen gold bar heist from his friend Kitagawa (Tadanobu Asano), a former college classmate, and decides to take part. The gold bar sits in the basement of the HQ of Sumita Bank.
Helping Kota and Kitagawa are bank security employee Noda (Kenta Kiritani), a North Korean spy pretending to be a college student (Shim Chang-Min), Kitagawa's younger brother Haruki (Junpei Mizobata) and a former elevator engineer (Toshiyuki Nishida). These 6 men are about to carry the boldest of schemes to bypass the bank's high-tech defense system.

Cast: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Tadanobu Asano, Toshiyuki Nishida, Kenta Kiritani, Junpei Mizobata and Shim Chang-Min

Release Date: November 2012

The Buzz: Satoshi Tsumabuki, with Junpei Mizobata in a supporting role. Definitely worth watching. Mizobata has proven himself as a young actor to be reckoned with, and with this supporting role, he gets to play alongside Tsumabuki. The fact that this is a crime movie even heightened the anticipation. 

The movie is adapted from the debut crime novel of Japanese best-selling author Takamura Kaoru, which was was awarded the Japan Thriller Suspense Award. The plot depicts the story of 6 men who plan an attempt to steal a gold bullion worth 24 billion yen, which is said to lie in the underground vault of a megabank in Osaka. As the plan is executed, the true agenda of these men slowly become clear. [ source ]

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Essential Sites & Blogs

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

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

Clover Blossoms - Korean and Japanese movie and drama reviews, with recaps, recommendations, and trivia!

Drama Max - Japanese movie and drama reviews from a different perspective. Connected with Resonance Media, a management company handling Japanese musical talents.

Film Beats (From the East) - Asian American / East Asian Film Reviews and Announcements in Montreal

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 series, with music news and movie reviews.

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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