The Year in Review: 2017 – Top Ten Japanese Movies

There’s a lot of misfits in the movies I like in 2017: a shogi master who is teased for having nothing, a lady Accountant who remains a virgin even in her twenties, a ghoul (who is also alienated even by his own peers) and a transgender, who is perhaps, the most misfit of them all. 

Japanese movies in 2017 are not particularly acclaimed in the international arena, but there are a few gems worth rooting for.

Just some thoughts on the ‘future’ of cinema:

Is it too long? Is a 2-hour movie inside a dark movie house not appealing anymore? Are people more inclined to watch movies on Netflix at the comfort of their homes? Are TV series (doramas) the better alternative? But if that’s the case, censorship may be a big concern, especially in Japanese drama. Oh yes, there are those midnight series to look forward to, but my biggest concern is the quality. 

Anyway, I guess we have to talk about that in a separate article…

Back to my Top Ten:

(C) 武曲 MUKOKU Kino Films. All Rights Reserved 2017

#10 – Mukoku, Kumakiri Kazuyoshi’s latest film centers on two disconnected individuals – Kengo (Ayano Go) and Tooru (Murakami Nijiro) who find solace in the martial arts of kendo. 

While there is little resemblance or even ‘inspiration’ taken from any Hollywood martial arts films, Mukoku is ‘in-your-face’, dark, tragic and yet positive at the same time. There is no gloss over the fact that people can be malicious and spiteful, and can say the most stupid or hurtful things even to their loved ones – there are no heroes here … [read the full review here]

(C) 東京喰種 Tokyo Guru. Shochiku. All Rights Reserved 2017.

#9 – The live-action adaptation of Ishida Sui’s Tokyo Ghoul is decent and exciting. I would have preferred another actor to play Kaneki, but Kubota Masataka was able to bring to life some of Kaneki’s persona into the film.

Japanese filmmaker Hagiwara Kentaro is a curious choice to handle a high-profile movie such as this, but he was able to bring out the best in his actors. 

(C) 無限の住人 Mugen No Junin. Warner Bros. Japan. All Rights Reserved 2017.

#8 – Miike Takashi’s 100th movie Blade of the Immortal is worthy of all the hype. Viewers have been quick to comment on the over-the-top violence, but then again, what do we really expect from Miike?

It’s a movie of many firsts – it’s his first collaboration with Kimura and also the first movie (ever) that offers a glimpse into the potential of Fukushi Sota as an actor. I guess, it takes a Miike to bring out the best in Fukushi.

(C) サバイバルファミリー Sabaibaru Famiri. Toho. All Rights Reserved 2017.

#7 – Written and directed by Yaguchi Shinobu, Survival Family, is not as cheeky as Wood Job! or sporty as Waterboys, but it tells the struggles of a family who underwent many hardships as a result of a worldwide electrical outage.

Kohinata Fumiyo, Fukatsu Eri, Izumisawa Yuki, and Aoi Wakana each portray their characters with a specific naturalness and charm, that even at 117 minutes, I’m still asking for more.

(C) 愚行録 Gukoroku Warner Bros., Office Kitano. All Rights Reserved 2017.

#6 – Based on the novel “Gukoroku” by Nukui Tokuro, the live-action adaptation (also entitled like the novel) is a clash of two acting giants in Japanese cinema – Tsumabuki Satoshi and Mitsushima Hikari, playing siblings.

Acting extravaganza aside, it’s also the debut full-length film of Ishikawa Kei, who took film directing in Poland under a scholarship from the Japanese government. [read the full review here]

(C) 夜空はいつでも最高密度の青色だ – Yozora wa Itsudemo Saiko Mitsudo no Aoiro da. Tokyo Theatres, Little More. All Rights Reserved 2017.


#5 – The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue by Ishii Yuya is a close examination of Tokyo as a city and its inhabitants. It tells the story of two misfits – a Nurse (Ishibashi Shizuka) and a construction worker (Ikematsu Sosuke) who fell in love.

A lot can be said about Ikematsu Sosuke from the time he plays the little kid in Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai to his over-the-top perf in the latest Death Note franchise. But being one of Ishii Yuya’s mainstays, Ikematsu has proven – once again – that he’s an actor who can take on any challenge. Matsuda Ryuhei, who won Best Actor for Ishii’s The Great Passage, also renders another great acting here.

(C) 彼らが本気で編むときは、Karera ga Honki de Amu Toki wa. Suurkiitos. All Rights Reserved 2017.

#4 – Ogigami Naoko who previously helmed Rent-a-Cat returns with an unforgettable movie entitled Close-Knit about love, acceptance, and self-identity. Featuring a regal-looking Ikuta Toma as a transgender named Rinko.

I have the impression that some Johnny’s fans and particularly Toma’s admirers are a bit hesitant to embrace this film. I find that odd, but that’s a feeling I have yet to validate. I brought it up because I think Ikuta has come a long way in terms of acting, and he ought to be recognized here. 

(C) 勝手にふるえてろ Katte ni Furuetero. Phantom Film. All Rights Reserved 2017.

#3 – In Tremble All You Want, Matsuoka Mayu plays Yoshika, an imprudent, quirky character who at 24 is still stuck up in the past.

Based on the novel “Katte ni Furuetero” by Wataya Risa, the live action is directed by Ohku Akiko and released by Phantom Films. [read the full review here]

(C) 3月のライオン 前編 – San gatsu no Lion Zenpen. Toho, Asmik Ace Entertainment. All Rights Reserved 2017.

#2 – March Comes In Like A Lion is about the trials and tribulations of a young man of seventeen, Kiriyama Rei, played by Kamiki Ryunosuke. This 2-part movie has a lot of things going for it.

Based on the manga series “San gatsu no Lion” by Umino Chica, Rei copes with pangs of loneliness amidst a sea of humans in Tokyo while sharpening his skills to level up his rank as one of Japan’s up and coming shogi masters. [read the full review here]

(C) 獣道 Kemonomichi. Third Window Films. All Rights Reserved 2017.

#1 – The lethal combination of Itoh Sairi and Suga Kenta in Love and Other Cults paved the way for an absorbing, intelligent, and memorable coming of age film that is not as ‘fancy’ as some of the earlier works in the same genre.

Written and directed by Uchida Eiji for Third Window Films, this is one shining example that Japanese movies will remain unique amidst the gloss and hype of neighboring Asian film industries…


2 thoughts on “The Year in Review: 2017 – Top Ten Japanese Movies

  1. I moved out of Asia so it is hard to see Japanese movie now… Thank you for your reviews. I am a silent reader for years haha and somehow feeling I ought to convey my gratitude. Thank you.

    1. Hello and sorry for the late reply. I’m too much involved in RL to write reviews right now, but the comments are appreciated. Thanks for reading!

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