Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Favorite Japanese Movies

Time to do another recommendation post, this time covering my favorite Japanese movies. I don't really have a favorite genre of film, but there are some I like better than others. I almost never watch romance, but I do love comedy: so that may be slightly over-represented here, while the former is almost non-existent. Also, I am not a big movie buff, so I'm sure there are plenty of other great movies out there which I haven't seen. If you know of some, feel free to leave me a comment with some recommendations!


Comedy

Kamikaze Girls - This is the story of a lolita who becomes friends with a "yankii" girl from a biker gang. I loved this movie, although the manga it was originally based on is probably not worth your time. It's hilarious, but it's not just a comedy- it's actually a pretty touching story about friendship and growing up. IMDB







Water Boys - Pretty much a silly, feel-good comedy about a group of high school boys who decide to start their own synchronized swimming club. It was a popular film in Japan when it came out, and I think it's a good introduction to mainstream Japanese comedy. IMDB







Tanpopo - In my opinion, this is one of the greatest Japanese films ever made. I've listed it as a comedy, but it's much, much more than that. It's a really beautiful, funny look at life and Japanese culture through food. I really cannot recommend this movie enough. IMDB





 
Horror/Suspense
 

Deathnote - I got really hooked on the Deathnote manga back in the day, and the live action movie was surprisingly well-done. Despite some big changes made in the story, I felt that it was true to the original themes and characters, and the actors performed their parts well. The story follows a high school student name Light who becomes the owner of a "Deathnote", a special book belonging to a god of death. Anyone whose name is written in the book will die. IMDB





Kwaidan - This is a fantastic collection of four traditional Japanese ghost stories. In addition to being creepy, they're also a great way to learn a little more about Japanese culture and its folklore. Also, the stories are spooky but not particularly terrifying, so this one is safe even for non-horror fans. IMDB




Samurai/War



7 Samurai - One of the most famous and iconic Japanese films of all time, this has got to be Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece. It's the story of seven samurai who unite to help a village defend itself against bandits. It stars Toshiro Mifune, one of Japan's greatest actors, in one of his most memorable roles. I like a number of Kurosawa's films, but this remains my favorite. IMDB






Rashomon - Another classic Kurosawa film starring, as always, Toshiro Mifune. This one is based on the famous short story by Akutagawa, "In a Grove." Its the kind of story that likes to mess with your mind; it tells the same crime from different perspectives, making the audience question which narrative is the most reliable. IMDB






The Burmese Harp - I may have to give this movie its own post one day, because there's just too much to be said about it to fit here. It was one of the most popular movies in Japan about World War II, although I think it's relatively unknown overseas. It's the story of a Japanese soldier in Burma who goes AWOL and disguises himself as a monk. But as he wanders, his entire view of the war and himself changes. IMDB




 Miscellaneous

Snow Country - This movie is based on the book of the same name, known in Japanese as "Yukiguni" by one of Japan's greatest writers, Yasunari Kawabata. The book is still required reading in Japanese high schools. I really enjoyed the book, and I felt that this movie kept true to Kawabata's beautiful, minimalist style. While I don't really care for the main female character, this film is worth watching for its cinematography. IMDB






Kikujiro - Maybe this film belongs in the comedy section, but it really covers all genres. It's really funny at times and sad at others, but ultimately it's a cute, touching story. It's about a man who is basically a mess; he's lonely, irresponsible, etc., who meets a young boy that is trying to find his mother. Together they have adventures and meet a lot of strange characters, and both of them do some growing up. IMDB

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