Cinemas are closed, social gatherings are cancelled and most of us spend the majority of our time indoors. So what better thing to do than watch some Japanese films at home! Our programmers picked their favourite films that you can stream right now and that are bound to cheer you up.
Francesca BOI picks The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (HOSODA Mamoru, 2006)
Makoto is a high school student who inadvertently falls over a walnut-shaped object and, due to an accident with her bike, finds out she has gained the incredible ability of leaping through time. She first takes advantage of this to get good grades, or to enjoy more time out with her friends, but soon realizes that changing the smallest events in the past might have consequences in the present, sometimes even bad ones. The world presented by HOSODA Mamoru is full of wonder and poetry and allows the audience to jump in the screen and through time with Makoto. A marvelous way of blowing off some steam, at least for one hour and a half, especially in this period.
Streaming on iTunes and Amazon Video
Alex OOST picks Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate (KAWASHIMA Yuzo, 1957)
Voted in 1999 as the 5th best Japanese film by critics and filmmakers in the renowned film magazine Kinema Junpo, and this recognition is entirely deserved. A delightful comedy piece with some theatrical elements, almost completely set inside a brothel at the end of the Tokugawa period. The upheavals of the times are certainly present in the background, but front and centre we see staff and patrons all trying to outsmart each other in order to move up in the world. The terrific performance by Frankie SAKAI is the cherry on top of this great comedy cake.
Streaming on MUBI (available until 15 April)
Jelle SCHOT picks Our Little Sister (KORE-EDA Hirokazu, 2015)
This gentle family drama might not be KORE-EDA’s best — my favourite would be Nobody Knows — but it’s definitely his sweetest and most uplifting film to date. It starts with three sisters receiving the news of the death of their father, whom they haven’t seen since their parents divorced many years ago. At the funeral, they meet their 14-year-old half-sister, whom they spontaneously invite to come live with them in Kamakura. Our Little Sister is a charming and heartwarming tale about forgiveness, family and sisterhood. Some of the most beautiful scenes take place at the beach and under blossoming cherry trees, which makes it an ideal movie for the spring season.
Streaming on CineMember, Cinetree, YouTube
Theodoor STEEN picks Kiki’s Delivery Service (MIYAZAKI Hayao, 1989)
Kiki, the titular character from Kiki’s Delivery Service, might be suffering from a minor burnout, as her delivery service has a breakneck schedule. But as Kiki is a witch, who delivers her goods by broom, it is easy for the viewer to get lost in the sense of freedom of flying around. Feast your eyes on the beautiful landscapes and fall in love with all the people Kiki meets along the way. In these times of social distancing and staying inside, it is hard not to feel a certain envy for Kiki’s daily life, while it’s also easy to relate to her feelings of anxiety and responsibility. A melancholic and comforting film in these trying times, in other words.
Streaming on Netflix
Sietz VAN DER AA picks 37 Seconds (Hikari, 2019)
It only took 37 seconds to change Yuma’s life for good. Not being able to breath for the very first half minute of her existence resulted in a life with cerebral palsy, which makes her incredibly dependent on her mother. That doesn’t stop the talented Yuma to pursue a life as a manga artist. Not being able to land jobs, she manages to get an interview at an adult manga magazine, where she’s told to get some real life sexual experiences of her own before trying her luck again. Taking the well meant advice to heart, Yuma sets out on a life changing journey full of completely new experiences. 37 SECONDS is a taboo-breaking film that shies away from the sensational film it easily could have been. Instead, Hikari keeps it intimate, resulting in a subtle yet beautiful drama with a break out performance by actress KAYAMA Mei, who is suffering from cerebral palsy herself.
Streaming on Netflix