I think this website's commitment to Japanese cinema has been pretty well established by now. Compared with some others, though, I'm just a rank amateur. If you're curious about what sort of movies are being released in Japan both now and in the near future, then one of the best resources is Nippon Cinema, Kevin Ouelette's splendid blog accumulating news, gossip and copious links to trailers.
But even Ouelette had to admit recently that Logboy had out-geeked him. Logboy has been keeping comprehensive records of domestic releases, and at the end of the year he's produced a list of every Japanese film released in the country in 2010, complete with bilingual titles and links to official sites. If you have even the faintest interest in Japanese cinema, you could spend ages happily clicking through all those links discovering about movies that will never see the light of day over here, and revelling in the joy of only having visual cues to tell you what the hell's going on.
Well, that's what I've been doing over the last couple of days, anyway. If nothing else, it's forced The Belated Birthday Girl to teach me the Japanese for 'trailer' so I don't have to keep asking her to show me where the video clips are on these sites. (It's 予告篇 if that's any help to you.) In a way, it's like being in a video shop in the mid-eighties - you're attracted by the most lurid titles and outrageous imagery. Here are ten that particularly caught my eye.
Okay, when I said lurid titles, I may have been stretching the point a little. Particularly as Yoshimitsu Morita's film also goes under the more poetic English title of Abacus & Sword. But it's always nice to be reminded that there was more to the samurai class than just fighting, and the website and trailer both seem to suggest that this film will deliver all the period-costumed top-knotted samurai accountancy action you could possibly want.
Gothic & Lolita Psycho 「ゴスロリ処刑人」
But this is more the sort of stuff you were expecting, I suppose. Though the filmmakers know that as well: there's been a definite trend over the last couple of years for Japanese exploitation movies made primarily for export to the West, hurling together cute girls and spectacular gore in a fairly haphazard fashion. (These are the sorts of movies where the credit for the effects designer is bigger than the ones for the director or lead actress.) Go Ohara's variation is to go for the loligoth look that's been fashionable in Tokyo for some time now. Other more traditional approaches to the genre could be seen this year in titles like Beautiful Female Panther: Body Sniper and Mutant Girl Squad.
Death Kappa 『デスカッパ』
The US video label Tokyo Shock has played a large part in the re-emergence of Japanese exploitation cinema over the last couple of years, going so far as to actually put money into the production of titles like The Machine Girl. But as the tits 'n' gore formula starts to get a bit samey, it's interesting to see that they've been looking a little further back in Japanese cinema history, and given an American release to Tomo’o Haraguchi's cheesy take on the giant monster movie. The trailer is far too full of knowing winks to the audience for my liking, but it certainly looks authentic enough, with the added comic bonus of a slightly rubbish looking title creature.
Here Comes the Bride, My Mum 『オカンの嫁入り』
It's a charming enough title, and the first half of the trailer for Mipo Oh's film plays out exactly the way you'd expect, even if you can't understand a word of what's being said. Mum announces upcoming marriage to toyboy: daughter is shocked: toyboy makes arse of himself at first family get-together. And then, about 45 seconds into the trailer, we slowly start to discover why this unexpected wedding is happening. Bah. Some people don't want you to have any fun watching a movie, do they?
Insect Detective Yoshida Yoshimi 「昆虫探偵ヨシダヨシミ」
Don't click on the link yet. Read that title again. What images are you getting in your head? Well, I'm sorry to tell you that Yoshida Yoshimi is not a detective who's an insect. He's a human being (played by Takashi Miike's regular star Shō Aikawa) who's basically just an entomological version of Ace Ventura. Sakichi Sato's manga adaptation may be enjoyable enough, but I'm afraid it can't live up to the mental image I mistakenly gave it: see also Cat Taxi, where the cat is merely a passenger rather than anything more fundamental to the operation of the taxi.
My Darling Is A Foreigner 『ダーリンは外国人』
Kazuaki Ue's film - another manga adaptation - was playing in Japan when we were visiting earlier this year. We didn't get to see it, but I'd imagine its story of the romance between a Japanese woman and an American man would have some amusing culture clash gags. Nevertheless, on the subject of culture clashes, if they're serious about using Is He Turning Japanese? as an alternative English title, someone needs to have a quiet word with the distributors and explain what the Vapors were really singing about.
Paranormal Activity 2 : Tokyo Night 『パラノーマル・アクティビティ 第2章 TOKYO NIGHT』
By anyone's standards, this is a strange one in the history of the swapping of ideas between Eastern and Western cultures. This isn't a remake of Paranormal Activity: it's a sub-contracted Japanese franchise, released at the same time as the American sequel. Having done a bit of research - something I've tried to avoid in this piece, as you may have noticed - it appears that Toshikazu Nagae's film is about a Japanese exchange student who was in America at the time of the events of the first movie. She ends up accidentally taking the demon back home with her to Tokyo. Creepiness ensues, as witnessed (in the trailer) by an audience of screaming Shinjuku girls with makeup so thick it still registers on night vision cameras.
Perfect Education 7 : Maid For You 『完全なる飼育 メイド、for you』
Is it a girl band movie? Or is it psychosexual torture porn? The trailer never really makes it clear, although having Kenta Fukasaku as your director probably pushes it more towards the latter. Note the detail that it's in 3D: Kenta has also been responsible this year for getting his dad Kinji's 2000 instaclassic Battle Royale re-released in an ten-years-after-the-fact 3D conversion. These conversions never really work, as we all know by now, but I'd still suggest that BR3D has more chance of seeing the inside of a Western cinema than Maid For You does.
Shodou Girls 「書道ガールズ!! わたしたちの甲子園」
With all this exploitation of young women in Japanese cinema, it's almost relaxing to come across a romcom set in the world of competitive calligraphy. The trailer for Ryouichi Inomata's movie (the middle one of the five links in the bottom right hand corner of the splash screen) provides us with the best example here of one of the prime cliches of Japanese trailers. Almost exactly halfway through, the dialogue will stop and we'll get a smash cut to a montage of shots, edited to an uplifting pop song. (And about three shots into the montage, there will be an onscreen credit for the song just in case you like it. In this case, amusingly enough, the song is Taisetsu by Funky Monkey Babys.) Just keep an eye on the timer bar whenever you watch a Japanese trailer from now on, and see how often that happens.
Toilet / 『トイレット - toilet』
Except the Halfway Montage Rule doesn't really apply to Naoki Ogigami's film. Which also breaks a lot of other rules by apparently being almost entirely populated by Western characters and performed in English with Japanese subtitles. Plus, you know, it's called Toilet. Still, I am now officially intrigued, so I guess that means the trailer's done its job. And one more tiny bit of research reveals that Naoki Ogigami was responsible for the charming Kamome Diner, which also mixed East and West in unusual ways. Definitely intrigued now.
And that's just my uneducated pick of the ten, missing out the films that I've already seen (Zebraman 2 and Trick 3 in Japan, Sawako Decides and 13 Assassins at the LFF), and the ones involving names so big they're likely to turn up here one time or another (The Borrowers from the Ghibli animation studio, Takeshi Kitano's gangster return in Outrage, and the Haruki Murakami adaptation Norwegian Wood). My only regret is that I didn't pick up on Logboy's work in time to catch his equivalent list of 2009 Japanese releases a year ago. If I known about it then, I'd have had an excuse to tell you about Tits Volleyball. But I don't. Sorry.