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An indecisive Gen Z’s guide to the 2024 Japanese Film Festival


There are two factors we (normally) consider when picking films to watch in the cinema: budget and time. Fortunately for us cinephiles *and* Japanese culture enjoyers, the 2024 Japanese Film Festival is offering free screening across select locations in the Philippines—Shangri-La Red Carpet Cinema, SM City Baguio, SM City Iloilo, SM Seaside City Cebu, SM City Davao, and UPFI Film Center—from Feb. 1 to Mar. 3.

Even with the financial aspect sorted, though, time management is a whole different ball game. Not everyone can afford to spend several hours binging on all 14 films in the lineup (we’re blaming it on adult responsibilities, by the way) so careful curation becomes the next best thing.

But how exactly do you pick and choose? Well, here’s a good way: Sort ’em according to tropes and sift out those that don’t quite fit your taste. After all, there’s nothing cinematically worse than missing out on gems because you didn’t prioritize the ones that align with your preferred themes.

P.S. We’ve already done the hard work (read: trope-sorting) for you. So, all there’s left to do is to curate your watchlist. Thank us later.

Mondays are a nightmare, point-blank

POV: You’re stuck in a time loop and have no choice but to relive the same nightmarish Monday repeatedly. Intrigued? Add “Mondays: See You ‘This’ Week!” by Dir. Ryo Takebayashi (2022) to your priority list, then.

In a race against the clock to break free from the same mundane Mondays, a woman and her colleagues must navigate workplace chaos, unexplained phenomena, and pressing deadlines that haunt them relentlessly. Will they find a way to escape the time loop and make it to Tuesday unscathed? 

It’s a mix of comedy, mystery, and existential crisis—perfect for those who have a personal vendetta against Mondays. Like us.

Underdog drama in sports setting

If you’re a sucker for a sports-themed anime with protagonists that embody the “started from the bottom, now we’re here” mantra or just genuinely into sports-related things, Dir. Takehiko Inoue’s “The First Slam Dunk” (2022) should make your list. 

Follow the Shohoku High School basketball team (especially its point guard and “speedster” Miyagi Ryota) as they take on the challenge of beating the reigning champions. Expect some brainy plays, lightning-speed moves, and a whole lot of emotions.

Representation (that’s it, that’s the trope)

Here’s the thing: Proper representation—and visibility—plays a huge role in opening conversations and (ideally) broadening perspectives on the human experience. Want films that focus on queer themes? Or those that explore multiethnic identities? We already have a growing selection for them.

But should you want a movie that touches on both, we’ve got “Angry Son” (2022) by Dir. Kashou Iizuka. It follows a Filipino-Japanese high schooler as he comes to terms with his identity, roots, and feelings toward his family.

Fake dating—but make it fantasy

Dir. Kotono Watanabe’s “Gold Kingdom and Water Kingdom” (2023) is a classic “rivals get into a pretend relationship” trope—only this time, royals in a whimsical world are involved. 

Now, if this (very) brief description already puts the whole damn zoo in your stomach, we highly recommend adding this film to your curation. 

Childhood dreams revisited

Put a finger down if you would throw tantrums as a kid whenever your mom (or dad) forces you into an afternoon nap when all you wanted to do was sit in front of the TV to watch “Detective Conan” or “Voltes V.” Put another one down if you dreamt—at least once—of being in Conan’s shoes or becoming one of the “Voltes V” pilots. Put a third and last finger down if you crave to relive those moments and/or somehow heal your inner child. 

Well, lucky for you because this year’s film festival has four entries that can address your (child-self’s) cinematic needs: “Detective Conan The Movie: The Time-Bombed Skyscraper” (1997) by Dir. Kenji Kodama, “Detective Conan The Movie: The Private Eyes’ Requiem” (2006) by Dir. Yasuichiro Yamamoto, “Voltes V: The Liberation” (1999) by Dir. Tadao Nagahama, plus the “100 percent Philippine-made” “Voltes V Legacy: The Cinematic Experience” by Dir. Mark Reyes.

Romance between conflicted twentysomethings

Looking for a love story that realistically mirrors the complexity of adulthood, plus the dilemma of pursuing passion over what society labels a stable job? “We Made a Beautiful Bouquet” (2023) by Dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi might just be your cup of tea.

Join two 22-year-olds—who are stranded at a bar after missing the last train—as they face the challenges of entering the Japanese workforce, all while trying to preserve their creative pursuits. The movie promises to be “bittersweet” as it offers a glimpse into the fleeting nature of romance amid the harsh realities of life.

Unrequited love… but is it really?

Oh, to be back at a time when our *only* fear was to be ignored (or worse, rejected) by our crush. For those who want a refresher on the innocence of puppy love—or how fun and campy high school is—here’s a film rec: “And Yet, You are So Sweet” (2023) by Dir. Shinjo Takehiko.

Here’s how it practically goes: After experiencing a public rejection from her crush, a 16-year-old girl finds herself in a peculiar situation when the school heartthrob proposes a way to mend her broken heart. How? By pretending that she has a crush on him instead. Will it work? Or will it lead to another heartache?

Identity crisis taken to a whole new level 

Rather than answering doubts, “A Man” (2022) by Dir. Kei Ishikawa raises more questions in our heads: Is love (and/or familial connection) enough to accept someone’s identity—even if it means throwing away your morals? If even death couldn’t cut relationships with the living, does that mean we are extensions of their past mistakes by default?

Do we really have no choice but to face the consequences? Or wait for our turn to be reborn just so we could start on a clean slate? If you’re down for this type of mindfuck, make this film a priority.

Dead—but on the second day, he rose again

Similar to any angsty young adult who finds their parent’s constant nagging annoying, the protagonist of Dir. Shinji Hamasaki’s “Not Quite Dead Yet” (2020) quite literally wishes for her father to “drop dead.”

She gets what she wished for shortly after, but there’s a catch: Her father is not actually dead. As it turns out, he recently discovered a “reverse aging” drug that causes temporary death before a full recovery in two days. Watch the film to know what happens next.

Biopic based on an iconic figure or a novel

Have you ever looked at a well-known artist’s repertoire and wondered how they came up with such creative (sometimes eccentric) ideas? Or how they are as regular people—stripped of their fame and glory?

For those who say “yes” to all, “Father of the Milky Way Railroad” (2023) by Dir. Izuru Narushima is a perfect pick. It is based on the life of legendary poet, novelist, and children’s book writer Kenji Miyazawa, and is inspired by the best-selling novel of the same title.

Classic family drama

Does anybody crave some nostalgia-inducing good-for-all-ages narratives? Dir. Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” (1953) might be able to help in satisfying that.

Without spoiling much of the plot, the 70-year-old film tells the story of an old married couple who visits their grown-up children in the city. It doesn’t go the way they expected, though, as they soon realize that the kids have already established lives of their own. Their respective priorities don’t quite align anymore because of changing times and generational differences.


Read more:

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Still from “Mondays: See You ‘This’ Week!” (2022)



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