Mark Schilling
For Mark Schilling's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
A young boy (Tsukao Oga) struggles to survive in a war-ravaged city in “Shadow of Fire.”
Nov 30, 2023
The human costs of war linger in ‘Shadow of Fire’
While the film’s message about the lasting traumas of war is at times overt, newcomer Tsukao Oga centers the drama with an unsentimental performance.
After losing her eyesight in a car accident, a woman goes to the home of an eye doctor and his son to receive a miracle device to restore her sight in “My Mother’s Eyes.”
Nov 23, 2023
‘My Mother’s Eyes’: Psychodrama pushes to mad extremes
Takeshi Kushida’s atmospheric horror film about toxic parent-child relationships unfolds in a fantasy world that strains credulity.
The Saitama leader of a rebellion (Gackt, center) decides to unite the citizens of his home prefecture by creating a sea and beach for the area in “Fly Me to the Saitama II.”
Nov 16, 2023
‘Fly Me to the Saitama II’: Silliness abounds but the laughs do not
Hideki Takeuchi’s sequel to his award-winning hit comedy treads familiar and ridiculous ground, but it’s just not as funny as the first film.
Director Wim Wenders served as president of the competition jury at this year's Tokyo International Film Festival. Wenders' "Perfect Days," which opened the festival and features Koji Yakusho as a toilet cleaner in Tokyo, is Japan’s nominee for the Academy Awards’ best international feature film category.
Nov 11, 2023
'Perfect Days' and '(Ab)normal Desire' turn heads at Tokyo International Film Festival
Wim Wenders' film opened the event, while Yoshiyuki Kishi’s multilayered drama made a splash, taking both the Audience Award and the best director prize.
Director Hideo Jojo made the switch from soft-core adult films to more mainstream entertainment with “On the Edge of Their Seats,” a drama about four teenagers watching their high school baseball team lose an important tournament game.
Nov 10, 2023
'Pink film' director Hideo Jojo gets the red carpet treatment
Tokyo's annual film festival named Jojo — who has made over 100 titles, from soft-core adult films to theatrical features — this year's Director in Focus.
In a world where human speech is nonexistent, a woman (Misa Wada) survives on her own in an abandoned building in “Motion Picture: Choke.”
Nov 9, 2023
‘Motion Picture: Choke’: A silent 'tour de force' performance
Misa Wada offers a full range of emotions in Gen Nagao’s thought-provoking and imaginative film set in a reality where humans don’t speak.
A former pop idol (Mai Fukagawa) finds herself in a slump with little money, no partner and precarious mental health as she nears her 30s in “Tsundol.”
Nov 2, 2023
‘Tsundol’: Pop idol on the brink gets mental health uplift
While it is a predictable drama about a former singer getting her life together, the film addresses her mental well-being in a refreshing manner.
A fledgling film director (Mayu Matsuoka, center) returns home to make a film about her dysfunctional family in “Masked Hearts.”
Oct 26, 2023
‘Masked Hearts’: Catharsis comes out of familial discord
Yuya Ishii returns to his indie roots with a comedy-drama that comes from a personal and painfully real place.
A young man (Yuki Kura, left) who isn’t well-versed in wooing attempts to strike up a relationship with a convenience store clerk (Haruka Imou) he has a crush on in “How to Find a Lover.”
Oct 19, 2023
‘How to Find a Lover’: Quirky rom-com is deeper than it seems
Koji Maeda keeps the film’s tone fun and offbeat while not shying away from the emotional wounds of its lead characters.
“The Burden of the Past” is based on the real-life experiences of ex-cons and the editorial team of a magazine that supports former prisoners in finding jobs and reentering society.
Oct 16, 2023
'The Burden of the Past' addresses bleak reality of ex-cons with some hope
Atsushi Funahashi’s film is grounded in the director’s own research about the hurdles former prisoners face when attempting to rejoin society.
Singer-songwriter Aina The End (center) plays a young woman who strives to overcome her hardscrabble life and become an indie musician in “Kyrie.”
Oct 12, 2023
'Kyrie': Musical melodrama celebrates youth
Shunji Iwai's film about indie musicians and female friendships may have an overstuffed plot, but it also has a visual energy unique to the director.
A woman (Yoko Maki) haunted by the trauma of her husband’s unexplained disappearance hires a detective to find answers in Rikiya Imaizumi’s “Undercurrent.”
Oct 5, 2023
‘Undercurrent’: All is not lost in cathartic drama
Yoko Maki and Arata Iura deliver committed performances in Rikiya Imaizumi’s introspective film about people who vanish for inexplicable reasons.
Directed by four different directors, the anthology film “Almost People” focuses on siblings who each lack an emotion.
Sep 28, 2023
‘Almost People’: Anthology on emotions comes together in harmony
The film’s segments, which center on joy, anger, pleasure and loneliness, are beautifully integrated and show compassion for their characters’ flaws.
A TV director (Kanna Hashimoto, left) is haunted by the dead wife of an old office crush (Daiki Shigeoka) in “The Forbidden Play.”
Sep 21, 2023
‘The Forbidden Play’: J-horror mishmash offers satisfying scares
Horror legend Hideo Nakata's latest flick is a halfway return to form, in part due to actor First Summer Uika's chilling turn as a vengeful wraith.
Ryo Onishi’s debut feature “Feelingscape” tells a slice-of-life story about a blind man struggling to connect to others while affirming his agency.
Sep 16, 2023
‘Feelingscape’: Ordinary lives made poignant
Ryo Onishi’s debut feature about a man living with a visual disability and his relationships goes into close detail that is both rare and revealing.
Yoji Yamada cast familiar faces in his latest heartwarming family drama “Mom, Is That You?!” including veteran Sayuri Yoshinaga (right), who has appeared in three other Yamada films. Yoshinaga plays the mother of a stressed salaryman (Yo Oizumi, left) in the new film.
Sep 15, 2023
Film veteran Yoji Yamada warms the soul with 'Mom, Is That You?!'
Even after 60 years in the industry, the director continues to make hits. His latest offers a hearty helping of deeply felt human truths.
A former boxer (Koichi Sato, left) trying to restart his life in Japan takes on a young trainee (Ryusei Yokohama) with aspirations to win big in “One Last Bloom.”
Sep 7, 2023
‘One Last Bloom’: Pugilist melodrama feels all too familiar
While the film takes the approach of local TV dramas, with broad narrative strokes and a zero-to-hero arc, the boxing scenes deliver insider details.
Actor Nahana says she considers her role as a punk rocker who falls in love with an avenging hero in Takahisa Zeze’s four-hour epic “Heaven’s Story” a turning point in her career.
Sep 6, 2023
Indie film royalty Nahana looks back on 22 years
The Cinema Novecento theater in Yokohama is set to screen 12 of the versatile actor's films as a tribute to her long career.
A couple with a young daughter move into their dream house but soon realize there is something sinister afoot in “Home Sweet Home.”
Sep 2, 2023
‘Home Sweet Home’: Horror house is light on frights
While the main cast delivers strong performances, Takumi Saitoh’s film about a dream home with spooky secrets offers chills rather than true terror.
An internet influencer (Tina Tamashiro) loses her identity to AI in Daisuke Miyazaki’s “#Mito.”
Aug 24, 2023
‘#Mito’: Sharp satire riffs on the dark side of AI and social media
Daisuke Miyazaki’s drama offers an intimate look at an influencer’s life and career stripped of surface glamour and glitz.


Yoshiko Koide sits in a classroom at Nagoya College where she teaches a Japanese-language observation seminar.
How a dictionary came to spark outrage among the web’s otaku