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Mark Schilling
Takashi Miike (front left) is among the big-name directors slated to work with K2 Pictures, a new film production startup that aims to disrupt the Japanese film industry.
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
May 25, 2024
Can K2's goal of creating a better film industry in Japan win over skeptics?
While established auteurs such as Takashi Miike, Miwa Nishikawa and Hirokazu Kore-eda are slated to work with the startup, it still faces an uphill struggle.
Kakunoshin Yanagida (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi), a ronin and master of go, seeks revenge and justice in Kazuya Shiraishi’s “Bushido.”
CULTURE / Film
May 23, 2024
‘Bushido’: A realistically stylish samurai throwback
Slashing realism, fluid camera work and moody color palettes achieve an evocative effect in Kazuya Shiraishi’s samurai drama “Bushido.”
A gawky high school senior (Hsu Kuang-han, right) falls for an older colleague (Kaya Kiyohara) who gives him life advice in “18×2 Beyond Youthful Days.”
CULTURE / Film
May 16, 2024
‘18×2 Beyond Youthful Days’: Formulaic tearjerker hits the road for true love
Though the leads lack chemistry, they nonetheless earn kudos for their performances in Michihito Fujii’s Japan-Taiwan co-production.
A skeptical reporter (Yukichi Tanaka, right) about the existence of extraterrestrials travels to a self-proclaimed UFO city for a story in “Alien’s Daydream.”
CULTURE / Film
May 9, 2024
'Alien’s Daydream': Micro budget film delivers fresh takes
Yoshiki Matsumoto’s debut feature is an ambitious, multilayered essay on the UFO phenomenon with tongue firmly in cheek.
Four girls congregate at an empty swimming pool at their high school and discuss their lives in “Swimming in a Sand Pool.”
CULTURE / Film
May 2, 2024
‘Swimming in a Sand Pool’ takes rare dive into gender issues
Nobuhiro Yamashita draws appealingly natural performances from his cast of newcomers in the film adaptation of an award-winning play.
The inhabitants of a tranquil mountain village see their local environment threatened by Tokyoites with plans to build a glamping site in “Evil Does Not Exist.”
CULTURE / Film
Apr 25, 2024
‘Evil Does Not Exist’ builds its dramatic tension to perfection
Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s nuanced drama deftly meditates on humanity’s complex relationship with nature.
A body disposal expert for criminals (Yuya Endo, right) tries to protect a defiant teen (Kokoro Morita) from a ruthless gangster in “Tatsumi.”
CULTURE / Film
Apr 18, 2024
'Tatsumi’: Gang life drama goes for violence overkill
Hiroshi Shoji’s blood-soaked feature presents a sympathetic and layered protagonist fighting to make amends.
In the new Disney+ series “House of the Owl,” Min Tanaka (left) plays a powerful political fixer, or “kuromaku,” who has a troubled relationship with his adult children, particularly his idealistic son, played by Mackenyu.
CULTURE / TV & Streaming
Apr 18, 2024
'House of the Owl' brings Hollywood values to Japanese TV
Min Tanaka plays a powerful political fixer in the 10-episode show, which centers on the behind-the-scenes machinations of "kuromaku."
Discomfort and life lessons ensue after a 60-something-year-old man (Shofukutei Tsurube, center) marries a much younger woman (Ayami Nakajo, left) while living with his 39-year-old daughter (Noriko Eguchi) in “Amalock.”
CULTURE / Film
Apr 11, 2024
‘Amalock’: Family comedy plays questionable age gap for laughs
Noriko Eguchi delivers a relatable performance as a woman who is disconcerted by her father’s marriage in Kazuhiro Nakamura’s film.
Abe no Seimei (Kento Yamazaki), an apprentice at a school of mystic arts, gets wrapped up in a murder investigation in “The Yin Yang Master Zero.”
CULTURE / Film
Apr 4, 2024
‘The Yin Yang Master Zero’: Imaginative action film casts a dazzling spell
Shimako Sato’s VFX-heavy, big-budget fantasy about practitioners of mystic arts goes beyond the genre standard.
Ryuya Wakaba plays a man determined to kill the person who murdered his girlfriend, only to find he’s stuck reliving the same day over and over with his foe still alive in “Penalty Loop.”
CULTURE / Film
Mar 28, 2024
‘Penalty Loop’: Murder on repeat loses meaning
Shinji Araki’s dark comedy about two antagonists stuck in a time loop is intriguing, but lacks logic and satisfying answers.
“Blue Imagine” centers on a young actor (Mayu Yamaguchi) who finds support at a communal living space after she is sexually assaulted by a well-known director while participating in his actors’ workshop.
CULTURE / Film
Mar 23, 2024
'Blue Imagine' gives voice to victims of sexual abuse in the film industry
Urara Matsubayashi's debut feature finds the beauty in women coming together in solidarity to publicly speak out against abusers.
A ruthless teen (Jinsei Hamura, right) attempts to blackmail a man stuck in an unhappy marriage (Masaki Okada) with evidence of a double murder in “Gold Boy.”
CULTURE / Film
Mar 21, 2024
‘Gold Boy’: Clever criminal minds offer a study of evil
Shusuke Kaneko’s drama about twisted teens extorting money from a murderer thrills and chills in equal measure.
Takashi Yamazaki’s “Godzilla Minus One,” which won an Academy Award for best visual effects earlier this week, was made for a reported $15 million — a small fraction of the budgets used by its Hollywood competitors.
CULTURE / Film
Mar 14, 2024
'Godzilla Minus One' fought the odds and won big at the Oscars
Once mocked, the long-running monster franchise took on Hollywood's behemoths — and won.
A young boy (Shion Matsufuji, left) who travels a lot with his father’s theater troupe stays in one place long enough to make a new friend (Jun Saito) in “Confetti.”
CULTURE / Film
Mar 14, 2024
‘Confetti’ spotlights the transformative power of theater
Naoya Fujita’s feature debut is a sweet coming-of-age drama and a celebration of "taishū engeki," an art form that doesn’t get a lot of critical respect.
New series "Shogun" focuses on power struggles during Japan's samurai era, with warlord Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) finding himself in danger of being bested — and perhaps beheaded — by rival Lord Ishido and his allies.
CULTURE / TV & Streaming
Mar 9, 2024
New ‘Shogun’ series is a cut above the original
From the 1980 original to ‘Last Samurai’ to now, Hollywood is getting better at depicting Japan.
In “Matched,” a dating app makes a wedding planner’s (Tao Tsuchiya, center) love life all the more difficult when it turns up a string of murders and a stalker.
CULTURE / Film
Mar 7, 2024
‘Matched’: Contrived thriller tries to make dating scarier
Clueless characters and a strained plot are hardly a perfect match in Eiji Uchida’s suspense film about murder and dating apps.
A young woman (Atsuko Maeda, right) reveals a traumatic event from her past to a one-night stand (Ryota Bando) in “Voice.”
CULTURE / Film
Feb 29, 2024
‘Voice’: Raw performances knit together moving omnibus
Yukiko Mishima’s film consisting of three standalone segments powerfully speaks to the emotional wounds of trauma.
A man who struggles with a panic disorder (Hokuto Matsumura, left) and his colleague (Mone Kamishiraishi) who suffers from severe premenstrual syndrome learn to support each other in “All the Long Nights.”
CULTURE / Film
Feb 22, 2024
‘All the Long Nights’: Leads’ chemistry delivers in heartwarming drama
Sho Miyake’s observant film, which explores the healing powers of a heartfelt friendship, is enhanced by evocative visual and aural beauty.
Even after getting married, Sanae (Ai Hashimoto, right) is unable to get over an ex-boyfriend whom she attempted to murder years earlier in “After the Fever.”
CULTURE / Film
Feb 17, 2024
‘After the Fever’: Tortured ex-lovers’ drama descends into theatrics
Yasutaka Watanabe’s cinematography elevates Akira Yamamoto’s otherwise exhausting film about a woman’s intense obsession with a former boyfriend.

Longform

The Japanese government updated its English education guidelines in 2017 to emphasize communication over grammar and memorization. Public school teachers are incredibly busy, however, which means schools haven’t been able to implement changes uniformly. Private and alternative schools are attempting to remedy this.
The language of opportunity: Bilingual education is on the rise in Japan