James Hadfield
For James Hadfield's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Tomo Kasajima (left) and Asami Shibuya rehearse a scene in Natsuka Kusano’s striking sophomore feature, “Domains.”
Dec 7, 2023
‘Domains’: Hypnotic and truly original
Natsuka Kusano’s experimental, multilayered drama breaks down a tragic event and probes how performances are constructed.
A psychopathic lawyer (Kazuya Kamenashi) finds himself targeted by a serial killer — and decides to fight back — in Takashi Miike’s “Lumberjack the Monster.”
Nov 30, 2023
‘Lumberjack the Monster’ will talk you to death
Takashi Miike’s film about a psychopath battling a serial killer fails to deliver on its schlocky potential.
In addition to directing “Kubi,” Takeshi Kitano (second from left) plays Oda Nobunaga’s successor, Hashiba (later Toyotomi) Hideyoshi, in the blood-soaked period film.
Nov 23, 2023
Takeshi Kitano still has a head for provocation
The “Kubi” director doesn’t shy away from causing a commotion, whether it’s in public or in his latest film about a pivotal moment in Japan’s history.
Ryo Kase (top center) gives an audacious performance as warlord Oda Nobunaga in “Kubi.”
Nov 23, 2023
Takeshi Kitano’s ‘Kubi’ cuts great men of history down to size
The blood-drenched period epic offers a queer retelling of the 1582 Honnoji Incident with a ruthless and sadistic Oda Nobunaga at its center.
An out-of-work porn director (Go Ayano, right) goes on a drunken trip down memory lane with one of his dead lover’s former partners (Tasuku Emoto, left) in “A Spoiling Rain.”
Nov 2, 2023
‘A Spoiling Rain’: A boozy, rueful requiem for love and porn
Based on a novella, Haruhiko Arai’s drama keeps the melancholy core of its source material but expands it into a personal ode to the erotic film industry.
A young university grad (Kana Kita, right) is introduced to the world of "shunga" erotic art by an older academic (Seiyo Uchino) in “Picture of Spring.”
Oct 19, 2023
‘Picture of Spring’: Smart, silly and lots of fun
Akihiko Shiota’s film about the world of Japanese erotic art feels like a crash course in “shunga” before veering into playfully risque territory.
A struggling novelist (Rie Miyazawa) wrestles with life’s bigger questions after taking a job at a care facility for people with severe disabilities in “The Moon.”
Oct 12, 2023
‘The Moon’: Provocative drama bites off more than it can chew
Yuya Ishii’s film courts controversy with a fictionalized retelling of a real-life knife attack at a care facility for people with mental disabilities.
Sosuke Ikematsu plays two pianists — or is it just one? — pursuing dreams of becoming a jazz musician in late-1980s Tokyo in “Between the White and Black Keys.”
Oct 5, 2023
'Between the White and Black Keys': Offbeat biopic will have you seeing double
Masanori Tominaga’s free-spirited film about jazz pianist Hiroshi Minami captures the vibe of 1980s Tokyo nightlife but remains mostly on the surface.
A Japanese submarine captain (Takao Osawa, center) goes rogue with a nuclear-armed vessel in “The Silent Service.”
Sep 28, 2023
‘The Silent Service’: Submarine thriller runs shallow
While it has the makings of a potent geopolitical thriller, Kohei Yoshino’s film struggles to work as a standalone feature — or generate thrills.
A con artist (Sakura Ando, top) and her half-brother (Ryosuke Yamada) try to make a getaway from the Osaka underworld in Masato Harada’s “Bad Lands.”
Sep 21, 2023
‘Bad Lands’: Sakura Ando steals scenes in fast-paced thriller
The actor delivers a hypnotic lead turn as a con artist running from the law and a violent ex in Masato Harada’s high-octane film.
Arata Oshima follows the events of Sept. 27, 2022 — the day of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s funeral — to capture the state of the nation in the documentary, “The Day of the State Funeral.”
Sep 14, 2023
‘The Day of the State Funeral’ bears witness to the end of the Abe era
Arata Oshima’s documentary about the official send-off for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a portrait of a nation adrift.
"Lost in Translation" was a sleeper hit about two people meeting in an unfamiliar city and forming an intense and fleeting emotional bond.
CULTURE / Film / Longform
Sep 9, 2023
'Lost in Translation' at 20: A Tokyo perspective
The Japanese cast and crew of Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation" reflect on their experiences decades later.
A married couple (Arata Iura, left, and Rena Tanaka) returning to their home village from a posting in occupied Korea become witnesses to a bloodbath in Tatsuya Mori’s historical drama, “September 1923.”
Aug 31, 2023
‘September 1923’ stylizes an oft-overlooked brutality
Tatsuya Mori’s drama is an important act of historical reclamation, but it’s practically indigestible.
A transfer student (Yuta Kishi, bottom center) hoping to find romance at his new school gets more than he bargained for in Toichiro Ruto’s manga adaptation, “G-Men.”
Aug 24, 2023
‘G-Men’: Pop heartthrobs surprise in silly smackdown
Toichiro Ruto’s film about a class of delinquent high-school brawlers scrapes by with a passing grade.
A deceased schoolgirl lures members of pop group Generations into her world with a killer earworm in “Sana.”
Aug 10, 2023
‘Sana’: Boy band horror flick is largely fan service
Takashi Shimizu’s film about a deadly ditty infecting members of J-pop group Generations offers generic scares with real-life concert footage.
As zombies take over the world, a salaryman (Eiji Akaso) decides to live his best life before his inevitable demise in “Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead.”
Aug 3, 2023
‘Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead’: Zombie comedy has no bite
Netflix’s adaptation of the manga series about a salaryman making the most out of a zombie apocalypse is like scrolling through a mediocre Instagram feed.
Investigators involved in the case shed light on one of Japan’s biggest crime stories of the 2000s in “Tokyo Police Files: The Lucie Blackman Case.”
Jul 27, 2023
‘Tokyo Police Files: The Lucie Blackman Case’: Notorious crime story gets slick Netflix treatment
The detectives are the stars in the Japan-only version of Netflix’s true-crime documentary about a missing-person investigation that captured the nation’s attention.
Japan Times
Film / Reviews
Jul 13, 2023
‘Graveyard of Youth’ dispenses tough love for human flaws
Despite its discomforting scenes, Yosuke Okuda’s latest offering is his warmest and most rewarding film to date.
Japan Times
Film / Reviews
Jul 6, 2023
'With Each Passing Breath': A compassionate and richly textured documentary
As summer festivals return to Japan in full force, a film dives into the lives of the people who keep the cultural elements behind them alive.
Japan Times
Film / Reviews
Jun 29, 2023
'Hoarder on the Border': A film that gets better as the layers pile up
Hoarding is a serious social issue, but it’s given a disarmingly breezy treatment in Takayuki Kayano’s “Hoarder on the Border.”


Tokyo Healthcare University professor Takayuki Mifune explains how he is trying to re-create bonito broth from 1,300 years ago.
The quest to re-create what the Japanese ate 1,300 years ago