Shinobu Yaguchi has become a consistent hit maker by following a simple formula: generate laughs from the stumbles and mistakes of heroes learning a new job, art or sport. This formula usually results in audience cheers and tears when triumph finally arrives after many ups and downs. Examples include his 2001 box-office breakout "Waterboys" (high school boys try synchronized swimming) and the 2004 smash "Swing Girls" (high school girls form a swing band).

Yaguchi might not be the first to use this zero-to-hero formula, but he has perfected it. However, in "Happy Flight" (2008) — which played like a feature-length promotional film for the airline industry — he seemed to be on creative autopilot.

His latest, "Wood Job!" in which a soft-living city boy (Shota Sometani) becomes a hard-working apprentice lumberjack, is a return to comic form, with more laugh-out-loud gags than his films have produced in many years.