In 25 years of reviewing Japanese films and interviewing Japanese filmmakers for this newspaper, I've written 1 million words, give or take a few. This is clearly something no normal person would do, but for me it beats working.

The idea that writing about movies could be as fun as watching them was first planted in my brain by Neal Gabler, a reviewer for my college newspaper. His verbally dextrous, madly cinephilic inspiration, famed critic for The New Yorker Pauline Kael, later became mine as well, but the possibility of doing what they did seemed vanishingly remote. I thus feel incredibly lucky to have had a chance to follow, however uncertainly, in their footsteps.

I filed my first film review for The Japan Times in July 1989, on "Bakayaro! 2: Shiawase ni Naritai (Bakayaro! 2: I Want to be Happy)," a four-part omnibus comedy scripted by Yoshimitsu Morita. The choice was mine — I liked the films Morita had directed, and also liked the film's predecessor, "Bakayaro! Watashi Okottemasu (Bakayaro! I'm Plenty Mad)," another four-part omnibus, made by four little-known young directors. One was Tetsuya Nakashima, who went on to direct the 2010 hit revenge drama "Kokuhaku (Confessions)," selected as Japan's nominee for the best foreign film Oscar. Another was Yukihiko Tsutsumi, whose long list of hits includes "20-Seiki Shonen (20th Century Boys)," a 2008-9 sci-fi/fantasy trilogy.