Despite TIFF’s anime focus this year, its lineup of live-action Japanese films is as wide ranging as ever, with one glaring exception: Classic Japanese movies are almost nowhere on the program, and only one Japanese film, Daisuke Yoshida’s “Kami no Tsuki (Pale Moon),” is being shown in the competition. But the Japanese Cinema Splash section, with eight films this year by mainly up-and-coming directors, will no doubt yield its share of discoveries, as will the Special Screenings section, despite its clearly commercial slant. There are also live-action Japanese films subtitled in English scattered elsewhere in the program. Seek and ye shall find.
1. Kami no Tsuki (Pale Moon)
Director Daihachi Yoshida won a slew of awards for the 2012 high school drama “Kirishima, Bukatsu Yamerutteyo (The Kirishima Thing).” Now he is back with a film that may sound like a lighthearted romantic comedy — a 41-year-old teller uses the bank’s money to finance her affair with a younger guy — but is actually a serious look at the cash-sex nexus in contemporary Japanese society.
Takashi Yamazaki’s newest movie — the first of a two-part sci-fi about alien invaders — is TIFF’s closing film and a tough ticket to get. Based on Hitoshi Iwaaki’s best-selling manga series, the film focuses on a teenager (Shota Sometani) who finds a sentient parasite in his right hand and must negotiate a dangerous world where human hosts have become alien agents.
3. Taki wo Mini Iku (Ecotherapy Getaway Holiday)
Shuichi Okita, whose quirky, romantic drama “Yokomichi Yonosuke (A Story of Yonosuke)” played widely abroad following its acclaimed 2012 TIFF premiere, has returned with an ensemble piece about seven women, aged 40 to 80, who get lost in the woods. Expect something different from this master at mixing offbeat gags with warm-hearted drama.
4. Sarusuberi (Miss Hokusai)
One of the few anime at TIFF that isn’t a sci-fi film is Keiichi Hara’s “Sarusuberi (Miss Hokusai).” Creator of the award-winning “Kappa no Ku to Natsuyasumi (Summer Days with Coo)” and “Colorful” (2010),” Hara returns with an animation about the real-life daughter of famed ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai, who was a match for her father in both talent and temperament.
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