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Japanese audiences have long loved movies about dogs and cats. But non-Japanese critics and festival programmers? Not so much. The rampant sentimentalism and blatant commercialism of these films have stuck in the craw of many critics.

Then along came Yoshitaka Yamaguchi’s “Neko Zamurai” (“Neko Samurai: Samurai Cat”), a 2014 comedy based on a TV drama that paired a cute fur ball named Tamanojo with a scowling ronin (masterless samurai) called Kyutaro Madarame, played by Kazuki Kitamura.

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