Danchi” doesn’t translate easily into English. “Apartment complex” or “housing estate” are only rough equivalents for the thousands of public-housing units thrown up in the postwar boom years to cope with Tokyo’s exploding population. Equipped with running water, flush toilets and other amenities, with stores and schools close by, danchi symbolized middle-class prosperity for escapees from hardscrabble lives in the countryside. But today Showa Era (1926-1989) danchi, with their tiny rooms, lack of elevators and general air of decrepitude, are relics of another time, with a shrinking, mostly elderly resident population.

A quirky counter to this depressing reality is “Danchi,” veteran Junji Sakamoto’s fantasy/comedy that unfolds in one such complex that seems set in a Showa time warp in his native Osaka.

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