Five new Japanese films and series to watch out for in your local socially distanced cinema or on a streaming platform near you:
- Akiko Ohku’s rom-com “Hold Me Back” explores the inner struggles of working women in modern-day Tokyo. It also bagged the only prize awarded at the Tokyo International Film Festival section this year. Expect “an entertaining eruption of laughs and tears, with no holding back,” writes Mark Schilling.
- In Takafumi Hatano’s action thriller “Silent Tokyo,” a peace-loving terrorist threatens to blow up Tokyo, throwing the capital’s citizens into a panic — on Christmas Eve, no less. It makes a welcome break from the usual holiday rom-coms, writes James Hadfield, but don’t get too excited.
- Netflix’s sci-fi suspense series “Alice in Borderland” is about a young man forced to go through a series of twisted challenges in a Tokyo cityscape that looks all too familiar in 2020. “The producers must be ruing the effort spent on achieving its signature effect — a city devoid of people — when they could have captured the same thing for free in April,” writes Hadfield.
- Chihiro Amano’s “Mrs. Noisy,” about rowdy next-door neighbors coming to blows, makes a well-meaning plea for tolerance and kindness toward others. The film has had a good run on the festival circuit, where its broad humor and feel-good humanism have earned it fans among critics and audiences, notes Schilling. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.
- “Bolt,” Kaizo Hayashi’s three-part film based on the meltdown disaster of 2011 at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, is a mishmash of noir, sci-fi and fantasy. Made over a period of three years, the film is an object lesson on how to derive maximum on-screen impact from a minimal budget, writes Schilling.