2020 may not have been the best year for cinema, so for once, I'm happy that Asian films have a tendency to arrive a little late in the West. All in all, it's been a pretty wonderful year that yielded another perfect score and quite a few excellent films that are sure to appear high up in my list of all-time favorites. As always, I'll be counting down the best (new) films I've seen throughout the year, not my favorite 2020 films. If you're looking for more inspiration, you can always read the entries of the previous years: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008.
10. Wonogawa by Hiroki Yamaguchi
Yamaguchi's Wonogawa feels like the Hellevator sequel I never knew I needed. A low-budget, ultra creative mix of dystopian sci-fi and light fantasy elements that comes with its own unique lore. While a film like this is tough to make on a shoestring budget, Yamaguchi gives it his all and ends up with a pretty nifty and satisfying film.
09. It Comes [Kuru] by Tetsuya Nakashima
Nakashima doing horror, it's a sight to behold. The man can't stick to a single genre it seems, then again everything he touches turns to cinematic gold, so who am I to complain. Intriguing, beautifully shot, smartly structured and with a long finale that dazzles for almost 30 minutes. This is another masterpiece.
08. Equals by Drake Doremus
Halfway through the film, a character utters "if this is (what emotions are about), I'd rather feel nothing". Doremus' sci-fi romance explores humanity's fear to break loose of the status quo through a lovingly shot, perfectly scored and strongly acted parable. Easily the best film he's directed so far.
07. The Day of Destruction [Hakai no Hi] by Toshiaki Toyoda
Toshiaki Toyoda is back. The renegade director returns with a film that tackles the current epidemic, though not without some broader stabs at humankind's greed and egocentricity. While there is a rough narrative, The Day of Destruction is a mood piece first and foremost, hammering home its message. This is the Toyoda I love.
06. Diner [Dainâ] by Mika Ninagawa
Weird and full of wonder. Ninagawa's Diner is dark and outrageous, but the extremely colorful and bold direction give it a brighter appeal and a certain lightness you would not expect from a film like this. Ninagawa once again proves she is one of Japan's most talented active directors, a true delight.
05. Chiwawa [Chiwawa-chan] by Ken Ninomiya
Ken Ninomiya's second future is a blistering confirmation of the man's enormous talent. Vibrant, dynamic, colorful and in your face, but never without heart. Ninomiya's films are truly one of a kind. Clearly one of the rising talents of Japanese cinema, and I'm glad that Chiwawa wasn't the disappointment if so easily could've been.
04. Hot Gimmick: Girl Meets Boy [Hotto Gimikku: Garu Mitsu Boi] by Yûki Yamato
If you read the manga, beware. Yamato didn't set out to make a simple manga adaption, instead she wanted to make cinema. The tropes of the genre are exaggerated, the cinematography is lush, the soundtrack an interesting update of classical pieces and the editing ... well, the editing is simply to die for. This was awesome.
03. High & Low: The Movie 2 - End of Sky by Shigeaki Kubo & Tsuyoshi Nakakuki
Don't expect a mandatory/lazy mid-trilogy film, the second entry in the High & Low series feels like Kubo was gunning to make his ultimate masterpiece. The energy levels in this film are absolute madness. The pacing is unparalleled, the fights are bonkers and the styling so bold that two hours later I couldn't help but feel completely overwhelmed. Exhausting, but impressive.
02. Children of the Sea [Kaijû no Kodomo] by Ayumu Watanabe
Amazing fantasy anime that shows why Studio 4°C is still the greatest animation studio in the world. The art style and animation are absolutely insane, the craft and creativity is unparalleled and the finale is grotesque, in the best sense of the world. A truly wonderful film that every animation fan should watch.
01. Promare by Hiroyuki Imaishi
Imaishi's big return to the world of cinema. He's a little older, but still every bit as wild and dynamic. Promare is almost twice the length of Dead Leaves, but it's just as unrestrained. An onslaught of chaos and insanity, hammering away at breakneck speed. Some people will cave under the weight of the film, I just hope his next one won't take another 15 years. Promare is a dream come true.