films seen
average score
Japan - 38 years old
Alive and kicking
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2022 / 99m - Japan
Hand poster

Nikkatsu's Roman Porno series has been resurrected with great success. They managed to land some very talented directors, who aren't just making random pinku films but are actually using these opportunities to create worthwhile dramas about (female) sexuality. Daigo Matsui didn't disappoint.

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Sawako is a young girl who has always had an interest in older men. She feels very comfortable around them and starts to observe them with the help of her scrapbook. Things change when she meets Mori, an ex-colleague of hers who is about the same age as she is. This finally opens her heart to a different kind of love.

Yes, there is sex and nudity here, but like the better entries in the Roman Porno series, it's not so much the goal as it is just part of the theme of the film. The performances are solid, the styling is polished and Sawako's character is well-developed. If you're a fan of Matsui's work, be sure to catch this.

Just Remembering

Chotto Omoidashita Dake
2021 / 115m - Japan
Drama, Romance
Just Remembering poster

A pleasant romantic drama from Matsui, but it lacks that little sparkle to make it stand out from the crowd. It reminded me of a few other Japanese dramas I've watched recently (We Couldn't Become Adults and And Your Bird Can Sing most notably), that simply did it better.

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Teruo and his girlfriend split up, but they haven't really forgotten about each other. He still reminisces about the time they spent together. Little by little, we find out how their relationship came to be, and how it shaped them both as a couple and as individuals.

The performances are solid, the cinematography is polished and the drama works well. The soundtrack wasn't entirely to my liking though and there's nothing that really draws attention to itself, but if you're looking for a good and respectable Japanese romantic drama, you can't go wrong with this one.

Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops

Ice to Amaoto
2017 / 74m - Japan
Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops poster

Daigo Matsui takes a more serious approach with Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops. I know him as a comedy director, producing films that have goofy premises, but also harbor a slightly darker core. That darkness finally surfaces and dominates Matsui's latest, though it's not an easy puzzle to decipher.

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The film follows a theater group that is preparing for their very first show. Then comes the news that nobody is buying any tickets and that their production has been cancelled. But the film deliberately blurs the lines between reality and play and it's hard to know what's real and what is staged.

The fact that it's a single take film and even switches between different locations only adds to the confusion, but it also increases the appeal. While it's a film that left me with more questions than answers, it's also a film that leaves a strong impression and won't be easily forgotten. Matsui deserves credit for his bravery and vision, the execution could've been a little tighter though.

Haruko Azumi Is Missing

Azumi Haruko wa Yukue Fumei
2016 / 101m - Japan
Comedy, Drama
Haruko Azumi Is Missing poster

Our Huff and Puff Journey

Watashitachi no Haa Haa
2016 / 91m - Japan
Our Huff and Puff Journey poster

Cute little road trip drama. The film is sometimes billed as a comedy, because of the lighter atmosphere I guess, but it's really just a traditional Japanese drama following a group of people trying to get from A to B. Matsui does a good job capturing the youthful spirit of his lead characters, but it's not quite enough to set the film apart from its many peers.

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We follow four young island girls as they are trying to make their way to Tokyo. They're all major fans of CreepHyp, a minor J-Rock band, who are doing a rare live concert. It's a spur-of-the-moment decision, but the four decide to attend. They start off their 1000km trip by bike but they quickly realize they won't make their target that way.

The performances are strong, the road trip feels pretty animated and the use of handy cams and text conversations gives the film a more dynamic vibe. As a coming-of-age drama, Our Huff and Puff Journey is a bit light though and while the ending is interesting, it's not quite powerful enough to leave a lasting impression. It's a very pleasant and agreeable film, just no masterpiece.

Afro Tanaka

Afuro Tanaka
2012 / 114m - Japan
Afro Tanaka poster

Sweet Poolside

Suîto Pûrusaido
2014 / 104m - Japan
Romance, Drama
Sweet Poolside poster

A relatively basic high school romance, sporting a pretty peculiar premise. It's not all that uncommon really, the past decade has been a strange time for Japanese romance cinema, thanks to some rather outrageous setups. Though in the end, these films are by all pretty similar and predictable.

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Ota has hit puberty, but his pubic hair won't grow. Goto on the other hand is a promising swimmer, but she is covered in hair. The two are outcasts, until one day, when Goto approaches Ota. She asks him if he is willing to shave her, and Ota obliges. They quickly become friends, but Ota wants more from their relationship.

We're dealing with a tale of unrequited love, a staple of Japanese high school romances. The hair thing is quirky, but it's little more than an excuse to get these two youngsters together. The performances are okay, the styling is decent but unremarkable. It's not a bad film, but it's not quite as strange or unique as the premise made it out to be.