films seen
average score
Japan - 59 years old
Alive and kicking
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One of Japan's hidden gems. Tanaka's work is quirky, stylish and refined, with a strong focus on atmosphere and rhythm, not so much on structure and plot. His oeuvre has little to no weak entries, which is quite unique.


Blessing Bell

Kofuku no Kane
2002 / 87m - Japan
Comedy, Drama
Blessing Bell poster

Tanaka's gentle and loving approach and Terajima's superb portrayal of his character take you along on an amazing trip, full of endearing, funny and warm moments.

Miss Zombie

2013 / 85m - Japan
Drama, Horror
Miss Zombie poster

It's certain to disappoint a few zombie fanatics who end up watching this without knowing what to expect, but people who've grown tired of the grovelling undead may find a welcome reboot of the genre.


2000 / 100m - Japan
Monday poster

The film consists of nothing but memorable scenes, contains some genuinely laugh out loud funny moments and slaps on a stylish finish to make the package complete

Chasuke's Journey

Ten no Chasuke
2015 / 106m - Japan
Comedy, Drama
Chasuke's Journey poster

Chasuke's Journey is visually stunning, very well acted, original and most of all unique. It's exactly the kind of film that fuels my love for Japanese cinema.

Bunny Drop

Usagi Drop
2011 / 113m - Japan
Bunny Drop poster

A lovely film with lots to smile about. Wonderfully acted, creatively visualized, aptly scored, and with its heart in the right place, you can't really go wrong with this one.

Postman Blues

Posutoman Burusu
1997 / 110m - Japan
Comedy, Drama
Postman Blues poster

The film remains witty, and smart and contains just the right amount of drama and depth besides the obvious comedy. Sabu is a master filmmaker and deserves more international exposure.


2016 / 90m - Japan
Drama, Fantasy
Happiness poster

Don't be fooled by the title, this isn't one of Tanaka's lighter films. Though the premise sounds perfect for a fun genre flick and the first third of the film leaves you guessing, the middle part and the finale hit pretty hard. Nagase is outstanding, the cinematography is stylish, the soundtrack is exemplary, the drama is captivating. Tanaka proves time and time again he's one of the most gifted and unique contemporary Japanese directors, which makes his somewhat lackluster international status that more frustrating.

Dancing Mary

2019 / 105m - Japan
Comedy, Fantasy
Dancing Mary poster

Dancing Mary is a superb blend of so many genres that it's nearly impossible to categorize. Fantasy, horror, crime, comedy and drama seamlessly mix together to tell a beautiful story about a long-lost romance that ended in tragedy. The cinematography is beautiful, the editing is excellent. Add a great score and a fine cast and you have another Tanaka masterpiece.


2002 / 102m - Japan
Comedy, Crime
Drive poster

Trademark Tanaka film. Drive is quirky and frivolous, not held back by rigid plot conventions and sporting a killer cast that knows how to deal with the dry comedy on display. The film has aged a little, but it still feels fresh and easygoing. Tanaka is one of Japan's hidden gems, Drive may not be his best film, but it's still better than most of its peers.

The Crab Cannery Ship

2009 / 109m - Japan
The Crab Cannery Ship poster

Kanikosen is a solid come-back for Tanaka. Visually impressive, boasting a superb setting and a strong cast.

Mr. Long

Ryu San
2017 / 129m - Japan
Drama, Crime
Mr. Long poster

Another quality Tanaka film. More in line with Bunny Drop, combining drama and comedy to great effect. Mr. Long also introduces some crime elements, though they are very limited. Well shot, perfectly acted, dramatically impeccable. It's not as unique as some of his other films, but well worth a watch.


2018 / 102m - Japan
Comedy, Crime
Jam poster

An oldskool Tanaka. Different stories intersect to tell a bigger plot, some scenes have a tendency to venture off into a direction of their own and there's an underlying layer of dark comedy that keeps things interesting. It's not Tanaka's best film, but he's so skilled that he can make a film like this extremely entertaining without having to make a real effort. Good fun.

Hold Up Down

Hôrudo Appu Daun
2005 / 96m - Japan
Comedy, Crime
Hold Up Down poster

It's not Tanaka's best film, in part because he has to fit in an entire boy band. But he pushes the lads to have a bit of fun, and the story is bonkers enough to forgive some less-than-perfect performances. Early Tanaka means twisted storylines and little detours that end up living a life of their own, but that's exactly what makes his films so much fun. It's impossible to predict where the story and its characters will end up, at the expense of being less coherent. Fans of Tanaka will have a field day with this one, others would probably do best to check out some of his more prestigious work first.

Hard Luck Hero

Hâdo Rakku Hîrô
2003 / 79m - Japan
Comedy, Crime
Hard Luck Hero poster

Hiroyuki Tanaka's films hold up, that much I've learned. Hard Luck Hero is not his best film, those in the know will also tell you this is a V6 vanity project, but that doesn't mean Tanaku couldn't just make a fun film out of it. Various stories converge, there's running and car chases, some kooky characters, and plenty of quirky plot twists. It also helps that the film is relatively short, so it never outstays its welcome. There are other, better films if you want to crack Tanaka's oeuvre, but this one is still heaps of fun.

My Blood & Bones in a Flowing Galaxy

Kudakechiru Tokoro O Misete Ageru
2020 / 127m - Japan
Drama, Thriller
My Blood & Bones in a Flowing Galaxy poster

Tanaka's latest is pretty peculiar, though also one of his lesser films. It starts off as a sweet but slow drama, only to take a drastic turn during the final half hour. Tanaka is known for the way he can quickly switch between different genres, so that's not really the issue. It's just that the (longer) drama segment is a bit pedestrian.

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When Hamada arrives late to a school meeting, he sees how Hari, a freshman student, is bullied quite harshly by her classmates. The bullying grows worse and Hamada decides to protect the girl to the best of his ability. The two enjoy each other's company, but Hamada is about to find out that Hari hides a dark secret.

The performances are solid, the drama is decent, but decent isn't good enough for Tanaka. Maybe if the bullying part had been reduced a little the balance would've ended up more satisfactory. The ending is pretty great though, it's there that Tanaka's talents surface again, but it's too little, too late to make this a true masterpiece.

Dead Run

2005 / 124m - Japan
Dead Run poster

Dead Run was quite a change of direction for Hiroyuki Tanaka. Gone are the quirky characters, the free roaming narratives and the delightful coincidences, instead Dead Run serves relentless drama with a slice of Japanese nihilism. I still think it's a powerful and impressive film, but it does lack the visual rawness to make it work for the full 100%.

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Shuji is a young kid who lives in the shadow of his more successful brother. He doesn't really mind, until he starts hanging out with a girl and a priest from a less favorable part of town. While Shuji finds comfort in their presence, his brother looks down on them and tries to break up their relationship.

The performances are solid, and the drama is gripping, though it does take a while for the film to find its footing. Visually the film hangs between more traditional dramas and their darker counterparts, but doesn't really dare to pick sides. The somewhat grim and washed out look just doesn't do Dead Run that many favors. The result is a fine Tanaka, but not one of his better films.

Unlucky Monkey

Anrakki Monki
1998 / 106m - Japan
Comedy, Action
Unlucky Monkey poster

D.A.N.G.A.N. Runner

Dangan Ranna
1996 / 82m - Japan
Comedy, Action, Crime
D.A.N.G.A.N. Runner poster