The good stuff
The soundtrack and visuals wrap themselves around the audience like a warm blanket while the drama slowly unfolds and runs its course. Fans of the genre will feel right at home
Solemn, meticulous and stylish drama about a man walking through life just by himself. His American-sounding name alienated him from the rest, the death of his mom and the absence of his dad forced him to fend for himself. Probably a little slow for some, but Ichikawa aced this Haruki Murakami adaptation.
Fine coming of age drama, where two girls learn how to balance their individual and social personas. There's also a strong focus on digital communication, but since that is so ubiquitous nowadays it doesn't really make a big impression any more. There are plenty of similar dramas, but Ichikawa's direction does give it some added flair.
A slightly more mundane Ichikawa drama. Don't come here hoping to see his minimalist style, Tokiwa is more of a traditional Japanese drama, about a manga collective in the 50s. It's a quality production and there are scenes where Ichikawa's talent shines through, but it's not Ichikawa's most notable film.
Hiro Terada lives with Osamu Tezuka in an apartment building. When Tezuka leaves, other mangakas take his place and in no time the place has become a haven for up and coming artists. Terada is the leader of the group and tries to help the younger members, as they try to figure out how to make it in a cut-throat world.
The performances are fine, the cinematography is decent, the pacing a little slow and the narrative somewhat wandering, but that's expected from a Japanese drama. I personally didn't care too much for the setting, people with an interest in the Tokiwa collective might get more out of it. A fine drama, but I expect a bit more from Ichikawa.
Worthy but flawed
A little DIY project that marked Jun Ichikawa's sudden departure from this world. He died on the night he finished editing this film, a little indie drama shot with amateur actors (his friends, basically). It's not really the magnum opus you'd hope a man like Ichikawa would leave us with, but it's not a terrible film.
The plot is pretty basic, it's more of an excuse to follow the main characters around. A woman receives a postcard with a rather cryptic message on it, vaguely revealing the location of her lost brother. She travels to Tokyo to track him down, and finds him living under a bridge as a homeless person.
Don't go in expecting a polished, stylized film, like Ichikawa's more commercial projects. It's really a more free-flowing indie drama. There are three characters that are loosely connected, each of them is given some time in the spotlight. The camera work is basic, the soundtrack does add a bit of atmosphere. There are moments of beauty here, but it's not really enough to stand out in such a densely populated genre.