films seen
average score
Japan - 57 years old
Alive and kicking
more info

If you're looking for wacky Japanese comedies, Katsuhito Ishii's oeuvre is a good place to start. He has great aesthetic sensibilities, a mad brain, and the skills to translate those to the big screen. Just make sure you start with his early work.


The Taste of Tea

Cha no Aji
2004 / 143m - Japan
The Taste of Tea poster

A lovingly executed ode to laziness, boredom and feeling at ease. The characters do little else but loitering, loving the fact that they have nothing else to do but to sit and enjoy the moment.

Party 7

2000 / 104m - Japan
Comedy, Action
Party 7 poster

The film looks good, sounds great, sports an incredible opening animation sequence, and boasts a list of superb actors. What more could you wish for in a Japanese comedy?

Trava: Fist Planet

2003 / 47m - Japan
Comedy, Sci-fi - Animation
Trava: Fist Planet poster

The combination of manic animation and dry, deadpan conversations is no doubt an acquired taste, still, there is plenty left to enjoy if you have a soft spot for animation.


Sumagura: Omae no Mirai o Hakobe
2011 / 114m - Japan
Smuggler poster

Smuggler is an extremely entertaining slice of dark entertainment. Littered with weird and freaky characters, the four chapters are nicely entangled and combine into an interesting finale.

Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl

Samehada Otoko to Momojiri Onna
1998 / 108m - Japan
Comedy, Crime
Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl poster

Shark Skin Man is starting to show its age a little. It's a bit dreary and murky for a comedy and more recent films have improved greatly on the formula.

My Darling of the Mountains

Yama no Anata
2008 / 94m - Japan
My Darling of the Mountains poster

Well acted, beautifully shot and neatly scored, this film is for those who enjoy the more poetic side of Katsuhito Ishii, but can handle this style in a light and undemanding context.

Promise of August

Hachigatsu no Yakusoku
1995 / 50m - Japan
Promise of August poster

Katsuhito Ishii's first is a mid-length feature that showcases his promise as a director. It's not quite up there with his best work, but it has a fun vibe and a cast of kooky characters that make this a very easy watch. If you're looking for a short, chill Japanese comedy, look no further.

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Three college girls found a map that shows them a way to a hidden marijuana field. On their way there, they get a lift from a suicidal guy who immediately falls in love with one of the girls. The map leads them nowhere until they see some suspicious bikers who they decide to follow.

The plot is utter nonsense. It's all about the characters, the dialogue, and the silly situations. The setting is pleasant, the tone is light throughout and the short runtime is a blessing. Ishii would improve in his later films, refining his trademark elements, but this was a very good start to his career.

Norioka Workshop

2022 / 30m - Japan
Norioka Workshop poster

Katsuhito Ishii's most recent work. It's disheartening to see what kind of films he's making these days, but at least he's still out there, making them. Norioka's Workshop is a very small indie project that runs only 30 minutes long. It's a rather fun film, but it's incomparable to the work that made him big.

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Norioka is a middling actor. To get more validation, he organizes a workshop, hoping to attract younger actors to who he can teach what he knows. One day two young women stand on his doorstep, ready for their lesson. Nami is polite and ready to accept him as her teacher, but Maki has her doubts and isn't afraid to express them.

Three actors, a single location, and a basic premise that is explored over the course of 30 minutes. It's a fun enough short film, but it hardly stands out and it lacks the crazy and the kooky that made Ishii's earlier work so special. Here's to hoping he can secure bigger budgets again in the future, he's simply too good to be making these kind of films.

Hello! Junichi.

Harô! Jun'ichi
2014 / 91m - Japan
Hello! Junichi. poster

Don't expect a full-blown Katsuhito Ishii project, he only co-directed this film and by the looks of it, the budget was pretty slim. Even so, he probably helped to attract some fun actors and while the film has some glaring issues, it's an overall charming affair that turned out to be a pretty easy watch.

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Junichi lives in a small village, together with his classmates he spends his days in and out of school. Junichi's biggest problem in life is that he needs to return the eraser he borrowed from his big crush. Helping him out is temp teacher Anna, who is turning some heads herself since joining the school ranks.

Hello! Junichi is a very light and frivolous film that lacks a decent budget (or outstanding talent behind the camera) to turn a simple charmer into a great film. It's nice to have Gashuin and Morita there, they give the film that extra bit of flair, but most of the time is spent with the young kids and their silly little problems. Sweet, but a little cheap for my taste.


2008 / 88m - Japan
Comedy, Drama
Sorasoi poster

A mere 4 years after Katsuhito Ishii made Taste of Tea, he was directing low-budget indie films to stay afloat. It's a remarkable downfall for a director who made one of the most charming films of the 00s. Sorasoi is a cute little film, but hardly equipped to stand out in the yearly downpour of Japanese dramas.

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A group of kids is staying in the Sorasoi Hotel, which stands close to the beach. They joined a dance group hoping to participate in a yearly dance event, even though they aren't all that skilled. But their tutor motivates them, and as they get better at dancing, they grow closer as a group.

Ishii's quirkiness surfaces from time to time, but this is more of a lighthearted drama where kids learn about life during a summer holiday. There are traces of Ogigami's Glasses here, but the acting isn't as good and the presentation feels a little cheap. A nice enough film, but hardly a stand-out.

Funky Forest: The First Contact

Naisu no Mori: The First Contact
2005 / 150m - Japan
Funky Forest: The First Contact poster