The good stuff
A very mysterious and sensual look at a small, Japanese mountain town. Miki is a spinster whose life gets turned upside down when a young teacher is hired from outside the village. With a strong soundtrack and cinematography, some neat twists and a couple of baffling moments, Harada delivers something really special.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a very accomplished yet eclectic film hiding underneath the cover of ghosts and suicides.
A very solid drama. The title is pretty self-explanatory, Harada aims for a film that falls somewhere in between the work of Yamada and Koreeda and succeeds rather well. A strong cast, pretty cinematography and nice, subdued drama turn this into a quality production. Nothing you haven't seen before, but prime filler.
The ideal film to watch back to back with Anno's Love & Pop. In Bounce Ko Gals, Harada presents his take on Japanese Kogal/engo-kosei culture. Young school girls selling themselves to lechers were a big thing in the 90s, it's not surprising then that several directors took this as inspiration for their films.
Lisa is a girl on her way to the US. She saved up some money, but right before her plane ticket expires she hopes to make a quick buck in Harajuku. During a video shoot she is robbed by the Yakuza, leaving her stranded with just the ticket. Raku and Jonko, two regulars, decide to help Lisa out and call in some favors to earn Lisa's money back.
Harada proves himself a capable director. The film isn't as experimental as Anno's, but the overall quality is higher. The performances are strong, the camera work is vibrant, and the characters are an interesting bunch. Harada blends the culture exploration well with the narrative and delivers a warm, captivating, slight disturbing drama.
A plot-driven but pleasantly directed crime/mystery that digs its claws deep into the Japanese justice system. Harada is a competent director and the cast does a fine job, but in the end the film doesn't really excite enough for a higher score. A little too dialogue-heavy for my taste, but certainly not a bad film.
An interesting take on the classic hostage thriller. Rather than focus on the criminals and the hostages, Harada singles out the administrative hell hole that opens up when local and national police corpses are forced to work together to defuse the situation. A bit long and a little scruffy in places, but Harada is a fine director and delivers an amusing film.
Worthy but flawed
Early Harada. Not much to see here, except some very basic Yakuza/crime genre work. The gunslinging is a little boring, the acting is mediocre, the cinematography mostly functional and the plot as predictable as can be. No doubt the biggest Yakuza film fans will find something here, but otherwise this was a slight letdown.