films seen
average score
Japan - 82 years old
R.I.P. (1938 - 2020)
more info

One of Japan's hidden gems. Best known for his often crazy, off the wall and genre-bending productions, Ôbayashi also directed his share of docile but quality blockbuster features. A very talented man who left behind an impressive oeuvre.



Sada: Gesaku · Abe Sada no Shôgai
1998 / 132m - Japan
Sada poster


2017 / 168m - Japan
Romance, War
Hanagatami poster

Oddball romance, set right before the start of WWII. What may look like a pretty basic romantic drama on paper is elevated to something completely unique and quirky by director Ôbayashi. It reminded me a little of Suzuki's Pistol Opera, a film not of this era, but so special that it doesn't really matter. It's a shame the film is so long though.

Switching - Goodbye Me

Tenkôsei: Sayonara Anata
2007 / 120m - Japan
Switching - Goodbye Me poster

Bound for the Fields, the Mountains, and the Seacoast

Noyuki Yamayuki Umibe Yuki
1986 / 135m - Japan
Comedy, Drama
Bound for the Fields, the Mountains, and the Seacoast poster

Another great Ôbayashi comedy. It's really unfortunate to see how such a rich and varied oeuvre remained under the radar for so long, especially when Ôbayashi did make several cult films that made the rounds. It's never too late to discover great films though, so I'm glad he's received some renewed attention these past couple of years.

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Bound for the Fields is set in pre-WWII Japan. The country is starting to ready itself for the coming war, but the children in a small rural town don't understand what all the fuss is about. Two young bullies are forced to work together when the sister of one of them is about to be sold to a brothel.

Ôbayashi does what he does best. A light rural drama is mixes with quirky comedy and light fantasy elements. It's a fun, lively film that never bores despite it's rather long runtime. The lush black and white cinematography certainly plays a part in that (beware, there's also a color version), but it's really Ôbayashi's splendid direction that ties everything together. Very nice.


1985 / 112m - Japan
Drama, Fantasy
Lonelyheart poster

A very sweet and agreeable Ôbayashi. His 80s work is generally a lot more toned down than what he's famous for, usually sprinkling drama with light fantasy elements. Quality varies, but Lonelyheart is one of the better films in this niche, a cute mix of coming-of-age with some supernatural elements.

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Hiroki has a crush on a girl he doesn't really dare to approach. He sees her practicing the piano every day and pines for her love. But then another girl shows up. She's wearing weird make-up and seems to know Hiroki and his family very well. At first only Hiroki can see her, but then people around him start noticing her too.

Lonelyheart is a very warm and nostalgic film. The small-town rural community, the yellowish haze draped over the film and lots of minor details that make you reminisce about simpler times. Performances are good too and though a bit long, the film never starts to drag. I liked this one a lot.

The Little Girl Who Conquered Time

Toki o Kakeru Shôjo
1983 / 104m - Japan
Sci-fi, Romance
The Little Girl Who Conquered Time poster

The more Obayashi films I see, the more I realize there are two very distinct sides to the man. He's mostly famous for his zany, weird and over-the-top films, but throughout he's oeuvre he also directed plenty of subdued, more commercially-oriented movies. This is one of those, with just a little Obayashi magic on top to make it stand out.

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Yoshiyama is on cleanup duty. When she's done cleaning the lab a canister falls and the fumes that get released make her faint. The next day an earthquake hits the town she lives in. But then something weird happens to her, and she travels back a day in time. Knowing what is about to happen, so tries to warn the people she loves.

The Little Girl Who Conquered Time is a very gentle, sweet and loveable little film. The sci-fi elements are minimalistic, the drama is light, performances are good and there's a little pre-finale sequence that gives the film that bit of extra flair it needed. Obayashi was a talented man, I'm happy I still have quite a ways to go.


1977 / 88m - Japan
Comedy, Horror
House poster

The Visitor in the Eye

Hitomi no Naka no Houmonsha
1977 / 100m - Japan
Fantasy, Mystery
The Visitor in the Eye poster

Obayashi does Tezuka's Black Jack. I'm familiar with the character, not so much with the setup of the franchise, but it is safe to say that Obayashi's take is a pretty peculiar one. Black Jack is only a secondary character in this story, a mere catalyst and observer. Regardless the film's origins, Obayashi crafts another fun little genre bender.

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Chiaki is a gifted tennis player, but she hurts her eye during a match. Chances are she'll never be able to see again through that eye, so her boyfriend comes up with a solution. He finds a donor eye, and together they go to Black Jack to get the operation done. Things get weird when Chiaki suddenly starts getting visions through her new eye.

There's no House-like kookiness here, but it's definitely an odd enough film. A mix of several genres, blending mystery and romance with a dedicated live action anime vibe. There are some memorable moments, the core mystery is fun and the pacing perfect. Fans of Obayashi would do well to seek this one out.


Confession = Haruka Naru Akogare Girochin Koi no Tabi
1968 / 71m - Japan
Drama, Experimental
Confession poster

I was unsure whether to mark this as an anthology, but ultimately I decided against it. Obayashi delivers a bunch of tangentially connected stories and vignettes, but they feel like parts of the same concept, with the essence of the film revealing itself through the sum of these short films.

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The setting is Onomichi, a little rural town close to the sea. Some young boys grow up there and decide to make the most of it. Through several stories, we see how they face life with determination and get themselves ready to begin their adult life. But not all their games are innocent.

Like Emotion, Confession is a pretty experimental film, with Obayashi trying out different styles and concepts within the same film. He would revisit some of these themes in his later work, but never with quite the same vitality and energy. I like these old Obayashi films, a clear sign of what was to come.


1966 / 39m - Japan
Fantasy, Experimental
Emotion poster

One of Obayashi's early shorts. The recently deceased madcap director clearly didn't miss his start. Emotion is quite experimental, but also just plain weird, a mix not uncommon in Obayashi's films. Where his feature films have narratives that are somewhat easier to follow though, Emotion is bonkers from start to finish.

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Parts of the film are shot in color, others are monochrome. The editing is frantic, with jump cuts, repetitions, stop-motion and fast intertitles, happily referencing the era of silent film. There's lots of voice-over narration too though, some in English, some in Japanese. The film feels like a baffling fever dream, something I can definitely appreciate.

At just under 40 minutes, it's also not too long. The plot is really rather vague and the execution is quite crude, so 90 minutes of this would've been a bit much. At its current length though, Emotion is a fun, quirky, creative and appealing film that is sure to please those seeking out something different. A must for fans of Obayashi's work, a good starting point for all the rest.

Labyrinth of Cinema

Umibe no Eigakan – Kinema no Tamatebako
2019 / 179m - Japan
Fantasy, War
Labyrinth of Cinema poster

A more than respectable and appropriate swan song for Ôbayashi. A film about cinema, a film that feels like vintage Ôbayashi and ultimately may even be about Ôbayashi himself, though that's a tougher call to make for someone who has only seen about 20% of his entire oeuvre so far.

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The story is all over the place, but that was to be expected. The gist of it is that a group of young people travels back into time while visiting a movie theater. They travel along some of the biggest battlefields in Japanese history, (of course) ending up at Hiroshima. Meanwhile, Ôbayashi gives a couple lessons in film history.

Labyrinth of Cinema is way too long and not really of this time, but because this is Ôbayashi's final film and because his style is so iconic, it's exactly the kind of goodbye that befits his legacy. A mad but genius director who will be sorely missed, leaving the world of cinema the way he came in: with an uncompromising bang.

Castings Blossoms to the Sky

Kono Sora no Hana: Nagaoka Hanabi Monogatari
2012 / 160m - Japan
Drama, War
Castings Blossoms to the Sky poster

In his final years, Obayashi was greatly invested in WWII and how it influenced and characterized the Japanese identity. The resulting films are quite experimental, long and difficult to capture in a mere couple of sentences. On the other hand, they do start to feel a bit samey and predictable.

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Reiko has a thing for stories of the past, so she's always on the look-out for remarkable tales. She visits Nagaoka, a city that had it rough during WWII, where she meets up with people who dig up memories and tell her how they experienced the war. Through their stories they reveal some little known tidbits of information.

The peculiar collage effect is interesting and there are some neat visual ideas, others feel a bit outdated and poorly executed. The performances aren't too great either, a more natural approach would've helped the impact of the drama. His films are still pretty fun though, just a bit long and uneven.

The Reason

2004 / 160m - Japan
Mystery, Crime
The Reason poster

Obayashi dishes out an epic murder mystery. In what seems like an endless amount of chapters, he explores the mysterious murders in that plague a high-rise flat. Obayashi manages to put his unique stamp on the film, but it's still an extremely narrative affair, and with almost three hours on the clock, it did start to drag in some places.

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Four people are murdered in a fancy neighborhood. At first, it looks like the victims are all related, but after further investigation it turns out one of them doesn't belong with the others. Through interviews with neighbors and familiars, the story behind the murders is fully revealed.

The chapter setup works well and between chapters, Obayashi finds time to be a tiny bit more experimental. The cast is splendid, the story mysterious and the pacing pretty decent. The only problem is the runtime, which is excessive. A pretty solid Obayashi though, fans of his work won't be disappointed.

Goodbye for Tomorrow

1995 / 141m - Japan
Drama, Fantasy
Goodbye for Tomorrow poster

Ôbayashi will forever be known for his weird and madcap fantasy/horror cinema, but during the 90s he made a fair few films that are a lot more toned down. There are clear fantasy elements present in Goodbye for Tomorrow, but they're there to support the drama rather than the other way around.

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A boat accident casts a dark shadow over a small coastal village. Three months after the accident, friends and families of the deceased get a strange note, asking them to come to a remote island. There they will get one last chance to meet up with the people they lost that fateful day.

Even without all the weirdness lighting up his films, Ôbayashi is still a pretty solid director. The first hour in particular is very moody, offering a nice mix of mystery, fantasy and drama. Once everyone is reunited the drama becomes a bit long-winded and heavy-handed, but solid performances, decent cinematography and a solid ending make this a worthwhile film.

Samurai Kids

Mizu no Tabibito: Samurai Kizzu
1993 / 106m - Japan
Samurai Kids poster

Delve a bit deeper into Ôbayashi's oeuvre and you'll soon find out that he made quite a few films aimed at younger audiences. Samurai Kids is such a film, though luckily it retains Ôbayashi's distinctive style, so if you're a fan of his weirder output you shouldn't worry too much about this being a complete dud.

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The film follows Satoru, a young kid who finds a miniature samurai along the river banks. The samurai isn't doing too well after being exposed to the polluted river water. Satoru decides to take care of him, but a pesky raven is tailing the samurai and keeping him hidden from his parents also proves to be quite a challenge.

Don't expect technical excellence, instead Ôbayashi aims for charm, with some fun stop motion scenes, plenty of odd camera angles and hyperactive camera work. It's a bit weird to see this in a children's film, but it does a good job of setting it apart from its peers. A fun an amusing diversion, though not his best work.

Chizuko's Younger Sister

1991 / 150m - Japan
Drama, Fantasy
Chizuko's Younger Sister poster

Another fine fantasy/drama from Nobuhiko Ôbayashi. It seems that during the late 80s/early 90s Ôbayashi made a couple of films geared at a younger audience. Luckily he never seemed to have lost his unique touch. Though Chizuko's Younger Sister feels like a kid's film, there's still plenty of trademark Ôbayashi here.

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The story revolves around Mika, the younger sister of the deceased Chizuko. Mika has always lived in the shadow of her older sis and had a hard time growing up. Until one day, when her sister comes back from the dead to rescue her from a perv. From then on she keeps seeing Chizuko whenever she's struggling.

There's a little visual weirdness that is definitely appreciated and the film fares best when Ôbayashi keeps it light and breezy. It gets a bit too dramatic near the end and a little editing to get it closer to the 120-minute mark would've done the film some good, but overall this was a pretty warm, quirky and agreeable film.

Beijing Watermelon

Pekin no Suika
1989 / 135m - Japan
Beijing Watermelon poster

Another decent Ôbayashi. It seems that during the 80s and 90s he made a series of films that were somewhat easier to digest, though in the final half hour of Beijing Watermelon Ôbayashi's quirky side resurfaces. Don't expect anything too crazy, but the fourth wall is breached more than once.

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Haruzo and Michi have a small vegetable job. Their lives change drastically when they meet Li, a Chinese student who doesn't have the money to buy himself a proper meal. At first Haruzo isn't very willing to help Li, but when he sees the harsh life he leads Haruzo decides to give him a hand after all.

The first 90 minutes reminded me a little of films like Tampopo. Beijing Watermelon shows a lively working class community comprised of grumpy characters that end up having a heart of gold and serves it with somewhat moderate stylistic choices. Then Ôbayashi takes a sudden turn and film and reality start to interweave (as the story is based on real life events). It's a bit long maybe, but the interesting finale makes it worth the while.

The Discarnates

Ijin-tachi to no Natsu
1988 / 108m - Japan
Drama, Fantasy
The Discarnates poster

Obayashi loves a good mix of drama and fantasy, a combination of genres he chased quite vigorously during the 80s. The biggest difference here is that the lead is a 40-year-old man, whereas Obayashi usually focuses on younger protagonists. It makes for a slightly different experience.

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Harada is a writer for TV who sees his life fall to pieces after his divorce. When his best friend asks him if he can pursue his ex-wife, it leaves Harada in shock. He goes to a comedy show to clear his mind, where he bumps into his deceased father. Harada is so flustered that he follows his dad home, where he'll finally get a chance to get to know his parents.

The fantasy elements make the drama a bit more palatable, though the themes itself aren't too original. Performances and styling are solid, but nothing too out of the ordinary. Obayashi does crank the genre elements up a notch during a rather freaky finale, putting his signature on an otherwise fine but somewhat inconspicuous film.

The Drifting Classroom

Hyôryu Kyôshitsu
1987 / 104m - Japan
Fantasy, Adventure
The Drifting Classroom poster

Most people will hit Obayashi's oeuvre thanks to the reputation of Hausu, once you start to dig a little deeper it turns out that his signature is a lot more toned down. The Drifting Classroom is a notable exception. I wasn't really prepared for the onslaught of bafflement, which made it all the more fun.

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Shou leaves for school after a fight with his mom. It will be the last time he sees her, as a freak storm envelops his school building and transports it to a foreign dimension. Shou ends up in a strange desert where time works differently, and giant insects roam the premises. Shou, his classmates and teachers will have to adapt to their new life.

The mix of Japanese and English-speaking actors feels random, the special effects are all over the place (but they're mostly subpar) and a couple of musical intermezzos just add to the overall weirdness. It's not a very technically accomplished film, but Obayashi's vibrant direction, the fantastical elements and somewhat surprising ending add a lot to the appeal. Fun.

April Fish

Shigatsu no Sakana
1986 / 109m - Japan
April Fish poster

A very quirky and outspoken comedy. It might help to read up a bit more about this film, as I never really got a handle on the vibe Obayashi was going for. There are so many French references that this might be a proper ode, but it could just as well be a parody of the arty-farty.

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A Japanese director with a passion for France cuisine learns that a respected chef is coming to visit him. His wife is out for the moment, and so he hires an actress to play his wife and impress the chef. He even decides to prepare dinner, but there are too many moving parts to his plan and he gets in way over his head.

The film offers a somewhat weird mix of situational comedy and slapstick, sprinkled with a few typical Obayashi details. It's a bit messy and definitely chaotic, but I also appreciated the madness and the uniqueness of April Fish. Not his best film, but fans of the director are sure to have a good time.

His Motorbike, Her Island

Kare no Otobai, Kanojo no Shima
1986 / 90m - Japan
His Motorbike, Her Island poster

Obayashi goes full in on this youthful romance. After a short introduction in the city, he moves his film to the countryside and serves up a very idyllic, sweet and explosive romance. Fans of Hausu may be surprised, but dig deeper into the man's oeuvre and you'll find he made plenty of softer youth dramas.

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A biker kid is threatened by his girlfriend's brother and decides to take a little road trip. He takes his favored bike and leaves everything behind. Not long after he runs into a mysterious young girl. When she invites him to her island, he decides to take a change and accepts her invitation.

I'm not entirely sure if the alternations between color and sepia made much sense here, but at least the cinematography was pretty impressive. Performances are fine, the energy of the film is great and there are a few memorable moments, the soundtracks pretty cheesy though and the film does have some pacing issues. But if you love Obayashi's work, it's definitely worth checking out.

Four Sisters

1985 / 100m - Japan
Four Sisters poster

A sweet, little film that made me think of Koreeda's lighter dramas more than once, except that Ôbayashi's style is a lot more outgoing. Four Sisters may not be very slice-of-life or going for overt realism, the atmosphere is very cozy and though the drama can get a little heavy-handed, the film itself never drowns in sentiment.

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Four sisters are on the verge of adulthood. They have a pretty nice life, but some pubescent love troubles uncover a pretty big secret. It turns out three of the four sisters were adopted at a young age. While this news hits home, it's just one of the elements that pushes their lives in different directions.

Performances are solid, the cinematography is pleasant (with some truly standout shots here and there) and the score is appropriate. Not everything works equally well (the romances feel a bit obligatory) and it's nothing you haven't seen before, but if you're looking for a fine Japanese drama with minor Ôbayashi touches, this one won't disappoint.

Cute Devil

Kawaii Akuma
1982 / 94m - Japan
Horror, Mystery
Cute Devil poster

I didn't expect too much from this Obayashi, TV films are rarely a showcase for a director's talents, but I'm quite impressed with the result. Cute Devil's TV roots are noticeable, at the same time this is unmistakably an Obayashi film. Bold, expressive and overwhelmingly cheesy, but also very effective.

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Most "demon child" films opt for boys, Obayashi takes a cute, little Japanese girl and has her murder all who get in her way. It's a neat twist that pays off surprisingly well. It's almost impossible to guide child actors into becoming mean, evil beings (which is where most of these films fail), it's much easier to have them be charming little nuggets that do some killing on the side.

While not as outright crazy as House, Obayashi makes excellent use of the soundtrack and cinematography to create a vibrant yet disturbing atmosphere. The film could definitely benefit from a thorough restoration, but for a made-for-TV production this looked very solid. A fun and amusing horror film, which was more than I expected to find.

I Are You, You Am Me

1982 / 113m - Japan
Drama, Fantasy
I Are You, You Am Me poster

Think Shinkai's Your Name, only without the more fantastical bits. A sweet coming of age story about two kids who switch bodies. It's a typical Ôbayashi film, set in a small, charming port town, featuring the usual kids banter and coming of age drama, without overcomplicating things too much.

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Kazumi is a transfer student who recognizes Kazuo right away. The two grew up when they were younger. Kazumi wants to pick up their friendship, Kazuo seems a bit more reluctant. After an unfortunate scuffle, they both roll down some temple stairs. When they wake up, they've switched bodies.

The two lead actors do a great job, the light tone of the drama is pleasant, and the setting is very idyllic. Ôbayashi's visual playfulness is kept to a minimum, though there are a few moments where he couldn't help himself. Not a very remarkable or memorable film, but a sweet and enjoyable bit of filler that works well within his oeuvre.

School in the Crosshairs

Nerawareta Gakuen
1981 / 90m - Japan
Drama, Fantasy
School in the Crosshairs poster

Another Ôbayashi that mixes fantasy with coming of age drama. He made quite a few of these films and while none are true masterpieces, they are sure to entertain. The finale in particular is vintage Ôbayashi madness, it's just a shame that the rest of it isn't all that special.

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Yuka is a high school student with mysterious powers. While she is trying to figure out the reason behind these powers, a transfer student joins her class and displays similar powers. It's clear from the start that she's willing to use her powers against Yuka, who will need to fight her off if she wants to protect her friends and family.

Performances are decent, and the fantasy elements are interesting enough. It takes a while before the film gets up to steam though, and it isn't until the finale that Ôbayashi goes full out. The visual effects may not be very advanced, but they're very charming. Not Ôbayashi's best, but an entertaining little diversion nonetheless.

The Adventures of Kosuke Kindaichi

Kindaichi Kosuke no Boken
1979 / 113m - Japan
Comedy, Mystery
The Adventures of Kosuke Kindaichi poster

Kosuke Kindaichi is one of the most famous detectives in Japan, made popular by the films of Kon Ichikawa (but originating from a long line of novels). Madcap director Nobuhiko Ôbayashi also had a swing at it and delivers what could've been a fun live action Lupin film, only with a different set of characters.

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The plot is pretty negligible and little more than an excuse for some insanity along the way. Kindaichi is summoned to recapture the missing head of statue. What starts off as a very simple assignment, quickly escalates into a mad search for the head. Again, the comparisons with Lupin are never far off.

I'm not familiar with the original series so it's difficult to compare, but the elements that stick out bear the clear signature of Ôbayashi. The tone is extremely light, even bordering on outright comedy, there are some truly wacky moments and the hand of Ôbayashi is always present. Probably more fun for people already familiar with the series, but still worth a watch even if you've never heard of Kindaichi before.

The Girl in the Picture

E no Naka no shôjo
1960 / 32m - Japan
Drama, Romance
The Girl in the Picture poster

One of Obayashi's earliest films. It's obvious he was still experimenting and searching for his identity here, but that has a charm of its own. This early short feature is an ode to silent cinema, which I guess was pretty convenient for a young director with limited means at his disposal.

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A young man wanders around and walks into the forest to finish his drawing. There an old flame of his appears before him. The girl denies being the same woman, but this encounter triggers a trip down memory lane, as he recalls the events that kept him from getting together with the love of his life.

It's cute to see a young Obayashi, the grainy, fuzzy film stock has a fitting charm and while the setup is pretty simple, the short runtime keeps the film from losing steam. It's far from Obayashi's most memorable film, but it's a cute little experiment that foreshadows an impressive career. Good fun.

Seven Weeks

No no Nanananoka
2014 / 171m - Japan
Seven Weeks poster

One of Ôbayashi's later undertakings in his career. Seven Weeks is a very ambitious film (clocking in at nearly 3 hours, better make sure you're ready for it), but the mix of serious drama and Ôbayashi's kooky fakeness didn't really work for me this time around. There are some inspired moments here, but as a whole it didn't quite work.

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Set in the town of Ashibetsu, the film revolves around the funeral of Suzuki. His family gathers there and stories from the past are dug up, as they generally are during funerals. It gives Ôbayashi the chance to deal with some deeper themes, like death, love and Japan's tragic war history.

There are some pretty shots here, sadly the characters stick out like sore thumbs, often completely breaking the illusion. Ôbayashi has some neat directorial tricks up his sleeve, but they break up the drama and take away from the more serious moments. It doesn't often happen, but it seems I prefer Ôbayashi's older work.

Turning Point

1994 / 118m - Japan
Turning Point poster

A somewhat lesser Obayashi, also the second newspaper drama I've seen in two days. Purely coincidental, as I don't really read any plot info up front. What I'm missing here is Obayashi's quirkier and more overtly stylistic elements. There are flashes of that, but not enough to make it a recognizable film.

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The plot revolves around Yumiko, a middle-aged woman who has always written for the women's pages of a newspaper, and is being promoted to write editorial articles. She comes into a world where old men reign, and they're clearly not used to having a woman around as one of the gang. Yumiko isn't scared of them and charges right ahead.

Obayashi does make the film a bit more dynamic than the genre requires, and the performances are pretty solid. The plot's a bit all over the place and the theme isn't that exciting, at least not a good three decades later. It's not a bad film, but looking at Obayashi's other work, it could've used a little extra spice.

Haruka, Nostalgia

Haruka, Nosutarujii
1993 / 165m - Japan
Haruka, Nostalgia poster

One of Ôbayashi's lesser films, coincidentally also one of his longer films. The film is a rather predictable drama that wallows in nostalgia (hence the title), but brings very little of Ôbayashi's trademark elements to set itself apart from its peers. The result was a bit too long and indistinct for me.

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Ayase is a popular writer who produces "ice-cream" novels (sweet and simple stories that melt away into nothing). He decides to return to his old town. Once there he runs into the ghosts of his past (most notably a young girl who he once loved), which forces him to reflect on his life and the choices he made.

The setting is nice, the performances are decent. There are one or two more typical Ôbayashi moments, but for the most part it's a relatively basic drama that deals with predictable topics to which Ôbayashi can't all that much. It's not a terrible film, but I definitely prefer Ôbayashi's more unique films.

The Rocking Horsemen

Seishun Dendekedekedeke
1992 / 135m - Japan
The Rocking Horsemen poster

Rock. It seems to be cinema's ultimate (yet lazy) go-to source for a bit of rebellion, even though it's now very much a last century thing (the rebellious part that is). I don't have any affinity with the genre, so these films tend to be wasted on me, even when it's a director like Ôbayashi handling the film.

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The Rocking Horsemen is a very basic coming of age drama, with a young high school student (Takeyoshi) being introduced to rock music for the first time. He's immediately sold and ditches his love for classical music. He takes on a job during the holidays and wants to start a band with some guys from school.

It was fun to see a very young Tadanobu Asano in one of his first big roles and the drama isn't that bad. There are small glimpses of Ôbayashi's wilder side too, but they are few and far between. It's just all very basic and with no enthusiasm for the music on display it does come off as one of Ôbayashi's weaker films.

My Heart Belongs to Daddy

Watashi no Kokoro wa Papa no Mono
1988 / 95m - Japan
Comedy, Drama
My Heart Belongs to Daddy poster

A TV project that was restructured into a feature film. The project's roots are very obvious, but thanks to Obayashi's spirited direction it's more than just a shortened TV series. At its core, My Heart Belongs to Daddy is a pretty simple drama, but there were enough quirky ideas to keep me engaged.

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A daughter and her father reconnect after being 15 years apart. He left them when her mother cheated on him, but he never forgot about the family he left behind. It takes some time before they get used to each other, but once they can accept their differences, they finally get their relationship back on the rails.

The image quality is paltry and the drama is rather basic, but Obayashi has some fun tricks up his sleeve. He never takes things too seriously and injects some narrative tricks to keep things interesting. It's far from his best work, but it's easy filler that fits in well with the rest of his oeuvre.

Kenya Boy

Shounen Keniya
1984 / 109m - Japan
Fantasy, Adventure - Animation
Kenya Boy poster

Obayashi's first and only foray into anime. That alone makes Kenya Boy worth watching, even though the film itself is pretty messy and not up to par with other big productions of its time. Obayashi does manage to put his stamp on the film, so it's definitely not a generic or throwaway anime feature.

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Wataru is a young boy who is visiting Africa with his family. On a trip, he gets separated from his dad, and he ends ups with Zega, a proud Masai warrior who roams the country. Together they begin a big adventure that will lead them to Kate, a young goddess who was also separated from her family.

The quality of the animation is a little wonky, but the art style is interesting and Obayashi has some nice tricks up his sleeve. What starts as a pretty straightforward adventure spirals into an epic, madcap fantasy that made the final a lot easier to stomach. Not a great film, but surely an oddity that deserves a little extra attention.

The Deserted City

1984 / 105m - Japan
The Deserted City poster

A surprisingly straightforward drama from Ôbayashi, set in Yanagawa (Japan's famous canal city - its demise was also captured in a documentary by Isao Takahata a few years later). While Ôbayashi tries to add some mystery and intrigue, it doesn't really stick and the result is a bit too cheesy for its own good.

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Eguchi thinks back of the time he spent writing his thesis in Yanagawa. At the time he lived in with the Kaibara household. When he hears the sound of tears at night, he goes out to investigate and becomes part of the drama that tears the family apart. The rest of the city is in pretty bad shape too.

Performances are decent, but the intrigue simply doesn't work. Ôbayashi's style isn't very suited for serious films and when he tries to get poetic it just comes off silly. There are moments where his talent shines through and its certainly not a terrible film, just not on the same level as his other work.

The Island Closest to Heaven

Tengoku ni Ichiban Chikai Shima
1984 / 102m - Japan
The Island Closest to Heaven poster

Not really the kind of film I'd expected from Obayashi. The Island Closest to Heaven is a rather chirpy and upbeat drama, a film that sometimes feels like a travel documentary/advertisement. Most of the film is set in New Caledonia, a group of French islands to the east of Australia which prove to be quite photogenic.

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Keiko, a young woman, travels to the islands all by herself. It's the first big journey she undertakes on her own, as she's looking for a little white island that is supposedly the place where God descends if you want to talk to him. Keiko is part of a travel group, but she quickly separates from them and ventures off to explore on her own.

New Caledonia is a pretty pristine and idyllic place, Obayashi makes excellent use of the natural beauty to give his film some extra flair. The performances are rather weak though, the drama can get a little saccharine and Keiko's quest feels a little random. But most importantly, non of the Obayashi quirk that makes his film stand out. It's not bad, but it started to feel a little dated.

Legend of the Cat Monster

Reibyo Densetsu
1983 / 95m - Japan
Legend of the Cat Monster poster

An older TV movie from Obayashi. It's obvious the budget nor the time was there to make a full-fledged Obayashi experience, but he did a pretty decent job considering these limitations. It's never going to be one of his all-time classics, but fans of the director will no doubt find something to appreciate here.

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An aged, reclusive movie star is thought to be dead. But wants to find her way back into the spotlight. She entices a movie producer to hire a writer and send him to the island she lives on to work on her comeback movie. As the two spend some time together, it quickly dawns on the writer that nothing is what it seems.

It's an ambitious film, which many parallels to draw to other films and genres, but in the end its TV roots keep it from achieving anything too out of the ordinary. The meta element is fun, there are some funky visual experiments and the pacing is slick, I just wish Obayashi had more time and resources to do justice to the material.

Take Me Away!

Furimukeba Ai
1978 / 92m - Japan
Take Me Away! poster

A very simple romance from the hands of Obayashi. There are some minor quirky details, but people who got to know Obayashi through his wilder films might be surprised how straightforward Take Me Away truly is. The romantic back and forth between the two leads is the main focus of the film, and that's about it, really.

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Kyoko runs into Tetsu during her trip to San Francisco. Tetsu is a resident there and the two seem to be hitting it off right away. Kyoko is madly in love with Tetsu, but he seems somewhat reluctant to commit. They decide to meet up in Tokyo once Kyoko's vacation is over, Tetsu never shows up. Disappointed, Kyoko travels back to the US to find out what happened to him.

The cheesy 70s soundtrack and somewhat cringy US setting aren't too appealing, the meant-to-be lovers who keep missing their window of opportunity setup isn't too original either. The lead characters are charming though, and some interesting visual details do help to elevate the film, if only a little. Far from Obayashi's best, but not too bad.

Obayashi directs Kurosawa's Dream's making of. And he goes a bit beyond, by adding several interviews with the director. Those were by far the most interesting parts for me. I really disliked Dreams, and I'm not a big fan of Kurosawa in general, but the conversations between these two men were pretty nice.

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Most of the documentary is just behind the scenes footage though. Some prominent figures come to visit the sets, we get to see some actors talk about their experiences, Obayashi also focuses on the more technical parts of film making. I assume it's all very interesting when you're an aspiring filmmaker, others might find this a bit tougher to watch.

Obayashi is clearly a fan of Kurosawa, and it's nice to see him ask more personal questions, rather than the usual nonsense journalists come up with. These inserts break up the documentary and kept me watching, even when there was way too much filler for my taste. One for fans of Kurosawa and Dreams, others might not find too much here.