A Preview of Japanese Films at the London Film Festival 2015

The BFI London Film Festival runs from October 07th to October 18thand features a programme of Japanese films that contain anime and live-action, drama and adventure and a J-horror title thrown in.

The big theme with this year’s festival is the reliance on name-brands that cinephiles around the world know about. For the horror fan there is Hideo Nakata with his yet-to-be-released in Japan Ghost Theatre, which is exactly what the title reads like. At the extreme end of the spectrum are stalwart filmmakers and festival regulars Sion Sono, with Love & Peace, and Takashi Miike with Yakuza Apocalypse. The anime titles feature two of the biggest anime movies released in recent years with The Boy and the Beast and When Marnie Was There playing. It’s a solid line-up with plenty to choose from.

Here are the titles:

The Boy and the Beast

Running Time: 128 mins.

Director: Mamoru Hosoda

Mamoru Hosoda will be a familiar name to members of Anime UK News thanks to his previous works like The Wolf Children, Summer Wars, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. This film features a cast of voice actors drawn from some of the best that the live-action movie world can offer.


A lonely boy in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward finds that there is another world, the bakemono realm (“Juutengai”). Typically, these two worlds do not meet but the boy gets lost in the bakemono world and becomes the disciple of a lonely bakemono named Kumatetsu who takes the boy under his wing and renames him Kyuuta.

When Marnie Was There    

Running Time: 103 mins.

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

This is reputedly the last film to be released from Studio Ghibli and it is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the chap who directed another Ghibli film, Arrietty.  It is an adaptation of a book written by British novelist Joan G. Robinson which was published in 1967 but the setting has moved from Britain to modern Japan.


Anna has travelled from the big city to a coastal town in Hokkaido where she is staying with an adoptive mother she refers to as ‘Aunt’ and trying to overcome a serious bout of asthma. She finds it hard to make friends and so spends a lot of time alone but when she sees a blonde haired girl in a western style house, she is drawn to her. Anna meets the girl and finds out that she is called Marnie and they play together. It seems that Anna has made her first ever friend but all is not as it seems with Marnie… 

Love & Peace   

Running Time: 117 mins.

Director: Sion Sono

Sion Sono will be familiar to Anime UK News forumites thanks to popular titles like Love Exposure and Tokyo Tribe. Anybody who enjoyed those films and is heading down to the festival will want to see this bizarre riot of imagination and rock music which has been picked for distribution by Third Window Films.


A timid salaryman named Ryoichi once dreamed of becoming a punk rocker but he now works at a musical instrument parts company where he nurses feelings for an office lady and wishes for more from life. He’s about to get his wish when he randomly buys a turtle and names it Pikadon. A series of events occur and Ryoichi’s dreams of being a rock star might be about to come true! However, it might also lead to the end of the world…

Ghost Theatre

Running Time: 99 mins.

Director: Hideo Nakata

Hideo Nakata is one of the major architects of the J-horror boom of the late ‘90s with his films Ringu and Dark Water proving to be scary timeless horror tales. This new one from him features a budding actress terrorised by a ghost in a theatre, hence the title!


Sara is a new actor at a theatre troupe but she soon gets the lead role thanks to a series of strange accidents. Sara soon realises that a supernatural threat that is lurking in the theatre…

Happy Hour

Running Time: 317 mins.

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

This five hour drama has made waves on the festival circuit after the four lead actors (all newbies) walked away with the best acting prize at the Locarno Film Festival earlier this year in their roles of women in unhappy relationships. It is as yet unlicensed for UK distribution which makes this the best and possibly only place to see the drama on a big screen in the UK.


Four friends, a nurse, curator, cafe worker and housewife move through the entanglements of their work and romantic lives attempting to find some balance. The women talk frankly, often to the point of social humiliation, and the unfolding of various infidelities feels painfully true, as does the incomprehension of the men who love them.

Ryuzo And The Seven Henchmen   

Running Time: 111 mins.

Director: Takeshi Kitano

Takeshi Kitano is famous for his gangster films and his latest film is about old yakuza coming out of retirement to clean up the crime world. The film stars a lot of actors who have played yakuza and tough guy roles.


Ryuzo and his seven former henchmen are all retired yakuza in their 70s who live quiet lives as regular old men. One day, Ryuzo becomes the victim of a phishing scam and is outraged. He calls his seven men together to reform their society.

Our Little Sister

Running Time: 126 mins.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Our Little Sister is based on an award-winning josei manga series created by Akimi Yoshida and is directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, the auteur behind KisekiStill Walking, and Like Father, Like Son. These films have proven very popular with international audiences with their focus on naturalistic style, atmospheric drama and compelling characters.


29-year-old Sachi Kouda, 22-year-old Yoshino Kouda, and 19-year-old Chika Kouda live in a house once owned by their grandmother in Kamakura. Their parents are divorced, their father having left them fifteen years ago. When they learn of their father’s death, they decide to attend his funeral where they meet their 14-year-old sister Suzu Asano who has nobody to care for her. Sachi invites her to join them in Kamakura.

Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War of the Underworld   

Duration: 125 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Everybody knows Takashi Miike thanks to ground-breaking and extreme cult films like Audition and Ichi the Killer but in recent years he has diversified into mainstream and historical titles, deviating away from his horror and gangster film roots. Fans of his early work will be pleased to see that he has returned to his more anarchic side with the bizarre and funny Yakuza Apocalypse which puts a vampire yakuza in the middle of a gang war. Manga Entertainment is listed as distributor.


Akira works for the so-called “invincible” yakuza boss Genyo Kamiura and dreams of being an honourable criminal. What he finds is not what he expected. His fellow gangsters don’t play by old-school rules of loyalty and honour. Even worse, his boss is a vampire and he has just been slain. Akira drinks the blood of his boss and takes his place as the ultimate yakuza vampire and a war begins!


Duration: 113 mins.

Director: Naomi Kawase

Naomi Kawase is a firm favourite on the film festival circuit because her early films are genuinely fascinating and moving portraits of everyday life and family relations. Her most recent release is a drama that has split critics between those who like slow dramas and those who find it too saccharine.


Former prison inmate Sentarou establishes a dorayaki bakery store and hires an old woman named Tokue to make the sweet red bean paste that fills the dorayaki. Her work becomes popular and the store flourishes, but a rumour spreads that Tokue once had leprosy…

Tickets are on sale to the general public on September 17th.


I'm a long-time anime and Japanese film and culture fan who has lived in the country and is studying Japanese in an effort to become fluent. I write about films, anime, and work on various things.

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