Over the last few years, Japanese culture has exploded into the UK mainstream, and cinema is no exception. This year, on its 20th birthday, the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2023 celebrates “the evolution of Japanese cinema”, encompassing past, present and future. Established in 1972, the Foundation aims to establish links between Japan and the rest of the world. Plymouth Arts Cinema is showing four films from the festival, which all explore different aspects of life in Japan.
Hold Me Back is a love story about a single Japanese woman in Tokyo navigating through her life of administrative work, friends and hobbies with her mental guide ‘A’ helping her with her daily decisions. Although she has a seemingly successful and balanced life, there is a loneliness in her life which she can’t shift. As she gets to know and gradually fall in love with a handsome salesman, her emotionally safe life is pushed to the limit. Both a comical look at falling in love and our private thoughts, and a more serious study of how women can sometimes stagnate in their jobs and lives, fuelled by the societal glass ceiling.
Blue Thermal, based on a manga of the same name, follows the story of Tamaki, a university student who joins an aviation club, as a way out of financially compensating another student. Thought to have first arrived in 1910, and having soared to immense international popularity, a new anime film came out in Japan each week in 2022. Set to an outstanding score, it deals with the interesting topic of how traditionally, women have felt that they have needed to change themselves to be romantically viable, which is an issue globally, and how, as time passes, confidence in oneself improves.
Ito incorporates both the traditional and the modern in its story. The protagonist, Ito, is a cripplingly shy woman, with a lack of social life and friends, who is an incredibly talented player of the ancient tsugaru-shamisen instrument. As a method of challenging herself in her solitude, she takes a part-time role in a maid café. Although common, they are deemed to be somewhat controversial in Japan, and Ito comes up against her father’s disapproval for her job choice. The shamisen instrument historically was used in geisha performances, so it seems to be full circle that a player works in a maid café, a kind of modern interpretation of the traditional geisha ceremonies. An interesting look at how one can change their life, and the way old and new practices can coexist.
BL Metamorphosis is also adapted from a manga and focuses on the unlikely friendship between a 75-year-old widow, Yuki, and a 17-year-old high school student and shop worker, Urara. BL, or Boys Love, is a multimedia phenomenon popular worldwide featuring romantic relationships between attractive teenage boys and young men. Their friendship blossoms when Yuki mistakenly picks up a BL manga, but then becomes enamoured with the genre, of which Urara is also a fan. As well as giving the audience a deeper look into the BL industry, it is refreshing to see a lasting friendship across the generational divide.
Introduced by Imogen Parkin
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