Under the Stars
Photo: Under the Stars

4 best Japanese films and series coming to Netflix in June 2022

Coming up: Satoshi Kon’s award-winning anime film 'Millennium Actress' and Toma Ikuta's foray into kabuki

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen

Are you as tired of this dreary weather as we are? When rainy days get in the way of your weekend plans, it’s always good to have a few things ready on your watchlist. This June, we’ve got a short but brilliant selection of titles to check out, including the award-winning 2001 animated drama ‘Millennium Actress’ and two instalments of actor Toma Ikuta’s first kabuki performance. (Note: regional restrictions may apply.)

Millenium Actress

Synopsis: Filmmaker Genya Tachibana decides to try and make a documentary about a retired actress called Chiyoko Fujiwara, who was once celebrated as the nation’s most popular starlet. After spending decades away from the spotlight, Chiyoko initially feels uncomfortable about being put in front of the camera again, but eventually warms up to Tachibana and agrees to tell him her life story, from her ambitious teenage years to the height of her colourful career.

Overview: It’s not often we see an animated film praised as heavily as the classic features of Studio Ghibli, but shortly after its 2001 release, Satoshi Kon’s ‘Millennium Actress’ tied with ‘Spirited Away’ for the Grand Prize in the Japan Agency of Cultural Affairs Media Arts Festival. Touching, ruminative and devastating all at once, this roller coaster of emotions is easily one of the best films Japan has ever produced. 

Available June 1.

Sing, Dance, Act: Kabuki featuring Toma Ikuta 

Synopsis: In August 2021, actor and idol Toma Ikuta set out to join the final season of an independent kabuki production called 'Idomu (Challenge)', led by his childhood friend and kabuki artist Matsuya Onoe. This Netflix original documentary follows Ikuta’s gruelling rehearsal process as he tries to master an art form that normally requires years of training in the span of a few short months. 

Overview: Toma Ikuta fans will no doubt be enthralled to watch their idol broaden his horizons in this delightful documentary, but you don’t have to be a longtime admirer of the former Johnny’s actor to be captivated by this rare glimpse of a traditional Japanese art form. Taking you from the rehearsal process of a traditional kabuki performance to the pre-show make-up room, ‘Sing, Dance, Act’ is a beautiful and insightful journey about friendship and passionate dedication to a centuries-old craft. 

Available June 16. 

Toma Ikuta
Photo: Johnny's and Associates

Kabuki Akadosuzunosuke 

Synopsis: In this kabuki play, a samurai wanders the mountains of Shimousa hoping to improve his fighting technique to prepare for battles against evil spirits. Little does he know that the dangers that lie ahead of him are far greater than he could have imagined. 

Overview: You’ve seen idol and actor Toma Ikuta prepare for his kabuki debut in his documentary ‘Sing, Dance, Act’, now you can watch the result of his months of preparation in this kabuki adaptation of ‘Akadosuzunosuke’ where he plays the role of Tatsumaki Rainoshin.

Available June 16. 

Under the Stars 

Synopsis: Chihiro suffered from eczema as a baby, which left her parents desperately seeking cures, both reputable and otherwise. Eventually, a colleague of Chihiro’s father offers what he claims to be holy water that will help her skin. Miraculously, Chihiro’s skin condition improves after being treated with the water, but this causes her parents to become devout members of the religious cult behind the so-called holy water. Now that Chihiro is a teenager, she is forced to grapple with the difficult circumstances of her parents' religious beliefs and begins to question the nature of her upbringing. 

Overview: Mana Ashida shines in this bittersweet coming of age story directed by Tatsushi Omori. From high school crushes to the shifting bond between a teenager and her parents, 'Under the Stars' is an examination of love and all its complexities.

Available June 3. 

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Japan's biggest ever Sailor Moon exhibition comes to Tokyo this summer

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