Photo: ©Yutaka Kono/Shinchosha’, Go Away, Ultramarine’ (2019)

5 new Japanese films and shows coming to Netflix in May 2021

What you'll be watching this month: expect fantasy, a murder mystery, musings on the mortality of life, and more

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen

Spring is usually a prime time to escape the city, go picnicking and soak up the sun, but since we’re not quite out of the woods just yet with this pandemic, it looks like many of us will be sticking to familiar routines at home this month. Come on, a chill weekend with Netflix doesn’t sound all too bad, right? 

April brought us some groundbreaking titles like ‘Yasuke’, the anime about Japan’s first Black samurai, but there’ll be more new titles to watch in May once you’re done with LeSean Thomas’s genre-bending series. Look out for these Japanese films and TV shows coming to Netflix in May that are all about taking life’s curveballs in your stride. (Note: regional restrictions may apply.)

Masquerade Hotel 

Synopsis: Police are on a hunt for a serial killer who leaves the GPS coordinates of his next crime with each victim he murders. The killer’s most recent coordinates suggest that they will soon prey on a new target at the grand Hotel Cortesia, so detective Kosuke Nitta resolves to go undercover as a hotel employee to catch the killer before they strike again. His job is complicated, however, as hotel manager Naomi Yamagishi is fiercely determined not to let the police disrupt the guests or her business. 

Overview: Starring beloved former SMAP member Takuya Kimura and award-winning actress Masami Nagasawa, this quirky whodunit follows a predictable yet satisfying formula for murder mystery fanatics. Available from May 1. 

Ending Note: Death of a Japanese Salesman 

Synopsis: Tomoaki Sunada is diagnosed with terminal cancer and only has a few months to live. Tomaki, whose career as a salesman earned him the respect of his colleagues as one of the company’s most efficient organisers, has decided to treat his imminent demise as one final project in which he would painstakingly plan down to every last detail. 

Overview: In this heartfelt and personal documentary, filmmaker Mami Sunada captures the final months of her father Tomoaki Sunada in the wake of his cancer diagnosis. Using her father’s personal journal entries, Mami narrates her father’s story in a tribute that profoundly conveys every aspect of his life, family and personality. Available from May 15. 

My Father, the Bride

Synopsis: Tohka returns to her hometown to commemorate the anniversary of her mother’s passing only to find that her father Seiji dressed in her late mother’s old clothes. It appears that during Tohka’s time away from home, Seiji decided he wanted to be a wife and mother himself, and began a relationship with a local handyman. Though she’s initially outraged by her father’s decision, Tohka must now reconcile with her new father’s identity and find a way to accept her new family. 

Overview: Directed by Momoko Fukada, this offbeat yet heartwarming comedy highlights the social issues surrounding inclusivity and traditional gender roles. Rather than being confrontational about society’s negative attitudes towards sexual minorities, Fukada gently invites viewers to embrace the simplicity behind living the way that makes you happiest and accepting people for who they are. Available from April 30. 

Go Away, Ultramarine

Synopsis: The mysterious Kaiden island is populated by a small group of people who don’t know why or how they got there. Because his classmates don’t seem curious enough to uncover the truth behind their circumstances, high school student Nanakusa, one of the island’s inhabitants, is content to go to school everyday without asking too many questions. Then one day, he bumps into his old friend Yu, who unlike her peers, is determined to discover the truth about the island.

Overview: Based on the novel ‘Inakunare Gunjo’ by Yutaka Kono, the film stars Ryusei Yokohama and Marie Iitoyo as Nanakusa and Yu. Despite its mysterious and occasionally chilling undertones, ‘Go Away, Ultramarine’ is more of a philosophical exploration set in a world of fantasy rather than a gripping mystery. Available from May 3. 

A Long Goodbye

Synopsis: On his 70th birthday, retired school principal Shohei tells his family that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Shohei’s wife and three daughters struggle to watch their once razor-sharp patriarch gradually transform into a seemingly different person, but they soon realise that Shohei has retained some of his most treasured family memories even as his condition deteriorates.

Overview: Based on a novel by Kyoko Nakajima, ‘A Long Goodbye’ chronicles every stage of the protagonist’s devastating condition over the course of several years. The film is interspersed by the wistful soundtrack of piano music, and has an undertone that emphasises optimism more than pain. Available from May 18. 

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