November leaves us in a bit of a holiday movie limbo – it feels too early for an onslaught of Christmas-themed rom-coms, but we’ve finished watching every spine-chilling thriller there was to see in the lead-up to Halloween (Squid Game was just the beginning).
Nevertheless, there are more fantastic films and series to catch this month, and not all of them are sappy holiday films or the unspeakable ‘Cats’ movie. On top of Western adaptations of Japanese anime like the live-action ‘Detective Pikachu’ movie starring Ryan Reynolds (coming November 20) and the Netflix original series ‘Cowboy Bebop’ (coming November 19), here are some mellow Japanese slice-of-life films and series to get stuck into. Bear in mind that not all of these movies and shows will offer English subtitles and regional restrictions may apply.
461 Days of Bento
Synopsis: Kazuki Suzumoto (Yoshihiko Inohara) is a divorced father working in the music industry who struggles to connect with his 15-year-old son. Shunsuke is at a critical period of his adolescence, but while his peers are already preparing for university, Shunsuke is still unsure what he wants for himself. Despite his difficulties in getting his son to open up to him, Kazuki commits to making a bento box for Shunsuke every day before work to show his love through delicious, homemade food.
Overview: This slice-of-life film about a father and son steers clear of slapstick punchlines or melodrama. Instead, the film offers a sincere snapshot of a familiar family dynamic involving divorce, parent-child relationships and the complicated feelings of adolescence.
Available November 1.
Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You
Synopsis: Shy and soft-spoken high school student Sawako Kuronuma often hides behind her long black hair and keeps to herself. Her quiet disposition has earned her the nickname ‘Sadako’ at school, in reference to the notorious ghostly figure that appears in the horror film ‘Ring’. Despite some people being put off by Sawako’s awkward manner, Sawako’s classmate Kazehaya makes a point of being extra kind to her. Slowly but surely, Sawako’s bright personality begins to shine through as her classmates see less and less resemblance between Sawako and Sadako.
Overview: A beloved anime adapted from the shojo manga of the same name by Karuho Shiina, ‘Kimi ni Todoke’ is a cheery and lighthearted romance series for anyone who likes understated love stories. Without too many clichés or overplayed caricatures, the series is thoroughly uplifting and watchable.
Available November 1.
Synopsis: Yukisuke is an academic researcher whose lack of confidence, partly due to a bad leg, makes it harder for him to form new connections with people. There is an exception, however, when it comes to a young woman called Koyomi who runs a small taiyaki shop. But just as Yukisuke and Koyomi are falling in love, Koyomi suffers from an accident that wipes all her memories of Yukisuke and prevents her from forming new ones. Koyomi’s condition doesn’t deter Yukisuke, who is committed to seeing Koyomi through her recovery, even if she can’t remember who he is.
Overview: ‘Girl meets boy, girl loses memory’ is a trope we’ve seen countless times before, but it’s a trope that hopeless romantics can’t seem to get enough of. With performances from Misa Eto as Koyomi and Taiga Nakano as Yukisuke, this earnest production won the Audience Award at the 20th edition of the Tokyo Filmex festival. It serves to remind us that more often than not, it’s the personality and intentions of a person that makes us love them instead of just the memories we share.
Available November 5.
Synopsis: As a young girl, Chihaya Ayase spent most of her time in her big sister’s shadow without many interests or hobbies of her own. One day, Chihaya meets a fellow elementary school student called Arata Wataya, who teaches Chihaya a traditional card game called karuta. Chihaya quickly falls in love with the game and dedicates all her time to it. Flash forward to high school and Chihaya sets up a karuta club at school with her friend Taichi, determined to one day become the world’s best karuta player.
Overview: If there’s anything we learned from the hit Netflix series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, it’s that even if a show is centered on a sport or game we’re not familiar with, it doesn’t stop us from getting heavily invested in the story. With the series bouncing between different points in Chihaya’s life, from when she was a young girl up to her time as a high school student, the anime does a beautiful job of capturing the journey of our protagonist and her friends as burgeoning karuta players.
Available November 1.
Words Bubble up Like Soda Pop
Synopsis: Cherry wears headphones to deter people from striking up a conversation with him, but tries to connect with like-minded people through the haikus he shares anonymously on social media. Smile is a self-conscious teenage girl who wears a face mask to conceal her braces from people. When the pair meet one sunny summer day, they gradually lose their inhibitions as they share their passions and ambitions with each other.
Overview: Newly released in Japan over the summer of 2021, this fresh feature film is a sweet and eye-catching coming of age drama that perfectly captures the way even the shyest introverts long to be seen for who they really are. Covid-19 related complications may have hampered the film from getting the recognition it deserved when it was first screened in cinemas across Japan, but this Netflix release is sure to set that right.
Available November 22.
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