COOL JAPAN - Inspiring . Fascinating . Delightful | Clozette


Running out of K-dramas to binge? What do you say about crossing borders and trying out Japanese films for a change? While not every Japanese drama and film out there is friendly towards first-time viewers, many of their slice-of-life movies are easy to consume while also being thought-provoking and feels-igniting. Don't believe us? Scroll through our recommended watch-list and give these slice-of-life Japanese tearjerker movies a try to see for yourself. 


ReLIFE (2017)


Following the animé series and manga of the same name, ReLIFE is about Arata Kaizaki, an unemployed 27-year-old who navigates through the failures and pretentiousness of adulthood. On one fateful day, he was offered a chance to join the ReLIFE research program, where a medication reverts him back to his 17-year-old self. Here, he immerses himself into high school once again as the test subject of a one-year experiment aimed to re-establish confidence amongst failed adults. Should it succeed, the program is set to help these adults pick themselves back up and return as a functional member of society. Desperate for employment and rent, among other things, Kaizaki agrees and finds himself learning beyond what he already knows.


Offering a comedic start that slowly develops into a more wistful and dramatic storyline, ReLIFE gives something to both its teenage and adult audiences. Younger viewers are faced with realities they must face and power through in the next steps of their lives and adults are reminded that despite trying times, there is still hope.



Koe No Katachi (2016)


Known internationally as A Silent Voice, the story revolves around Ishida Shoyo, a highschool student living through the after-effects of being a former bully. Isolated and ostracised by his friends and classmates after deaf transfer student Nishimiya Shouko moved away due to his incessant actions, Shoyo developed self-loathing, mistrust, and the inability to connect with others in his own fear of doing them wrong and vice-versa. Years later, his paths crossed with Shouko once again and in his effort to make amends, he goes through a heart-tugging journey of forgiveness for both self and others. 


What sets Koe No Katachi apart from Western films tackling this issue is that this boldly explores the effects of bullying for both the bully and the bullied. It doesn't justify cruel actions but shows that despite reasons like peer pressure or curiosity, hurting someone will have its consequences for both parties. It also uses deafness as a metaphor for isolation, miscommunication, and facing inner fears and demons. This film will have you shedding tears as it comes to its poignant conclusion. 

The 8-Year Engagement (2017)


With the title being a major giveaway, this autobiographical romance film starring Rurouni Kenshin actors Sato Takeru and Tsuchiya Tao retells the story of Nishozawa Hisashi and Nakahara Mai and their prolonged engagement. In the midst of planning their wedding, Mai suffers from delusions and seizure, leading to an anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis diagnosis, which is a brain inflammation due to a defect in one's antibodies. After being hospitalised, she falls into a deep coma for a year and then wakes up in a 'reboot' state where she has to re-learn everything, from walking to speaking on her own. Hisashi supports her in every step of the way, keeping the promises of their engagement intact despite all their trials. While we won't spoil how the rest of their story went down, make sure you prepare tons of tissues as certain twists and turns in the film will make you shed some tears, especially when you remember that this is actually a true story. 



Her Love Boils Bathwater (2016)


After Kono Futaba gets diagnosed with terminal cancer and learns that she only has a few months to live, she decides to set four goals relating to her bathhouse business and her daughter Azumi. Setting on a trip to get started, Futaba's motherly instincts go beyond her own family to the strangers she meets on the road and starts changing the lives of everyone she encounters.


While we can't disclose more details about this movie without actually spoiling anything, we can guarantee that it's worth every minute. Miyazawa Rie's portrayal of Futaba is absolutely stellar, providing the perfect balance between sternness and warmth and Sugisaki Hana's portrayal of Futaba's daughter Azumi delivers a unique vulnerability that perfectly matches their mother-daughter dynamic. You'll want to reach for your mama after giving this a watch!

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)


Even more than 30 years since its premiere, Grave of the Fireflies still holds the hearts of many viewers because of its different take on war films. Following the story of siblings Seita and Setsuko who had to navigate through life in the midst of World War II, it depicts hell-on-earth events through the eyes of a child that's full of innocence and bliss. The film becomes achingly real as it progresses, taking its audience through extreme emotions of hope, love, loss, and even grief. It also doesn't try to gain sympathy for countries who participated in the historical tragedy, but rather focuses on the sad truth that in war, every camp suffers before either achieves their so-called victory. 



Koizora (2007) 



Ask any J-drama fan for a classic tearjerker and they'll definitely have this on their list. Miura Haruma plays the eccentric yet sensitive Hiro — who sports strikingly blond hair that became one of the film's signatures — and Aragaki Yui plays the innocent Mika who portrays her good girl role with such vulnerable yet elegant finesse. While it starts off with a typical bad-boy-meets-good-girl narrative, Koizora or Sky Of Love offers its own heartbreaking twists that will have you getting feels not just for the two protagonists, but also for those who went through their journey with them. 

I Want To Eat Your Pancreas (2017)


Revolving around the perspective of the protagonist merely known as 'I', the narrative jumps between past and present, all relating to I's experience with classmate Yamauchi Sakura. Sakura shared a secret with him that bound him to join her in life's little misadventures, teaching him to celebrate life and live life to the fullest. 


While the animated version delivers more vividness and depth into the storyline, the stellar cast of the live-action film including Oguri Shun, Habame Minami, Kitamura Takumi, and Kitagawa Keiko definitely made it come alive. The film quickly lets you in on its titular inside joke, which you would hope that it shouldn't have, because knowing it adds to the weight of the experience at every pace of the story. 



Hyouka: Forbidden Secrets (2017)


The last film on our list was derived from a light novel of the same name, which also had its anime adaptation courtesy of Kyoto Animation. When sharp-minded but self-proclaimed energy conserver Oreki Hotaro gets forced by his sister to join his school's Classics Club, his life gets entangled with curious Chitanda Eru. Together, they uncover a three-decade-long mystery surrounding the Classic Club's Hyouka anthology. 


While school-club-centric settings are typical in most Japanese storylines, Hyouka offers a darker yet more philosophical approach to this theme. The exploration of the hidden message behind Hyouka starts from lighthearted to adventurous to hopeful to downright exasperating, leading audiences to wonder along with the characters as they unfold the pieces of the puzzle they're solving. The conclusion comes in a very paradoxical manner, being comedic yet achingly painful. In the end, it poses a very heartwarming message that is applicable to all.


More must-watch Asian films coming your way here!

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