Filipinos love Japanese culture for various reasons. You could be an admirer of their culture of politeness and punctuality. It could also be their delectable cuisine of ramen, sushi, and other mouth-watery goodness. Or you could be a fan of Japan’s cultural icons such as Pikachu, Godzilla, and FHM covergirl Maria Ozawa. (Umamin ka na! I’m sure you’re familiar with her comprehensive body of work) But if only Maria Ozawa and Sadako are the names that come to mind when talking about Japanese movies, then you seriously need to improve your literacy on Japanese films.
Fortunately for movie-loving Pinoys, The Japanese Foundation in Manila is currently holding EIGASAI 2016 at the UP Film Institute Cine Adarna, and Ayala Center Cebu where they will be showing a collection of great Japanese independent films. You know what the best thing about it is? It’s free. Let me repeat that because it bears repeating: FREE ADMISSIONS! (Well, at least in UP Film Institute it is. Not sure about the other venues)
One such movie that is screening in EIGASAI 2016 is a Japanese independent film called August in Tokyo. August in Tokyo is a brilliant drama that’s directed by one of the leading up-and-coming directors of Japanese cinema today, Ryutaro Nakagawa. The plot tells the story of Natsuki (Eriko Nakamura), a woman who delivers food in Tokyo. One day, a young man visits her and tells her that her estranged father that abused her when she was a child is ailing. Even though Natsuki hates her father, she decides to visit and take care of him. Meanwhile, Natsuo (Takashi Okito), a Yakuza member undergoing a moral crisis supports himself by collecting debts. Wanting to leave that kind of life, Natsuo decides to visit his drug-addicted younger sister and helps her reform her life.
The plot might sound like your run-off-the-mill drama, but it’s not. I won’t tell you how and why to give you the chance to experience it for yourself but August in Tokyo is probably one of the most emotionally-satisfying and original movies I have seen all year. During its screening, it received three rounds of applause and the ending actually gave me goosebumps that I only get when I’ve seen a great movie.
The movie weaves between the stories of Natsuki and Natsuo, depicting how their estranged relationships with their loved ones mirror one another. It shows the challenge of helping out the ones they love while at the same time trying to keep their own lives from crumbling as well. It’s a situation that audiences can relate to because it has probably happened to us at one time or another. Whether it’s by our own fault or because of unavoidable circumstances in life, we’ve all been in tough situations. And the only way get by is through a combination of hope, forgiveness, and having a sense of humor. Those three things is really what August in Tokyo is about.
9/10. August in Tokyo is a brilliantly-made and emotionally-satisfying Japanese drama that serves as a nice representation of Japanese cinema and culture. It’s a must-see for fans of foreign films and Asian cinema.