Last updated: August 17, 2021

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Products from Asia used to be impossible to access unless you travelled to the country of origin. Nowadays, we are lucky to live in a globalised world that allows us to buy products from all over the world. This is the case of the Japanese films that we will be discussing today.

They may not have the same popularity as Hollywood films, however, it is one of the oldest industries in cinema and many Japanese films have been awarded worldwide for the perspective and neatness in which the stories are told.

We invite you to read the following article which contains all the details so that you can easily shop for the best Japanese film. From its definition, advantages, disadvantages, prices, points of sale, to the necessary factors so that you can choose the right one for your personal tastes. Don't miss it!




The most important facts

  • A Japanese film is characterised by reflecting themes of interest specific to that country. They are known for their attention to detail, perfection and innovation. Through them we can learn about the country's history, culture and idiosyncrasies, as well as immerse ourselves in a totally different surreal world.
  • Japanese films stand out for having two main branches: realism and fantasy. Both genres have been developed with excellence and we recommend both. Through them you can explore reality or a partially or totally invented world.
  • If you want to choose the best Japanese film and not be disappointed, we recommend considering the sub-genres of the fantasy and realistic area, the awards the title has received and you can also choose based on the most emblematic directors. All you have to do is get the popcorn and sit back and enjoy!

The Best Japanese Films: Our Picks

Buying guide: What you need to know about Japanese films

The Eastern world is diametrically different from the Western world, which is why we tend to have a curious interest in its art and lifestyle. If you like or are simply curious about Japanese cinema, we show you everything you need to know to choose the best Japanese film. A must-see!

Japanese films are the scariest and creepiest (Photo: Iko/ 123rf.com)

What are Japanese films and what are their advantages?

Japanese cinema is a major industry that ranks third in the world and is constantly growing. It has both national and international fans; Japanese films stand out for having a different approach, based on their haiku poetry that tells a story with images.

They are characterised by being linked to their history as a country, having exponents that reflect from kabuki theatre, through war, taboo subjects and animation in all its fields. There is entertainment for a long time, if you want it. They are also ideal for learning another language and culture.

Advantages
  • Oriented to their culture and spirituality
  • Tons of material to watch
  • Distraction and accessible entertainment
  • Exposure to another language and content
Disadvantages
  • Can have complex plots to understand Problems related to dubbing, translation and subtitling
  • Hard to get exclusive or independent material
  • Little dissemination of titles

Japanese realist or fantasy films - what should you look out for?

Since its origins, Japanese cinema has had two clear tendencies: realism and fantasy. On the one hand they show us their culture and history, on the other hand they immerse us in a totally different world. Find out why they stand out below.

Realism. This theme is very important as it details and graphs Japanese history, its culture and the events that have given it its idiosyncrasy. It highlights films of its history such as the Shogunate, the war, the samurai and yakuza. These films are full of cult content and show the Japanese world as it is.

Fantasy. The Japanese are also leaders in this genre that pushes the boundaries of the rational. From films with mutant monsters immersed in reality, to the total fantasy of cartoons. The level of science fiction can be seen in minute details or in the whole film.

Realism Fantasy
Notable director Akira Kurosawa Ishirō Honda
Most influential title Rashōmon (1950) Godzilla (1954)
Sub genres Yakuza, Samurai, Pink Cinema, Ultra violence Animé, horror surrealism, science fiction
Ideal for Learning Japanese idiosyncrasy Experiencing an out-of-reality

Japanese films are oriented towards detail and social realism (Photo: Jaquelyn Trizlic/ 123rf.com)

Buying criteria

It is very disappointing to invest in a film that is not to our liking. It can happen frequently as many of us focus on reading the description and nothing else. Here are the comparison factors that will help you to quickly identify a Japanese film that is of interest to you.

Fantastic sub-genres

Science fiction and fantasy do not have to be based in a parallel world that does not exist. The Japanese fantasy genre stands out as the perfect blend of tangible reality and the spiritual world. The fantasy genres developed by the Japanese are the following:

Anime. It is undoubtedly one of the most current references. In spite of being an animation genre, it deals with different themes that are characterised by being realistic, deep and touching on political, violent, sexual, scientific and fantasy themes. It is recommended to take a different look at cartoons.

Kaiju. Long before anime, Japanese cinema created its own style related to monsters. Its most iconic example is Godzilla or Gojira in Japanese. They are recommended to enjoy a heroic genre in which a surreal animal can save or doom humanity.

J-Horror. Although sometimes based on real events, this genre is characterised by mixing a psychological plot with constant tension and the incorporation of supernatural beings. It is recommended for chilling stories based on Japanese myths and beliefs.

Realistic sub-genres

As in the Western industry, Japanese films are available in all film genres such as drama, horror, comedy, suspense, etc. However, the industry has developed genres that are entirely indigenous and worth giving a chance

Jidaigeki. Highlights the use of indigenous make-up and complex plots. Generally based on the Edo period in which we can see the grandiose battles of samurai, farmers and merchants that characterised the era. It is recommended to learn and understand the Japanese idiosyncrasy based on its history.

Yakuza. A word that is very well known, it reflects the post-war era in which these mafia groups achieved great fame in the country. If you like films about clandestine organisations, this is the best option to enjoy crime or heroic triumph for others.

Pink Films. These are pornographic films that are characteristically approached in a different way. It is recommended to enjoy a passionate film, with social themes, plots with content and details better taken care of.

Awards

Awards are a reliable indicator of the quality of films. On a national level, you should have knowledge of the industry to identify the area in which it has been awarded; if you want to see it on an international level, it will be much easier to identify the Japanese film that matches your expectations.

National. The Japanese Academy Awards are the most nationally recognised awards for excellence in Japanese cinema. They are clearly differentiated in their cover and it is recommended to choose based on the year or on the popularity awards if you don't know the authors.

International. The best known are the Oscars in the United States and the Palme d'Or in Cannes. All you have to do is look on the cover of the film for the reason for its award, whether for actors, director, screenplay, photography, among others. You will have plenty of reasons to see a Japanese film.

The jidaigeki genre is perfect for learning about Japanese history (Photo: Wan Chiang Tan/ 123rf.com)

Directors

Japanese cinema has some great filmmakers who have been very influential in the history of cinema, even serving as guides for great Hollywood directors. We cannot fail to highlight the best Japanese films, according to their most significant exponents for the industry.

Akira Kurosawa. Known as the emperor of cinema. His films are characterised by a tireless search for realism and perfectionism. If you want to enjoy all the professionalism of this director, we recommend his most outstanding works such as Rashomon or The Seven Samurai, belonging to the Jidaigeki or drama genre.

Yasujiro Ozu. Japanese director of world-renowned classics. His style focuses on still shots developed by himself. The films of this filmmaker are recommended to relive Japan's transition to a more modern society. If you are interested, you should definitely watch Tokyo Story.

Takashi Miike. One of the pioneers in taking the violence and perversions of humanity a step further. Recommended only if you have a high tolerance for violence, gore and horror. His themes tend to be yakuza, although he has terrifying variants such as "Audition", which we recommend 100% for a good scare.

(Featured image source: Lightfieldstudios/ 123rf.com)

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