There was no interesting Hollywood movies opening at my local cinemas for the last couple of weeks. I didn't fancy going to Resident Evil: Retribution  while The Master  still hasn't got a release date in my country. The week before had movies I was even less interested in: The Cold Light Of Day  and The Watch . Luckily there was a Japanese Film Festival being held for limited time at a few selected cinemas here. Out of the 12 films shown, I managed to catch only two, which will be reviewed here. I was actually quite surprised both was a full house.
# Ending Note: Death Of A Japanese Salesman (Endingu Noto) 
Directed By: Mami Sunada
The Story: A documentary which focuses on Tomoaki Sunada, who after working in the same company for 40 years retired at the age of 67. In 2010, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 abdominal cancer. His daughter records the final months of his life as he prepares his funeral and completes his of "To Do..." list.
The Verdict: I've always been fascinated with the concept of "Carpe diem", "Living life to the fullest", "Enjoying life's pleasures" and the such, although I rarely get to practice it now. The thing about death is it focuses one's perspective to the joy of life. We want to do what we've always desired to do. Interesting here is, most of Tomoaki's "To Do" list involves spending a lot of time with his family. The Japan Times named this 1 of the 10 Best Japanese Films in 2011, and it is very well deserved. This is a very heartfelt and touching feature. I don't think there was a single dry eye in the entire theatre by the end of the film.
Rating: 8 out of 10
# Ninja Kids!!! (Nintama Rantaro) 
Directed By: Takashi Miike
Starring: Kato Seishiro, Kimuru Futa, Hayashi Roi, Miura Takahiro, Terajima Susumu
The Story: For generations, his family has been nothing but just low-ranking ninjas, so Rantaro (played by Kato Seishiro) is sent by his father to the Ninja Academy with the hope that he turns into the best ninja there is. The academy is full of eccentric characters and Rantaro strikes up a close relationship with Shinbei (played by Kimuru Futa) and Kirimaru (Hayashi Roi).
The Verdict: Based on the anime, Nintama Rantaro, and directed by Takashi Miike who is known for cult horror film Audition (Odishon)  and also last year delivered the fantastic 13 Assassins (Jusan-nin no shikaku) . This film will probably distinguishably divide the camp that loves it with the ones that hate it. I actually experienced both feelings in abundance while watching it. The complete bizarreness and creepiness that only Japanese cinema can provide (see photo above for example) is sometimes too much for me to take. But then again there are plenty of hilarious moments and by large this is a very entertaining flick. Maybe the problem is I'm mostly not very used to the world of Japanese cinema and anime yet.
Rating: 7 out of 10