Hilarious Japanese Films – A Review

Still from Not Quite Dead Yet.

The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme is an annual event where a curated selection of Japanese films are shown in venues across the UK, providing an opportunity to ‘experience Japan through cinema’ (according to their slogan). This year, presumably due to covid restrictions, the programme went online. Lasting from the 19th of February to the 10th March, eighteen different hand-picked films from a variety of genres were free to book and watch from the comfort of home. With the stress of coronavirus restrictions and limitations, I only wanted to watch happy, up-beat films so selected and settled down to watch comedies. 

Samurai Shifters (Hikkoshi daimyo!,  引っ越し大名!): A Review

Director Inudo Isshin, 2019, 120min.

Samurai Shifters is a an endearing film, frequently punctuated by unpredictable moments of humour with my personal favourite being when the female lead ran to save the male lead from forced suicide but ended up sliding uncontrollably on the wooden floorboards right out of shot! The story is set in the Edo period and follows the incredibly introverted librarian Katagiri Harunosuke (or snail-boy) who has landed the job of coordinating the move of his whole clan across the length of Japan – based on tales of real-life feudal lord Matsudaira Naonori. The film is an enjoyable, fast-paced, funny watch that manages to pull on the heart-strings at the end. I totally recommend viewing it! 

Still from Samurai Shifters.

Not Quite Dead Yet (Ichido shindemita,  一度死んでみた): A Review

Director Hamasaki Shinji, 2020, 93min.

Not Quite Dead Yet is an utterly bonkers film! The premise of a pharmaceutical company director taking a drug that will temporarily kill him (for two days) to root out a corporate spy, whilst his daughter has to protect him (or rather his dead body) from being murdered in the meantime sounds mad, but this brief plot description doesn’t come close to actually representing just how wacky this film is. Add in that the daughter can sense the corporeal father’s presence by his terrible body smell (which he explains as having evolved to prevent parents and offspring from mating), an employee who is so unnoticeable that he basically has the power of invisibility and the constant screaming of the English word ‘death’ (but pronounced DESS) and you start to get a more accurate picture. This film is probably an acquired taste but I found it a completely unpredictable, and ultimately hilarious viewing experience.

I think that the Japan Foundation have provided a really excellent opportunity to see Japanese films unlikely to otherwise be available to a British audience, their website is well worth a look.

Link to the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme website:


2 Replies to “Hilarious Japanese Films – A Review

  1. Hi Zoe, Thanks for your film critics! Sadly I haven’t had a chance to watch any but will remember the titles. You watched comedies, dubbed or with subtitles? Did you get the humour or jokes alright? Sometimes humour can be different in different countries. So, if you enjoyed and laughed, the translators behind the scene had done a good job as they converted the language to fit into a short amount of time, without notes or explanation, yet keeping the flow!

    1. Hi Natsue,
      With subtitles, I am generally not a fan of dubbed films/shows. I was apprehensive about the humour too but I found it really funny. Both films had a lot of physical comedy, so I think that helped a lot. The translation seemed good to me, I also enjoyed identifying bits where the literal translation was different but the change made it sound more natural in English.

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