As the J-POP SUMMIT festival gears up to descend upon Fort Mason next weekend, the Japan Film Festival at the New People Cinema keeps things real in Japantown. Highlights this year include the North American premiere of Kaku Arakawa’s documentary Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki, which catches up with the famed Studio Ghibli founder since he retired from feature-filmmaking. Not yet retired is the considerably younger Makoto Shinkai, whose Your Name was Japan’s biggest hit in 2016 — and the highest-grossing anime film of all time. A heartfelt mindbender about the difficulties of personal connections as represented by inexplicable cosmic phenomena, it’s very much worth catching if you missed it when it played in town earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Cyborg 009 series director Kenji Kamiyama’s Napping Princess tells of a schoolgirl — it’s always a schoolgirl — whose dreams of an industrial dystopia may be closer to reality than she thinks. On the live-action end of things is One Hitoshi’s Bakuman, based on a manga by the creators of Death Note about a pair of high school students who join forces to become manga creators after one of their manga-artist uncles dies from overwork. (The film industry isn’t alone in telling dark stories about itself.) Meanwhile, Lee Sang-il’s Rage puts Ken Watanabe in the middle of a complex murder mystery.
Japan Film Festival 2017
Opens Friday at the New People Cinema.