5 Best Movies to Watch by Isao Hashizume

Staff & contributors

Based on a classic Japanese folktale, Isao Takahata’s last film will break your heart. This adaptation, of course, follows Princess Kaguya from her being discovered in a glowing bamboo stalk to her departure to the moon. However, while faithful to the original tale, Takahata’s direction turns this historical fantasy into a heart-wrenching coming-of-age film as ethereal as the titular character. The film doesn’t focus on the crazy pursuit of her suitors; instead, we’re drawn to the simple experiences Kaguya herself is drawn to and wants more of, as she tries to balance her life with the societal expectations places on women. All of which is rendered through the film's lush watercolored scenes of the blowing wind or the opening of plum blossoms.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Aki Asakura, Atsuko Takahata, Hikaru Ijūin, Hiroyuki Yamamoto, Isao Hashizume, Kengo Kora, Mirai Uchida, Nobuko Miyamoto, Ryudo Uzaki, Shichinosuke Nakamura, Shinosuke Tatekawa, Takaya Kamikawa, Takeo Chii, Tatsuya Nakadai, Tomoko Tabata, Yuji Miyake, Yukiji Asaoka

Director: Isao Takahata

Rating: PG

There are many movies by the much-celebrated Japanese auteur director Hirokazu Koreeda on A Good Movie to Watch. Why? Because, like all the movies we showcase here, his work is often little-known, but unbelievably good. After the Storm is no different. Much like his other works, notably Like Father, Like Son, Shoplifters, and Nobody Knows, it deals with the topic of family dynamics, regret, and disappointment. But his movies are never dramatic downers but delicate dioramas, understated in tone. Once a successful writer, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) is now a private detective who spends the little money he makes on gambling instead of paying child support. His ex-wife and son are increasingly alienated by his behavior until one day, during a storm, they all find themselves trapped in Ryota's childhood home. Subtly touching on notions of inter-generational bond and tension –⁠ Koreeda's works are mesmerizing and stick with you long after you've finished watching.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Aju Makita, Daisuke Kuroda, Hiroshi Abe, Isao Hashizume, Izumi Matsuoka, Jun Matsumoto, Kanji Furutachi, Kazuya Takahashi, Kensuke Ashihara, Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Maki Yoko, Makoto Nakamura, Michie Ikeda, Mickey Curtis, Rie Minemura, Ryoko Tateishi, Satomi Kobayashi, Shôno Hayama, Sosuke Ikematsu, Taiyo Yoshizawa, Yôko Maki, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Yūko Fukui, Yuri Nakamura, 蒔田 彩珠

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Hirokazu Koreeda

Rating: Not Rated

While billed as a “ramen western”, Tampopo satirizes plenty of other American genres, including, but not limited to: 1) the inspirational sports film, with Tampopo’s diligent training, 2) the erotic, arthouse drama through its egg yolk kiss, 3) the witty, social comedy pointing out the absurd in dinnertime tables, and 4) the melodramatic mafia romance with its room-serviced hotel getaway. But the film doesn’t buckle under the weight of carrying all these genres– instead, the customer vignettes are all delicately plated to balance out the hearty journey of a store owner learning about ramen and the bemused, yet cohesive contemplation about food. Tampopo is one of a kind.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Akio Tanaka, Chōei Takahashi, Fukumi Kuroda, Gō Awazu, Hideji Ōtaki, Hisashi Igawa, Hitoshi Takagi, Hyōe Enoki, Isao Hashizume, Izumi Hara, Ken Watanabe, Kenso Kato, Kinzō Sakura, Kōji Yakusho, Mariko Okada, Masahiko Tsugawa, Naritoshi Hayashi, Nobuko Miyamoto, Nobuo Nakamura, Rikiya Yasuoka, Ryutaro Otomo, Toshimune Kato, Toshiya Fujita, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Yoriko Dōguchi, Yoshi Katō, Zenpaku Kato

Director: Jūzō Itami

Rating: NR

There are plenty of submarine thrillers that work in the present, but when it comes to the genre, the most memorable stories are set during the Cold War, where major superpowers made as much advances in tech as they can without bringing war to the world. The Silent Service depicts an alternate history, where, tired of both the U.S. and Japan, making underhanded moves against each other in their supposed alliance, one submarine captain commits mutiny to declare his nuclear submarine as one nation. Amazon Prime has expanded the film into an eight episode show, which gives much more detail to the sub battles, tech, and underwater escapades. However, because of focusing too much on the step-by-step events, The Silent Service loses sight of the thrilling and terrifying potential of having one crew being in control of nuclear weapons in an undetectable, high-tech submarine that can go anywhere.

Genre: Drama, War, War & Politics

Actor: Aleks Paunovic, Aoi Nakamura, Asami Mizukawa, Aya Ueto, Hiroshi Tamaki, Isao Hashizume, Kou Maehara, Koudai Matsuoka, Takao Osawa, Takashi Sasano, Tao Okamoto, Tomoya Nakamura, Toru Tezuka, Yoshi Sakou, Yosuke Eguchi, Yui Natsukawa, Yusuke Santamaria

Director: Kohei Yoshino

When it wants to be, City Hunter is a fun neon-lit buddy cop comedy that giddily and at times gorily takes us through the seedy underbelly of Tokyo. Leading man Ryo is charismatic, the perfect blend of cool and comedic, while leading woman Kaori is just as adept and charming. The film is also as fast-paced and seamless as you’d want any action-packed movie to be. The only problem City Hunter has is that, despite being a modern adaptation of the iconic ‘80s manga, it’s still stuck in a different century. The very first scene we get is that of Ryo ogling a woman’s breasts, which pretty much dictates the tone of the rest of the film. It’s all horniness and objectification—endless jokes at the expense of its female characters—which is a shame since Kaori is a badass lead. I’m not suggesting Ryo should magically transform into a woke and respectable man, scrubbed of all personality, just that the filmmakers should retain a smidge of control and refrain from fully surrendering to the character’s POV.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Asuka Hanamura, Ayame Misaki, Chase Kim, Fumino Kimura, Isao Hashizume, Masanobu Ando, Misato Morita, Moemi Katayama, Ryohei Suzuki, Stephanie Wong, Takaya Sakoda, Tetta Sugimoto, Yuuki Luna

Director: Yuichi Satoh

Rating: R