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10 Japanese Movies to Look Forward to in 2022

From novel and manga adaptations, to reimagining classics and subverting tropes and genres

By Cezary Jan Strusiewicz

When it comes to things Japan should be worrying about in 2022, movies are low down on the list. But that’s precisely why it needs movies now more than ever. With everything that’s going on around the world, a little escapism could be just what the doctor ordered. With that in mind, here’s your cinematic prescription for 2022.

1. What to Do with the Dead Kaiju?

Properly separating garbage is a big part of life in Japan. You have to put out your plastics one day, your plastic bottles the other and never mix them up with your combustibles.  So, what kind of garbage would the body of a giant, rotting Kaiju be? That’s just one question that Japan is struggling with in What to Do with the Dead Kaiju? It’s a film about a giant creature attacking Japan and suddenly dropping dead, leaving the country with the literally monstrous task of cleaning up its carcass. It sounds like it could be a super fun twist on familiar giant monster movies that might breathe new life into the genre.

Release Day: Feb 4, 2022
Japanese Title: 大怪獣のあとしまつ
Director: Satoshi Miki
Cast: Ryosuke Yamada, Tao Tsuchiya

2. Shin Ultraman

Speaking of Kaiju, Godzilla might be the most famous example of a giant Japanese monster in the West. But Ultraman has that franchise beat in numbers, producing thousands upon thousands of massive Kaiju as enemies for the titular Ultraman (a giant alien warrior fused with a human host) since 1966. In 2022, the Ultraman Series will be reimagined in Shin Ultraman. It’s a darker, more human-focused story produced by Hideaki Anno. We still don’t know what the creator of the psychedelic global hit Evangelion will do with a live-action story about a bio-metallic alien-human hybrid fighting giant monsters, but chances that it will be boring or forgettable are ultra-low.

Release Day: May 13, 2022
Japanese Title: シン・ウルトラマン
Director: Shinji Higuchi
Cast: Takumi Saito, Masami Nagasawa, Hidetoshi Nishijima

3. Ox-Head Village

As we pointed out before, horror director Takashi Shimizu likes to stay in his comfort zone. This has been the case since Ju-On (The Grudge) and Howling Village were followed by Suicide Forest Village, a movie about a village that “holds a grudge.” It seems that the acclaimed scare flick director has no plans to deviate from his winning formula, as 2022 will bring us the final installment of his “village” trilogy with Ox-Head Village. According to the official synopsis, the movie deals with “renowned haunted places, unbinding the mystery of three missing high school girls.”

Release Day: Feb 18, 2022
Japanese Title: 牛首村
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Cast: Koki, Riku Hagiwara, Fumiya Takahashi

4. Noise

As well as bringing together themes of Japan’s remote communities struggling with population loss, economic revitalization, agriculture and bloody murder, Noise also provides another kind of uniting. The plot of the movie centers around characters played by Tatsuya Fujiwara, who breeds a new kind of fig that promises to save his rural community. Then there’s Kenichi Matsuyama, who must deal with a sudden threat to their island. The two actors also played Light and L in the first two live-action Death Note movies. Noise now gives fans a chance to watch these two previous enemies work together towards a common goal.

Release Day: Jan 28, 2022
Japanese Title: ノイズ
Director: Ryuichi Hiroki
Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kenichi Matsuyama

5. Bubble

Bubble takes place in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo that has become a parkour playground for young people after mysterious bubbles that defy the laws of physics rain down on the city. That alone is enough material for an entire movie full of breathtaking and innovative action scenes that allow you to slowly yet awesomely take in the beautifully animated world and just enjoy the wild ride. On top of all that, you also have a mystery that may end up changing the world forever. But after you see some of the film’s amazing urban acrobatic scenes, directed by Tetsuro Araki (Attack on Titan), everything else will just feel like garnish.

Release Day: Apr 28, 2022 (Netflix), May 13, 2022 (Japanese cinemas)
Japanese Title: バブル
Director: Tetsuro Araki
Cast: Jun Shison, Mamoru Miyano, Yuki Kaji

6. BL Metamorphosis

We’ve talked before about the subject of “fujoshi,” i.e. fans of “Boys’ Love” (BL) stories featuring male homosexual characters and undertones. Or in other words: “girls who love boys who love boys.” The BL community has become quite prominent in recent years thanks to manga such as BL Metamorphosis (2017 – 2020). The comic in question tells the story of a shy fujoshi high-schooler becoming unlikely friends with a lonely 78-year-old widow who suddenly discovers her interest in BL. The story has been adapted into a live-action movie which will premiere in the summer of 2022.

Release Day: Summer 2022
Japanese Title: メタモルフォーゼの縁側
Director: Shunsuke Kariyama
Cast: Mana Ashida, Nobuko Miyamoto

7. The Last 10 Years

On the surface, this story about a girl who finds out she only has 10 years to live and swears off love until she comes across the male protagonist sounds incredibly cliché. But there are a couple of reasons to keep an eye out for this movie. For one, it’s directed by Michihito Fujii (The Brightest Roof in the Universe, The Journalist) who has an amazing talent for wringing out raw, authentic humanity from the simplest of concepts. Second, the heroine of The Last 10 Years is played by Nana Komatsu, a dramatic powerhouse performer whom you should remember from After the Rain or Tapestry. Put the two together and there is a real chance that the legacy of The Last 10 Years will last for decades to come.

Release Day: March 4, 2022
Japanese Title: 余命10年
Director: Michihito Fujii
Cast: Nana Komatsu, Kentaro Sakaguchi

8. Tonbi

A third adaptation of Kiyoshi Shigematsu’s hit novel Tonbi (following TV shows by NHK and TBS) the feature film Tonbi tells the story of a single father raising his son after the death of his wife. This in itself is a fairly common premise for anyone that loves a good cry at the movies. But this one will also focus on such themes as how a man who never experienced parental love can give it to his child. In the hands of auteur director Takahisa Zeze, who knows how to tug at the heartstrings (see: Tapestry), it promises to leave no dry faces in its wake.

Release Day: TBA, 2022
Japanese Title: とんび
Director: Takahisa Zeze
Cast: Hiroshi Abe, Takumi Kitamura

9. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero

Dragon Ball is one of the most famous and long-running anime in the world, consisting of over 800 episodes split over five different series and counting. Nearly all of them involve the franchise’s creator Akira Toriyama. It’s a slightly different story with the movies. Out of 20 Dragon Ball films, only three so far have been written by Toriyama. The upcoming Super Hero 3D animated feature, based on the Dragon Ball Super series, will be the fourth one. The villains of the piece are the Red Ribbon Army, first introduced back in 1987, mixing the franchise’s nostalgic past with modern action to hopefully create something timeless.

Release Day: Apr 22, 2022
Japanese Title: ドラゴンボール超 スーパーヒーロー
Director: Tetsuro Kodama
Cast: Masako Nozawa, Toshio Furukawa

10. Doraemon: Nobita’s Little Star Wars 2021

First announced back in 2020, the premiere of the latest Doraemon movie about a robot cat from the 22nd century kept getting (somewhat aptly) pushed further and further into the future. But it looks like it will finally arrive this year. Keeping with the theme of arrivals, the 41st installment of the movie franchise will tell the story of a tiny alien named Papi arriving on Earth and getting the Doraemon gang involved in high-stake miniature adventures thanks to Doraemon’s shrink ray. With Nobita’s New Dinosaur raising the standard for Doraemon movies, it’s going to be interesting to see where Little Star Wars 2021 takes the franchise.

Release Day: Mar 4, 2022
Japanese Title: 映画ドラえもん のび太の宇宙小戦争 2021
Director: Susumu Yamaguchi
Cast: Wasabi Mizuta, Megumi Ohara


Featured image: (C) 2022 the production of What to Do With the Dead Kaiju?