With its borders recently reopened, a record-breaking defense budget and international turmoil, it’s impossible to say what the future holds for Japan. But one thing is certain about 2023: it’s going to usher in a lot of great Japanese movies. Below is a selection of the top 10 titles we’re looking forward to seeing in theaters in 2023.
The new feature film from director Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli has been announced! HOW DO YOU LIVE (tentative title) opens in theaters in Japan on July 14, 2023. https://t.co/fHnLM6epTS
— Studio Ghibli (@GhibliUSA) December 13, 2022
How Do You Live?
In 2013, famed director Hayao Miyazaki ostensibly retired from the animation industry following The Wind Rises, but later revealed that he would be returning for one last movie for the most Miyazaki reason ever: “Because I wanted to,” he said.
With a 10 year gap since his last feature, audiences will no doubt be looking forward to seeing Miyazaki’s promise fulfilled with How Do You Live? It is inspired by the 1937 novel of the same name by Yoshino Genzaburo, which tells the story of a 15-year-old’s emotional growth and his budding understanding of the world and society. What will one of the biggest names in anime do with a story like this?
Release Day: Jul 14, 2023
Japanese Title: 君たちはどう生きるか
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by Makoto Takayama, Egoist looks on the surface like a gay romance between a fashion magazine editor and his personal trainer. But while the story certainly explores the themes of love, it also focuses on ideas of grief, death, transference and identity.
This has made Egoist the perfect subject for director Daishi Matsunaga who, according to reports from The Tokyo International Film Festival where Egoist premiered, has skillfully utilized his experience with documentary filmmaking to bring out the story’s raw emotions in an honest and hard-hitting way.
Release Day: Feb 10, 2023
Japanese Title: エゴイスト
Director: Daishi Matsunaga
Cast: Ryohei Suzuki, Hio Miyazawa
— ゴジラ (@godzilla_jp) November 3, 2022
Untitled Godzilla Movie
Although planned for release in 2023, the next Godzilla movie is intended as a celebration of the 70th anniversary of Godzilla (1954), the film that started it all. It will also be the 30th live-action Japanese entry in the Godzilla franchise. The movie is set to be directed by Takashi Yamazaki, the man behind such films as Space Battleship Yamato and The Great War of Archimedes.
More importantly, Yamazaki isn’t a total newcomer to Godzilla, as he also directed the short film that plays during a Godzilla-themed ride at Seibuen Amusement Park. It’ll be a while before we can see what themes he brings to the 2023 movie, but the wait will in all likelihood be more than worth it.
Release Day: Nov 3, 2023
Japanese Title: TBA
Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Takashi Shimizu is finally moving past villages. After Howling Village, Suicide Forest Village, and last year’s Ox-Head Village, one of the finest modern directors of Japanese horror has set his new film on the fictional Kikaijima, loosely translated as “ominous mourning island.” Not much is known about the film’s plot other than that it will deal with a VR team, mysterious deaths and the blurred lines between the real world and a virtual one.
Going by Shimizu’s past filmography, Immersion should prove to be a superb symphony of scares that will make audiences keep the light on at night.
Release Day: 2023
Japanese Title: 忌怪島
Director: Takashi Shimizu
The Legend & Butterfly
Oda Nobunaga, the 16th-century warlord and one of the great unifiers of Japan, continues to be a well of inspiration for Japanese filmmakers. Coming off the live-action, historical-fiction Rurouni Kenshin movies, director Keishi Otomo remains in the realm of historical speculation with his portrait of Nobunaga in The Legend & Butterfly.
Focusing on the warlord’s early years, the film tells the story of his relationship with Lady No (also known as Nohime or Kicho), of whom very little is known. Initially a political marriage to strengthen Nobunaga’s position, The Legend & Butterfly portrays their union as two strangers growing to respect and trust each other during one of the most turbulent times in Japanese history.
Release Day: Jan 27, 2023
Japanese Title: レジェンド＆バタフライ
Director: Keishi Otomo
Cast: Takuya Kimura, Haruka Ayase
— 映画『唄う六人の女』公式【2023年公開】 (@utau_onna6) May 11, 2022
Six Singing Women
After dazzling the world with the colorful, gender-merging, multi-story, psychedelic movie experience Milocrorze: A Love Story in 2012, director Yoshimasa Ishibashi seemingly dropped off the map for 11 years. He’s back with a film that will hopefully continue his quest for pushing the cinematic envelope.
The official synopsis says that Six Singing Women deals with two men wandering into a strange village after a car accident, where they’re imprisoned by a group of six women. Normally, that would sound like the setup for a horror movie (probably by Shimizu given the village setting). In the hands of an experimental auteur like Ishibashi, it’s impossible to tell what direction the movie will take, but it will surely be fun finding out.
Release Day: 2023
Japanese Title: 唄う六人の女
Director: Yoshimasa Ishibashi
Cast: Yutaka Takenouchi, Takayuki Yamada
The manga Golden Kamuy by Satoru Noda achieved worldwide popularity by doing what other Japanese comics didn’t. Set in Hokkaido during the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War, the series deals with treasure hunts, political intrigue and Ainu culture, going as far as exploring their language.
A television series based on the comic has been airing since 2018. In 2023, we will finally get a live-action Golden Kamuy movie bringing rarely seen themes to Japanese cinemas, all wrapped in an explosive Japanese-style Western adventure package.
Release Day: 2023
Japanese Title: ゴールデンカムイ
Another standout from The Tokyo International Film Festival, Mountain Woman is set in the 18th century in northeastern Japan’s Tohoku region. Taking place during a famine, the movie focuses on a mountain villager named Rin who suffers abuse because of her role as the disposer of corpses, a profession long seen as unclean in Japan. However, the real star of the movie seems to be the local mountain, constantly looming silently, uncaringly and mystically over the protagonists.
The film is, in essence, an exploration of Japan’s mountain worship, possibly the oldest religion on the islands, all told primarily through stunning visuals and the atmosphere that they create.
Release Day: 2023
Japanese Title: 山女
Director: Takeshi Fukunaga
Cast: Anna Yamada, Mirai Moriyama, Masatoshi Nagase
Tokyo MER: Mobile Emergency Room The Movie
The Tokyo Mobile Emergency Room (MER) is the name of a rapid-response group created by the governor of Tokyo and tasked with going to disaster sites to render aid. Traveling in their bus-sized response vehicle, the group of MER professionals risk their lives to try and save as many people as possible.
Despite only running for 11 episodes on TBS, the action-packed series has been a massive success in Japan. That’s why in 2023 we’ll be getting a movie where the Tokyo MER group meets their Yokohama equivalent as they respond to an emergency at Yokohama’s Landmark Tower, once the tallest building in Japan.
Release Day: Apr 28, 2023
Japanese Title: 劇場版TOKYO MER～走る緊急救命室～
Director: Aya Matsuki
Cast: Ryohei Suzuki, Kento Kaku, Ayami Nakajo
— 講談社文庫 (@kodanshabunko) February 17, 2022
Based on the Haruhiko Oyabu Award-winning novel of the same name by Kyo Nagaura, Revolver Lily takes place in 1924, not long after the Great Kanto earthquake. It deals with Yuri, a former spy who has killed 57 people in three years throughout East Asia. Her life changes when she meets Shinta, a boy whose family was murdered and who holds the key to the future of Japan.
A hard-hitting, hardboiled novel with a tough-as-nails female protagonist and a young boy going against the Japanese Army, Revolver Lily has all the makings of a cinematic classic.
Release Day: 2023
Japanese Title: リボルバー・リリー
Director: Isao Yukisada