Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2019

TJFF 2019 took place June 6 to 27. I attended only 2 screenings this year, the opening night murder mystery, MASQUERADE HOTEL, and train-themed drama, Our Departures. Both films were excellent, with great scripts and equally great acting.

MASQUERADE HOTEL

Released 2019

Police detectives go undercover at a fancy hotel after deciphering a message that a serial killer’s next target will be at that location. Hotel supervisor Yamagishi is tasked with training Detective Nitta to be effective and convincing as front desk staff, but their backgrounds and personalities are very different and they frequently butt heads. Gradually, over the course of multiple subplots, they learn to appreciate each other’s input and become better at their own jobs from the experience.

The details of the crime investigation were too complicated for me, so I didn’t feel that I completely understood it. Also, if it were not for one lucky coincidence, they might not have identified the killer in time.

On the plus side, I related very strongly to the depiction of the hoteliers’ dedication to their work. My own job also has a significant customer service aspect. I am a bit of a workaholic who constantly strives to help my clients and make them feel comfortable, so that stuff really clicked with me.

Our Departures

Released 2018

Akira’s life is uprooted after the loss of her husband. Only 25 years old, she suddenly finds herself a single mother with no home and no steady income. After connecting with her late husband’s estranged father, she decides to follow in his footsteps and start a career as a railway driver.

This film is quite the tearjerker, more than I expected. Obviously, there’s the death of the husband, but beyond that, it’s the subtle ways that Akira and Shunya are affected by what’s happened, even as they do their best to move forward, that’s affecting. No one would fault Akira for feeling sorry for herself – she definitely did not sign on for this – but she doesn’t wallow in self-pity. However, there’s a moment when another character shows her kindness, and that was when the floodgates in my eyes couldn’t hold the onslaught any longer. If you have a chance to watch this, be warned!

Mid-Spring 2019 Anime Ranking

It’s a very light season for me this time. (Spoilers below up to the stated episodes for Demon Slayer, The Rising of the SHIELD HERO, and Ace of Diamond.)


01. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) Season 3 (ep. 50-55) – All the years of buildup has led to this. We are finally getting some answers to the ongoing mysteries, many of which date back to the very first season, which aired in 2013. Our main group of characters is front and centre for the action now and every episode is concise and riveting. We are really going places – even to the Basement!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (ep. 1-10) – The very best gory shounen series avoid falling into grimdark by balancing the heavy stuff with healthy doses of smart humour. Demon Slayer follows in this tradition, making it a fun show to watch despite all the tragedy and violence and horror. Incidentally, Attack on Titan is another great example, even if it hasn’t been very funny lately, for obvious reasons.

Though the art style is a bit of a departure from recent ufotable productions, the animation quality is reliably stunning.

What’s more, the characters are well-written and the family bond between Tanjirou and Nezuko is touching. When, in one of the early episodes, eldest brother Tanjirou expressed his desire to give to his sole-surviving sister all the things he would never be able to give to his other siblings, it just broke my heart.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind (JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken Part 5: Ougon no Kaze) (season 4) (ep. 25-33) – Bucciarati and co. are getting closer to uncovering the Boss’s identity, but the price they pay is steep. As for the new villains, Doppio is insanely nuts while Secco and Cioccolata are insanely frightening.

Can we give a medal to Mista’s stand, Sex Pistols? Those hard-working little guys are big heroes!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. The Rising of the SHIELD HERO (Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari) (ep. 13-22) – Pacing-wise, a couple of the battles dragged on a bit too long this cour. And asking the Heros to get along and work together is still like pulling teeth.

At long last, it was nice to see Naofumi finally get some vindication, while Malty was exposed as a liar and schemer. Not sure it makes sense she’s still allowed to roam free and continue attempting to harm people though…
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Fairy gone (ep. 1-9) – It’s a little slow-moving and convoluted at times, but I’m still enjoying the show and its fantastical post-war European-like setting. Some of the characters have laughably weird names, though, such as Free Underbar and Bitter Sweet!
(streaming at FUNimation)


06. Dororo (ep. 13-21) – Still kind of hit or miss for me. Again, the underlying family drama and nice-looking art are great, but the monster-of-the-week episodes, such as the ones featuring the shark demon and the creature that caused people to speak in opposites, still leave something to be desired.


07. BUNGO STRAY DOGS (ep. 26-34, or Season 3 ep. 1-9) – It would probably have been better if the events of the previous seasons were fresher in my mind. As it is, it’s a little difficult to keep track of the now huge cast of characters and all their motivations. In spite of that, I’m enjoying it okay.

Kudos to the show for producing yet another amazingly attractive opening sequence, again featuring stunning plays on light and shadows.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace): Act II (season 3) (ep. 1-10) – Admittedly I am no expert in sports nutrition, but I do have some general background in health, and I wonder about the dietary requirements for the team members. Of course it’s important that they eat enough even if they’re too tired to feel hungry, but can choking down 3 bowls of rice really be good for anyone?

Anyway, Act II has been less interesting to me than some of the previous material because of the early focus on new characters rather than our leads Sawamura, Furuya, and Miyuki (although it’s getting better – Sawamura gets to pitch!) Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of recap, but that’s not really anything new.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


09. Fruits Basket (2019) (ep. 1-10) – Honestly, I was never a super huge fan of the original anime, but I remember enjoying it enough to be curious about this new and improved reboot. I’m maybe a little less tolerant of plot contrivances than I used to be (of course, there’s always a reason for Tohru to accidentally turn the Souma guys into their zodiac forms), and I still find Kagura to be annoying as heck, but on the whole, the show is fine as light shoujo entertainment.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)