Apr 26

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — Miike’s Latest, Miku Expo, ‘Katsura Sunshine’s Rakugo’

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

As spring continues and the weather continues to warm, New Yorkers can enjoy activities all over the city both indoors and out. 

This month’s highlights include:

Courtesy of Sideshow/Janus Films

April 26-30 and May 3-16

Hamaguchi I & II and Evil Does Not Exist

Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street

Elinor Bunim Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street


Evil Does Not Exist: Deep in the forest of the small rural village Harasawa, single parent Takumi lives with his young daughter, Hana, and takes care of odd jobs for locals, chopping wood and hauling pristine well water. The overpowering serenity of this untouched land of mountains and lakes, where deer peacefully roam free, is about to be disrupted by the imminent arrival of the Tokyo company Playmode, which is ready to start construction on a glamping site for city tourists—a plan, which Takumi and his neighbors discover, that will have dire consequences for the ecological health and cleanliness of their community. The potent and foreboding new film from Oscar-winning director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, both NYFF59) is a haunting, entirely unexpected cinematic experience that reconstitutes the boundaries of the ecopolitical thriller. Intensified by a rapturous, ominous score by Eiko Ishibashi, this mesmeric journey diverges from country-vs-city themes to straddle the line between the earthy and the metaphysical. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles. Q&A with Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Eiko Ishibashi on May 3 at 6 p.m. screening. Don’t miss Hamaguchi I & II, a selected retrospective of Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s films to be presented at FLC from April 26–30.

© 1983 Argos Films

Wednesday, May 1, 7:00 p.m.

The Film Desk Presents: Sans Soleil

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street


Imported 35mm print! Driven by a desire to “capture life in the process of becoming history,” the enigmatic and influential French filmmaker Chris Marker travelled the globe and made a sprawling body of hybrid work that ruminates on the nature of memory and time. Of the several films he made in Japan (where, among the crowded drinking holes of Shinjuku’s “Golden Gai” district, there is a bar named after one of his early masterpieces), this singular essay film remains the late director’s greatest achievement. An unnamed woman narrates the poetic letters and philosophical reflections of an invisible world traveler accompanied by footage of Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Iceland, Paris, San Francisco and, most significantly, Tokyo—a city whose people, streets, malls and temples inspire the traveler’s richest observations.

Courtesy of Eventbrite

Saturday, May 4, 7:30 p.m.

Marimba Extraordinaire Makoto Nakura at 60 – A Retrospective

The Church-in-the-Gardens, 50 Ascan Avenue (Queens)

$10 students, $20 general admission/adult

Makoto Nakura started building his distinctive career as a marimbist as soon as he arrived in NYC from Japan 30 years ago. This concert shows his journey through the works which he has commissioned along the way. Featuring Barbara Podgurski on piano, these works from today’s leading composers showcase the expressive possibilities of the marimba…expressive possibilities that keep expanding under Makoto’s ever-growing collection of mallets! You are sure to have a great time not only hearing extraordinary music, but also meeting this extraordinary artist and human being who always gives his audience an incredible show. Don’t forget to wish him a happy 60th birthday if you attend!


 Monday, May 6, 8:00 p.m.

Lumberjack the Monster 

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street 


North American Premiere! This premiere screening is presented together with the Tribeca Festival’s Escape from Tribeca.Japanese horror and cult icon Takashi Miike (AuditionIchi the Killer13 Assassins) returns to the big screen with an adaptation of Mayusuke Kurai’s thrilling novel. This cat-and-mouse chase between a serial killer and a lawyer hot on his trail is filled with gruesome murders, missing brains and disturbing secrets. The most disturbing? The lawyer is a psychopath. Yes, Takashi Miike’s newest nightmare is the brutal showdown between a serial killer and a psychopath lawyer. It’s a bloody good time. Join before the screening at 7:00 p.m. for a reception featuring beverages generously donated by Brooklyn Kura, Moshi and Sapporo-Stone Brewing.

Courtesy of Mikuexpo.com

Tuesday, May 7, 8:00 p.m.

Miku Expo 2024 

Prudential Center, 25 Lafayette Street (Newark) 

From $72

Hatsune Miku Expo is a world concert tour, organized by Crypton Future Media and powered by Crunchyroll, that brings along a variety of sub-events (exhibitions, workshops, club events, concerts and more) where fans of all backgrounds can meet up and share various aspects of the creative culture surrounding Hatsune Miku. Hatsune Miku is a Japanese music sensation, a 16-year-old blue-haired girl with a unique voice and prodigious energy. What makes her special is that she is not a human singer, but a virtual persona who uses a computer-generated voice and 3D graphics to perform on stage. With a repertoire entirely provided by individual creators, she is the first truly crowd-created virtual talent. But being virtual doesn’t stop her from filling up concert halls or teaming up with major artists like Lady Gaga and Pharrell Williams!

© Sunrise

May 7-8, 8:00 p.m.

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED FREEDOM 

Various theaters

Various prices 

Mobile Suit Gundam began in 1979 in Japan with a 43-episode animated television series. Acclaimed for its revolutionary storytelling, it told a gritty, realistic story about the traumas of war in a future conflict dominated by massive human-shaped war machines called “Gundam.” This series would go on to captivate generations of audiences around the planet across over 50 sequel television series, films, comics, and video games. The new film Mobile Suit Gundam SEED FREEDOM has broken more records, earning over 3.7 billion yen at the box office in Japan since its release in January. This new film, in development since 2006, continues the stories established in the series Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and is based around the themes of freedom and destiny. Now Mobile Suit Gundam SEED FREEDOM, depicting an entirely new story with fan favorite characters, will make its long-awaited theatrical debut featuring a special introduction from the director and voice cast. May 7 screenings are subbed and dubbed. May 8 is dubbed only.

Moto Takahashi

May 10-11, 7:30 p.m.

Beyond Ballet, Beyond Hip-Hop 

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$40, $32 Japan Society members 

North American premiere of two contemporary dance performances! In The Dying Swan & Its Cause of Death, one of Japan’s leading prima ballerinas, Hana Sakai, performs her graceful dance of the timeless Western classic ballet to Saint-Saëns’ famous music. Immediately after, Sakai starts trudging, wobbling and speaking aloud about why she, the swan, had to die–a hilarious take by visionary director/playwright Toshiki Okada that delves into environmental issues. The other piece in this double bill, Encounter, is performed by the all-woman dance group MWMW, led by Moto Takahashi. They challenge gender norms with their stunning hip-hop techniques and ensemble movements. This program will be accompanied by Udai Shika on cello. Don’t miss your chance to see these genre-defying works that are breaking new ground in Japan’s dance scene!

Courtesy Russ Rowland | Katsura Sunshine’s Rakugo

Saturday, May 18, 8:00 p.m., and once every month through December

Katsura Sunshine’s Rakugo

New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street


Universally funny and yet so very Japanese. Katsura Sunshine marks his fifth year at New World Stages with his highly anticipated monthly NYC residency! As the world’s first bilingual rakugo-ka (a traditional Japanese comic storyteller), he is an international ambassador of this 400-year tradition. In keeping with the genre’s minimalist practice, Sunshine performs in a kimono using only a fan and a hand towel for props. Fresh off smash-hit performances all over the world, he will have a series of performances bringing his unique yet authentic rakugo to Off Broadway—in Japanese and English!


May 19, 21

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Various theaters

Various prices

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, written and directed by Academy Award-winner Hayao Miyazaki, is an epic masterpiece of sweeping scope and grandeur that remains one of the most breathtaking and exhilarating animated films of all time. A thousand years after the Seven Days of Fire destroyed civilization, warring human factions survive in a world devastated by atmospheric poisons and swarming with gigantic insects. The peaceful Valley of the Wind is nestled on the edge of the Toxic Forest and led by the courageous Princess Nausicaä, whose love of all living things leads her into terrible danger, as she fights to restore balance between humans and nature. The English dubbed version features the voices of Alison Lohman, Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Edward James Olmos and Shia LaBeouf.


May 20, 22

Castle in the Sky

Various theaters

Various prices

Castle in the Sky is a timeless story of courage and friendship, with stunning animation from acclaimed Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki. This high-flying adventure begins when Pazu, an engineer’s apprentice, spies a young girl, Sheeta, floating down from the sky, held aloft by a glowing pendant. Both Sheeta and Pazu are searching for the legendary floating castle, Laputa, and they vow to travel there together to unravel the mystery of the luminous crystal. But their quest won’t be easy, as soon they are being pursued by greedy air pirates, the military, and secret government agents, who all seek the power Sheeta alone can control. The English-dubbed cast includes the vocal talents of Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, Mark Hamill, Mandy Patinkin, and more!

For more JQ articles, click here.

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