EXPERIENCING Japan in the Philippines is easy with Japanese food joints, surplus shops, and Oh! Tokyo on cable. Thanks to Eiga Sai 2002: Life, Love and Laughter, a festival of six contemporary Japanese films, one could even see its rich culture.

Robbers vs robbers

“Adorenarin Doraibu” (Adrenaline Drive), directed by Shinobu Yaguchi, starts with a gas leak explosion in a Yakuza hideout. Shizuko Sato (Hikari Ishida), a shy, timid, geeky nurse complete with two braided pony tails and thick-framed glasses, and a meek but handsome car rental clerk, Suzuki Satori (Masanobu Ando) rescues Kuroiwa (Yutaka Matsushige) who happens to be a gang leader. Tensed, Suzuki and Shizuko face policemen for their statements regarding the explosion—not telling a word about the bagful of money soaked in blood that they got from the rubble.

Soon, Suzuki and Shizuko disguise themselves and sneak away with millions. Consequently, the gang leader and his group chase them for their loot.

The movie is a wild ride, resulting in shy nurse Shizuko’s makeover into a glamorous heroine who outsmarts the gangsters.

It is really witty how they made the chase scenes (with people hurting each other) appear non-violent. Moreover, the actors suit the characters they played and their faces, gestures, and aura could make anybody snicker.

The plot, with its half-baked attempts for comedy, parallels that of an ordinary Filipino action-comedy film. But with its more humorous approach and actors who seemed to have “laugh at me” labels on their foreheads, “Adorenarin Doraibu” is a feel-good movie that’s worth the time.

Singing for stardom

“Nodo Jiman” is a famous singing contest where only 20 finalists are chosen out of 4000. The film, directed by Kazuyuki Izutsu, is about four people who join the singing contest.

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Street party and parting

Reiko Akagi (Shigeru Muroi) is a pop singer who does not strive to sell her album, but to sing before an actual audience who will admire her not because of her face or body, but for her voice.

Meanwhile, an aspiring noodle shop owner, Keisuko (Kohei Otomo), fails his license examination for business and ends up as an apprentice in a barbecue store. With his pessimistic mother-in-law but supportive wife and children, he tries for the “Nodo Jiman” as well.

Schoolgirl Rika Takahashi (Ayumi Ito), torn between her worried mother and rebellious elder sister, tries for the contest too, believing in her own potential.

And simply to cheer up his grandson, who is moving to Brazil to study, Kotaro (Isao Bito) joins the fun as well.

With familiar family issues, this film is sure to touch your heart. “Nodo Jiman” shows the Japanese’ love for entertainment, singing, and the camera. It flaunts the way contestants strive to get to the finals for the sake of the nationwide exposure. This film’s convincing drama and tickling jokes are worth your one-hour and 52 minutes.

In spite of the distractions of drawing one’s attention to the small and sometimes blurry subtitles, and adjusting one’s eyes to some dimly lit scenes, the plots and characterization of these films compensate for its technical shortcomings.

The two movies bring together colorful people in a funny and heartwarming way.

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