Japanese film is very adept at exploring the human experience and as proof of that, here are the 5 best Japanese coming of age movies. The reputation of Japanese films in mainstream audiences is being overtaken by the world of anime. While there is nothing wrong with this, many people reduce anime to little more than animated science-fiction or action vehicles. The truth is Japanese cinema is far more complex than that simple generalization. In fact, even within the confines of an anime picture, even one with fantastical elements, there are deeper themes at play. The best Japanese films are very powerful in evoking sentiments of the lost innocence or the hardship of growing old. They explore these issues within a tapestry of rich filmmaking and powerful acting.
- "Tokyo Story" This is the greatest masterpiece to come from the brilliant Yasujiro Ozu who is regarded as among the greatest of filmmakers. It is heart-wrenching story concerning an elderly couple who visit their grown children only to discover they are far too absorbed in their own lives to even take notice of their parents.
- "Spirited Away" This is an animated film from the great Hayao Miyazaki and it most certainly transcends the boundaries of its genre. It is the story of a girl who finds herself plunged into a fantasy world that forces her to embrace darkness and face demons that will challenge her innocent perception of the world.
- "Grave of the Fireflies" This is another animated film, but like "Spirited Away," it completely flouts the conventions of an animated movie. Indeed, animation is merely the medium the filmmakers wish to use to explore dark subject matter. This a very sophisticated adult film concerning the exploits of two young children who have to contend with the realities of the world following the death of their parents. Be warned, it is not an easy film to stomach.
- "Ikiru" We cannot have this list and not include films from the greatest master of Japanese cinema and perhaps all of cinema, the venerable Akira Kurosawa. This film is often regarded as his greatest film. It concerns a gentlemen in search of the meaning of life after learning he has a terminal illness. By the end of this film, his growth as a character is staggering.
- "Red Beard" Another film from the master, this is the final collaboration between Kurosawa and his greatest artistic partner, Toshiro Mifune. In the movie they explore a dedicated doctor and his young apprentice as each comes to unexpectedly learn something important from each other.