In January, I embarked on a business trip to South Korea and Japan, a fun adventure that was not only about work but also in a personal and cultural sense. My stay in Tokyo this time was especially memorable, thanks to the opportunity to immerse myself in the local cinema. I enjoyed watching three exceptional movies, each distinct in its storytelling and emotional resonance.
Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window (窓ぎわのトットちゃん)
I had zero knowledge of the movie, and even I was unfamiliar with the original novel by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, whom I only knew as an entertainer. Watching "Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window" was an impromptu decision; I got together with my old friends in the anime industry, and a friend gave me a ticket for the movie. So I just tried to enjoy a pleasant spontaneity, and I realized that this movie must be my best in 2024, even if it was only January.
This film is about a girl named Totto, who is too exuberant to be expelled from school. However, she meets a great school, teachers, and friends. It might sound like a typical educational school movie, but the twist is it was 1941 and Tokyo. Interestingly, the narrative delicately balances childhood innocence with the ominous changes war brings. It does not put overt criticism or emphasis on the conflict; it just presents how the surroundings change gradually. And Totto-Chan's indomitable and pure spirit amidst these changes highlights the film's beauty and greatness.
Godzilla Minus One
My feelings toward Takashi Yamazaki's works are mixed. My appreciation for "Always: Sunset on Third Street" contrasts sharply with my disappointment in "Space Battleship Yamato."
"Godzilla Minus One" was another serendipitous discovery made right before my return flight. Yamazaki's exploration of individual sacrifice versus the greater cause in wartime Japan, as in "The Eternal Zero," has been evident in his filmography. It was good to see that the movie did NOT end in a mere great sacrifice. I'm not sure this movie could have a chance to run in Korea (just like Oppenheimer took more than a year to be open in Japan), but it seems that the movie made a meaningful success in the US. I wish my best for this movie in this year's Oscars.
Spy x Family Code: White
The spin-off movie of the immensely popular anime series "Spy x Family" was a winter highlight for anime enthusiasts. While "Spy x Family Code: White" may not excel in narrative originality (it has a limitation that this cinematic version should not diverge from the original story), it provides ample fan service and impressive action sequences, particularly those involving Ms. Yor. It is an enjoyable extension of its TV show, offering a fun adventure that stays true to the essence of the original series.
Every movie I stumbled upon unexpectedly added depth to my travels, illustrating that the true delight of a journey isn't just found in the places we visit, but also in the narratives we encounter along the way: it's the joy of serendipity.