5 Underrated Japanese Science Fiction Films


In every culture there is a certain subset of the population who devotes their time to imagining the distant future or the depths of space. However, this imagination will always be influenced by the view of the world to which they are accustomed. With this in mind, many countries have unique views on the environment that are difficult to replicate anywhere else.

In the United States, Japanese cinema is too often reduced to cinematic anime and their adaptations of live performances and cultural oddities such as Kaiju films. Although most of the highest-grossing Japanese films come from the anime world, they have many other interesting film compositions.

Explosive City

Although the cyberpunk movement officially originated in American literature, which is best seen in the works of authors such as Philip K. Dick and Bruce Bethke, Japanese cyberpunk was an integral part of this subgenre. Burst City was the third feature film directed by Sogo Ishii, and today it is considered the progenitor of the Japanese cyberpunk movement. As a movie, it’s a chaotic mess with a limited plot. This is an empirical encapsulation of the punk subculture of that era. Ishii pushes the camera to the limit, willingly throwing the narrative aside in exchange for a pulse-pounding tone. It also serves as a showcase for the music of that era, as three real Japanese punk bands make up the live soundtrack. Science fiction fans who want to thoughtfully explore humanity’s relationship with technology should look elsewhere. Those to whom “Mad Max: Fury Road” seemed too restrained can count on Burst City in safe hands.

Beyond the endless two minutes

The newcomer director Junta Yamaguchi shot this strange sci-fi comedy. The film was shot in a week with almost no money, literally on Yamaguchi’s iPhone. In a rare case, the ongoing pandemic actually benefited this film by cutting back on larger projects so that it could get into the cinema circulation. Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes tells the story of a cafe owner who discovers that his computer depicts the world two minutes ahead. Then he discovers that his TV is showing two minutes ago. By bringing one to the other, he and his colleagues can see a little longer what is going to happen. It’s a quirky comedy with an almost ubiquitous sense of tension. The game eventually acquires an element of absurdity, giving a banal conversation the appearance of fabulous detachment. At 71 minutes, it’s barely a full-length movie. In fact, it looks like a great comedy sketch. With no money and almost no job, Yamaguchi created something really special.


When the Wachowskis released The Matrix, the film was perceived as a revolutionary new experience. Although a lot of this was new, a lot of what was done right in the film was to bring ideas from Asian cinema across the sea to the American audience. With that in mind, it’s nice to see a similar model being used in a Japanese movie. “The Comeback” is not an original film in many senses, but it cannot be called a robbery either. The concepts from “Terminator 2” and “Alien” are borrowed with reckless energy, but every detail serves the noble art of looking cool. The film tells about a killer in a leather raincoat and sunglasses, who must help a young soldier from the future to stop an alien invasion. It’s pompous, chaotic, violent, bold and unrestrained. Its aesthetics are terribly outdated, anyone could tell that it came out in the early 2000s at first glance. Despite all this, it gives a lot of pleasure to fans of the killer’s harsh aesthetics.

Before we disappear

Alien invasion is one of the most classic science fiction stories. This take adds an interesting element to the pods, which turns it into something much more interesting. Kiyoshi Kurosawa, one of the most prominent visionaries of Japanese horror, created this unique exploration of the human experience through an alien prism. The film tells the story of three alien scouts who capture the bodies of seemingly random people in order to study humanity before launching a full-scale invasion. The trick is that aliens can’t just experience human life by infiltration, they need to steal an understanding of metaphysical concepts like freedom and love to get them. Watching these bizarre creatures slowly learning the innate qualities of life on Earth is an exciting journey. Kurosawa has had an incredible career, but this 2017 work is an underrated gem.

Battle Royale II: Requiem

The first film “Battle Royale” is a cult classic that inspired most of the genre of youth dystopia and the video game genre of the same name. The sequel has a much lower cultural profile, but deserves more. This is not a repeat of the first film, this is a sequel that goes in completely wild directions. The centerpiece is Shuya Nanahara, the meek protagonist of the first film. The transformation that actor Tatsuya Fujiwara is going through is inspiring. This is a must-see for fans of the first film and an act of bold cinematic vision that requires closer attention.


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