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Updated: Apr 5, 2023

We enjoy being taken by the story, and we love being caught up in a cunning, intelligent, well-thought turnaround in cinema. But, is there a pattern for the plot twist, or it is an ever-evolving practice in cinema? We've put together famous and less famous Japanese films recognized for their cunning event turnarounds. Some, astonishingly bold by today’s standards, while others have had the gleam worn off by the film’s they’ve gone onto inspire.

Note: For Japanese cinema lovers who like to be hooked up with the story twist let us know which one got to you most?

1. ONE CUT OF THE DEAD (2017) Director: Shin'ichirô Ueda

We have to start with Director Ueda. He simply managed to align public and professional reviewers on the filming aesthetic charm and narrative master class showcased in ONE CUT OF THE DEAD. In many top lists unanimously written as the best plot twist ever made... We'll leave the decision to you.


Things go badly for a hack director and film crew shooting a low-budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility, when they are attacked by real zombies.


Director: Kore-eda Hirokazu

"There are times when the script seems just too schematic - as if Kore-eda has decided that we should all sit still while he lays out the nature versus nurture debate. Then the small truths which enrich each scene take over". Sandra Hall, Sydney Morning Herald


Ryota is a successful workaholic businessman. When he learns that his biological son was switched with another boy after birth, he faces the difficult decision to choose his true son or the boy he and his wife have raised as their own.

3. FISH STORY (2009)

Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura

"As off-puttingly quirky as it all may sound, it's held together with great confidence and a ton of energy. When the dots are finally joined, the sugar-rush of storytelling kismet is pretty exhilarating". Tim Robey, Daily Telegraph (UK)


Several seemingly unrelated but surprisingly intertwined tales reveal how a Japanese band that independently invented punk rock in 1975 is, 37 years later, connected to a comet that is about to destroy the world.


Director: Shin'ichirô Ueda

We cannot deny Director Ueda's plot twist con-artist title. Even due to the fact that SPECIAL ACTORS didn't receive as much appraisal as ONE CUT Of THE DEAD (OCOTD), we could rather say that OCOTD is a curse that Director Ueda will have to face, or measure his works with from now on. Nevertheless, this is yet another well-written, directed and most importantly amusing film worthy to be on this list.

PLOT: Kazuto has a lifelong dream of becoming an actor, but has been suffering from a special medical condition where he faints and collapses when he gets nervous.


Director: Tetsuya Nakashima

This one in particular evokes a linking question between visual and emotional twists in cinema. A controversial film with what may look like "random violence", does bring the unusual cut to the story which instead of a roller-coastering audience, is rather taking its turn slowly.

PLOT: A psychological thriller of a grieving mother turned cold-blooded avenger with a twisty master plan to pay back those who were responsible for her daughter's death.


Director: Tomoyuki Takimoto

Is accurate time to die a plot twist?

PLOT: Ikigami takes place in a dystopian society where the government has implemented the "Prosperity Law". This law dictates 1 in 1000 random citizens ages 18~24 will die for the state in a mandatory lottery. Death occurs at a preset date and time, which is when an injected nano-capsule, received at an early age, explodes. The law is meant to create an appreciation for life by instilling fear in order to make people live the best possible lives.

7. SYMBOL (2009)

Director: Hitoshi Matsumoto

What if the twist have engaged before the movie has started? Symbol might be one overlooked masterpiece that never got an official international release besides Its best acclaim came from the 4th Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong.

PLOT: A man wakes up in a white room empty other than buttons on the walls, he must find out which button to push to get what he wants.

8. DYNAMIC VENUS (2014) Short

Director: Sato Kaichi

This list cannot be considered complete without Sato's early animation work which grabbed Grand-Prix at JSFF2015, which was the very first exchange format since the festival has founded. Interestingly, before applying to JSFF, Dynamic Venus failed to reach selection at several local Japanese festivals, yet, the merged Japanese and Serbian eminent jury was unanimous about their decision to honor DV as JSFF best film in 2015.

PLOT: The mysterious super heroine Dynamic Venus. She is a housewife, receives the violence of her husband every day, but her real nature was an alien.


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