Film-making is a strange vocation. Unlike music, where your first album is often the culmination of a lifetimes’ work, directors can make film after film before bringing their pet project to fruition. It can become an obsession, which consumes and sometimes defeats. More often than not the end result is a disappointment. Terry Gilliam’s attempt to make a Don Quixote film is probably the most famous example of this. Thirty years in the making and he shouldn’t have bothered. Thankfully, although it took him forty years, the late Nobuhiko Ōbayashi’s labour of love, Hanagatami, is well worth the wait

In 1941, sixteen-year-old Toshihiko (Shunsuke Kubozuka) leaves Amsterdam to live with his aunt (Takako Tokiwa) and his sick cousin Mina (Honoka Miki) in Karatsu, a small coastal town in Japan. Toshihiko throws himself into his new life, quickly befriending two extraordinary classmates, Kira (Keishi Nagatsuka) and Ukai (Shinnosuke Mitsushima). Their lives intertwine and collide as their country relentlessly marches towards war.

Hanagatami is Ōbayashi’s love letter to a pure and warm-hearted youth which was so prematurely curtailed. It’s a commemoration of a generation whose lives were senselessly lost to war. A country which took decades to recover. It’s an intensely vibrant and sad film; especially considering the director was diagnosed with terminal cancer shortly before filming began. As you’d expect from the man behind Hausu, it’s visually arresting and sometimes baffling. Whilst Hanagatami may be dense and clocks in at the best part of 3 hours, there’s never a dull moment.


  • Making Of
  • Interview with director Nobuhiko Obayashi

Hanagatami is released on Blu-ray by Third Window Films on 6 July.