NEKO SAMURAI Kitty!

EVERY YEAR, the NW Film Center's Japanese Currents offers a curated survey of recent Japanese cinema. If this year's series is an accurate barometer, then in 2013 and 2014, Japan was sorting through some dad stuff.

The crown jewel of the series is undoubtedly The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (screens Sat Dec 6, Tues Dec 9), with its sometimes-puttering views into day-to-day operations at the Studio Ghibli animation studio and the making of The Wind Rises, the final film from world-renowned director Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki lectures that everything eventually becomes an earth-destroying tool of corruption, even his films—but maybe that's just mid-project blues talking? Chalk it up to character and general dadness, I suppose.

Two sides of the dad-coin that could not be more different are the astonishingly good The Tale of Iya (Sat Dec 13, Sun Dec 14), about a traditional mountain man who adopts an abandoned baby and quietly introduces her to the bizarre, enduring magic of their mountain town, and My Man (Thurs Dec 11, Sat Dec 13), a creepy film about a moody twentysomething who adopts a 10-year-old after the Fukushima disaster. My Man engages in acrobatics attempting to justify a growing sexual relationship between father and daughter, trying to hide its terribleness under the worn blanket of emulating Lolita. But it's actually just bad.

The other standout of this year is the hilarious, self-referential Neko Samurai (Fri Dec 5, Sun Dec 7), about a masterless samurai hired to kill a rival clan's pet cat. But when the samurai finds he cannot complete his mission, he instead takes the cat home with him, beginning his metamorphosis into a full-blown cat person. A cat DAD? (That analogy could be a stretch.) Meanwhile, Patema Inverted (Sat Dec 6, Mon Dec 8) isn't the best sci-fi anime I've ever seen, but it could hit a sweet spot for obsessive fans of anything anime—so long as they like hearing about dads.