Movies Where the Young Main Character is Going to Die

Illness and death are major themes that appear in many Japanese movies. Stories revolve around the main character having a fatal illness, being told of his short remaining time left to live, and him deciding how he is going to spend the final days of his life. There is self discovery. There is searching for the meaning of life and death. And there are tears. Lots and lots of tears.

Recently, I had the chance to enjoy the movie 世界から猫が消えたなら (If Cats Disappeared From This World).


The title is deceptive. You’d think you would be in for a reflection upon the vital role cats play to the world, and how devastation and destruction would await if they stopped existing. While I would pay to watch that movie, this movie and its “main character is going to die” theme was also worth watching.

The actor Takeru Satoh is awesome. You may know him and his growing talent from the Ruroni Kenshin movies. Then you have the charmingly cute Aoi Miyazaki, who hasn’t aged in a decade or so and may (or may not) be immortal.

Takeru falls off a bicycle mid-ride (that’s the worst), and ends up in a hospital, hearing of his impending doom. However, he is given a unique opportunity to live another day longer if he allows something that matters to him to disappear from the world. One item, one day. Phones, movies, clocks, and finally cats. Before each thing disappears from the world, a flashback story is told about how this one thing defined his life. The story of him meeting his ex-girlfriend. The story of his overseas travels. The story of him meeting his best friend. It’s a clever little plot device that presents his life in a unique way.

It’s sad, but uplifting. That’s the point of these types of movies. They are supposed to make you appreciate life. And you will after this.

How about another movie like this while we’re at it? The 2009 movie ヘブンズ・ドア (Heaven’s Door) also stood out to me.

movies-where-the-main-character-is-going-to-die-2Back when I was a Tomoya Nagase fan, Heaven’s Door shined in this genre. The character Nagase plays finds out he only has a short amount of time left to live. He has nothing but regret, never having accomplished anything he wanted in life. Finding out this news was a big slap in the face from “god.” Notice the line above “ふざけんな、神様” or “stop messing around, God.”

Because he has no idea how to spend his final days, he escapes the hospital with a girl who has been hospitalized her whole life, also with only a few months to live. The two get themselves into a series of somewhat funny (and sad) adventures and crimes, with the ultimate goal of taking the sick girl to the beach for the first time in her life before she dies.


While this isn’t exactly binge movie watching (I can’t imagine watching more than one of these at a time), there are a lot more out there. It’s not a theme that is going away. If you’ve seen either of these, or know of any other movies you liked with this theme, leave it in the comments!

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


Movies Where the Young Main Character is Going to Die — 2 Comments

  1. Didn’t know this was a (seemingly) popular genre in Japan. I imagine it’s not as ham-fisted as some English language films about someone’s last days on Earth (though I’ve really only seen Hallmark/made for TV movies with this kind of plot, far from Oscar worthy).

    I just don’t know if I’m ready to make myself sad in Japanese yet! Maybe someday I’ll dip my toes into this kind of thing.

    • Yeah, you also see it a lot in J-dramas as well. I feel like this a genre that Japan does well in.

      Give it a try though!

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