top of page



average rating is 5 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Jul 3, 2024

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Alex K. E. Ching, Devan Yukio Fujinaka
Written by:
Devan Yukio Fujinaka
Logan Noguchi, Len Fujinaka, Noelle Yoza

Kotsuage is the latest short film from directors Alex K.E. Ching and Devan Yukio Fujinaka that handles difficult and disturbing issues of childhood trauma and neglect, and considers how such an environment can define a life – and what one must do to overcome such traumas to be better than those who raised them.


The film follows a young, nameless protagonist (Logan Noguchi) who is raised in a home with a domineering, abusive father (Len Fujinaka) and mother who is the subject of his wrath (Noelle Yoza). Told from the Boy’s perspective, we see how even in silent discipline, his father’s terrorising of his family leaves lasting scars – with the future narration provided by the mournful, reeling voice of Ko Tanaka. As a man, it is up to the Boy to forge his own path, as he is determined to live a different life to his father.


Kotsuage is a gorgeous, sorrow-filled short Japanese-language film that succeeds as a fine example of how to realise trauma and regret on screen. Structured like a fractured series of memories, Ching and Fujinaka brilliantly capture how tiny moments in a child’s life can have lifelong consequence. The film’s most shocking scene in which the father strikes the mother is a particular highlight – freezing as the strike connects in a manner that mirrors the Boy’s inability to truly confront his past. Other moments, such as stories the boy has been told as a child playing out in front of artwork or silently consuming rice his mother has made after the aforementioned strike play out in front of a still and sombre shot that seems to symbolise how one cannot choose their environment or surroundings, and must learn how to manipulate them themselves.


Ching’s cinematography is ever considered, combining the simple with radiancy to paint the images with a caring light that successfully replicates the idea of the past. The boy’s childhood feels like a foreign land, somewhere unwelcoming that senses his presence. This is at great contrast to an indetermined time at the film’s conclusion where the sun shines on a grown man as he feels a freedom that is not present elsewhere in the movie.


The film’s title refers to a Japanese cremation ritual. Despite no such event taking place in the film, the reliving of memories many years in the future suggests the protagonist’s reflections may occur after a death. The ‘Kotsuage’ therefore could be as much for the past or for the impact of the father on the son as it is literal. Ko Tanaka’s conflicted narration – part bitter, part dignified – possesses additional meaning in this interpretation.


Ching and Fujinaka will no doubt hear many other takeaways from Kotsuage, given that their film leaves plenty for its audience to ruminate on. But you can be sure that almost all will equally rave about this film’s quality and thought. It is well worth adding yourself to those who will no doubt be moved by this short.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Digital / DVD Release, Short Film, World Cinema
bottom of page