Since the turn of the millennium, remakes, reboots, prequels, and sequels have seen a sharp rise - 700 percent to be exact. And why not? Remaking an existing film assures the producer of a certain level of commercial success. They do not need to work on establishing a new storyline, or marketing to secure a large fanbase since these already exist. However, with the rising trend, there is also a certain level of expectation from the audience to see something new, which makes remakes as unpredictable as they are alluring.
From a Director's point of view, there is certainly a sense of satisfaction in reworking or polishing something to perfection, with a newer vision and a certain amount of critique in mind. It might not compare to working on a blank canvas, but every remake has always tried to innovate or remaster the existing plot. South Korea and Japan, despite their long-standing differences, have often borrowed heavily from one another - not only in the entertainment industry but also in the fashion, music, and cultural department.
If you're a fan of a particular language or actors, here's a list of movies made in both languages - Korean and Japanese - so that you can take your pick!
Be with You (Japan) / Be With You (Korea)
In 2018, Director Lee Jang-hoon remade the 2004 Japanese film with the same name, which ended up being shown 4,275 times across big screens in South Korea. Both stories follow a similar storyline of a mother passing away while promising to return a year after her death. The Korean version certainly feels more modern with a well-thought-out colour palette, beautiful sunset rides, and of course, Son Ye-jin's charm as the mother returning with no memory of recollection of her past life.
The Japanese version might seem a little dated, however, it deals with the subject matter more pragmatically and is certain to leave you feeling a little jaded. Director Lee Jang-hoon tried to break away from the dramatic moments of the Japanese version to include some light banter, however, it feels jarring and at odds with the poignant storyline. Despite all that, if you're new to Asian films, I'd definitely suggest going for the Korean version, in part due to its contemporary style.
Little Forest: Summer/Autumn (Japan) / Little Forest (Korea)
Little Forest started out as a manga by Daisuke Igarashi that enjoyed massive popularity amongst slice-of-life readers. In 2014, Junichi Mori adapted it as a two-part film titled as Little Forest: Summer and Little Forest: Autumn respectively, though they are often listed together.
The Japanese version certainly triumphs the Korean version in part due to its time. Running over 111 mins in runtime, we get to know Ichiko so much better - her heartbreaks, her quirks and her desire to keep her mother's image alive. The film is an absolute must for food lovers since the dishes literally play a whole role within themselves! As Ichigo tries to be self-sufficient and grow her own organic food, the changing dishes on the table reflect the 4 seasons passing by. Another wonderful element is the landscape of Tohoku. The cinematography is filled with wide-angle shots of lush, green fields, snow-covered mountains and the beautiful interiors of Japanese traditional homes.
However, just as the Japanese version focuses on food, farming, rural life and its traditions, we get to know less about the people. Director Soon-rye Yim takes this to heart in the Korean version, where the people and their struggles take centre-stage. Both directors have carefully worked on different aspects and both have succeeded in their venture.
Black House (Japan) / Black House (Korea)
Adapted from a best selling book of the same name, Black House was a 1999 Japanese film that dealt with an insurance agent investigating people who ended up having profitable 'accidents'. 1999 was before remakes of films like The Grudge and Ring had propelled the horror industry of Asian countries to commercialise. Half noir, half a thrilling chase - Black House is one of those movies that unravels slowly as dread pools in your stomach with every scene.
The Korean version was made in 2007. Surprisingly, the film falls flat in the face of its Japanese counterpart. Director Shin Tae-ra decided to change several key elements in the story, including the treatment of the mystery itself. Instead of focusing on the dread and horror, it chooses to focus on the main character and his developing insanity, which sadly did not hold much water against the original.
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (Japan) / Illang: The Wolf Brigade (Korea)
Released in 1999, Jin-Roh is an animated political thriller set in an alternate history near the bombing of Hiroshima-Nagasaki. A special police unit is formed a decade after World War II to deal with the terrorism of a group calling themselves Jin-Roh. Grim, fast-paced and fascinating, this movie is a must for the fan of political thrillers. Government conspiracies, betrayals, secret organisations - this movie has it all. Also, friendly warning - the ending, while utterly beautiful is bound to leave you sad for days.
Kim Jee-Woon remade the film as a live-action sequence. For those who have watched Jin-Roh, you'll know why this movie would never have done well as alive-action. There are simply too many elements - a whole new world, to be precise - to be fit into the budget for a live-action. One look at its box office performance is enough to confirm this.
Memoirs of a Murderer (Japan) / Confession of Murder (Korea)
Confession of Murder opens with a thrilling premise. 15 years after a police officer failed to capture a serial killer, a man publishes a book about the murders, claiming to be the killer himself. Due to 15 years being the statute of limitations, prosecuting him now is impossible. There are certain things the Korean version gets right - the alcoholic officer, the thirst for vengeance and the inevitable tumble that the new chase throws everyone in. However, it is also crushed by these aspirations, with unbelievable action sequences and chases that could put any number of stuntmen to shame.
Memoirs of a Murderer changes the premise completely. It opens with the serial killer being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. For those who can read between the lines, I might have perhaps given away too much of the plot already! Either way, both these movies are absolutely delightful and should certainly be on your list if you're a fan of crime and thriller movies.