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Arts

Is Japan ready to love a transgender lead character?

Naoko Ogigami's gentle film 'Close-Knit' set to touch audiences' emotions

TOKYO -- Naoko Ogigami and Kumi Kobata are a rarity in Japan where female directors and producers are as uncommon as independent filmmakers. When asked how they met, they turned to each other and shook their heads, laughing softly because neither could recall. Eventually Ogigami remembered it was on her 2006 film "Seagull Diner" ("Kamome Shokudo"). Suurkitos, Kobata's film distribution company, came on board as a financier and released the picture in Japan. The collaboration has yielded five films over the last 10 years, including their latest, "Close-Knit" ("Karera ga Honki de Amu Toki Ha"), a film whose subject matter is also a rarity in Japan.

"Close-Knit" ventures into interestingly topical territory, telling the story of a transgender woman, a man who loves her and the young girl who comes into their lives. Rinko (played by one of Japan's hottest young male stars, Toma Ikuta) is a transgender woman living with Makio (Kenta Kiritani, another enormously popular actor) who accepts her unconditionally. Makio's emotionally unstable sister runs off with a man and her young daughter Tomo (Rinka Kakihara) shows up at her uncle's door. Makio's girlfriend Rinko welcomes her warmly and the couple begins to care for the child. Rinko is reminded of her mother's compassion when she was a young boy and discovers her own motherly instincts through her relationship with the young girl. Tomo slowly becomes the child that Rinko will never conceive, but longs to nurture. When the girl's actual mother returns from her adventures to claim her child, a choice needs to be made.

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