Was it the best of these films? Not by a long shot. I'd have ranked them thusly: Baader Meinhof, The Class, Departures, Revanche and Waltz With Bashir (while I liked the latter film, I was not a huge fan: I think the movie would have profited from live action rather than animation, which -- yes -- made it seem unusually dark and brooding (and repetitive) for an animated film but did not begin to offer the complexities and specifics that might have been found in the performances of live actors.
Now that TrustMovies has finally seen all five films (Departures just two weeks ago), the dichotomy he experienced around the time of the awards -- reading all the negatives from most of the "better" critics regarding Departures, yet constantly hearing such good things about the movie from one after another of what he would call the "average" art-house moviegoer, he thinks he understands what was going on here -- and why.
Six Feet Under cable series (without the embalming) -- like the proverbial duck to water. His wife does not, however, nor does his best friend. They loathe what he is doing, and here the Japanese culture of shame comes into play, and rather pointedly, too.
Masahiro Motoki (above, left, also seen in The Mystery of Rampo) as good-looking as he is and deft in his handling of the ceremony, is not a great actor. rather, he's one of those who tends to bug his eyes at key emotional moments and let us do the rest of the heavy lifting. Yet he is often so endearing and beautiful, and handles that special tradition so very well, that you may end up, as did I, forgiving him his tresspasses. The director, too, tend to overstate some of the comedy. And the finale, which is emotional enough already, does not need the incessant inter-cutting between Kobayashi and his wife. Surely the director could have come up with somewhere else to point the camera -- or just cut the scene by half, as the movie is already too lengthy.