Kadokawa Pictures has unveiled a 12-picture distribution slate for 2009-10, headed by in-house productions such as $20m drama Shizumanu Taiyo starring Ken Watanabe.

Directed by Setsuro Wakamatsu, the film stars Watanabe as the head of an airline workers’ union dealing with the aftermath of an air disaster. More than three hours in length, it is scheduled to open through Toho on October 24.

Set for a spring 2010 release is an adaptation of Osamu Dazai’s 1948 novel No Longer Human, directed by Genjiro Arato and starring Toma Ikuta. The title is the highest profile of several films celebrating the 100th year of Dazai’s birth.

“We hope to produce two big-budget local productions a year for one of the three major studios to distribute,” said Kadokawa president Taiichi Inoue.

Also on the slate are a mix of co-productions and local acquisitions including animated feature Tales Of Vesperia: The First Strike (October 3), Our Wonderful Days (November), Kidnapping Rhapsody (December) and a fifth entry in Kadokawa’s Keroro animation franchise (2010).

The only foreign acquisitions are German polar bear documentary Knut Und Seine Freunde (July 25) and The Descent: Part 2 (autumn-winter) with titles for 2010 yet to be slated. The company will also handle distribution of Imagi Studios’ Astro Boy (autumn).

Kadokawa distributed seven imports in 2008 and early 2009 including Nim’s Island, Kung Fu Dunk, The Black House, Eagle Eye and Oliver Stone’s W.

“The situation is now favorable to domestic films. When foreign films increase in popularity again, we’ll shift the ratio accordingly,” said a Kadokawa spokesperson.

Kadokawa is one of a dwindling number of mid-sized buyers of foreign films in Japan. As audiences gravitate toward local fare and Hollywood studio blockbusters in a flat market, small and mid-size companies are investing in domestic content rather than acquisitions while arthouse and specialty labels face bankruptcy.