Japan; land of the rising sun, home of some of the most advanced technology in the world, and a place where you can buy school girl’s used panties in a vending machine while watching a cute animated character get eviscerated on network television at 5 o’clock in the evening.
Their major cities have more neon skyscrapers than a William Gibson fever dream, and their shadows are dotted with ancient shrines. They blur the naughty bits out of their porn, but their entertainment is among the most outlandishly violent in the world.
It is this dichotomy that makes Japan so damn interesting – and so damn hard for the rest of us to understand.
Obviously, as an internet dweller who had to move back into his parent’s house, I’m a fan of a whole lot of Japanese crap. I have more anime than I do any other form of time waster, prefer Japanese video games to western ones most of the time, and I speak enough of the language to not sound like a complete idiot when asking where the bathrooms are. I don’t even giggle at the fact most of their toilets are just holes in the ground.
At least not anymore – you fall into one of those fucking things once and you learn to respect them. More importantly, I at least try to understand that it takes more to truly grasp the subtlety of Japanese culture than watching the stuff geared towards pre-teens on Cartoon Network, sinking a bunch of money into Pokemon card games, wearing cat ears, eating sushi, and yelling “kawaii” at the top of my lungs like most of the mewling weeaboos on this side of the pond tend to.
With that said, even as the rare socially well adjusted Japanophile, I honestly don’t know what the fuck is going on with them half the time. Japan is either a bunch of artistic geniuses or an island full of crazy people, and here are a few movies that really help hammer that point home.
5. Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl
Did you ever watch Twilight and think “hey, this is an absolutely idiotic thing that only the most insipid of teenagers and loneliest of moms could possibly enjoy, but it would be way better if the sparkly dude was a Japanese school girl, and the love triangle involved a Frankenstein monster instead of a werewolf with super cut abs, and instead of all that generic Mary Sue wish fulfillment crap there is a Kabuki mad scientist and more blood spray than a Clint Malarchuk highlight reel. Oh and also if it had a couple outrageously racist scenes.”
Well, do I have the movie for you.
The Machine Girl RoboGeisha Mutant Girls Squad Dead Sushi Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead Everything by Noboru Iguchi
Rarely has their been a director who so embodied an entire genre as Noboru Iguchi has for the Japanese splatterpunk revival. There wasn’t any realistic way for me to decide which of his movies serve as a better example for Japanese film’s ability to straddle the insanobrilliant line. They are all equally out there.
Here is a brief run down of each film, in order; a schoolgirl with machine gun for an arm seeks revenge against the yakuza. A cyborg geisha assassin who seeks revenge and at one point battles two goblins with penises for noses who shoot shuriken out their asses. A girl with mutant powers joins an anti human rebel group lead by a transvestite samurai and seeks revenge.
The daughter of a famous sushi chef who is drawn into an evil corporations experiments in creating killer sushi and seeks revenge, and although I haven’t actually seen Zombie Ass yet it is about toilets that turn people into zombies and probably involves someone getting revenge. Yeah, you try to choose which one should be here.
Oh, and before gore movies, he directed porn. I’ve never seen any of that part of his catalog, but with names like Final Pussy, Wives Are Often Liable To Be Done ENEMA, and Beautiful Girl Excretion School, I’m just going to assume there is an equal amount of fluids and revenge seeking as his theatrical releases.
3. Tetsuo the Iron Man
If you like directors David Lynch and David Cronenberg, you’d be very happy to know that aliens splided the pair’s DNA and it produced a man named Shinya Tsukamoto. Tetsuo the Iron Man takes the surrealistic narratives of Lynch and sews them right to the body horror of David Cronenberg. With their powers combined, he then proceeds to give you 77 of the most visually brilliant, and utterly disturbing, minutes in movie history.
Tetsuo is the story of a businessman and his girlfriend who have the misfortune of running over a crazed Metal Fetishist, which means he likes sticking metal into his body and not that he gets off thinking about 80s thrash. After being dumped in a ravine by the businessman to cover up his crime, the Metal Fetishist than starts to take his revenge by slowly turning his entire body into a walking hunk of scrap metal.
Think I Know What You Did Last Summer except instead of being more known for starting the clock on Jennifer Love Hewitt’s 15 minutes, it is known for having a guy with an enormous drill for a dick.
And after all that, that is where it actually starts to get weird.
In the 70s, when the studio that created Godzilla asked Nobuhiko Obayashi to create something similar to Jaws, this is what they ended up making.
Makes perfect sense.
1. Happiness of the Katakuris
Very few people represent the “Albert Einstein or Albert Fish” nature of some Japanese films better than Takeshi Miike. He has bounced effortlessly from gory horror flicks to psychological thrillers to love stories, hitting every note in between. He has made some gloriously fucked up movies, including Visitor Q, which to this day is the only movie I’ve ever seen that actually made me go “holy shit that is too much” and, considering some of the other movies on this list alone, that is impressive.
Still, Visitor Q isn’t the movie I picked for this. Instead I picked the one about a family who purchases a bed and breakfast that they work on together to strengthen the fraying bonds between them.
Then their first guest kills himself. And then their second guest dies. And then so do the rest of their guests. And a volcano starts erupting.
Oh and it’s a musical. With claymation sequences.