リアル鬼ごっこ 「Riaru Onigokko」
Release Date: July 11th, 2015
Duration: 85 mins.
Director: Sion Sono
Writer: Sion Sono (Screenplay), Yusuke Yamada (Original Novel)
Starring: Reina Triendl, Mariko Shinoda, Erina Mano, Yuka Sakurai, Maryjun Takahashi, Rin Honoa Cyborg Kaori, Mao Mita, Izumi, Mika Akizuki,
Kinetic and balletic. Bullets and buckshot fly. Hit bodies. Blood and body-parts splatter the sets. People drop to the floor amidst blood and gore. By people, I mean young females. A high-school girl named Mitsuko (Reina Triendl) is our first protag. Pretty much stunned and helpless, she flees scenes of carnage every few minutes. She runs the same gauntlet ad infinitum: a scene is established, a feeling of grue overcomes her and gratuitous violence erupts. As she escapes she dodges a number of antagonists: a supernatural scythe-like wind that decapitates busloads of schoolgirls and dismembers random passers-by at first, and then she flees a massacre orchestrated by teachers carrying military-grade weapons that cause ridiculous damage. Over the course of her escape, she transforms into… a bride named Keiko (Mariko Shinoda) who has a wedding from hell as it devolves into a mass brawl full of kung-fu kicking and jagged glass bottles for people to get stuck with. And then she turns into a marathon runner named Izumi (Erina Mano) who has to sprint away from danger. These ladies have all become involved in a fatal game of “tag” where they narrowly avoid death with every step. But can they break the cycle by making it to the end and what is awaiting them at the finishing line?
Sion Sono does a Seijun Suzuki and takes what could be humdrum source material and transforms it into something else. The source is Yusuke Yamada’s 2001 novel, Real Onigokko, originally a story about people with the same last name being bumped off by be-suited foes. Already subject to a series of films, Sono turns the source into a bit of a feminist parable about a woman’s options being limited by male-dominated society. Well, Sono isn’t quite on the level of Suzuki in, say, Branded to Kill or Tokyo Drifter here because this lacks the visual vibrancy of the legend’s best works despite the non-stop action in this gory exploitation title with a ridiculous body-count.
The film is, without a doubt, violent. Quite surreal at times, as well. Andre Breton would be proud, for a line in his second manifesto of Surrealism states:
“The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd.”
Which is pretty much what happens here. Although brutal and surreal, the film doesn’t work itself up into a fervid childish, savage fever-dream full of irrationality which it could. Despite the high action quotient, the film is subject to quiet moments that allow the audience to breathe and wonder just where the narrative is going and characters talk to each other and drop clues as to what could be happening. Mitsuko’s best friend Aki (Yuki Sakurai) draws her away from school and the wedding and insists on her being independent while the spunky and cool Sur (Ami Tomite), short for surreal, exhorts her to stay strong because, “Life is surreal. Don’t let it consume you”. We’re very much aware that the only characters are women and they are being mutilated and it becomes a sickening spectacle. An angst settles in as we suss out some underlying meaning is rearing its head and then the ending puts what is a nightmarish situation into some even more horrifying perspective and offers some logic to ground things.
Sono’s “feminist” streak and his commitment to critiquing patriarchy surfaces and, much like Antiporno (2016), it turns the film into a self-reflexive look at the world of entertainment. The sobering thing is that it offers an utterly bitter ending that should shock audiences since it is predicated on the existential truth that we always have freedom – even if we are imprisoned or enslaved, we still have choices we can go make: to go along with things, resist or commit suicide. And this leads to a stunning ending as Mitsuko, a lamb amidst the slaughter, finally learns to roar like a lion and seize her freedom.
If I have any criticism, it’s that the film doesn’t quite nail the correct tone. I feel like a hyped up, knowing atmosphere a la Exte (2007) or the colourful randomness of Survive Style 5+ (2004) would have suited the scenario more. The film is full of solid special-effects and prop work, courtesy of veteran director and effects-man Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police, Helldriver) who ensures the bloodbath is bloody enough but the comedic violence levels should have been Loony Tunes to work really effectively especially considering the final reveal. That written, there is enough anarchic humour to make things entertaining. All of the performances are good to great and the film does have an effect that will make audiences think a lot.
For a film that is an entry in a popular “death-game” franchise where throwaway characters are the norm, this achieves something profound. Overall, considering this was one of four films directed by Sono to be released in 2015, it’s pretty good (although not as good as Love and Peace). There is enough of an anarchic sense of humour and gratuitous action to make sure it never gets too tiring and also some beautiful images such as the final one where Mitsuko continues to run, an overhead shot from a drone watching her disappear into a white landscape as music by the group Mono plays. Just stunning.