Archive for Kokuhaku

Oni Market #28: Kokuhaku (Confessions)

Posted in Oni Market with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2011 by speedxgrapher

Here we are again, not nearly as much time having elapsed from the last update as (what has ended up being the) usual. Whereas once I had the luxury (and, let us be honest, the drive) to update my blogs on a regular basis, especially this one, now I follow the “having something interesting to share” pattern. Thankfully, apparently such things have started emerging again (with the exception of the whole Japanese disaster, which has taken quite a bit of space here and for which I am NOT thankful), so it seems you will be seeing more of me (lucky you, heh).

At any rate, I have a couple of things lined up for you:

Item #1: I know I have posted the professed “Final Update” on this matter, but now that we know the things bought with the money raised from the charity event have reached their destination, we’ve really come full circle. Here is Hiromi Komatsu’s “thank you” mail:

Dear Olga

We’ve got all your presents at 2nd of this month. All of your stuff are fine, cute and with good sense of design. Some of them have been already taken for kids. Not only kids but also their parents seem happy with your stuff. I really thank you for this and kind words always.

I have a dream here, Olga.When people in my home town can live in peace and quiet some day, I’m sure to go to Greece. If I can meet you there, that would be fantastic.

Take care, Olga, and have fun with your family and friends! 🙂

Hiromi Komatsu

Item #2: Kokuhaku (Confessions). This is obviously the main subject of this post, a 2010 Japanese live-action movie (as in “traditional cinema”, not anime you bleedin’ otaku!), which I watched with some friends on DVD the other day. It was described as a “psychological thriller”, but Japanese live-action cinema being what it is (i.e. usually a disappointment), we did not really expect much. The short description said that a Middle School teacher, Yoko Moriguchi (played by Takako Matsu), has her life torn down, when her 4-year-old daughter is murdered by two of her students (aged 13, I think) and after she quits her job, she resolves to get revenge on them. Sounded fairly interesting, so we gave it a shot.

Let’s start with first impressions: great photography, great shooting and carefully picked music but the fact of the matter was, the first 15 minutes were dominated by Moriguchi’s near-monologue in front of her class (she was their homeroom teacher), as they mostly ignore her. However, the movie actually begins with them drinking little cartons of milk, as part of a government campaign (this is important for later). At first she goes on and on about  renowned Dr. Sakuranomiya, who was her inspiration as a whole and who sadly died of AIDS. Then she announces that she is going to retire because of her daughter’ s death, a murder in fact by two students in that very same classroom and goes as far as saying that she thinks she has been a bad teacher because she wanted to be devoted to her dingle parenting. Thus far, the speech being completely rehearsed and delivered in a droning, monotonous voice, evokes almost no reaction from a class of misconducting, bullying, text-messaging 13-year-olds and yawns from us.

Then, surely and steadily, Moriguchi ups the ante, saying that Sakuranomiya was her lover and once-future husband, that he gave her HIV and that they decided not to marry, in order to avoid stigmatizing their child. The reaction is almost instantaneous, as students shy away from her in panic, as if she is carrying the plague and freak at her merest touch. Various scenes make perfectly clear that, not only her students ignore basic facts about AIDS, but also many adults have complete and hysterical misconceptions on it. Further on, talking 0f her daughter’s murder, she mentions facts, referring to the perpetrators as students A and B, as well as the reactions of student B’s mother, who finds no fault with her son (naturally). She also says that the Juvenile Law part of the Japanese Criminal Justice System protects them from any actual prosecution, so they can walk away from this murder without any real consequences. At this point, the downward spiral begins, as Moriguchi is of course not satisfied with such leniency: therefore, the milk cartons of the two murderers, she informs them, were laced with her dead lover’s  HIV-infected blood! Gasps of horror from the class, round of applause from us.

From this point onward, there is not a dull moment in the movie, as we see the impact of these news on the two boys, as well as the reaction of their classmates (which is bullying, a lot of it!), which is a spiral of madness and hate. The movie is segmented as its title: confessions. So gradually, we get all the facts of the story from the viewpoint of each character, including, the teacher, the murderers, one of the two murderers’ mother, as well as the other’s girlfriend. Amazingly, it is both a mind and time trip, which largely revolves around Shuya Watanabe’ s (student A) mother complex and rejection issues, as well as his conviction that he is a genius (of which his mother, a brilliant mechanic, convinced him at a very young age, then abandoned him).

The whole movie is an elegy to the cruelty and stupidity of adolescence, the hubris of privileged youth (believe me, for all their problems, these kids had not had to fight for anything yet) and how, when taken too far, those who afford them this protection can utterly destroy them. It is also a disturbing look into Japan’s youth, much like REAL WORLD, where juvenile delinquency is glorified, a tendency represented by Mizuki Kitahara (who idolizes Lunacy Girl, a teen murderer who poisoned her parents and becomes the girlfriend of Shuya). Furthermore, the movie is not afraid to point the finger at the parents who are responsible for the delinquency of these children, whether by pampering or negligence and abuse, the two extremes represented by the two murderers’ mothers. In the end, they too will pay the ultimate price.

However, the story reigns in its theme and avoids the mistake of creating an all-around “hate film”. With the exception of Moriguchi’s daughter (a “background victim” to the movie ‘s action), everyone who is destroyed absolutely deserves it. In contrast, the replacement teacher of Moriguchi-sensei, nicknamed Werther (played by Masaki Okada), who is only guilty of being good-natured, naive and hopelessly optimistic, merely has his feelings hurt and Moriguchi-sensei herself is obviously left with nothing when her revenge is done, but not before she has completely taken apart the lives of the two young murderers, both metaphorically and actually, inflicting upon them the full extent of the loss she feels, without ever being caught – it’ s the essence of Nemesis, as the ancients called it, only set in modern-day Japan.

Even with all I have said, I have not gone into any terrible spoilers, for the way everything comes together and more so, the way everything is depicted, is the true treat of this movie. It has the careful plotting of a Sherlock Holmes mystery and the emotional impact of Greek tragedy, centered around the theme of vengeance. Just be patient for the first 15 minutes. It will all make sense in the end and it is totally worth it. The movie was based on the novel of Kanae Minato.

Item #3: Tatsumi: A Life in Animation. As I have said before, I have stopped watching anime for quite some time, but this is one I am willing to give a try. It deals with the real life, as well as the stories of post WWII manga creator Yoshihiro Tatsumi, one of the most “human” and iconic storytellers of manga. This goes beyond retro: it is history, treated by a modern medium.

Well, that is all for today and quite a bit, if I do say so myself. Keep reading. You never know what else I might dig up.

Peace,

Speedgrapher

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