NYAFF 2017: Japanese Girls Never Die
When I read the synopsis for this film, it had me at, “a gang of Japanese school girls runs around beating up men.” Who wouldn’t want to watch that? Unfortunately, that was only a small part of the film.
To even try to describe the plot feels like a Herculean task. The simplest breakdown is this: there is a missing Japanese woman, Haruko Azumi (Yû Aoi), whose disappearance inspires graffiti artists to spray paint a version of her missing poster all around town. At the same time, the aforementioned Girl Gang starts roaming the streets beating up men. We actually follow Haruko for much of the movie as well as some of her classmates from school as they try to maneuver through life.
Because the movie jumps around time-wise from scene to scene, it was hard to keep track as to what was going on. At one point, the characters were just graduating, the next they were 28. The film seemed to lap itself at least twice. There wasn’t really any kind of structure to the film so instead of taking it in as it went along, I was constantly asking myself “Wait, where am I again?”
Ultimately, the film is about what young women are put through in Japan in terms of what is expected of them culturally. It’s a man’s world there and the women are just there to look pretty and be a good wife. The women in the film are constantly being judged on things like looks, age, profession, and motherhood. The pressure is on young girls to conform to these misogynistic rules or pay the consequences by being thought of as an “old maid” by the time they are 28. To get to this message, however, one has to be able to follow the film as it zigs in this direction, zags in another, and, eventually, goes off road completely.
Japanese Girls Never Die is a fantastic looking movie, the performances are great, and the message is a good one. I just wish I could’ve followed it for more than 10 minutes at a time.