Behind the colorful curtains and extravagant performances, there lies the dark side of a circus life, hidden away from the smiles and praises of the audience. Set in early 20th century Japan, Midori: Shoujo Tsubaki highlights the misdeeds that occur in circus camps.
Midori was an innocent young girl who enjoyed her life as an elementary student to the fullest. However, everything changed after her mother fell ill. Eventually, Midori is forced to stop going to school and, instead, sells flowers in the city. When her mother dies tragically, Midori meets a stranger who leads her towards the circus. What awaits her will change her life forever...
In a life where nothing seems to go right, will Midori lose faith and give up? Or will she manage to stay strong in hopes of a better future?
The movie was really great. Some people might be a little disturbed by some scenes and how the story plot goes or might not feel comfortable with the artwork, but it is to know that the director, Hiroshi Harada, drew the entire movie by himself and he wanted to make it look like a sort of japanese paper play. At first I was being dissapointed about the animation, but later it gets better and really breath takes you for some scenes. The story is wonderful , the characters are wee thought. After seing some drawings from the graphic novel it was based on
, I believe it stayed true to it's spirit. I recommend that people that are really sensitive or can't stand cruelty and violence think twice before watching this because it can really get intense , but people who don't mind that and who want to watch something original with an interesting style and art work should definetly go for it.
The world is not beautiful, therefore it is; a thought-provoking proverb popularized by Kino's Journey that nonetheless leaves its trail in lots of anime. Midori is in this sense the ultimate combo breaker in its determination to depict a cruel world whilst rejecting the vaguest of indications that beauty may lie around the corner. Its unpleasant worldview manifests itself perfectly in young Midori who is taken in by a group of deformed circus artists after the death of her beloved mother.
Her various experiences with these individuals are as far from beneficial as they are from being mutual and the movie is eager to explore
its grotesque combination of childhood innocence and sexual perversion in the most surreal ways imaginable. The titular character is not only physically, sexually and mentally abused by her colleagues but also finds herself in a frightening relationship with a dwarf magician whose affection mixed with terrifying abuse creates the foundation for a story that thrives on using jealousy as the ultimate plot device towards tragedy.
From the first two paragraphs you may have anticipated a disturbingly thought-provoking tale that borders on nihilistic in its repulsive take on a classic Cinderella story? Unfortunately, Midori is far too preoccupied in featuring as much twisted imagery as possible, whether or not it has any relevance. As the disturbing content escalates into an intense inferno of immensely haunting images of absolute terror, the narration loses its initially morbid flare to incomprehensive, yet interesting slideshows that make it painfully clear that Hiroshi Harada's true passion lines in twisted artwork rather than storytelling.
I'll be seeing more of Midori's imaginative and repulsive imagery in my nightmares. The director who animated the movie single-handedly does not hide the fact that he treasures grotesque visual expression over beauty but by no means does it change the fact that his work is memorable and disturbing.
Movement is limited due to financial reasons and nobody would ever mistake Midori for anything but an independent feature, but the stills are skillfully animated to repulse and chock, questionable tasks that they nonetheless succeed in.
Despite suiting the material relatively well, Midori's soundtrack is surprisingly forgettable. Furthermore, given the controversial content it's no surprise that Harada had to rely on voice actors whose experiences must be close or equivalent to none as the performances throughout the movie are passable at most.
Contrary to Tod Browning's Freaks which portrayed deformed circus artists in a fairly humane and positive light, the characters in Midori are mostly repulsive enough to really warrant the derogatory term "freak". As they disregard any form of mutuality or decency in their sexual activities they work surprisingly fine as the semi-antagonists who abuse the poor and innocent Midori to the borders of madness.
She herself leads a tragic existence. There are some optimistic parts of her life, but they all end up inevitably defiled by those around her and without anything worth enduring seemingly perpetual misery for, she ends up in a pedophilic relationship with a magician whose strange magic sends the story into a surreal and twisted world. The characterization in Midori remains unambitious but can also be described as simplistically sufficient.
The word "pretentious" is constantly misused to describe anything intelligent or artistic regardless of its execution. This is one of the cases where it actually fits as Midori seems to regard itself as a visually distinguished journey determined to expose the cruelty of mankind and the darker territories of love, whilst only managing to deserve the first description. Viewers looking for something disturbing and morbidly fascinating would be wise to give this infamous sleazefest a chance while any other form of audience should avoid it at all cost.
Welcome back, my friends, to horror anime month. This week I'll be looking at Midori: Shoujo Tsubaki. Yes, I know that it was supposed to be Blue Gender. My apologies, but I lost Internet service for several days and wasn't able to quite finish it. So it'll have to wait for next week. In the meantime, let's take a look at this film that was banned in Japan when it came out on account of its imagery. The film was crafted by a single man, Harada Hiroshi. Supposedly he found it impossible to gain sponsors for it and spent his life savings on the project.
Is it a Magnum Opus or were there very good reasons that Harada couldn't find anyone to take up the project? Let's delve into this obscure piece and find out.
The story follows young Midori. She loses both of her parents and has no one to take care of her. She finds her way to a traveling circus where she is physically and sexually abused. I wonder why Harada couldn't find sponsors? To be fair, it's not shown in great detail. You see just enough to know what's going on. Then a magician with dwarfism enters the scene and things start to change. The story is very simple to the point of being one-dimensional. It follows the simplest structure it can. Where it tries to draw you in is with shocking and grotesque imagery. The problem with that s that there's nothing even remotely substantive behind that imagery. This is another anime that lacks horror. It's conceptually disturbing and some of the images do have shock value but the execution lacks impact. You'll get a scene in which things start out normally enough, there's a twist and some shock images and then it'll hurriedly wrap up and shift to the next scene. There's no good build up or payoff. They don't extend things or build on them enough to give it actual horror.
The characters in this are fully one-dimensional. Most of them get one or two scenes where they're allowed to do something. Even, Midori, the major character that you're supposed to gain some measure of investment in, is more of a passive object than any kind of proactive character. They never really delve into the actual impact the events shes going through are having on her. Except in one brief nightmare scene that comes, goes and leaves no impact. I literally just finished watching the film and I couldn't recount what happened in that scene in any kind of detail.
The art is kind of impressive when you consider that the bulk of it was done by one guy. It's still not really decent, though. It's very sloppy and the animation is jerky. But you have to give Harada credit for getting it done and making it passable.
The voice acting is very amateurish and the sound quality isn't very good. I'm sure that Harada did the best he could without studio support or sponsors. It still sounds terrible
The ho-yay factor is a 3/10. There is a very brief scene between a grown man and a younger teenage boy. Why you would want to see that, I have no idea. Dude should find a boyfriend his own age.
This film reminds me of an independent exploitation film. It's lacking in budget, the technical aspects are amateurish, the execution is pants and the story is beyond weak. The major focus is on being shocking but without anything substantial to back it up it ends up being largely forgettable and stupid. While it is pretty impressive that the bulk of the work was done by a single man, that doesn't excuse the terrible story, complete lack of even semi-developed characters or rubbish execution when attempting horror. It's nothing but shock value and spectacle for the sake of shock value and spectacle. Final rating: 2/10. I would only check it out if you're very curious about it as an independent piece or as a previously banned piece. Otherwise I'd leave it in obscurity where it belongs. Next week will actually be Blue Gender.
Have you ever experienced a perfect movie? As an avid anime watcher I am always looking for these titles, the one where seemingly everything clicks. Works of such transcendental quality, with impeccable theming and symbolism, that join extremely effective storytelling with gigantic personal and emotional impacts. Shoujo Tsubaki is for me(and for everybody who does not have shit taste) one of those, a piece of fiction without an equal in any media. This review basically is my embarrassing attempt to spread my love for the work, while also trying to prove as flawed, many of the retarded claims made by most of its detractors. Also
spoiler free review, there are thing in life that need to be experienced in full glory, without spoilers slightly altering(ruining it is just not possible here) the experience.
Will start with the technical aspects because good Lord, those sure are spectacular. I am writing about a work mostly done by a single guy, that took 4 long years to be finished. Yes a single guy, the genius Harada Hiroshi, animated the whole thing, frame by frame while also directing the work and writing the script. The movie is the result of 4 long years of hard arduous work by this guy, pouring his heart and soul into the script and every frame he was drawing. Honestly it just singlehandedly redefined my own definition of an auteur work and of a passion project. It just oozes the dedication, effort and passion that went into every line, moment, onto every scene. Really the aesthetic it reaches for is something completely different than anything me(or you reader)has ever seen before. The complete lack of movement, the static main frames with barely any in-betweens, the really lazy transitions all of which people complained as cost saving techniques also add a lot to the look and feel of the work. You can just simply be shown any moment in the movie, and you will immediately get something truly wrong is happening(yes it is that remarkable), that of course adds a lot to the disturbing nature the craft is trying to subtly show. Same can be said about the drab muted color design, bad composition, lazy usage of angles. Many detractors still find reasons to complain about this artistic unique style of aesthetics and directing with the really retarded logic of comparing it with other works, most notably Hoshi no Koe, another one man project made by the legend, Makoto Shinkai himself. What those idiots apparently can not figure out is how the gigantic difference, the 10 year gap between both works can create in the animation craft. Shinkai when working in Hoshi no Koe had it his disposal the most recent computer animation techniques, which was in fact a technique with little usable skills at the time only being used to fix a little the artwork and actually made the production project slower. Never forgetting how it is that movie experimentation with newer technologies that made for its worst visual aspects, like it's awful usage of depth of field, the weird lightening that randomly turned characters into ghosts. So yeah really unfair and totally off the mark comparison. This method just in general loses completely the idea of how this work of fiction should be appreciated and judged. We cannot compare the quality of this movie production by seeing its nonexistent qualities in comparison with literally anything you ever watched. No, no, no, you need to look at the effort, the dedication shown by spending years and lots of money just to make this project. It is in recognizing that for someone in this conditions he achieved a really impressive result(even when that is not the case). Is this concept of just forgetting anything about the quality of the work at hand and just focusing on the artist, his experience, what crazy lengths he must have gone to manage something of this magnitude truly that hard to grasp. Even when limited the animation is used to really great affect here, it just gets how to pass tension and terror so well. It understands how what is shown is never what is really terrifying, a person with a knife trying to kill us, sure, that can be a little scary. But a creature you cannot see, something you cannot understand, an unknown and highly dangerous threat you cannot understand or define, this is way more disturbing. It gets how not showing can be the most effective tool, by always showing everything, the schlocky gory scenes with its weird animation style, in all its glory, hilariously full of itself.
But since the production cannot amount to much else than pretty colors, I will talk about the concepts, the several thematic threads found in the movie. Out of the bat I have to say this work has a fascinating style of thematic exploration. People who cannot believe how short term duration fiction can represent broad interesting topics in a though provoking manner, should definitely watch Shoujo Tsubaki. It is the exception that proves said though as flawed. An analogy with the way ideas are debated in general, the dialectic can help to explain the brilliance found in here. The movie's thesis is really simple, it represents a truly pessimistic view on world and society. Suffering, moral degradation and nihilism are the core of this world, having hope on happiness, or in the possibility of a better life, can only leave you to dreadful disappointments. The movie presents a fully formed worldview, one that resonates with universal feelings in the hearts of many, the fear the malice, the distrust, everyone has at least one moment in their life's when they think of the world as an awful place. But of course nothing in a debate is simply self provable, its veracity and worth only given by how it interacts and disproves other ideas. Here comes the movie counter thesis, that finds its representation in the mentality of the protagonist, her naivety, her hopeful dreams and love and happiness, the belief of those feelings as an important part of life, and that her situation will improve in the future. The film goes for a really fascinating method to argue for its main thesis, instead of having much of any arguments for the counter thesis, showing its positive aspects, how Midori's view of the world may make sense under a certain perspective, the film goes for nothing of that. It does not want to make you belief in the thesis, by making it ultimately defeat, prove as flawed a strong and well constructed opposing argument, ultimately making you even unwilling come to an understand or even an agreement, with an idea the viewer could otherwise despise. No, the dialectic process at work here is really different, it is one that involves proving your thesis, by having most of your world, characters and events, as just more evidence of what you are trying to say. Having the character sadism and cruelty becoming more and more extreme, happening frequently in most scenes, their acts yelling in every way possible of the unfairness of this world, the more extreme the act the better, as evidences for your thesis. There is no need for a strong contrast, like showing in detail the calm everyday life that serves as base for Midori's way of thinking and actions, which would make both the counter thesis better supported, and the horrible things happen to her more shocking(yeah I know it would probably not work doing this either)by contrast. But just start with rats eating a certain someone and that is all we need to see. Really having something really good happening, allowing for different changes in value betweens scenes other than from bad to awful, would do a lot to improve this work. So if we extend the comparison with debates just a little further, let's make a though experiment, to imagine a certain debate where Shoujo Tsubaki would be one of the guys discussing. The person Shoujo Tsubaki, will act in this debate by barely acknowledging any of the people arguing with him, instead opting to yell what he means all the time, and showing with truly great conviction, the truth of what he is saying, even when he has basically no evidence or reasoning for it. Can you believe someone will end up disagreeing with this guy? It surely was not the case with me.
This is the part where I have to admit, Shoujo Tsubaki does not contain the best cast of characters in the world(it is high up there though). But this far from a problem is also one of the work`s greatest qualities. Because really the objective quality behind these characters really do not matter. Their function in the history is not to have depth, likeable traits, motivations or backgrounds, but to represent perfectly the ero guro genre stereotypes. Following rules and genre clichés do not represent shortcuts, when the author shows the laziness of writing unique personal developments for his history. These constructions and clichés are in fact the end all of fiction, the author should be looking and trying to replicate exactly those. Between developing characters, situations and themes which would propel his craft, the piece of fiction he is trying to make, or trying to simply follow genre rules and expectations, it is pretty obvious what should be the creator priority. So complaining about the lack of character depth makes completely no sense already, but let's look a little deeper into the characters. With the exception of the protagonist they are group of completely deranged malicious people, most them shows signs of cruelty, sadism, greed, mistrust, luxury, lack of empathy, they also usually lie a lot, really they make for a fine representation of the ugly aspects of mankind this movie is attempting to portray. There is another argument for the lacking personality in most characters consisting of a flaw, which is that the focus in showing the unpleasant side of humanity, with no insight or introspection to the people making those acts can only amount to that feeling, unpleasantness. It can never be shocking(people saying the violence in here is for shock factor are idiots, there is no way to be shocked with what is being presented), sad, disgusting, terrifying. They do not emerge here because the characters have no personality to react to the cruelty, we cannot see aspects of our personality in them, which would makes us at least feel empathy for the people suffering and making others suffer, see aspects of our ourselves and our life's, identifying them as human beings kind of not so different from us. This would really make us care in a lot of ways for the fucked up shit they do. It is not this is some really difficult stuff to pull out, just give the characters unique perspective and worldview, a personality that can react in a unique way or think differently about the violence. As it is in the best of cases you get a slight feeling of distaste for the events at play, or at the worst you can laugh maniacally at all the ultra gory scenes. I truly applaud those that managed the latter.
When you are dealing with this level of artistry in the making of a show, you can expect it be noticeable in all of its aspects. Of course the world building is no exception, instead of going for lazy exposition and adding countless of useless details to a setting, that would otherwise not affect characters plots or themes, shoujo Tsubaki goes for a more minimalistic route. Sure we may not know much about this world and city at the end of the day, but every bit and ounce of information adds something in a symbolical or character level, making for really effective storytelling. The whole thing manages to portray the state of Japan after world war 2 way better than overrated classics like Godzilla, Akira, or others critically beloved but otherwise garbage titles like Billy Bat. Really if you are looking for a complete understanding of this period, the complicated sociopolitical situation, the harsh living conditions of the population, this, right here, is the work you should be looking for. Just the way they tie the analogy of western domination and the affects of the bomb with my favorite character, Wonder Masamitsu(mito), is superbly done. His ability, an incredible magic from the west is obviously a reference to the atomic bomb, the complete dominance it establishes over other characters also showing the state of Japan at the period. In one of the show more fantastic surreal sequences, it even plays imaginary pretty similar to people being burned to death, an iconic image of effects of the atomic bomb. This kind of symbolical representation can be seen in several aspects of the setting, where the simply generic representation of hellish places, filled with poverty, crime and really hard to live by, is not a lazy generic portrayal of any place having a disaster, or just difficult social times. No, it actually has lot of symbolical value, which of course I know of, but will not say here, for simplicity sake.
Let's get a bit controversial here and talk about specific scene. Also really important spoiler warning, if you do not want to be spoiled just jump to the next paragraph. The infamous rape scene between Tokkuriji Muchisute(you will be missed) and Midori will be my topic. A lot of people question the necessity of its inclusion since it does nothing to progress plot(having Midori suffer even more horrible things adds what exactly?), character(having this character do even more awful things to Midori adds what exactly?), it gives no further context or new view on their relationship, has overall no greater structure or thematic effect, just one nonsensical reason after another. But there is an important question to make, why was this scene necessary, why was this disturbing really sensitive topic chosen to be displayed here. In regards to choosing topic of grand social significance, specially controversial ones, there needs to be a care in the what and how you are portraying said aspects. Sure there is a gigantic difference between portrayal and endorsement, showing a rape scene does not equate in any shape or form to any sort of argument or defense of this practice(it is usually the other way around). In fact as a general stance I am all in favor of free speech, put all the things and topics you want in your work of fiction, but the question of why is important. Why does your story needs sexual abuse, the most tired and cliché imaginable way to establishing characters as likeable/unlikeable(Sugou sends his hello), good/bad, why does it need to have this act which constantly shows and spreads toxic gender roles, that is mostly used as a cheap shortcut to create sympathy for characters. What kind of purpose or vision do you have for putting any of it in your story, especially when it deals with topics really sensitive for millions of people everywhere(there is even a term rape culture going around goddawmnit) being really uncomfortable for a lot of people out there. There is no way to just simply see the scenes totally disconnected from the act`s social significance in society, so maybe for the author as a member of society to pay a little attention to that, and put some fucking though in what he is putting in his story would be not so much to ask. And as a matter of response to this criticism, I do have a general stance of not even bothering with social justice faggotry, and I sure will follow it here.
So concluding if you were looking for an awfully looking movie, with terrible characters, dialogue, theming, plot, directing, than please look somewhere else. On this review I simply cleared some surface elements, just skin deep details that represent a tiny fraction of what this movies has to offer. There are so many great details I can write about in length here, like the way the effective usage of the soundtrack, like playing a melancholic love music during sexual abuse, the occurrence in several instances of symbolism connected to xintoism based religions, which of course adds another entire layer to the whole movie. The style of narrative that utilizes techniques of Japanese traditional storytelling to achieve new heights by using really interesting, creative ways to tell this narrative. So would I recommend this? Yes, yes, yes, just do yourself a favor and spend your next hour checking this masterpiece out, I guarantee it will not be like anything you have seen before.