Hybrid film with animated cockroaches interacting with live-action actors.
In a trashy bachelor pad lived a colony of roaches who were able to roam freely for food or for games. Because of the homeowner being gentle with the roaches, they have no fear of traps, spray, or being stepped on. However when the homeowner starts bringing over a woman over, life starts to change for the roaches who are already living an easy life.
It is always interesting when a children’s film attempts to explore deeper subjects thematically, and Twilight of the Cockroaches dares to cover the international relations and economics of Japan at the peak of its economic success in the late eighties. The great nation of Japan, at the time the second most powerful economy in the world, flatteringly portrayed as a colony of cockroaches infesting the apartment of a slobbish Japanese man.
This self-deprecating analogy is quite the contrast to what one might expect from the Japanese, who are usually more closely associated with qualities like ‘honour’, ‘strength’ and ‘tranquility’. Indeed for any group or
nation to present themselves in such a grotesque manner is unusual; it would usually be the sort of metaphor used in a work of propaganda. This makes the premise quite intriguing and the potential for a particularly biting piece of satire is alluring. But in what sense is Japan similar to a colony of cockroaches?
The first point to be made here is that it is not really Japanese people per se that are like cockroaches, but their approach to economics at that time. Living with their slovenly landlord, food is abundant and the cockroaches enjoy lives of immense luxury, to the extent that lives of cockroaches can be luxurious. There is no expectation that these glory days will come to an end, and they make no preparations for any forthcoming ‘rainy days’. Alas, those rainy days do come, just as they did for Japan itself in the early nineties when the economic bubble finally burst. Was this a prediction of the future? Not really, such consequences are inevitable in economics, and we have been experiencing the same effect in the west for the past few years, after a housing and finance boom.
But there is more to it than that; indeed the economic crisis is something of a natural occurrence, while the fate of the cockroaches in this film is rather more deliberate, in that the host actively attempts to destroy them. After finding himself a girlfriend who is distressed by the infestation of cockroaches in his home, both decide to clean up and engage in “war” with the cockroaches. Quite what this is a metaphor of, is a complicated question. The host meeting the girlfriend clearly and comfortably represents a change in the economic situation, but their conspiring to destroy the cockroaches could be taken to be an active attempt to destroy Japan. The reputation that Japanese people had at that time was of very hard working people who would come to replace the United States as the dominant economic power due to their strong work ethic, and perhaps this is what the creators intended to convey. Alas, this is not made clear enough in the picture itself and would rather contradict the lazy nature of the cockroaches prior to the host meeting the girlfriend.
There is however one further element of the Japanese national character embodied by the cockroaches which leads one to believe they represent not only the economics of the country but its people: and that is the rather dramatic conclusion of the film. This scene is shocking, especially when one reflects on the prime audience of the film, but how it fits into a metaphor of the Japanese economy is unclear; but it does fit neatly into certain other aspects of the Japanese national character. This makes the films thematic conclusions somewhat confusing. However, one cannot help but praise the bold faced, frankness of it all.
Another aspect of the film which is unconventional is the way it blends live action and animation together. The cockroaches are animated, the humans are real people, and the environment is a mixture of the two. There are a fair few western productions that have taken this approach (‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ is the most famous example) but one cannot think of any examples from Japan. Critics might say this is because the technique has rather limited applications or because it is usually unconvincing. However, I think it is well suited to this production. And while the character designs of the cockroaches are quite simplistic to be combined with live action, it only becomes a problem in the occasional scene. Other than that the animation is up to an acceptable standard.
The film is currently only available in an English dub, which is unfortunately a bit ‘straight to video children's movie’. That is to say the voice acting, while not terrible, is a bit bland. The voice actors are capable but not particularly talented and so you cannot help but laments the lack of the original Japanese dub. The background music is suitably atmospheric, dark and ominous, which emphasises the films dark themes nicely and captures the prevailing attitude of people towards cockroaches neatly.
All being said Twilight of the Cockroaches is not a film that will appeal to anyone; in fact, it will appeal to only a very limited audience, but this is not because of any lack of quality on its part. The fact is that the film is now quite old and its animation is dated, its themes have now faded into obscurity, and what is left of the content without them perhaps too childish. However if you have some basic knowledge of Modern Japanese history and a taste for niche and experimental animation, then Twilight of the Cockroaches could be just the film to pique your interest. Furthermore if you are not familiar with the Japanese approach to children’s films outside of the Studio Ghibli catalogue, then the bluntness of their traditional approach may leave you feeling quite surprised.
When all is said and done, Twilight of the Cockroaches is a clever and daring film, without any contemporary. And for that, in the often times repetitive world of Japanese Animation, makes it something to be cherished.
imagine a cockroach ...
a girl ...
and hundreds of baby cockroaches .
these baby cockroaches have same mother(that girl) , but not same father . and they are immune to insecticide .
now put that scene in the end and make it your happy ending .
what do you expect from such anime ?!
it's exactly as you expect it !
the story could have been great if you exclude that happy ending .
for art and sounds you can not expect something more from something that old .
the combination of animation and live action make the art look even worse .
the supporting characters were more developed than the main characters .
heroine was the less developed character .
from the beginning till the end you can not understand what was her reason for doing this or that .
and for enjoyment ...
if you could take the first 1 hour , there's less than half remaining .
althought it has some enjoyable scenes and that scenes really worth watching .
the problem is that that "some enjoyable scenes" are less than 15 minutes .
Twilight of the Cockroaches is a bit of an oddity for me to cover here thanks to its mix of live action and animated footage used for its run. So in a rare case, I'm not gonna bother handing out grades on Art for this one since it would be impossible for me to judge this properly on any merits for its animation.
The movie is focused on a colony of cockroaches who seemingly live a peaceful coexistence with the human owner of an apartment. But not all is what it seems as once the homeowner gets a girlfriend, the lives of the colony become a
living hell when the humans start wiping them out. The movie is focused on two different colonies in this film: those living with the bachelor who are peaceloving yet quite lazy and a militaristic colony who are regularly at odds with the woman who would become the bachelor's girlfriend. It appeared both sides were being portrayed as extreme elements in Japan's history with the militaristic roaches personifying Japan's militaristic regime under Hirohito during World War II and the peaceloving ants portrayed as Japan's modern youth having lost sense of their country's cultural identity from the peacetime it gained after World War II. The film appeared to be an allegory for what Japan could face if it continued to or returned to paths the country shouldn't take in light of now being part of the international community, the humans personifying how outsiders would perceive Japan. This symbolic approach works well for what it wants to tell.
However when it comes to being an engaging work, there are many points in this film where it can be a struggle to watch through depending on what you hope to get out of Twilight of the Cockroaches. The movie occasionally focuses on a young female cockroach named Naomi who comes to interact with both cockroach societies, though her character doesn't get proper focus or development thanks to the movie's focus on the interactions both societies have with their human owners. This also leads to an unconvincing love triangle to develop with Naomi being engaged to a male cockroach from her colony, yet also becomes interested in a male soldier named Hans from the militaristic roach colony. The movie's slow pacing also works against it at a number of points in the film as Twilight of the Cockroaches can get too fixated at points showing off its cinematography to show how the cockroaches perceive themselves dealing with their human owners or traveling around the outside world.
The animated element to this film in the form of the cockroaches are on the simple side in terms of details and are quite outdated in the style in which they are drawn. However, the film's cinematography is still excellent with showing how the world would look through the eyes of the cockroach colonies with point-of-view shots of objects and humans appearing like giants in the eyes of the roaches and use of still shots to show roaches fleeing in terror or dying from human objects like shoes and bug spray. Playing along with seeing the world through a roach's eyes is that the live-action human actors seen in this movie are kept silence (even as they talk) so as to limit the movie's POV to the roaches alone and not having the audience see things through human perspective if the actors were given audible lines.
Overall, Twilight of the Cockroaches is a bit of an oddball of a title thanks to its mix of animated and live-action footage. It does effectively express its symbolic messages involving the cockroach colonies being elements of Japan's history past and present and their perception to foreign nations. However in terms of storytelling, the movie won't be for everyone as it doesn't effectively focus on characters from an individual basis, gets more focused on the colony relationships with their human owners and the slow pacing can make it a chore to go through at points when the movie gets wrapped up in showing off its cinematography. Anyone looking for a title quite different from older and more modern anime could get enjoyment out of this. But if you aren't a big fan of live-action films, I wouldn't bother picking this up.