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Kadokawa Mystery & Horror Tales: Volume 2 (Sato Takayuki 2005)


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Kadokawa Mystery & Horror Tales: Vol. 2
[Kadokawa Horaa Bideokan: O-daidengaeshi no karakuri emaki]

Genre: Three Tales of Ghosts and Horror

review in one breath

This is the second in a series of three collections released by Kadokawa Films. Each of the three tales contained herein is an impressively effective and well-done supernatural tale, making for a very strong horror collection.


intro

This and the other two Kadokawa collections were recently released in Region 1 subtitled versions under the general title of Kadokawa Mystery & Horror Tales (Vol, 1, 2 & 3). Whereas, for the most part, the directors represented in these collections have held only "assisitant director" titles prior to these films, it would be fair to deem these as a "low calorie" version of Three Extremes or Kaidan Shin Mimi Bukuro (both collections of various directorial works).

Links to my reviews of the other volumes:

Volume One
Volume Two (current review)
Volume Three

Although not reflected in the collections' English titles, each collection has a distinct subtitle, presumably referring to either one of the stories or an over-arching theme. The subtitle of the Japanese version of volume 2 is O-daidengaeshi no karakuri emaki, which can be translated "The unexpected end of the hanging scroll painting". This subtitle, however, has absolutely no correlation with the content of the English collection for reasons I will mention below.

In classic (and inexplicable) Western release tradition, the collections released to the West do not parallel the Japanese collections. This was the case for Volume One and remains the case here. Thus the first tale here (Wooden Clogs) originally appears as the first tale of volume one, the second tale here (Regeneration) was originally the first on volume two, and the third tale (Last Day as a Teenager) was originally the second story on volume three. For this reason, the original Japanese subtitle for this volume makes little sense with this rearrangement of tales. (The English version did, however, find fit to use the same cover graphic as the original Japanese.)

The following are brief descriptions of the three stories contained in volume 2.

Wooden Clog with the Red Strap

Genre: Supernatural Ghost Story

This tale is directed by Nakanishi Kenji who also directed "Desire to Kill" in the previous collection. Out of the six Kadokawa tales I've seen thus far, this is certainly the best. The quality of narrative and cinematography is excellent and draws a very effective and eery ghost story filled with rural folk superstitions. One of the lead roles here is played by Chiaki Kuriyama. In terms of embedded rural superstitions and spooky Shinto shrines, this tale is slightly reminiscent of the film Inugami.

Visiting relatives in the countryside a young man is introduced to an exceedingly shy young woman whose aura of mystery soon preoccupies him. It is clear that her past holds a tragic secret involving a nearby Shinto shrine which she regularly visits. Although warned by the relatives, the townfolk and the young woman herself never to go near the shrine, he cannot resist following her on a particularly dark evening.

Being (partially) of Dutch heritage, the reference to "Wooden Clogs" immediately conjured up the image of the wooden shoes of Holland. But what is meant by the title are wooden geta, the traditional wooden sandals of Japan's past.


Regeneration

Genre: Supernatural Monster Tale

This tale is directed by Sato Takayuki who served as assistant director on films such as Kindaichi Shonen and Beautiful Dreamer.

This is the darkest tale of the six I have seen thus far and provides a unique twist to a Tomie-like theme. Though less ambianced than the prior story, this nevertheless delivers a rather horrific tale with an unexpected ending.

When a professor falls in love with one of his students, her strange secrets soon come to light. From childhood she has exhibited the inexplicable ability to regenerate severed fingers and limbs. But the true bizzarities begin once their idyllic relationship soon begins to crumble into madness.


Last Day as a Teenager

Genre: Supernatural Ghost Story

This tale is also directed by Sato Takayuki and explores the masterful and tragic deception orchestrated by a Shinto "Shini Gami" [死神] -- a God of Death.

When a teenage boy pulls the lifeless body of his girlfriend from the ocean waves, there appears no hope of bringing her back to life, until a small child appears and offers the boy a proposition. In exchange for his girlfriend's death, she will accept his own death. If he is so willing, she promises that she will allow him to live until the last day of his teenage years.

We fast forward to the day before the young man's 20th birthday where the sudden reappearance of the demonic little girl portents the end of his allotted time.


verdict

This is a rather strong collection of supernatural tales. These collections are intended as an outlet or showcase of new and upcoming directors in the genre, and the tales offered here, particularly Nakanishi's prove that we may indeed see greater things from them. These tales are for the most part quite creative and thankfully have departed from the rather common-place storylines now permeating the j-horror genre.

Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD available via mainstream US venues.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Here's a window into the newest directorial talent being groomed for greater things. Some grizzly and bloody scenes in two of the tales. The subtitle of Regeneration could have been "The Moaning Orgasm". New ideas by new directors in the "horror" genre.

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