Destruction Babies (2016)

destruction babies film

Destruction Babies begins in a port town where Shota (Nijiro Murakami) sees his brother Taira (Yuya Yagira) involved in a fight with a large gang. Needless to say the outnumbered Taira is being badly beaten before the gang are forced to run by the arrival of another villager. Shortly after, Taira leaves town and begins a journey of violence, attacking random passers-by in the street on a seemingly pointless personal quest to disrupt his environment. His antics soon attract the attention of another youth Yuya Kitahara (Masaki Suda) who joins him on this mission to violently assault strangers. They also kidnap a hostess named Nana (Nana Komatsu) who also becomes involved in their activities.

Directed by Tetsuya Mariko and written by him together with Kohei Kiyasu, the film is clearly designed to shock. Occasionally you will be subjected to musical accompaniment that sounds like someone threw a drum kit and an electric guitar into an industrial shredder. Hidenori Mukai’s score is purposefully offensive, and in keeping with the tone of the film. The film constantly pricks your conscience by letting you inside the life of this disturbed individual. The camera follows Taira around the streets, searching for victims, making it clear that you cannot escape him, while at the same time making no attempt to explain him. While the story of Taira is fascinating, the tale of his brother is less so and there is an uneasy sense that there was a message there that never quite became clear. Despite its plot and reputation (described as “extreme”), the film is actually a surprisingly polished drama. With beautiful cinematography and a score that is perfectly chaotic, though veers just to the right side of listenable. The acting is good throughout. Yuya Yagira gives a quite disturbing performance as Taira. You are never quite sure if he’s suffering some sort of mental health issue, or just enjoys scrapping and being badly injured. Masaki Suda is extremely unlikeable as an outrageous stereotypical teenage boy, obsessed with sex and violence. Nana Komatsu also gives a heartfelt performance as the shoplifting hostess who gets swept up in their world.

The marketing for the film describes it as extreme, but I feel as though this may have been an in-joke. The fight sequences are undoubtedly brutal as we hear the wet clatter of fists on increasingly bloodied physiognomies, but to see this simply as another violent film would be to miss the point. It is actually a commentary on violence and societies reaction to it. It is a difficult watch, not because of the various scenes of people being pulverised, but because of the apparent pointlessness of it all. It’s hard to describe the plot of Destruction Babies as there seems very little purpose to anything that is going on. But on reflection this is exactly the point. One character later on comes to this realisation, a little too late for him, that what they are doing is meaningless, and that perhaps people should take a step back and consider their actions. The violence gives them some form of escape, of self-expression, but in the end he can’t see what he is trying to do. Not an easy watch, but there are some enjoyable moments. It is a film that will perhaps be unfairly dismissed as another purposelessly bloody film about teenage tearaways. It may also be criticised for not going far enough in its punk sensibilities and being more disturbing or outrageous. Personally, I found it a difficult watch, a little overlong, but one that certainly demands consideration. It won’t be for everyone, but if you like violent films with a satirical edge, this is just the ticket.

Nobody Knows (2004)

nobody knows

A young single mother, Keiko, moves into a new apartment with her four children, Akira, Kyoko, Shigeru and Yuki, transporting the younger children in suitcases and letting Kyoko take the train so they won’t be discovered (as they were evicted from their last apartment for being noisy). The children are all of different fathers and Keiko is looking for a new boyfriend who will pay for them all. One day Keiko abandons the children with an envelope of Akira, only 12 years old, to take care of the others indefinitely. The film shows the children’s life after their mother leaves and what happens to them.

The film is very well directed and the four young actors, who carry the weight of the film, are exceptional. You really feel for them as their situation goes from bad to unbearable. The main criticism of the film would be that the pacing is very slow, perhaps intentionally to build a feeling of helplessness and grinding tedium the kids are experiencing cooped up in the apartment, but lacking any real goal or direction means the audience is required to have a great deal of patience to see the film through to the end. The other problem with the film is that it doesn’t show the full horror of their predicament. This film is based on a famous 1988 case of abandoned children, the details of which are more harrowing and disturbing than they are portrayed in the film. The music, which seems at times to be almost whimsical and light hearted, along with a few scenes of the children playing and having fun, almost undermine the horrific premise of the film.

Hopefully this film succeeds in raising awareness of this case so similar can be prevented in the future. As a narrative I found there were a few too many lulls to keep it engaging throughout, although the direction and acting were great. The issues it raises about child neglect, abandonment, the problem of the loss of the nuclear family, the plight of single mothers and perhaps the failure of government to fund prevention of these cases are all important. And while it is a noble effort I felt that the film would have benefited from a more shocking, realistic telling of the tale to really affect people.