Tetsuya Nakashima, one of the greatest contemporary Japanese filmmakers takes up, once more, the subject of bullying in the school environment, although in a much different fashion than “Confessions,” adapting Akio Fukamatsi’s novel, ” Hateshinaki Kawaki (Kawaki is the original title of the film).
When gorgeous and excellent student Kanako disappears, her mother, Kiriko, asks her ex-husband, Akikazu, to locate her. However, things take a turn for the worse since Akikazu is an ex-cop, who has actually been an irresponsible delinquent all of his life, is now determined to search relentlessly for his daughter. And the word relentlessly, to Akikazu, means that he is willing to act violently towards her classmates, her psychiatrist and the professor in charge of her classroom, all of which are women. During his, filled with alcohol and psychiatric pills, research, he discovers that his daughter has nothing to do with the angelic creature he and her mother thought her to be. To the contrary, Kanako uses and deals drugs, seems to have connections with the Yakuza, and on an incident that occurred three years ago, she took advantage of a boy who was a constant victim of bullying and in love with her, with tragic consequences for him. Among this chaos, an ex-colleague of his, detective Asai, a truly infuriating character constantly having a lollipop in his mouth, investigates his connection with a triple homicide that took place a little before the disappearance.
Nakashima deals with three social subjects, which seem to trouble Japanese society intensely the last decade: bullying in schools, how cruel children can become, and how little parents know their children. It is the second time he deals with these subjects, after “Confessions,” although, this time, the social remark is put a bit more on the background, with the action and the violence taking the foreground.
Nakashima has created a unique style of his own, which unfolds artfully once more in this movie: very vivid colors (although somewhat toned down in comparison with ” Kamikaze girls” and “Memories of Matsuko”), music video aesthetics in terms of editing, unexpected humor in extreme situations, and a general hyperbole, which, however, does not become tedious at all. Additionally, Nakashima implements distinct exploitation aesthetics of the ’60s and the ’70s, both Japanese and American. In that fashion, the film is similar to Tarantino’s style, as exemplified in films like “Death Proof”. “The World of Kanako” though, takes a step further, since this time, there are no victims that force the main character to become evil in order to save them, since Kanako proves to be more and more sinister, as the story progresses. In that fashion, almost every character in the film is awful, particularly Akikazu, Kanako and Asai, each in his own way. This notion is a very important factor of the story, as Akikazu realizes that every flaw he ever had, has been passed on to his daughter, who has even surpassed him.
The sole flaw of the direction is that Nakashima loses his sense of proportion in the development of the story, resulting in the film becoming a bit tiresome after some time, although not to the point of becoming indifferent.
Koji Yakusho as Akikazu proves, once more, the reason he is considered one of the best contemporary Japanese actors, since he can elaborately portray any role asked of him. Here, he plays a father who cannot believe his daughter is not the wonderful creature he thought her to be, and is willing to go to extremes to prove he is right. A distinct example of his character is that as he learns more about her, he suffers even more physically, in a notion mirrored in his white clothes that seem to fill with blood, sweat, and mud as the story progresses. Nakashima focuses the film on him, and he delivers in the most elaborate fashion. From the rest of the cast, Satoshi Tsumabuki stands apart as he is magnificent in the role of utterly obnoxious Asai. Nana Komatsu is also quite good as Nana and Fumi Nikaido is once more gorgeous as Nami Endo, Kanako’s ex classmate.
Technically the film is another of Nakashima’s audiovisual poems, benefiting the most from Shoichi Aso’s cinematography, who presents grotesque, but artful images, and Yoshiyuki Koike’s editing, who elaborately implements the aesthetics described above.
“The World of Kanako” is a very violent film, although with a considerable social background, which is very entertaining even if it does not reach the standards Nakashima set with “Confessions.”