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Tokyo Psycho - Tokyo Densetsu (Oikawa Ataru 2004)


Tokyo Psycho
[Tokyo densetsu: ugomeku machi no kyoki]

Genre: Fact-Based Psycho Thriller

review in one breath

First, Yumiko begins receiving very creepy love letters from a secret admirer. Then, her closest friends begin disappearing. All clues point toward Mikariya, a former classmate who allegedly killed his family but was deemed criminally insane. And now Mikariya is back, intent on making Yumiko his bride. From the director of Tomie, this film is based on true infamous crimes in Japan, and depicts an amazingly twisted Tokyo psycho!


This film is based on the short story by author Hirayama Yumeaki, a relatively recent author in the genre of J-Horror films. Hirayama's predominant authorial niche consists of the exploration of real-life (Japanese) crimes and urban legends.

Two of Hirayama's recent works have been converted into film. His slightly earlier Yami no Karasu (aka Cursed 2004) is based purely upon Tokyo urban legend regarding a haunted plot of land now occupied by a seemingly innocuous Food Mart. The later film Tokyo Densetu (Tokyo Legend / aka Tokyo Psycho), is comprised of two heinously infamous crimes readily recognizable to the Japanese public.

One of the crimes is the Otaku Murders of 1988-1989, consisting of the murder and post-mortem abuse of four young girls by a particularly sadistic and cannibalistic pervert. Through the commentary contained on this DVD I was surprised to learn that Ishii Teruo's Hell dealt explicitly with the Otaku Murder character.

The second infamous scenario involves Tsuchida Hiroyuki who in June 2003 killed his mother with a steel baseball bat, at the behest, he maintained, of the Neon Evangelion anime series. Unlike the fictional narrative of Tokyo Psycho, Tsuchida was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

The director here is Oikawa Ataru who is by far most well-known for his 1999 film Tomie. Unlike that film, which consisted of a supernatural monster, the current film deals wholly with a (non-supernatural) anti-social psychopath and his dangerous obsession with the female character Yumiko.


After receiving a series of seriously disturbing love letters, Yumiko realizes that she is being stalked by Mikariya, a former classmate who allegedly killed his parent in a fit of insane rage. By the time she learns that Mikariya has inconspicuously infiltrated her circle of friends, the sadistic deaths have already started.


This film falls squarely within the thriller genre and as such does indeed conjure up a formidable mad man to serve as the stalker par excellence. Although this is indeed a standalone film, I believe knowledge of the background parallels to the true crime inspiration will prove very helpful in fully appreciating this film. As is made plain in the film's commentary, many of the characters' behaviors derive quite directly from uniquely Japanese sensibilities, wherein, for example, unhealthy crushes or the obsession of "otakus" are far more commonplace than in the USA. Thus the reaction toward and nuance of such phenomena undoubtedly differs between nationalities.

This is a genuinely creepy and foreboding depiction of obsessive admiration, which blurs the lines between adolescent infatuation and adult psychopathology. What you'll find here is nothing short of a contemporary Tokyo Psycho.

Version reviewed: Region 1 Subtitled DVD available at all mainstream venues

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Fact-based psycho thriller based on the work of Hirayama Yumeaki and inspired by the infamous Otaku Murders and the crimes of Tsuchida Hiroyuki. As they say: Where there's a demented pyscho there is blood... And skin masks... And wire torture... And WORM CHEWING! Despite his obvious infatuation with Yumiko, Mikariya is a little preoccupied with his other extra-curricular activities. Gritty psycho-slasher starring one very demented and menacing loony.

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