Genre: Psychological Supernaturalism
review in one breath
Caught in a perpetual re-living of the tragic death of his daughter, Tachihara follows increasingly mind-bending clues until his entire world turns upside down. What first appears to be simple deja vu quickly turns into a supernatural cascade where the distinction among life, death and delusions quickly disappears.
The name Tsunoda Jirou is probably one which Western audiences of Japanese horror should become more familiar with. Tsunoda is first and foremost a prolific writer in the Japanese horror genre, and is also responsible for a wide variety of TV, video and film adaptations of his works. Yogen, directed by Tsuruta Norio, is based on Tsunoda's "Kyoufu Shimbun" (literal translation: Horrific Newspaper). One of the widely accepted aspects of Tsunoda's reputation as an authority of the supernatural is his dedication to the historical context and implications of his ghost stories. Thus, for example, the popular Juusan Yoru series (consisting of 1, 2, 3, and 4) consists of 13 interviews with Tsunoda himself within each of which he recalls a particularly influential folk ghost tale.
I say all this simply to provide context for the fact that Yogen's prologue consists of a brief narrated description of a Meiji-era (1867-1912) woman named Mifune Chizuko who, according to an article in the Mizuno Shimbun (newspaper), held an uncanny ability to foretell significant local events.
Now as to whether or not Tsunoda based his original Kyoufu Shimbun on an actual historical newsclipping dating to the Meiji era I cannot say (as of yet). But I do know that Tsunoda has often based his own works on historical or local precedents. Now ADD TO THAT director Tsurata's interest in this project. Tsurata's personal interest in recreating historical horror is well known. (Okay, let's just forgive and forget his direction of Ringu 0 for sake of this argument.) Regardless of your estimate of the effectiveness of his Kakashi, that tale if nothing else was a re-creation of specific and actual local superstitions (from Tsurata's home town). You can read my review for the full discussion.
Likewise, Tsurata has more recently been involved in several of the Honto ni Atta (True Occurrences) horror series and perhaps more importantly the contemporary Shin Mimi Bukuro horror series which explicitly seeks to depict local horror tales from throughout Japan's prefectures. (Again, you can read my review for the interesting history of mimi bukuro.)
All this to say: Yogen may indeed be based in historical precedence. (The Mifune reference.)
A trip to the country with his wife and child turns into a life-altering tragedy when a truck unexpectedly careens into their car, killing the daughter in a fiery explosion. Moments prior to the crash Tachihara vividly remembers seeing a worn and unusual newspaper clipping reporting the fiery death of his daughter. Following the accident and despite the collapse of his marriage, Tachihara remains obsessed with the memory of that newspaper clipping, believing with his entire soul that it somehow forewarnedhim of the accident. Had he only reacted more quickly, perhaps his daughter might be still be alive.
What appears initially to be simply Tachihara's delusional obsession slowly materializes into something neither he nor those around him can deny. Life, Death and Time themselves burst open as increasingly bizarre revelations seem to tease Tachihara into thinking he can somehow cheat fate with premonitions into what is forthcoming.
Is Tachihara really seeing into the future through ghostly newspaper clippings? Or is his mind simply melting under the stress of the loss of his only child and marriage. This ending will undoubtedly surprise you.
This is certainly a film you should check out. And "checking it out" certainly won't be hard as it is now available in the USA via mainstream venues such as Blockbuster and NetFlix. (Thus, you can see the subtitled version for only a couple dollars.) Apart from affordability, this comes across as a rather suspenseful, if not simply mind-boggling film, and as such, it certainly has a refreshing degree of originality to it (as far as j-horror goes).
I don't think it would be a spoiler to suggest that Yogen might be (loosely) described as Ground Hog's Day meets Jacob's Latter. (That is indeed a loose analogy, so fear not if you have not seen the film.)
Definitely check this one out, particularly since it is so easy to obtain.
Version reviewed: Unsubtitled VHS
|No cultural value unless Tsunoda has actually found historical precedence for this tale.||Fiery car crashes galore.||Alas, no premonitions of an impending rendezvous with a mysterious woman (in latex).||This is a rather creative and exciting tale, the ending of which is surely unexpected.|