From the remastered trailer for Miike's Ichi the Killer
Some call Takashi Miike a man of legend, a coveted director who has produced some of the most well-known horror films of Japanese media. Some call him sick, amongst other insults, for the gore content of his films and how twisted his content can become. Some know him simply as the director of a sweet tokusatsu programme, and have no idea of the horrific content some of his films contain.
Hailed as the most controversial Japanese horror director of the current age — and to some, of all time — there's no denying Miike is a legend of the J-horror medium, being listed as one of the most influential directors that have helped make Japanese cult horror and Japanese urban legend horror into their own specific franchises.
Miike has helped a company reproduce their tokusastu origins and put J-horror on the map in many countries outside of Asia. However, he's equally known for his action movies and anime adaptions, coveting fans from all genres and age groups.
But what makes Miike's work stand out amongst a world heavily perpetuated with guns, gore and glitter? What in his work has had Quentin Tarantino himself dub Miike as "one of the world's greatest living directors"?
Join me as I take a look at some of Miike's best and most controversial works of all time.
Name: Takashi Miike (三池崇史)
Born to Korean parents in Yao, in the Osaka prefecture, Takashi Miike lived in an area inhabited by poor working class Korean immigrants. His father was born in — what is known today as — Seoul whilst his grandfather was stationed in both China and South Korea during World War II. His family eventually emigrated to the Kumamoto Prefecture. His mother worked as a seamstress whilst his father was a welder.
Miike has proclaimed he rarely attended classes when he attended his first school for the arts — Yokohoma Vocational School of Broadcast and Film. However, he graduated under the guidance of Shohei Imamura - a legendary filmmaker in his own right and the Dean of Yokohoma Vocational School.
Miike has over 60 directing credits to his name, not including drama credits. 15 of these credits were in 2001 and 2002 alone. He has been nominated for many awards and won almost as many for his directing alone and remains one of the most diverse directors of Japanese medium. He has 15 acting credits - one as a cameo in Western horror film, Hostel.
LESSON OF THE EVIL (2012)
|Guns, Gore and Glitter Rating: GORE|
|Gore Rating: 8/10|
My first encounter with Takashi Miike's works was the film, Lesson of the Evil. Seeing it airing as part of an International Horror Film event, I eagerly set it to record.
Released in 2012 and adapted from the tomes of the same name, Lesson of the Evil is one of Miike's more recent horror films that follows the story of Hasumi Seiji (played by Ito Hideaki), a psychopathic high school teacher who has recently started teaching at a new school. As bullying becomes more prevalent and students start suspecting him of things, Seiji takes matters into his own hands: he begins shooting his students one by one.
Rating: 18+ Restricted (violence & profanity)
Opinion: Lesson of the Evil is a gory thriller, not meant to be more and not meant to be less. This is a film in which the tension build up is beautiful; it has your heart hammering in your chest as you watch the students try to survive. It has moments that shock you and moments where you jump out your skin. The beautiful part about this is these moments aren't jump scares. They're perfectly timed atmospheric build ups that allow for your body to react as if you yourself are living through this.
On top of the masterfully created suspense, thrilling moments and scenes where you need a moment to catch your breath, Miike and his team have created such realistic gore. Of course, it isn't one hundred per cent accurate to real life, but it comes very close.
This is something that Miike has kept throughout his career. Almost all of his gore scenes are as close to life as they can be with the era's special effects and CGI techniques. This is a skill I treasure within his films.
Of course, there is exaggeration within the gore within Lesson of the Evil; however, compared to most films currently, this is an utter gem within the gore category.
IDOL X WARRIORS MIRACLE TUNES (2017)
Guns, Gore and Glitter Rating: GLITTER
|Glitter Rating: 10/10|
Idol x Warriors Miracle Tunes is the first tokusatsu series produced by Takara Tomy after a nine-year hiatus from the genre, brought to life by Takashi Miike.
Idol x Warriors is a series that follows a group of elementary school girls who are chosen by the Goddess of the Land of Music to become the Miracle Tunes - superheroes who are gifted with the empowering and enlightening power of music. Together, they must work together with the power of teamwork and friendship to "tune up" members of the public who has been turned negative by Lord Maou and his Doku-Doku Gang.
Rating: G - All Ages
Stay with me here.
Opinion: Firstly, I think it shows off the duality and diversity in Miike's talents that are just astounding. They're truly something to be admired, the way he goes from controversial horror to a cute kid's show.
The show itself is wonderful; it's cute and sweet and nothing more. It's a show that doesn't use very technical or difficult Japanese and I have definitely picked up quite a lot of the language from watching this. The actresses that play the five main girls are amazingly talented; they can sing, dance and act and have produced all the openings and endings for the show themselves.
A little bonus for me in this as well was the choice on Miike to include a gay character. Is it perfect? No, not quite. Kojiro (played by Otsuru Sasuke) is a very stereo-typically gay character, in a way that can help perpetuate harmful stereotypes. However, they approach him quite well and explain it in the show extremely well. This is a small sin that I'm willing to overlook; either way, it's a plus for me.
If you are a massive Miike fan and want a way to share him with your children, Idol x Warriors is a perfect way to do so. Alternatively, if you just like a little guilty pleasure on the side, this is sickeningly sweet with lovely upbeat songs, and it's worth giving a try in my opinion.
CROWS ZERO (2007)
|Guns, Gore and Glitter Rating: GUNS|
|Guns Rating: 8/10|
A live action make of the Crows manga, Miike brings this action packed, yakuza-comedy/action to life with the grace of nothing but a professional. In this story we follow Genji Takiya (played by Oguri Shun) as he attends Suzuran High School - otherwise known as the School of Crows. Ruled by cliques with the teachers unable to handle the countless unruly students, fighting and brawling in this school is a survival skill. Genji begins making his own school gang to rise to leadership over the School of Crows.
Rating: 15+ - Teens 15 or older
Opinion: I absolutely adored Crows Zero. Usually, I'm not very big on action films; they're just not really my cup of tea. There's usually little plot and the characters are generally very basic without much to like about them. I found that is most definitely not the case when it comes to Crows Zero. With a wonderfully not so guessable plot and amazing actors, journeying through Suzuran High is a wonderful funny, heart racing and beautiful story with a wonderful soundtrack (which can be found on Spotify here). The CGI effects aren't much and do take a tiny bit of charm away from this film, however, it being a 2007 made film, keeping that in mind does aid in not being put off slightly.
This is very much a comedy film, something that definitely made me laugh. At the same time - I was very drawn into the action side of the plot. It was interesting watching Genji go from the underdog to ascending the ranks, forming alliances and learning life lessons on the way. With a stellar performance from the cast,a point had me in tears — rare for me, when watching films — and overall, this film left me pumped up, feeling good, and excited to binge the last two films in the franchise (Crows Zero 2 and Crows Explode - also directed by Miike).
As someone who isn't too into punching fest films, this one is in fact a very strong recommendation from me, coming in at a solid 9 out of 10 rating. Even if you're not extremely big of a fan of films like Crows Zero, I recommend at least giving it a try - it very pleasantly surprised me working my way through Miike's works.
ICHI THE KILLER (2001)
|Guns, Gore and Glitter Rating: GORE|
|Gore Rating: 10/10|
I think it's genuinely impossible to write a guide to Takashi Miike and not include Ichi the Killer. Potentially the most controversial J-horror film that have even been made, Ichi is almost synonymous with Miike's name.
Collectively known by many as an "excessive plunge into the yakuza", Ichi the Killer focuses around a yakuza member named Kakihara (played brilliantly by Asano Tadanobu) searching desperately for his families' boss on a sociopathic blood-ridden search around the city. However, Kakihara is not the only thing the people of the yakuza city need to worry about. Somewhere, a masochist killer known only by the name Ichi is also on a bloody rampage around the city.
Rating: 18+ Restricted (violence & profanity)
Released back in 2001 and based from the manga of the same name, Ichi the Killer put Japanese Cult Horror on the map around the world. Dubbed by many as the goriest Japanese horror they'd ever seen - and by some, the goriest in the world — with rivals only released as censored in the cult horror genre — Ichi caused a massive stir with its release.
You might ask why, so let me just say: this film has almost every trigger warning it could.
Opinion: When this film had its first international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, the audience was given sick bags with the film's logo emblazoned upon them. I have no doubts that some of those sick bags were put to good use throughout the two hours and eight minutes of content.
Ichi the KIller is definitely a messed up film that not many people will be able to sit through. With mostly accurate gore, extended scenes of violence and a long minute and a half of a character cutting his own tongue off, this is a disgusting guilty pleasure. Seriously, this is a film you watch at three in the morning, so the people you live with don't judge you.
Definitely not for the faint of heart or easily disturbed, Ichi is definitely my guilty pick when I want to settle down for some blood and gore. However, if you've found horror these days isn't gory enough - Miike dares you into a world of excessives that will have your stomach turning.
I've found myself to have a bit of a struggle sitting through some of the scenes in this film; I've been watching horror for much longer than half my life and fictional gore was something second nature to me. Ichi truly brought back what gore is meant to make the viewer feel - unsettled, twisting stomach, and darting eyes away from the screen here and there.
Delightfully disgusting, unsettlingly graphic and gruesomely gory, Ichi the Killer will leave you wishing you ate after watching it. This is definitely my top pick for any gore/slasher fan looking for a thrilling watch.
And a warning for those who might decide to read the original manga - the manga is worse in its content and much more graphic with its scenes.
|MAHOU X SENSHI MAGI MAJO PURES (2018)|
|Guns, Gore and Glitter Rating: GLITTER|
Glitter Rating: 7/10
The second instalment of the Idol x Warriors franchise, Mahou x Sensi Magi Majo Pures follows the story of Momoka (Miyoshi Yuki) as she enrols into middle school. She meets a magical flying cat fairy who leads her to a small shop, where she is gifted with a magical port that allows her to become a Magimajo Pure. Alongside the other Magimajo Pures, Momoka must fight against the JamaJama-dan, an evil gang that is set on taking over the world by stealing everyone's hopes and dreams, leaving no resistance against them as the population begins to feel everything is worthless.
Rating: G - All Ages
Opinion: There unfortunately isn't too much to say on this as there are only a few subbed episodes out, however, I love the start of this series. It has the same format as Idol x Warrior however it's been changed up enough for it to be unique in its own way. Following the same pattern, all the actresses can sing and dance and act and have produced all their openings and endings. Albeit a little disheartening that it is in ways a carbon copy of Idol x Warriors, it can be repetitive. However, it's still fun, sweet and a definite guilty pleasure viewing - or another way to share Miike with your children.
It's also wonderful to see so many young talented actresses get a chance to shine through pieces like these. They're able to create songs and become a part of a full group through these series and make a career for themselves. These series are just super fun and nostalgic for those who grew up with magical girl series.
JOJO'S BIZARRE ADVENTURE - DIAMOND IS UNBREAKABLE (2017)
Guns, Gore and Glitter Rating: GUNS
Guns Rating: 6/10
Moriou is a town which is usually quiet but has recently become a hotbed of strange activity. Within Moriou, Josuke Higashikata (Yamazaki Kento) can be found - he is the illegitimate heir of Joseph Joestar and that he possessed a super power (Strand), named Crazy Diamond that allows him to fix broken objects or animals. Josuke and his friends go to war with other Strand users.
Rating: G - All Ages
Opinion: So maybe an unpopular opinion here, but I'm not a very big JoJo fan; I haven't watched the animes nor read the mangas, so honestly, I know nothing about this series — I went into this with a completely clean slate on the franchise.
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure follows Josuke (JoJo - played by Yamazaki Kento) as a string of unusual things occurs around his town. Based off the manga series of the same name, Miike brings this well-beloved franchise to life. I did not expect to like this even being a Miike film. Although his adaptations are usually extremely solid, the very basics of this franchise didn't completely capture my interest.
I was — very gladly — mistaken.
Jojo's Bizarre Adventure captured my attention in full. I was blown away, glued to the screen and fell in love with the franchise across an hour and fifty-five minutes. I felt for the characters. I was rooting for them, I was laughing along - the works. From what I know — and chatting with a JoJo fan as I was watching — the actors played their parts extremely well. Parts of this did feel very cliche and over the top, however, it felt purposefully that way. It came across as the franchise is this way in nature; there wasn't a single occurrence did I feel like Miike had done it thinking it looked good and had missed the mark.
This was a brilliant entrance into the world of JoJo, one that I'm very happy I took the chance on. If you're new to JoJo, I'd recommend trying the story here first. If you're a big fan of JoJo, I've been told by fans this is a very good addition to the franchise.
This is a film I am very happy I took a chance on; Miike's live action anime adaptations gets another stunning film added to the list.
ONE MISSED CALL (2003)
Guns, Gore and Glitter Rating: GHOSTS
Ghost Rating: 7/10
I think most people know the plot of One Missed Call in today's J-horror/J-media community. One of the original J-horror films that has had its own Western remake whilst simultaneously scaring viewers with both the original and the remake, Miike breathed the live action of this novel-adaption onto the big screen.
At a party, Yumi (played by Shibasaki Kou) is in the bathroom with her friend when her friend receives a voice message. It is dated two days ahead of the current date and is a message of her own friend talking before screaming. Brushing it off as a creepy prank, the girls ignore it and go about their lives. Two days later, Yumi's friend dies after talking to Yumi on the phone - saying the exact thing she said in the voice message before screaming. Rumours spread about a ghost virus on phones that uses each person's contact list to choose its next victim. As panic spreads, Yumi realises she has also received one missed call.
Rating: Not Yet Rated
Opinion: It's difficult to fully judge One Missed Call considering its age and how tropes have changed many times since its release. In modern-day horror, this is not much more than a film that sparked two franchises - its own and J-horror respectively. When comparing to modern-day horror, this is definitely a film that would be ranked around 5-7 out of ten stars; it's slow and a constant build up throughout the film and doesn't rely on jump scare horror like many directors choose to today.
For the era it was made and the tropes that were in place at the time, this is a film that truly made dread crawl under my skin. The best way to enjoy this film is to expect what you would expect when going to the cinema in the 2000s to see a film like this. Expect slow tension, look out for small hidden things that occur, let yourself get lost in the story. Many people find they didn't like One Missed Call because they expected something that stood up to the current age and it left them disappointed. It's a film for the ages - but only if you allow it to have its full effect on you.
One of the films of J-horror that has influenced the West, One Missed Call is one of Miike's films that is definitely a recommendation to try.
Guns, Gore and Glitter Rating: GRUESOME
Gruesome Rating: 9/10
Aoyama Shigeharu (played by Ryo Ishibashi) is a middle-class man who lost his wife a number of years ago. His movie producer friend Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura) proposes to Shigeharu an idea to find a new wife – holding fake movie auditions whilst interviewing the girls. Shigeharu agrees and they hold interviews and auditions that are heavily overshadowed by questions about sex that have little to do with acting. Shigeharu settles on the tall ethereally looking Asami (played by ex-model Eihi Shiina). Yoshikawa senses that something is not quite right with Asami and investigates, finding countless holes in her story. What follows is a thrilling, mysterious, gruesome splatter session.
Rating: 15+ - Teens 15 or older
Okay, maybe this and Ichi the Killer should swap places on the "gruesome"/"gore" scale. However, I find Audition is in a place of its own when it comes to gruesome. Ichi the Killer focuses predominantly on gruesome bloody violence; Audition is cold, calculated and every inch of violence is planned and maintained with meticulous quality that makes spines shudder.
This film takes a while to get into, admittedly, I felt my attention drifting as this film progresses. It took me a while to focus. It's drawn out, meticulously planned so that once it proceeds to the gruesomeness, you're taken by surprise. This film does come across as relatively mundane as time ticks on; come the finale, you're taken aback in the best, most uneasy way, even when you're fully expecting it. One that made me look away and squirm — not an easy feat — this one is a definite recommendation for any horror/gore fans looking for their next flick.
Audition has been named one of the most influential J-horror films of the modern era. Numerous influential directors have recommended the film, and it is ranked as one of the highest rated J-horrors across countless cinema sites. This is another Miike film to try out and form your own opinion on.
As the Gods Will (Gore) — ridiculous but fun; a gory live action of the Kami-sama no Iu Tōri manga. Totally over the top, blood everywhere and a good comedy watching the children's games - also a nice little peek into cultural games that are present in Japan.
Eyecatch Junction (Guns) — pretty bad even for a 90's film; I really didn't enjoy this one too much, however, this is an interesting look into Miike's start, debut, and how he's grown over the years and with a small side of comedy that makes it quite fun.
Lady Hunter: Prelude to Murder (Guns) — one of Miike's first projects following a kindergarten teacher and an ex-marine as they fight to protect a kindergarten student from being kidnapped. Plenty of guns, some terrible CGI but with some stunning acting - not one of my top favourites, but earned a place in my mid-level favourite films.
So what do you think?
Are there any films or shows in this article that you want to look into it now?
Are there any of his works you think deserved a place in this article?
Do you agree with the names Miike has collected, including titles such as "one of the world's greatest living directors", and "best live action manga director"?
What is your opinion on Miike and/or his works?
Let me know!!