Sometimes, we all have our own chainsaw-wielding giants to fight.
Once available on Youtube, it is still free onâ€¦the internet. Approximately 110 minutes.
The movie starts out over halfway through the story, with a high school girl running away from shadowy mechanical man-beast with a chainsaw. She is running running running. A high school boy appears, ready with a large staff to fight the monster and hoping for the perfect ending. Suddenly, the girl pulls out a bunch of throwing knives and flings them at the monster. The monster bats them away with his chainsaw and they end up pinning the boy to a barrel, rendering him unable to help. Then the girl pulls out a golf club and fights the monster herself.
Okayâ€¦So, letâ€™s back up and try to make sense of this.
High school boy Yamamoto Yosuke has been in a bit of a funk since his friend, Noto, died in a motorcycle accident. Noto was intense and extreme in his emotions, getting into a fight with two boys (and their gangs) when he realized that those two friends would not fight each other over a cheating girlfriend. Yosuke, however, is both lazy and restless, which does not help his already being not too bright. He has a rather melancholy outlook on life that he masks with a goofy demeanor. When he grins and laughs, it comes across both as a nervous tick and a kind of resignation that, no matter how bad things are now, this is about as good as it is going to get.
Yosuke goes to a market and, making almost no effort to mask his intentions beforehand, he steals a package of frozen meat and immediately gets chased down. He manages to get away on his bicycle and ends up in an empty park at night. Well, not quite empty. There is a girl from a different high school sitting alone by a pond. Yosuke walks over to her and asks what she is doing there. Barely moving, she tells him to go away or else he will die. With a nervous smile, Yosuke gets ready to leave, but then notices that it starts snowing. The girl looks up towards the moon and says that he is here. Who is here?
The monster descends from the sky. Yosuke falls to the ground and freezes up as the girl pulls out a staff. Yosuke fantasizes his classmates mourning his death. He quickly snaps out of it and witnesses the girl fight the monster, first with the staff (which breaks) and then with throwing knives. At one point, it seems like the monster has the upper hand and is about to kill the girl when Yosuke throws the meat in his face. While the monster is distracted, the girl hits him with a throwing knife. Far from being killed, the monster pulls out the knife and throws it at Yosuke, grazing his face. He then flies off into the night, dropping the meat onto Yosukeâ€™s face.
Far from grateful to Yosuke for helping out, the girl scolds him for messing up her mission; she had been waiting by herself for the chainsaw man for six hours. Yosuke tells her to call the police, but she retorts that they would not believe her. When no one believes something, she says, it is the same as if it never existed. She gives him a handkerchief for his face wound and tells him to forget everything. He tries to stop her from walking away and she responds by kicking him in the groin.
Yosuke goes back to his apartment, sneaking through the window and encounters his roommate, Watanabe, a boy who dabbles in all sorts of art and never finishes his projects. Yosuke tells Watanabe what happened to him that night and Watanabe yells at him for spouting such nonsense, and then acts aggressively apathetic when Yosuke insists that it really did happen. After they both calm down, Yosuke and Watanabe agree that him risking his life for a girl would be kind of cool, something that their friend Noto did not do.
The next afternoon, Yosuke waits for the girl outside her high school until she walks out, much later than her fellow students. He follows her, asking if she is going to fight the monster again, reminding her that she broke her weapon. He insists on treating her to dinner as thanks for saving his life and she relents. She reveals that her name is Yukizaki Eri, and that she first encountered the monster a month ago after leaving a funeral by herself. She found that she had the ability to jump higher and move faster than before. She realized that she was meant to fight the monster and that she was the only one who could do it. It is not quite clear how she knows where he will appear, but she knows.
Though Eri is still reluctant to have Yosuke around (particularly as he did not pay for the dinner and they had to high tail it out of there), she still allows him to tag along for her next fight at an indoor pool. Although he was absolutely no help this time around, it was decided that Yosuke could help her by transporting her to the fighting places on his bicycle as well as cheering her on. Eri starts to appreciate his company, but tells him one night that she not understand why he remains involved in all of this. He claims that it is because he has nothing better to do (he does not care much about studying) and tells her about Noto. He then gives her a gift, a chainmail shirt. She calls it stupid, but smiles and laughs for longer than she has before.
This movie was based on a novel of the same name…though I am not sure if the “Chainsaw” in the title is one word or two. I have not read the novel, but I did read the manga adaptation. I read it after I saw the movie, though, so I was a little unnerved by just how…leery it got. The manga was somewhere between PG-13 Michael Bay and outright porn. I found that aspect of it to be kind of creepy, though not quite as creepy as the Battle Royale manga was. The movie does away with most of that. For a story that features a high school girl in a skirt who frequently jumps up high in the air the movie almost never tries to milk that element for purient means. It also, for better or worse, tones down some of the more Fight Club-esque parts of Yosuke’s philosophizing, though not completely. What is left is a two-level movie about two characters searching meaning in the world while struggling to cope or avoid coping with loss. I am not sure which version is more faithful to the novel, but I prefer the movie.
Many monster movies are allegories or metaphors for something else. Even several action movies have underlying themes. Some movies knock the audience over the head with symbolism while others are more subtle. This movie takes a somewhat different tactic. While it does not outright say what the supposedly deeper meaning is, it becomes so blatant that it is not worth congratulating yourself if you figure it out. And if you do not even realize early on that there is something else at play besides a pair of teenagers fighting a monster man, the movie starts to push you reach that conclusion long before the movie is halfway done. The subtext is basically text by that point; it is just that none of the characters actually spells out what the text is. Maybe they do actually know what it truly is, but cannot admit it to themselves or each other.
The fight scenes between Eri (along with Yosuke to an extent) and the monster man can be pretty impressive, as cheap unrealistic as they may appear. Yet the movie only sometimes focuses on that aspect. There are times when the movie drops us in the middle of a fight scene. Other times, it cuts to a different scene before the fight is over. There are a couple of times when we don’t even see the fight scene. There is one point where Yosuke narrates that he has accompanied Eri to a bunch of fights and the story treats this a simple passage of time. While there are still certain fight scenes that get focus, it is because they stand out from the routine fights that the movie doesn’t care about. It is an odd storytelling choice, but it worked for me once I got used to it. It quickly becomes clear that the movie is treating the fights not necessarily as centerpieces to the story, but more like a device to represent the characters’ state of mind and how they relate to each other. They have different reasons for encountering and fighting the monster, but it is not really because of the monster itself. I don’t want to give away what their reasons are, but you could probably get an idea from what I have written so far.
Knowing pretty much nothing about this movie before I watched it, I had certain expectations about what it could be about simply from the title. While a few of those expectations were met, it was something quite different from what I thought it would be. Much of the craziness that I had anticipated was toned down in favor of something a little more emotionally moving. And I think that it is a better movie for that.
WTF ASIA 109: Shadow Magic (China: 2000, approx. 115 minutes)
I could not find it online
WTF ASIA 110: Thread of Lies (South Korea: 2014, approx. 115 minutes
On the Internet