Destruction Babies (2016) by Tetsuya Mariko

A contemplation on youth and violence.

Tetsuya Mariko's "Destruction Babies" is an assault on the senses, challenging the audience and dragging them with it on an extreme experience. "Destruction Babies" is best understood as a satirical reaction to the genre of violent films that are often associated with Japanese cinema.

"Love and Other Cults" will screen at the New York Asian Film Festival, that will be on June 30 to July 16


Taira (Yuya Yagira) is a young man who seems to have a death wish. He spends all his time roaming around picking fights with people, fights that he often does not make any real effort to win. He doesn't fight for financial reward or to dominate others, he just fights because that is what he does. Early in the film, we see him leave his brother Shota (Nijiro Murakami) and the port town where they grew up to travel to the city. He wanders through the streets, punching random strangers until they engage him. He is later met by Yuya Kitahara (Masaki Suda), an obnoxious teenager who finds his pugilistic antics amusing. Together they travel around, scrapping with unsuspecting passers-by. The two of them later kidnap a hostess named Nana (Nana Komatsu), leading the audience to wonder where all this violence is leading. We also follow his brother Shota, who in contrast to his brother has a relatively ordinary life, a comfortable group of friends and stays out of trouble.


The film is written by Tetsuya Mariko and Kohei Kiyasu, with Mariko taking on directing duties. The most shocking thing about the film is its seeming lack of motivation or plot. There is really no motive behind what Taira and Yuya are doing other than their own enjoyment, and even this begins to wane later in the film. The audience is left to find some meaning to everything that is going on. We are given very little character development for Taira, while his younger brother Shota seems to be a perfectly well-adjusted teen, non-violent, living a parallel life. The film challenges your feelings on violence in a way that other films do not. There is nothing exciting or enjoyable about the fight sequences, instead they are simply brutal outbursts that really solve nothing in the same way as real fights.

The action is shot in a hand-held, close-up style that makes you feel the physicality of the blows as they land, with bloodied noses and great sound work giving everything a sense of realism. The music by Hidenori Mukai is an offensive wall of noise, with crashing drums and strained electric guitar sounds, emphasizing the chaotic nature of the unfolding events. The entire film appears to present you with an incomprehensible, brutal portrait of society and asks the audience to judge whether there is any sense to it all.


The performance of Yuya Yagira is frightening. It is not clear whether he is psychologically disturbed and he shows little emotion throughout, but somehow he creates an intriguing personality of the dysfunctional Taira. Masaki Suda's Yuya is an unlikeable caricature of a teenage boy, obsessed with sex and violence, and seems to offer the most pointed commentary of the ills of modern society. Nana Komatsu and Nijiro Murakami offer great performances as the unwitting collateral damage of the tornado of violence that seems to be tearing the world apart.

"Destruction Babies" will certainly not appeal to everyone. It is a little overlong and its meaning and themes perhaps remain too vague for many to fully appreciate it. Far from being another entertaining film full of mindless violence, there is more going on beneath the surface than might appear at first. It is a surprisingly thoughtful affair, with a serious commentary on the destructive nature of society, the banality of violence, and the problems of youth. It is a film that leaves the audience to draw their own conclusions. At times a difficult watch, but what that certainly holds your attention and keeps you wondering about it after it has finished.


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Asian Film Vault: Destruction Babies (2016) by Tetsuya Mariko
Destruction Babies (2016) by Tetsuya Mariko
A contemplation on youth and violence.
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