Japanese Girls Never Die (2016) by Daigo Matsui

While (...) [the] narrative lacks some (...) provocative punch (...) the political protest message (...) is [nevertheless] sincerely felt.


From time to time, ominous signs underline the various problems the Japanese society has to cope with. Men aren’t showing interest in relationships with women – the opposite is equally true - and the ongoing low birthrate that is produced thereby made 2017 the first year in which the Japanese population actually shrunk. On a more deeper societal level, sexual harassment is still prevalent, with one third of the woman reporting some form of sexual harassment in 2016.

It is in this societal atmosphere that MarikoYamauchi wrote her novel "Azumi Haruko wa Yukuefumei” (2013), a novel taking this societal reality as its subject, and in which the adaptation of the novel to the silver screen was realized. Can the young and promising director Daigo Matsui, known from narratives like “Sweet Poolside” (2013) and “Our Huff and Puff Journey” (2015), translate the empowering effect of modern women the novel contained?

"Japanese Girls Never Die" is screening at the New York Asian Film Festival, that will be on until July 16



The first focus point of the narrative is the 28-year-old office lady Haruko Azumi (Yu Aoi), who is still living at home with her parents and her senile grandmother. As time goes by, she finds some  comfort and escape of her dreary existence in the arms of a former classmate, the social recluse Soga (Huwie Ishizaki).
The 20-year-old Aina (Mitsuki Takahata), the second focus point of the narrative, lives an energetic and almost too positive life. On her coming of age ceremony, she meets Yukio (Taiga), whom she hooks up with. Inspired by a documentary about Banksy’s graffiti art that Aina gave for his birthday, Yukio and Manabu (Shono Hayama), a former classmate, decide to form their own guerrilla graffiti gang, Kilroy. Their fame suddenly rises when they starts stenciling the missing person’s poster of Haruko all over town.
The third focus point of the narrative is a gang of wild teenage girls, who for unknown reasons, have started beating up men in the middle of the night.



“Japanese Girls Never Die” has a rather complex narrative structure, mixing flashbacks, flash-forwards, repetition of shots and chopped scenes, which reveal different sides of a given scene as the narrative progresses - together into an engaging experience. The juxtaposition that is born out of this mix, the future where Haruko is missing as contrasted with her past, strengthens the sadness that the unfolding of Haruko’s narrative evokes.

The structural mixing is joined by a narrative mixing, as three different narratives (Haruko, Aina, and the girls gang) intermingle. This intermingling creates a sensible narrative space larger than the space the narrative parts in seclusion would create, evoking Japanese society as a whole. Furthermore, it is by using the different narrative threads that “Japanese Girls Never Die” is able to realize its purpose: a critique against the way in which men relate themselves to women in Japanese society.

Throughout the narrative social expectations concerning marriage, pregnancy, femaleness, …, as conditioned by the patriarchal societal system, are unearthed and the rather demeaning emotions the lack of fulfilling these expectations evoke are touched upon. The objectifying reduction of women to their appearance as a shining object and even as an object of exchange also vividly passes by. Luckily, these ideas about the gender role distribution are immediately denounced, as the patronizing rudeness by which they are vocalized is sensibly underlined. However, by painting this gendered societal reality for the spectator, “Japanese Girls Never Die” accentuates how powerful the patriarchal structuring still is, confining the freedom by which women can realize themselves as women as such. In other words, the narrative patchwork stresses that it is precisely the position of the male subject that is problematic on diverse levels (relationships, family, working environment, …) of Japanese society.

The counterweight to this reality is only found in the narrative thread of the violent attacks from high-school girls, as they subvert the sexualized image of the schoolgirl in uniform, an image sensible in the phenomena of paid high school dating and idols for instance. It is a pity that this counterweight, this confrontation with the dynamic of power between the sexes, remains somewhat underexposed and, as such, falls somewhat short in being provocative. Nevertheless, these attacks and, in this respect, the stenciling of Haruko’s missing-person image, glances to what lies beyond any protest of patriarchy: the enjoyment that a capitalist society causes, but is unable to contain.




“Japanese Girls Never die” boasts a somewhat eclectic cinematographical style, a blend of diverse camera techniques adjusting itself to narrative needs. This eclectic approach gives the cinematography a certain fluency and the ability to underline the crux of a given scene. What also deserves to be mentioned is the approach of Hiroki Shioya, the cinematographer, to colour. Whereas the narrative space of Azumi is painted in more subdued colours, enforcing the emptiness in Azumi’s life, the narrative space of Aina, which shares more often than not the same colour palette, appears to be more colourful overall. Furthermore, the narrative space of Azumi feels rather empty for the spectator, as the cinematography, which focuses on the restraint nature of her presence, underlines the space she inhabits as such. This is in contrast with the space surrounding Aina, a space emptied by its emptiness, by the energy that is captured on the screen.

Even though the narrative is infused with energy by Mitsuki Takahata’s performance as Aina, it is mainly in the unhappiness and depressed nature of Azumi, so compellingly brought alive by Yu Aoi, that the spectator finds his anchor point to vividly experience the unfolding of her narrative. We share her sadness, we feel the emptiness of her life, but we also warmly experience the short moments of enjoyment. The graphic stencils of her missing poster, acting in the narrative as reminders of the fate that will befall her, enforces the designated sadness, her lack of vigor, and the emptiness of her narrative space, and drapes the warmness of her enjoyable moments with a certain melancholy. And even though the narrative structure enforces Aoi’s performance, it is her fabulous performance as the depressed woman with a life on the road to nowhere, that empowers the narrative structure as a whole and the themes it aims to express.

While Daigo Matsui’s inventive structured narrative lacks some powerful provocative punch overall, it is Yu Aoi’s movingly and heartfelt performance that ensures that the political protest message of “Japanese Girls Never Die” is sincerely felt. Instead of viewing women as the cause for the falling birthrate and the high taxes, as the two male co-workers of Azumi do, “Japanese Girls Never Die” underlines that Japan, as supported by the female collective, has to put its patriarchal structure as such and the men it produces into question. Then and only then will female subjectivity, in all its radical dimensions, be able to be appreciated.





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Lee Sang-il,1,Rahul Jain,1,Railway Sleepers,1,Rainy Dog,1,Raja Mukhriz,1,Rajkumar Gupta,1,Ram,1,Ram Gopal Varma,1,Randy Mckenzie,4,Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead,1,Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead 2,1,Ravine of Goodbye,1,Re:Born,1,Real,1,Realism,1,Red Beard,1,Red Persimmons,1,Reipu zonbi: Lust of the dead 3,1,Resistance at Tule Lake,1,Respeto,2,Resurrection,1,Revenge: A love story,1,Review,9,Reviews,295,Reviews.,2,Reviews. Panos Kotzathanasis,1,Rima Das,1,Riri Riza,3,Ritwik Ghatak,2,River of Exploding Durians,2,River's Edge,2,Robin Weng,1,Roger Lee,2,Roman Porno,1,Ronja,1,Rouge,1,Roya Sadat,2,Running on Karma,1,Russia,1,RV: Resurrected Victims,1,Ryoo Seung-wan,1,Ryota Sakamaki,1,Ryu Kaneda,1,Ryuki,1,Ryutaro Ninomiya,2,S. Korea,73,S.Korea,2,Saayak Santra,9,Sabrina Baracetti,1,Sabu,3,Sade Sato,1,Salaam Bombay,1,Samui Song,1,San Diego Asian Film Festival,16,San Diego Film Festival,1,Sanjay Leela Bhansali,2,Sanjeewa Pushpakumara,2,Sankha Ray,31,Sarita Khurana,1,Satan's Slaves,3,Satoru Hirohara,1,Satoshi Kon,3,Satya,1,Satyajit Ray,1,Say Yes,1,Sayandeep Bandyopadhyay,6,Scarlet Heart,1,Score,1,Sea Fog,1,Seijun Suzuki,3,Sekigahara,1,Serga Mathang,1,Sexy S.W.A.T. Team,1,Sha Po Lang,1,Shake Rattle and Roll,1,Shakti Sounder Rajan,1,Shanjhey Kumar Perumal,1,Shanker Raman,1,Shaw Brothers,2,She Remembers He Forgets,2,She's the Boss,1,Shehjar,1,Shiboprosad Mukherjee,1,Shift,2,Shigeru Umebayashi,1,Shikhar Verma,13,Shikhar Verna,3,Shim Sung-Bo,1,Shinichi Fukazawa,1,Shinji Somai,2,Shinji Sômai,1,Shinjuku Swan,1,shinjuku Swan II,1,Shinjuku Triad Society,1,Shinobi no Kuni,2,Shinsuke Ogawa,1,Shinsuke Sato,2,Shinya Tsukamoto,4,Shireen Seno,2,Shirley Abraham,1,Shock Wave,1,Shôhei Imamura,1,Shoot for the Contents,1,Shorts,7,Shotaro Kobayashi,1,Shu Qi,1,Shuna Iijima,1,Shunji Iwai,2,Shutter,1,Shuttle Life,2,Shyam Ramsay,1,Siddiq Ahamed,1,Sidharth Bharathan,1,Sidi Saleh,1,Signature,1,Silent Mist,1,Silver Spleen,2,Singapore,3,Singh Anand,1,Singing Chen,1,Sinophone,1,Sion Sono,10,Siti,1,Sixth Sense Hooker,1,Slavemen,1,Sleep Curse,1,Small Talk,2,Smriti Mundhra,1,Sogo Ishii,2,Soichi Umezawa,1,Solanin,1,Solitude,1,Solo,1,Someone To Talk To,1,Sompot Chidgasompongse,2,Song Hae-sung,1,Song Kang-ho,1,Song of the Week,22,Sopawan Boonnimitra,1,Sopon Sakdapisit,1,Soul,1,Soul Mate,1,SoulMate,2,South Korea,21,Sri Lanka,3,Sridevi,1,Srijit Mukherji,7,Stammering Ballad,1,Stanley Kwan,1,Stanley Tong,1,Steel Rain,1,Stephen Chow,1,Stephen Fung,2,Steve James,1,Still the Water,1,Stoneman Murders,1,Story in Taipei,1,Strange Circus,1,Studio Ghibli,1,StudioCanal,4,Subenja Pongkorn,2,Suffering of Ninko,2,Sugihara Survivors: Jewish and Japanese,1,Suicide Club,1,Suman Mukhopadhay,1,Summer Snow,1,Sun-ho Cho,1,Sunao Katabuchi,3,Sunday Beauty Queen,1,Sung-hong Kim,1,Sunk Into the Womb,1,Susumu Hirasawa,1,Sweating the Small Stuff,2,Tadashi Nagayama,1,Tae Guk Gi,1,Tag,1,Taiwan,27,Takaaki Hashiguchi,1,Takahide Hori,1,Takahiro Miko,1,Takahisa Zeze,1,Takao Nakano,1,Takaomi Ogata,4,Takashi Miike,10,Take Care of My Cat,1,Take Off,1,Takeo Kikuchi,2,Takeshi Kaneshiro,1,Takeshi Kitano,1,Takuro Nakamura,2,Talop Wangchuk,1,Tamil,4,Tamura Senichi,1,Tang Seng Kiat,2,Tanit Jitnukul,1,Tanvir Ashraf,2,Taste of Rice Flower,2,Tatara Samurai,1,Tatsuhi Omori,1,Tatsumi,1,Tatsumi Kumashiro,1,Teddy Soeriaatmadja,1,Teenkahon,1,Teppei Nakamura,1,Tetsuo the Iron Man,1,Tetsuya Mariko,1,Tetsuya Nakashima,1,Thailand,21,Thanatos Drunk,1,That's It,1,The Adventurers,2,The Apology,1,The Bad,1,The Blue Redemption,1,The Boy and the Beast,3,The boy from Ipanema,1,The Brink,1,The Chase,1,The Cinema Travellers,1,The Crawler in the Attic,1,The Crazy Family,1,The Day After,1,The Detective,1,The Discloser,1,The Dollhouse,1,The elephant and the sea,2,The Executioner,1,The Eye's Dream,1,The Forest Whispers,1,The Forsaken Land,1,The Fortress,1,The Gangster's Daughter,1,The Girl Who Never Knew War,1,The Golden Fortress,1,The Good,1,The Great Buddha+,1,The Great Passage,1,The Hole,1,The Hungry Lion,1,The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles,2,The Inugami Family,1,The Iron Ministry,1,The Island That All Flow By,1,The Isthmus,1,The Kid from the Big Apple,1,The King of Pigs,1,The Last Executioner,1,The Last Painting,1,The Long Excuse,1,The Looming Storm,1,The Lowlife,1,The Magic Blade,1,The Man Without a Map,1,The Mayor,1,The Merciless,2,The Mermaid,1,The Muse,1,The Naked Island,1,The Name,1,The Net,1,The Night of the Earthquake,1,The Outlaws,1,The Prison,1,The Promise,1,The Raid,1,The Raid 2,1,The recipe,1,The Road Home,1,The Road to Mandalay,1,the Robber's Daughter,1,The Room,1,The Sacrament,1,The Salesman,1,The Seen and Unseen,1,The Shoot Must Go On,1,The Sleep Curse,1,The Sower,2,The Story of the Disappearance of Maryam,1,The Strange Saga of Hiroshi the Freeloading Sex Machine,1,The Swindlers,1,The Table,1,The Third Murder,1,The Thousand Faces of Dunjia,1,The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale,1,The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue,1,The Tooth and the Nail,1,The Truth Beneath,1,The Vanished,1,The Villainess,3,The Violin Player,1,The Way We Are,1,The Weird,1,The Windmill Palm Grove,1,Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru,1,Third WIndow,1,This Is Not What I Expected,1,This Is Not What I Expected!,1,Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum,1,Thop Nazareno,1,Three Sisters,1,Three Times,1,Tiffany Hsiung,1,Tik Tik Tik,1,Tôkaidô Yotsuya kaidan,1,Tokyo Ghoul,1,Tokyo Heaven,1,Tokyo Idols,1,Tokyo Vampire Hotel,1,Tolerance Film Festival,1,Tom Waller,2,Tony Leung,1,Tony Takitani,1,Torico,2,Toronto International Film Festival,1,Toshiaki Toyoda,2,Toshihisa Yokoshima,3,Toshimasha Kobayashi,1,Toshio Matsumoto,1,Toshiya Fujita,1,Town in a Lake,1,Traces of Sin,1,Trailers,84,Train to Busan,1,Tran Ham,1,Translated articles,1,Trapped,1,Travellers and Magicians,1,Treb Monteras II,2,Trinh T. Minh-Ha,3,Triple Threat,1,True Fiction,1,Tsai Ming-liang,2,Tulsi Ramsay,1,Twenty Two,1,Twilight Dinner,1,Twitch: You Are My Toy,1,Typhoon Club,1,Udine,1,Ulam Main Dish,1,Um Tae-hwa,1,Unbowed,1,Uncovered,1,Up Down and Sideways,1,V.I.P.,1,Vagabond,1,Vaishali Sinha,1,Vampire Clay,1,Vampire Cleanup Department,2,Vanishing Time A Boy Who Returned,1,Vannaphone Sitthirath,1,various,2,Varnyathil Aashanka,1,Verena Paravel,1,Vesoul International Film Festival,20,Victor Vu,1,Vidya Balan,1,Vietnam,6,Vikram Zushi,1,Vikramaditya Motwane,1,Village Rockstars,1,Vimukthi Jayasundara,1,Vinay Shukla,1,Vincent Kok,1,Violated Angels,1,Visitor Q,1,Vital,1,Vitaly Mansky,1,Vivien Qu,1,Voyage to Terengganu,1,Wai Ka-fai,1,Walk on Girl,1,Walking Past the Future,1,Wang Bing,3,Wang Chao,2,Wang Lung-wei,1,Wang Ming-tai,1,Warriors of the Dawn,2,We Make Antiques,1,Weeds on Fire,1,Wei-Hao Cheng,1,Wellgo USA,2,West North West,2,What a Man Wants,1,What A Wonderful Family 2,1,What Time Is It There?,1,Whispering Corridors,1,Whispering Star,1,White Sun,1,Who Killed Cock Robin,1,Whore Angel,1,Wilson Yip,1,Wiman Rizkidarajat,1,Wine War,1,Winter Vacation,1,With Prisoners,1,Without Memory,1,Wol-Ha: Very Bad Moon Rising,1,Woman of the Lake,1,Won Shin-Yeon,1,Wong Chun,3,Wong Jing,2,Wong Kar-wai,2,Woo Ming Jin,1,Xaisongkham Induangchanthy,1,Xu Bing,1,Ya-che Yang,1,Yamato (California),4,Yan Pak Wing,2,Yang Chao,2,Yang Ik-june,1,Yang Jong-hyeon,1,Yang Woo-seok,1,Yao Tian,1,Yash Chopra,1,Yasmin-san,1,Yeon Sang-ho,2,Yes Madam,1,Yeti Obhijaan,2,Yin Liang,1,Yiu-wai Chu,1,Yoji Yamada,1,Yoo Ha,1,Yoon-chul chung,1,Yoonsuk Jung,1,Yosep Anggi Noen,1,Yoshihiro Hanno,1,Yoshihiro Nakamura,2,Yoshihiro Nishimura,3,Yoshimasa Jimbo,1,Yoshinari Nishikori,1,Yoshishige Yoshida,1,Yoshitaka Mori,1,Yoshiyuki Kishi,1,Yosuke Takeuchi,2,Yotsuya kaidan,1,You Losers!,1,Your Name,1,Youth,1,Yu Aoi,2,Yu Irie,1,Yu Sang-wook,1,Yuen Chor,1,Yuen Woo-ping,1,Yuji Shimomura,1,Yûji Tajiri,2,Yujiro Harumoto,2,Yuki Tanada,1,Yukihiko Tsutsumi,2,Yukuhiro Morigaki,2,Yusaku Matsumoto,2,Yutaka Ikejima,3,Yutaro Nakamura,1,Yuya Ishii,2,Zakka Films,2,Zhang Lu,1,Zhang Nan,1,Zhang Yimou,1,Zig Dulay,1,Zombiology: Enjoy Yourself Tonight,1,Zoo,1,Zuairijah Mou,1,Zuri Rinpoche. Bhutan. Five Flavours,1,
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Asian Film Vault: Japanese Girls Never Die (2016) by Daigo Matsui
Japanese Girls Never Die (2016) by Daigo Matsui
While (...) [the] narrative lacks some (...) provocative punch (...) the political protest message (...) is [nevertheless] sincerely felt.
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Asian Film Vault
http://www.asianfilmvault.com/2017/07/japanese-girls-never-die-2016-by-daigo.html
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