Director Daigo Matsui’s interpretation of Mariko Yamauchi’s 2013 novel of the same name premiered in the Competition section at this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival and it’s a breath of fresh air. Inventive, challenging, puzzling and creative, the film is not your typical narrative, which is so much the better for cinema. There are three seemingly separate stories that all intertwine and relate to misogyny in Japan, the challenges women face in the country and the ennui of its millennial generation. A band of Japanese high school girls is going around randomly beating men senseless. This is more or less a backdrop to the life of Haruko (Yu Aoi), an aimless 27-year-old who can’t find any satisfaction and sees injustice around her. At the same time (that phrase is key) you have graffiti artists Manabu (Shono Hayama) and Yukio (Taiga) stenciling Haruko’s missing poster around town. The pair stole the image from a police box. So, despite the fact one scenario depicts Haruko as missing, she is living a normal life at home with her parents and grandmother, and going to a boring office job where she and another female employee do all the work and earn a tiny fraction of what the men get. The film never attempts to reify this paradoxical timeline. Rather, the narrative floats in a space where chronology is less important and the shades of emptiness of the characters lives are more at the forefront. Thought-provoking and in tune with a generation searching for meaning, Japanese Girls Never Die is a quizzical kind of brilliance.
Japanese title: Azumi Haruko wa yukue fumei. (100 min.)