Why is everyone so obsessed with Kanako? Where she is. Why she is. How she is. What she is. Kanako. Kanako. Ka-na-ko.
Perhaps it’s fitting then, that The World of Kanako is all about its eponymous character but also never about her. Instead it’s the world she creates through her actions that is everything to and in this film – light from a collapsed star, ever drawing people further and further down. Everyone’s Alice in this never-ending rabbit hole, and director Tetsuya Nakashima’s invited the audience along for the ride.
Kanako’s basic premise of a father’s search for his missing daughter sounds simple in a way that belies the intensity and nightmarish quality of the actual film. With imagery and a vividness reminiscent of Tarantino, the film’s 118 minutes hurtle along with such incredible speed that the audience barely has time to blink, let alone contemplate the plethora of questions and questionable ethics brought on by each scene. Compounded with a disjointed, non-linear, multiple perspective narrative, the film is a heady experience, especially in the few scenes where it departs from its grim and gory status quo to a shift into beautiful animation or acid fuelled party-scapes.
The above aside, The World of Kanako is not a film for the faint hearted. The film’s initial release in Japan had several audience members leaving the theatre due to discomfort, and it’s obvious from the get go why this is the case. Graphic murder and torture scenes are merely frosting compared to the violent outbursts, physical and sexual, that make up most of Fujishima’s actions and behaviour, and therefore almost the entirety of the film. I, myself, found the film to be an uneasy experience, and there were more than one or two moments where I felt uncomfortable and slightly ill. I do believe, however, that The World of Kanako was an intriguing and immersive experience.
Nakashima’s use of short sharp editing and different aspects of Japanese life and culture were paramount in keeping the audience engaged, but more importantly, in maintaining their suspension of disbelief. This, of course, was important simply because the level of gore and violence became gratuitous to the point that Fujishima’s (and, for that matter, anyone he came in contact with’s) continued survival, especially during the final stand-off, seemed implausible, if not downright impossible. It is to Kōji Yakusho’s credit that Fujishima never felt caricatured, and that his performance was reigned in enough to lend credibility to such an over the top role. All in all, the film provided a cohesive experience with every element adding to the atmosphere and narrative while also working so well individually that the sound alone, for example, was enough to put me on edge.
The World of Kanako was an unexpectedly intense thrill ride that is very likely to achieve cult status if it hasn’t already, exulting as it does in its nastiness and the director’s dream of subverting the “rogue cop” genre. It should be noted, though, that beyond the extreme audio and vivid visuals, the film does leave its audiences thinking. Even if it’s only about what their kids are doing tonight.
Written by Roxy Simons.
Edited by Manoshi Quayes.