One of the craziest J-horror films of all time is the classic ‘Suicide Club,’ which opens with 54 girls jumping in front of a moving train. The genre-bending pic was so bizarre and out there that I never thought they’d make a sequel… but apparently they did- as a prequel. But there’s one catch, Sion Sono’s film is not a horror film, but more of a family drama. It the dissection of fractured human psyche within a nearly 3-hour coming of age story. But what can I say? I dug it…
Noriko Shimabara is an ordinary 17-year-old girl. Her family consists of her younger sister Yuka, father Tetsuzou, and mother Taeko. Noriko couldn’t help but feel unsatisfied with her ordinary suburban town life. One day, she discovers an interesting website on the internet where teenage girls from all over Japan gather. There, Noriko for the first time in her life feels that she is being understood by others.
Noriko runs away from home to seek a new home in Tokyo. Arriving in Tokyo, she meets Kumiko, who is the center figure behind the website. Along with Kumiko, Noriko becomes a member of a strange business called FAMILY CIRCLE, which offers a rental family service. At FAMILY CIRCLE, members are dispatched to people with no family members to create an instant pseudo-family. Noriko finds the true beauty of family while role playing in a pseudo-family, and through that pseudo-family, she begins understanding more about the relationship between herself and her family, as well as her relationship with herself. Following her sister, Yuka also runs to Tokyo. Their father Tetsuzou then begins searching for his two missing daughters. After long searches, he finds out that his daughters are members of FAMILY CIRCLE.
In short, the film is a giant metaphor for coming of age, becoming a man/woman and accepting that your child has grown up. Only hidden within the tale is a sinister and twisted undertone. The movie is pretty straight forward until Noriko joins the Family Circle. But when things really get bizarre is when her and her sister both lose themselves in the other identities they’ve been playing. The whole movie is a take on growing up and discovering who you “really” are, and not turning your back on your past.
But what I really enjoy is a good story. Before I watched ‘Noriko’ I checked out Tartan’s ‘The Ghost,’ and as fun as ‘Ghost’ was the one main thing it was missing was a good quality original story. And even though ‘Noriko’ doesn’t have much violence (but there is still a good amount of blood), my brother and I still found ourselves strangely drawn to the film and made it through the three hours without a peep.
If you’re looking for another J-horror classic, you won’t find it here mostly because it’s not a horror film. The only reason I’m reviewing it is because it is a prequel to ‘Suicide Club’ and it does explain a lot of the questions you had. But ask yourself this while you’re debating whether or not to check it ‘Noriko’… how often do you get a quality story that you can enjoy for three straight hours? How about never?