Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tennen shôjo Mahn next: Yokohama hyaku-ya hen – review

coverDirector: Takashi Miike

First released: 1999

Contains spoilers

We honourably mentioned a Takashi Miike film previously. His 2004 movie Izo had a brief vampiric appearance.

This was a TV mini-series (probably the best descriptor) and the title translated to “Mahn, Next Natural Girl: 100 Nights in Yokohama” and is also known as N-Girls Vs Vampires. It was a sequel to Miike’s "Tennen Shojo Mahn" and added in a supernatural element in the form of vampires. The strange aspect to all this is the thought that the vampires perhaps represent misogyny with the girls fighting against it – I’ll explain my reasoning for thinking that later.

After images of a doll (a device used in the opening scenes and then almost forgotten, or ignored, until the end of the mammoth 3 hour running time) we see Mahn (Ayana Sakai) on a swing as bikes approach. Most of her friends are elsewhere discussing sex, sugar daddies and virginity. The bikes stop and Mahn tells the leader of the gang to back off her friend Maki (Eri Nomura). She ends up beating up the gang. There is one girl with them, Riona (Chiaki Ichiba), who is less than impressed with Mahn as she was interested in the leader herself and states that she’ll not be able to forgive her. Mahn and Riona begin to fight.

rooftop attackOn a rooftop a girl is with male model Yuuya (Takashi Nagayama), he holds her and then bites her – he is vampire. Having discarded her he scans the city for his next victim. He settles upon the fight between Mahn and Riona, who are at the point where they have beaten each other bloody. Mahn’s blood seems to sparkle to him as she is a virgin and it is virgin’s blood that vampires crave. This becomes a theme through the story.

Ayana Sakai as MahnEssentially the vampires are searching out virgins and can tell when a girl is virgin and when not. This leads to some odd and disturbing moments in film – almost predating Cherry Falls by a year and certainly more extreme in suggestion. At one point the girls discuss the danger Mahn and Riona’s friend Chiaki (Erika Yamakawa) are in and Riona suggests that they just get it over with – they could even use a dildo if they didn’t want a man. Mahn exclaims that the love of a man changes the blood of a girl and she refuses to accept that a vibrator would do the same thing. At another point a father tries to rape his daughter in order that he might protect her from the vampires.

strange goings on in the AgencyAnyway things are centred around the Saints model Agency, Their top model is called Maria (Shiori) and other girls who go there suddenly become prettier over night but start ignoring their friends. There is also a weird guy lurking the city, accosting the girls and asking if they believe in the existence of God (and being beaten for his trouble). Mahn befriends an orphan boy called Taichi (Kazuhiro Sakai) and offers to teach him to fight (as he is bullied). Through Taichi she meets Yuuya – who used to live in the same orphanage.

blood at mouthRiona is the first of the two girls to get into a direct confrontation with the vampire models – and is beaten senseless for her trouble. This leads to her and Mahn teaming up but they are still unable to defeat the girls (they don’t know until later that they are vampires). Eventually their two best friends are turned and they have to find a way of defeating the vampires and turning their friends back to human.

Shingo Tsurumi as GodI said that the vampires represent misogyny and this will come out in the lore. We have two types of vampires. Saint Vampires are (occasionally) winged creatures who can control the more normal type of vampire. Anyone bitten becomes a vampire and male vampires will eventually become Saint Vampires. The leader of the vampires, known as God (Shingo Tsurumi), has given the main male vampires bracelets that allow them to keep their souls and emotions from life as humans. The male vampires were, mainly, chosen because they hate women – Yuuya’s mother abandoned him at the orphanage to go off with a man, for instance.

dying after 500 daysConversely the female vampires do not become Saint Vampires. Indeed, having become prettier for a while and being under the control of the Saint Vampires (and used as models, because that will attract girls who want to be prettier) they then die. Females only survive for 500 days, they then begin to vomit blood, their skin ages until, eventually, the vampiric spark leaves them (in a display of lightning over their bodies) as they rapidly age and then crumble to dust. So we end up with a show where ‘natural girls’ (for whom virginity or sexual activity is their choice) are the heroines who fight women hating men, who target virgins, suck their blood, force them to be something they are not and eventually kill them.

Saint Vampire shadow revealedMiike played with other vampiric lore. Sunlight and garlic do not worry the vampires. Moonlight does actually play a part in the mythology. There is an indication that the vampires previously hunted on the full moon only – though Yuuya’s sire, Satoshi (Satoshi Matsuda), has a desire for world domination and thus is ignoring the cycle. A Saint Vampire’s shadow cast from the light of the full moon reveals his wings even if they are not apparent physically. The vampires have a far-seeing ability that has the appearance of a floating vid-screen.

use of rosesWe get an indication that rose can preserve a dying vampire, perhaps even keep him off other vampire’s radars. It might also be a way of restraining a vampire. Whilst we do get one vampire, Kenjirô (Yuuki Fukuzono), restrained in such a way the actual ins and outs are not fully explained in dialogue. Of course the use of rose as a way of controlling vampires is traditional Western lore. In a most bizarre moment we discover that slow piano music causes a reaction in vampires and they cover their ears and cry as they remember their human selves!

sacred daggerTo kill a vampire a stake through the heart is mentioned but this kind of gets overtaken by the idea of a sacred dagger – designed almost like a cross with a rose adorning it – that should be used to pierce the heart. If a Saint Vampire is killed then all the minion vampires are returned to their human state – unless they have become a Saint Vampire themselves.

ascensionReligious overtones are apparent through the film. The head vampire referred to as God, the higher vampires called Saint Vampires (and the agency being named Saint), the weird man asking if people believe in the existence of God and the fact that Taichi wears a crucifix that belonged to his father. Religious artefacts do not harm, it seems, the vampires but we do get an idea that should a Saint Vampire sacrifice themselves for the right reasons they ascend to heaven – and this ascension is in a cross shaped light effect.

turn around bright eyesThe film itself is a little over long and, in the centre area, can begin to lag – however this is overcome by the end of the film. The special effects work quite well for a made for TV piece. Altogether this is interesting stuff, 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Zahir Blue said...

Sound really interesting.

Christine said...

Yikes! When I saw the name Miike I thought: isn´t he the director of torture porn crap?
Anyways, roses are interesting part of vampire lore.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Miike does push the envelope with some of his films but he is also an interesting director. Izo, for instance, was a roller coaster of a cinematic ride

This is far from torture porn, to be fair.

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

Where did you get this film Andy, I want to see it! Big fan of Japanese Vampire films ala Vampire Knight, BloodHound etc as you know.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Gabriel - the perfect box appears on YesAsia - though unsubtitled and the DVD also appears on iOffer