Adults-only anime madness thatís profoundly stylish, outrageous and
disturbing. In addition, itís undoubtedly the ultimate movie (after
FREAKS) about a traveling freak show.
MR. ARASHIíS AMAZING FREAK SHOW, published in English
by Blast Books in 1991, was a popular manga by the ero-guro
(erotic grotesque) maestro Suehiro Maruo. It contains all of Maruoís
trademarks--rape, deformity, eyeball licking, erupting
entrails--contained in a powerfully surreal narrative thatís equal parts
ALICE IN WONDERLAND and FREAKS.
The manga was adapted into the 1992 anime MIDORI (SHOJO
TSUBAKI: CHIKA GENTO GEKIGA), a five year labor of love by
director/animator Hiroshi Harada, who personally animated the film
himself and reportedly used his life savings to do so. The finished film
was banned and is alleged to have been destroyed, with only bootleg
videos and a 2006 PAL DVD keeping it alive.
The doe-eyed Midori lives in a slum. One day she
discovers that her mother has died and, in complete despair, joins a
traveling carnival. This carnival, unfortunately, is populated by freaks
and hermaphrodites who from the start abuse and degrade Midori
unmercifully--as an example, when Midori discovers a litter of cute
puppies one of the carnivalís performers kills the dogs and turns them
into soup. The torments only increase when business starts to wane and
Midori is blamed.
But then a strange dwarf named Wonder Masamitsu joins
the carnival. Among other things, this freak can squeeze his body into
glass bottles. He becomes a huge draw for the carnival, and in the
process romances Midori. Masamitsu also uses his magic to protect Midori
from her tormentors.
Unfortunately Masamitsu also becomes quite petty and
controlling. When Midori crosses him he imprisons her in one of his
bottles, and when his audience upsets him he imparts nightmarish
hallucinations in which the audience members all become hellishly
deformed and explode.
One morning Masamitsu heads off to the town market and
is stabbed to death by a robber. Thus, an increasingly angry and
traumatized Midori is left alone once again.
MIDORI isnít merely faithful to its source material,
but actually takes its animation directly from the Suehiro Maruo manga.
Thus MIDORIíS visuals consist largely of still pictures animated with
minimal movement and voice-over dialogue. The effect is not unlike the
ďmotion comicĒ films of
THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH, although director/animator
Hiroshi Harada adds many arrestingly quirky touches.
The animation has real style and verve, and also
imparts an altogether unique brand of surrealism. This is evident in a
scene where Midori is taunted by a hermaphrodite that concludes with a
bizarre freeze frame of Midoriís tormentor sprouting a snake neck and
breathing fire, all accompanied by an eerily calm, minimalist score. The
effect is odd and fascinating, and approximates Suehiro Maruoís brand of
perverse surrealism quite memorably. Nor does Hiroshi Harada shy away
from Maruoís more outrageous excesses, replicating the mangaís
bloodletting and perversion without apology or restraint, and with the
profoundly bleak ending left intact.
MIDORI (SHOJO TSUBAKI: CHIKA GENTO GEKIGA)
Director/Producer/Screenwriter: Hiroshi Harada
(Based on a graphic novel by Suehiro Maruo)
Cinematography: Nobuyuki Sugaya
Cast (voices): Minako Naka, Norihiko Morishita, Keinosuke Okamoto,
Kazuyoshi Hayashi, Yoshifumi Nomura, Sanae Kato, Yumiko Takagi, Akiko
Tanaka, Koji Imoto