Tokyo Shock Cinema – A Retrospective
If you are a horror fan, if you are an Asian film horror fan or if you are an extreme horror fan, you have likely come across one if not more of these wonderfully quirky over-the-top films. The genre has struggled with classifying them as they tend to combine several different influences both Asian an Western. Lets throw out a few classifications, so that we are on the right page.
These modern style Asian gore experiences have gone more recently under the classification of “Tokyo Shock Cinema” or “Tokyo Gore” which in a way is a small tribute to one of its leading examples “Tokyo Gore Police“. Though the classification may still seem not entirely inclusive as the films tend to combine a variety of influenced elements such as Manga, cyberpunk, comic books, samurai, gore, Japanese splatter punk, kabuki and martial arts. Now add to this an umbrella of dark comedy which easily separates the films from more hardcore torture p*rn style in recent years.
When the “Ring” craze arrived, others were quick to lump similar movies under J-Horror, K-horror, and even the more interesting title of “wet girls”.
It seems though that as quickly as the trend emerged, it faded almost as fast when westerners started to realize that every film in that genre resembled the next. “Tokyo Shock Cinema” arrived early on and on the most part snuck under the radar. We had earlier films like “Meatball Machine” that while received with varied results often confused viewers who didn’t exactly know what they were watching. In fact one might even compare it to a shrunk down version of UltraMan episode.
This was often do to a perception of being a hybrid that takes the elements of extreme horror like gore, rape, and phallic sexual innuendos pumped out in a comedic, kinetic way that also manages to mix in several organic robotics. Add to that the element of varied levels of martial arts, and you have this adult version of a whacked out Sid and Marty Krofft meets SAW kind of experience. In fact it has been said that it’s not uncommon for variations of creatures and human abominations appearing like something out of a GWAR video.
For viewers like me, this was not only a welcome addition but in my mind the most inventive of its kind. The early influences were still apparent to Asian horror film lovers who can recall back to films like “Magic of Spell” (1986) and “964 Pinocchio” (1992) using a much more less-practical-effects driven premise. Viewers might classify “Meatball Machine” (2005) as one of the earlier hybrids emerging out of this foundation.
Cyberpunk lovers will also recognize the influence from films like “Shinya Tsukamoto’s “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” (1989) and “Tetsuo II: Body Hammer” (1989). Though I would have to say that the Tetsuo approach was much more in a cyberpunk vein with its experimental usage of stop motion than it was as a Tokyo Gore icon.
As a result, astute viewers can literally follow the trends and their culmination leading to the current batch of modern film styles. It is apparent that at least for now,Tokyo Gore style is here to stay.
Tokyo Gore is usually identifed by 2 other factors, it’s editing style and it’s use of modified body parts. The body parts may come in the form of a weapon or a abomination that is emerged in a fantastical way from human origin.. It seems if you can imagine it….. it will eventually will become cinema reality. Breasts that fire rockets, machine gun arm attachments, lethal crotch weapons, hands emitting swords, phallic nose missiles, robotic eyes, extruded or enlarged body parts……well the list goes on. Now add to this a very high kinetic use of editing that almost becomes a character in itself. You’ll know em when you see em.
As reports trickle in, it’s apparent that while the Asian market is more or less embarrassed at times by this style (the traditional Asians), the western world is eating it up like …well …Sushi.
This leads me to a more “honed in” classification which seems to be driven by a films company almost entirely dedicated to this style of film making Sushi Typhoon
Perhaps the genre classification in future years will be simplified as “Sushi Typhoon” style to wrangle in the confusion. Sushi Typhoon’s recent entry Alien vs. Ninja” seems to be doing well with a few like-productions soon to arrive. These latest efforts being “Helldriver“, “Dead Ball” “Mutants Girls Squad” and “Yakuza Weapon“ They have also attracted an impressive pool of talent who are responsible for many of these style films.
The one name to have had a master hand in Tokyo Gore productions is “Yoshihiro Nishimura” You can literally follow Nishimura’s credit list for a map of all things Tokyo Gore. His credits range from FX to Director. Though if you follow the breadcrumb trail, you’ll also see the collaborative and directing talent of names such as Naoyuki Tomomatsu, Noboru Iguchi, and Kengo Kaji. I found that many of these films have alot of the same talents on board.
We’ve included a master list for those who might be new to the style or who just want to check out other options. I cant say that every one of these is exceptional, but at least you’ll stay within the genre pool.
Below is an Essential Viewing list of “Tokyo Shock Cinema” style films:
(More will added as they become relevant)
Tokyo Shock Cinema -Â a retrospective on the films and trends