I went to the world premiere of Murakami’s new feature film, Jellyfish Eyes, at LACMA Monday night. Many Japanese B-movie clichés were employed including a long exegesis by one of the “bad guys,” to explain the who, what, why, and when of the narrative: after an earthquake and tsunami has hit the coast, an evil black-caped foursome capture negative energy from school boys through the use of alien “Friends” controlled by iphone-like gadgets. The mass accumulation of negative energy from the boys creates a Japan-destroying giant monster in the Daikaiju-Godzilla tradition. The lab where the boys’ anger is harnessed to create the super-sized alien monster is equated with both the tsunami and subsequent meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and with post-Hiroshima Japan (!?)
Perhaps Jellyfish Eyes is meant to be a parody in the Austin Powers mode, like, just so super bad that it’s good? If the movie’s purpose is, as Murakami claims in his production notes, to “give the children of this nation the courage to face things head on and forge contacts with the world around them. [...] to overcome the veil of lies that envelopes this nation and teach them there is meaning in being brave.” I’m not sure that a film that seems to parody both bad Japanese TV and the manga tradition of exaggerated, projected emotions, can contribute to giving Japan’s “brainwashed” (Murakami) children courage and analytical thinking skills. How does a movie where the main protagonist, the “super-sad faced” boy, is most animated and affectionate when he’s with his computer-generated “friend” counter the idea that an obsession with computer games are making Japan’s boys amoral and antisocial bullies?
For me, the movie’s (and Murakami’s) basic fault line down gender roles brought back memories from when I was a kid visiting family in Tokyo and witnessed all the porn-manga the salarymen would read while riding the subways. Almost always sadomasochistic, more often than not the sex object was a Japanese schoolgirl. In Japan, “porn is a multimedia industry that’s accepted, encompassing games, comics, anime, and, of course, live-action… and can be the first step in a long and legitimate career.” (Ksa Otaku, 9 Manga Artists Who Totally Drew Porn)
These are some of the questions I didn’t ask Murakami during the Q and A after the screening: Could a giant LOVE-DOLL monster be created with all that sexual energy generated by those schoolgirl uniforms? Could you generate electrical power from all the friction created? I want to make a LOVE-DOLL monster with a giant vagina dentata to take on the ANGRY-Jellyfish-Eyes monster, what will that teach the kids?
Right on people huh let it all hang out gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme yeah…