20 of the Weirdest Japanese Films

Posted on January 21, 2010

Japan is known for its creativity and nowhere is that illustrated more colorfully than in the world of the cinema, particularly the horror venue.

Japan has become as bloody and grotesque as any of its western counterparts in the last few decades beginning with Godzilla, Asia’s answer to America’s favorite gorilla, King Kong.

Without further adieu, here are some prime candidates for the dubious honor of 20 of the weirdest Japanese films.

1. Godzilla (1954)

A pop culture icon, Godzilla was designed as a cross between a gorilla and a whale and has graced the screen 28 times in 28 films, not to mention numerous appearances in comic books, video games, and novels.

The special effects were novel for the time but the plot of a monster devouring downtown Tokyo was trite as well as weird!

YouTube Preview Image

2. Tampopo (1988)

A spaghetti-western type film about the many aspects of the dining experience, and its effect on the human spirit, it stars Nobuko Miyamoto as a noodle shop owner. The viewer is taken from a decadent culinary orgy to a perfect bowl of steaming hot ramen.

Funny, erotic and weird, food is a metaphor for just about everything in life.

YouTube Preview Image

3. Panty Mask (1991)

By almost any standards, this film set in an old western town populated entirely by cute young Catholic school girls and shotgun-toting nuns who have killed off the entire male population is as weird as they come. The super heroine is Panty Mask who sports a leather bikini and a pair of leather girls’ underwear on her face.

Legendary_Panty_Mask

Complete with singing numbers and a grand musical finale of “Ten Little Indians”, one can only wonder…why?

4. Keko Mask (1991)

Far out and brazen, Keko Mask is a totally outrageous film of violence, sexual fetishism and the manga culture of comic books. Blessed with enough insane glee and energy to leap across cultural bad-taste zones, the film is set in a girls’ boarding school where torture in the form of extreme discipline runs amuck!

kekko-kamen01

In Green Hornet fashion, Keko Mask, costumed crime fighter comes to the rescue, snapping necks and flashing body parts.

5. Weather Woman (1995)

A truly bizarre comedy film that has reached cult status, Weather Woman is the story of an ambitious weather forecaster who decides to show her panties in order to improve her show’s ratings. Weird and off the wall, this film is genuinely funny and well worth seeing.

6. Wild Life (1997)

This good-tough-guy-meets-bad-tough-guy film that was directed by Aoyama Shinji, who is known for his psychological “schlock horror films. This film is a departure from that vein and is enjoyable and well rounded on several levels.

It is the story of an ex-boxer (played by Kosuke Toyohara) who rediscovers himself in the midst of a life-threatening chain of events that include blackmail, deception, and yakuza violence.

Subtle and deliberate, the characters and story line are convincing. A complicated series of weird flashbacks render an exciting new flair to the yakuza thriller genre.

7. Ringu (1998)

With a tagline claiming; “one curse, one cure, one week to find it,” a young journalist cannot help but face suspense and impending doom as she investigates the sudden death of her niece and several of her friends exactly one week after viewing a cursed video tape.

YouTube Preview Image

Tense but improbable, the key to the tape (and the movie) concerns a volcanic island and a very strange little girl named Sadako.

8. Japanese Hell (1999)

A young girl finds herself mixed up in a cult responsible for the sarin gas attack on Japan’s subway system. Her soul teeters on the edge of damnation. The Queen of Hell grants her a chance to evaluate her path by offering her a visit into the fiery abyss.

YouTube Preview Image

A thoroughly dark and sinister tale; it is part horror show and part costumed morality play (and more than a little part weird).

9. Battle Royal (2000)

Japans legislates the Battle Royale Act, which sends a group of teenagers off to an island where they must fight for survival and only one student can leave alive.

YouTube Preview Image

This orgy of violence is a very entertaining movie with a high shock factor and a lot of deep meaning behind the violence. The fact that teens are murderously pitted against one another is the most troubling aspect of this film.

10. Ichi the Killer (2001)

Based on the extreme manga with the same name, this is the ultra violent story of a clan that has suffered the loss of their leader. In this sick and twisted weird fantasy, Ichi the killer pursues the clan and is bent on killing them all even though no one knows exactly why.

YouTube Preview Image

This film is extremely violent with a senseless ending, but if you enjoy the visual spray of body parts and sexual violence, you will enjoy this weird display of something or other.

11. Visitor Q (2001)

This weird film, which is directed by Takashi Miike, focuses on social taboos such as drug-use, incest and prostitution and yet maintains a humorous undertone.

It constantly pushes the envelope as to what people can and will look at and accept as subject matter for a film.

YouTube Preview Image

12. Suicide Club (2002)

Part of a trilogy renowned for its controversial subject matter and gory presentation, this independent film has developed a cult following. Written and directed by Sion Sono, it concerns a wave of seemingly unconnected suicides and the efforts of the police to determine who and what is behind them.

YouTube Preview Image

13. Dark Water (2002)

Directed by Hideo Nakata, this horror film is based on the theme of a drowned innocent child transforming into a malevolent spiritual force. A leak in the ceiling, a mysterious red backpack and a divorcé and daughter in a creepy apartment all add up to a film with contrived effects that in the end may be very weird but are also all wet.

YouTube Preview Image

14. Moon Child (2003)

Set in the 21st century and directed by Takahisa Zeze, a group of childhood friends travel through a violent criminal underworld in a fictional city in China. A member of a drug gang develops a strong bond with his organization’s newest member, a vampire. Over time, their love for the same woman drives a wedge between them.

This film contains much violence and gunplay for those who love that sort of thing.

YouTube Preview Image

15. Cutie Honey (2004)

A very strange film by anyone’s standards, this one was directed by Hideaki Anno. It stars popular Japanese model, Eriko Sato, as Honey Kisaragi, who can transform at will into the busty, red or pink-haired heroine, Cutie Honey, and fight against assorted villains who threaten her or her world.

YouTube Preview Image

16. One Missed Call (2004)

Directed by Takashi Miike, the film’s trademark, “ringtone of death”, became very popular. Built on the premise of a malevolent force intent on destroying all it encounters, the film centers on a curse that propagates itself through the cell phone and a chain of unsuspecting cell phone users. Don’t take this weird call.

YouTube Preview Image

17. Survive Style +5 (2004)

Directed by Gen Sekiguchi, this weird film follows several simultaneous, loosely linked plot lines that intertwine. They include: a man who keeps killing his wife and burying her only to find her alive and quite angrily awaiting him when he returns home, a suburban father who is hypnotized into believing he is a bird and can fly, a trio of teens who burglarize homes and a murderous executive who tries to think up ideas for commercials.

If this film isn’t weird, nothing is.

YouTube Preview Image

18. Infection (2005)

The film concerns a medical cover-up and an infectious and deadly disease that threatens both discovery of the crime and the safety of all who work in the hospital where the story takes place. At first, this weird film appears to be an effective psychological horror film but then it deteriorates into the more typical variety, with gory special effects to create the infection as an ubiquitous green slime.

The film has a strong beginning, but a very weak ending.

YouTube Preview Image

19. Death Trance (2005)

Set in what appears to be a cross between feudal forests and post-apocalyptic landscapes, one lone samurai seeks his final battle. He has stolen a mysterious coffin that many other people want and are willing to fight for. Elaborate costumes and scenery disguise a lack of plot or character development in this very weird film.

YouTube Preview Image

20. Death Note (2006)

This a series of two live-action Japanese films based on the Death Note manga and anime series by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Its focus is a university student who decides to rid the world of evil with the help of a supernatural notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it.

YouTube Preview Image

Here then are twenty weird films to rush out a find. If you are already weird, these are certain to cement your position.

Think we missed a weird Japanese film people should know about? Leave a comment below.

(Link)

MDeeDubroff

MDeeDubroff

M Dee Dubroff is the penname of this freelance writer and former teacher originally from Brooklyn, New York. A writer of ghostly and horror fiction, she has branched out into the world of humorous non fiction writing and maintains eight web sites covering a wide variety of topics. She also writes feature articles for several local newspapers. Her book entitled: A Taste of Funny, and her website, Eat, Drink And Really Be Merry (http://www.ingestandimbibe.com) feature many well researched and humorous articles on the subject of food and drink.
« Go to post archive

38 thoughts on “20 of the Weirdest Japanese Films

  1. Queen Anthai

    Chakushin Ari! I love Chakushin Ari! The remake is what made me VOW IN BLOOD to never, ever see another remake of anything as long as I lived. Still going strong.

    But where is Machine Girl? Or even worse, Shyness Machine Girl? Or Sukeban Boy?

    Reply
  2. Bonsai

    nice list, i would add tokyo gore police and strange circus (well, basically everything of sion sono might do well in this list) but perhaps most suitable for absolute weirdness is funky forest, that one is just major brain-diarrhea…

    Reply
  3. Tempura

    I think the list itself is more weird than the movies on it. Most of them are just horror and fantasy, not really weird.

    Reply
  4. Grant

    If you want weird, you should check out Miike's "The Happiness of the Katakuris" (Katakuri-ke No Kôfuku). It's a gory musical with claymation – 'nuff said. Also I recommend 2LDK, a short movie I discovered when I bought a 3-pack with Suicide Club and Moon Child. It's about two wannabe actresses who share an apartment who start irritating each other and eventually their passive-aggressive tactics devolve into full blown war. Very entertaining, although I don't think that one is weird, but then again I've seen about half of the ones on this list and didn't find them all strange either.

    Reply
  5. Bridget

    how about Ziegunerweisen? or Woman in the Dunes? How about more Itami Juzo films like The Family Game? Sorry, I was a little disappointed in your list.

    Reply
  6. Ryan

    Attack! Girls Swim Team versus The Undead

    I came across this one on Surf the Channel (and promptly downloaded it via MegaUpload). My initial thought was "wtf?". After watching it, that thought turned to "WTF!"

    It was all in Japanese (no subtitles) so I could only understand some of the dialogue since my Japanese isn't that good yet. I wouldn't doubt that Speedo had something to do with this after all the product placement, but the content is just weird.

    A new transfer student shows up and gets pushed into the school's pool by some other girl. Of course, that means she needs to take a shower. Then the other girl decides to take a shower with her. The transfer student (Aki) notices a weird birthmark on the girl's breast and mole behind her ear that she has as well. Then the man in red appears and weird shit happens. To sum it all up, gratuitous nudity, shitty gore, an out-of-place lesbian scene, weird Japanese fetishisms, and a vagina laser. Fun to watch while inebriated.

    Enjoy!

    Reply
  7. pirate

    Funky Forest really needs to beon here. Survive Style 5+ is fun and a little strange, and I think Funky Forest was by the same guy.

    So bizarre. I keep a copy of it around for wtf night with friends who haven’t seen it yet ;D

    Reply
  8. SP

    Have you heard of Machine Girl? It’s completely insane! It’s a gross, violent, funny film about a high school girl with a machine gun arm avenging her brother by taking on the yakuza…So..much…blood…

    Reply
  9. Jesse

    Godzilla's destructive power was representative of the atomic bombs that were dropped in the war. I don't see anything trite about that.

    Reply
  10. Gregory

    Does anyone know the name of the Japanese movie where it involves an apartment #9 and the 9 pivots so that the apartment # on the door reads #6 and the weird things that happen after that?

    Reply
    1. Tyler

      I have seen this too, but cant find any info… can anyone help? it had a few fighting scenes similar to kill bill….great movie..

      Reply
  11. firemetalrat

    964Pinocchio and for my favorite scene, Chanbara Girl, when she rips off her coat and is wearing frilly under ware to fight zombies.

    Reply
  12. whothe

    Hausu from 1977 needs to be on this list for sure. Japanese directors didn't even want to touch it because it was "incomprehensible" and would "end their careers."

    Reply
  13. Grace

    Hmm, there's a manga version for Suicide Club, written by Usamaru Furuya, right? Although the intention of the mangaka was to reproduce the plot, it came out much better than the film. Ahaha! Just sharing. I still love Suicide Club though. :))

    Reply
  14. j-film nut

    Crazy Family; Face of Another; The Pornographers; Onibaba; Woman in the Dunes; Himatsuri; Double Suicide; Mishima's Rite of Love and Death; I can't believe Jigoku in not on here….a very incomplete list, mostly horror or sci-fi/fantasy. There are many many more, and much weirder ones, than those listed here

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>