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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.