Another day, another misleading movie title. When I think about a movie like Tokyo Gore School I’m taken to a place where director Yohei Fukuda (Chanbara Beauty) has successfully blended The Machine Girl with Tokyo Gore Police, and law enforcement officers have been replaced by Japanese schoolgirls. In my head, Tokyo Gore School sounds like the best film ever made, but then, my head is a curious place to be at times. Turns out The Banger Sisters is a weepy chick flick starring Goldie Hawn. And Guy Ritchie’s Snatch… maybe we should leave it there.
Tokyo Gore School doesn’t concern itself with the red stuff. There’s barely a paper cut to be found. What you’re actually signing up for is a mysterious game spread virally via the mobile phone. Fujiwara (Yusuke Yamada) is on the top of his game. He’s doing well in class, looks great and fights hard. One day he's attacked by a group of students without provocation. In time he discovers that a violent game has broken out in the corridors and playgrounds of Tokyo’s high schools. I say violent. Have you ever watched two drunken girls have a fight outside a nightclub? In reality, Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh have nothing to fear.
At least Tokyo Gore School can claim to take a more realistic approach to schoolyard fighting. Of course, when I say realistic I mean disappointing. And when I say disappointing I mean monotonous and irksome. I’ve never used the word ‘irksome’. Consider that a first. And second. Anyway, it seems that the students have unwillingly signed up for a fight to the death, and the reason they choose to fight takes the ridiculous to new levels of absurdity. Each student has a secret; a secret that they’re willing to take to their graves.
You would expect the secrets to be terrifying. I mean really, some of these kids are committing suicide in order to save face. So when the truth comes out, and you discover that the secrets include such startling revelations as, "He wet the bed until he was fourteen", much needed tension is taken away. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but expecting us to believe that the Japanese youth are killing themselves and each other because a mysterious text pest is threatening to tell the world that they like to eat cereal at night is an altogether more troublesome proposition.
Yohei Fukuda would be forgiven had he laced the film with well choreographed fight sequences and lashings of dark humour, but Tokyo Gore School takes itself way too seriously for that, and brief glimpses of manic action fail to impress. There’s very little character development to write home about, and Yamada’s Fujiwara is about as alluring as a night in with Anne Frank. The only hint of suspense is created in the final act, but by that time you’ll be too far-gone to care. Tokyo Gore School sets itself up as a leading contender for Battle Royale’s coveted crown, but any attempts at social commentary on bullying, peer pressure, and modern teenage life are lost under a blanket of ridiculous plot devices, pedestrian fight scenes, and laborious characters.
Much like Anne and the Nazis, you’ll be forgiven for not realising that this film actually exists, because Tokyo Gore School deserves to be left in the attic where it belongs. There’s very little to recommend about a film that attempts to blend Battle Royale’s style and themes with Crows Zero’s anarchic bravado, and fails to make the grade on both counts. In fact, in reality, Tokyo Gore School should be put in detention and never spoken of again. AW