Set against the backdrop of the Fukushima Disaster, Himizu is the latest film from energetic director Shion Sono (Suicide Club, Cold Fish) as he relocates Minoru Furuya’s divisive Manga the tragic events of 2011. Himizu tells the story of Yuichi, a fourteen year old fisherman’s son raised in an abusive household and frequently humiliated in front of a rag tag group of refugees from a nearby decimated prefecture. For many, the Fukushima Disaster was a life changing event but for Yuichi the world simply began to reflect what he knew all along, that nothing can be salvaged and simply surviving is enough. Yuichi has felt this way as long as he can remember.
Solace from this painful adolescence comes from the beautifully eccentric classmate Keiko, the self diagnosed stalker that when isn’t creating shrines in Yuichi’s honor, faces a similar family life from her abusive mother and absentee father. It would seem that between the craziness of this country wide atrocity these kindred spirits for once feel at home, and following the departure of Yuichi’s parents Keiko decides to help Yuichi bloom into something beautiful and leave behind the dirt and debris of his past. Like a greek chorus, Yuichi and Keiko are not alone as they are frequently accompanied by the squatters and refugees that have taken residence outside of the family shack. As Yuichi begins to make reparations, he is quickly thrown into the seedy underbelly of the Yakuza crime syndicate and before he knows it is fighting for more than his future.
Painted in the hues of an Ink Black Comedy, Himizu doesn’t shy away from the devastating aftermath of the Fukushimia Disaster. Instead Director Shion Sono and cast manage to find away to revel in it. There is a madness in the air of Himizu, as characters are skewed to the point of absurdity. This is a world where more often than honesty and emotion are communicated through violence, be it through the spousal abuse witnessed and acted by the film’s leads or the bloody murders instigated by the Yakuza. At times Himizu feels positively Dickensian in its portrayal of it’s far gone and repulsive cast. This is a film that presents a Nation’s loss in an insular and grimy light, as if crafted in a shell shock daze.
Whilst Comedy might be a stretch, Himizu features the trademark farcical performances that made Sono’s Cold Fish such a stand out success. Many of the overlapping themes of Cold Fish (violence, deceit and over exuberant characters) make their way into Himizu as Shion Sono continues to nurture his rapidly growing ensemble cast featuring the likes of Den Den in the role of Crime Lord Kaneko and Mitsuru Fukikoshi as the bumbling Keita Tamura. Himizu is a film that does not set out to tell the events of the Fukushima Disaster but rather tries to get into the tortured lives of those affected. Though some restraint would of helped the quieter moments Himizu is a title that is not only relevant but essential viewing despite it’s uneven presentation.